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Earl Griffith 1916-1927


Posted By: Merllene Andre Bendixen (email)
Date: 6/23/2011 at 22:44:01

Earl Griffith Drowns in River; Search for Body
Raymond Behrens Tries to Rescue Pal; Searchers Work Long Hours; Men Continue Search Wednesday
Earl Griffith, twelve year old son of Mr. and Mrs. Earl Griffith, 1009 E. Main St., was drowned in the Des Moines river shortly after one o’clock Tuesday afternoon while he and Raymond Behrens, 14, were swimming near the sand bar one-half mile north of the 4th street bridge.

His body was recovered just before 2 o’clock Wednesday afternoon, above the Lincoln street bridge as it floated down the stream.

The two boys reached the river at one o’clock and a few minutes later were in the water. Earl, who could not swim, was wading out into the stream when a step-off caused him to get beyond his depth and the current swept him from his feet.

Tried to Rescue Pal
After he sank, Raymond, who can swim, immediately tried to rescue him. Earl was frantic and each time Raymond reached out to help him out of the water, would clutch him with a strangle hold. Raymond was forced to break the hold each time to keep from being drowned, but valiantly continued his efforts until Earl sank the last time.

Raymond then started on the run for help and was met by Donald Howe with a group of boys going to the river to swim. The alarm was turned in at once and the fire truck brought a crew of rescuers to the scene. Some of the better swimmers began diving for the body, and as soon as possible men started dragging the river.

Try Dynamite Charges
As many as could work at a time kept up the work of searching until dark, but in vain. At eight o’clock three charges of dynamite were set off in an effort to dislodge the body and bring it to the surface, but they proved fruitless.

Wednesday afternoon Harry Klein saw the body floating down the stream just above the old mill dam. He attempted to reach it but it was beyond his grasp. He then saw it sink below the surface. He followed and saw it come up again just above the Lincoln street bridge where it was recovered.

Almost a hundred workers volunteered their services and worked themselves to a state of near-exhaustion. Almost all of Estherville was at the scene of the drowning and the crowd was in a frenzied state.

A fifty dollar reward was offered for the recovery of the body. This was taken up by subscription among the residents. (Estherville Democrat, Estherville, IA, June 29, 1927)

Des Moines River Claims Earl Griffith
Body Recovered by Rock Island Men This Afternoon Near R.I. Dam
The Des Moines river claimed its victim again this season when Earl Griffith, the bright little son of Mr. and Mrs. Merle Griffith, was drowned north of this city at about one-thirty on Tuesday afternoon.

Earl, eleven, and Raymond Behrens, another boy a little older went to the river to swim. They left home shortly after noon. They passed through the Clark yard, Mrs. Clark says, sometime about twelve-thirty. As soon as they got to the river they went in for a swim.

The place where they entered the water there was a gravel beach. The water was not deep close to shore. It was very swift, however. From the story of Behrens they entered the water off the gravel. They waded in and the current caught Earl. Out only a few feet the water is fourteen feet deep. Down the river about seventy-five feet and across the stream there was a spring board. It was in this direction Earl drifted according to Raymond. Earl could not swim but Raymond, while small was a fair swimmer. He attempted to get Earl out, and had hold of him twice. The last time he went down, Raymond says Earl was dragging him under and he broke away. This was in the current where the water was deep. They were then under the spring board.

About this time two other boys came down but they could be of no assistance as the current was too strong.

The boys had to walk back to town to phone and this took some time. The place the boys entered the water was back of the Clark farm, formerly the John Griffith place. It was a long time before any assistance came.

Men worked all afternoon with no success. At night some blasting was done but with no success. Al through the night men labored to locate the boy. All day today they have searched for him.

This morning a fifty dollar reward was offered for the body. Circulars were posted and a purse was offered. It’s another sad thing for this city. We have about one a year. People talk about a swimming pool to relieve this. The talk lasts for a week or so and then it ends. Another year and another boy. Sometime this must be relieved.

The city was greatly relieved when two Rock Island water supply men, Reed and McDonald, saw the body of Earl Griffith floating past what is known as the Rock Island dam at one-thirty this afternoon. The body was floating as fast as they were able to keep up with it. One of the men jumped into the water and got the body and was able to get out only with the assistance of the other man. (Estherville Enterprise, Estherville, IA, June 29, 1927)

Earl Griffith Victim of Des Moines River Laid To Rest
The funeral services for Earl Griffith were held at ten o’clock on Friday morning. To say the least these services were very sad. Rev. Conway officiated at the services held in St. Patrick’s church. The remains were laid to rest in the Catholic cemetery south of this city.

Earl Griffith was born in Hartley on April 15, 1916. He came to this city at the age of six with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Merl Griffith. He was an exceptionally bright little fellow, beloved by his playmates and by all who knew him. He was a boy who stayed close to home as a rule. He was a boy who was remembered by those who knew him on account of his gentlemanly actions. He leaves a father and mother and two little sisters to mourn his death.

The following are those from out of the city who were here to attend the funeral service:
Mr. and Mrs. P. J. Murphy and family of Mitchell, S. Dak.; Mrs. George Smith and daughter, Lucile, of Waterloo, Iowa; Mr. and Mrs. Robb Byers and family of Hartley, Iowa; Mrs. Ed Coffey, of Madison, S. Dak.; John Ross and sons, of Hartley, Iowa; Mrs. Ed Brower of Hartley, Iowa; Mr. and Mrs. Fred Ross, of Hartley, Iowa; Mr. and Mrs. Claude Kelly and family, of Jackson, Minn. (Estherville Enterprise, Estherville, IA, July 6, 1927)

Aulgar Brothers who played her a short time ago certainly are thoughtful men. They employed Earl Griffith in the tent while they were playing this city. On hearing of his death they sent three beautiful floral offerings. When they were in this city they asked to take the lad with them for the summer. (Estherville Enterprise, Estherville, IA, July 6, 1927)


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