A Ride To Death Over Classen’s Dam

Yesterday morning about 10 o’clock while boating above the dam at Claassen’s mill, eighteen miles northwest of here, Jacob Riesen, aged 21 and Abram Dick, aged 20, being unable to swim and the suction just below the dam being too much for them, met their death.  A large party of Newton men went out yesterday morning, early, to spend the day near Claassen’s. In the crowd were the Riesen boys, Jacob and his younger brother, Henry and young Dick. These three, spying the boat just above the dam and a short distance, concluded to take a ride and two of them rode to their death. They got in the boat and as they did so, another boy called from the bank that he desired to go out with the others. The boys in the boat, according to the story told by a member of the crowd, did not want the company of this fourth boy and made haste to get away before he should reach the landing. In doing so, they shoved the boat off without having secured the oars. The current toward the dam is strong, owing to the rise on the account of the recent heavy rains above in McPherson county and as the boys, none of them, were experienced rowers they had difficulty in getting the oars to work, so much so that when they finally did succeed in gaining possession of them, they found themselves on the verge of the overflow of the dam. 

Just at this point, young Henry Riesen, a boy of 19 years, became badly frightened and jumped from the boat. The others remained in and went over the dam. Under ordinary circumstances, there is a good deal of drop, but as there has been much rain and high water of late, the drop only is a couple of feet, so it was not great enough to cause the boat to overturn when it shot down. Coming out below, there was a good deal of floundering around on the part of the boys for some time and finally Jacob Riesen jumped out of the boat, presumably to see if he could be of assistance to his brother above, although one of the men who was in the party thinks he thought he could save his own life by getting out and was afraid to remain in the boat. He made an attempt to get away from the suction, or whirlpool at the fall, but were unable to do so and was dragged down to his death. In the meantime, young Dick, who still remained in the boat, got quite near to the shore, so Mr. Toevs, of the Fair, thinks—he was one of the party—might have gotten out and saved his life. He did not do so, however, and allowed the boat to again drift back to the suction where it was carried under and lost from sight.   The younger Riesen, Henry, all this time was floundering about the dam, managing to keep from being dragged over the apron. He at last was able to catch onto a willow tree by its over-hanging branches and held there until a rope was brought by some members of the party and he was dragged out, about as much dead, it is said, as alive.  Then search was instituted for the bodies of the drowned boys, but nothing could be done to regain them. Hearing that there were grappling hooks at Halstead, Mr. Warkentin telephoned there to see about it and found there were none. Besides this, owing to the growth of weeds and trees which have come up when the water has been low and then the water being so deep now only added to the difficulty. Therefore about all that can be done is to wait until the bodies shall rise to the surface which they probably will do unless entangled in the growth below.

Young Dick was an employee of the Newton Milling and Elevator company. He went to work for the company about two years ago as a sweeper and since then has risen to the position of second miller. He was capable and industrious and was well liked by his employees and associates. He lived southeast of Bethel College with his mother, whose support he was.  Young Riesen, Jacob, worked on the farm of John Toevs, brother of Henry Toevs of the Fair, on the Suderman section. He was also a hard worker and well liked. He has not been in this country very long and his home is in Russia. Mr. Warkentin last night cabled to his parents the news of his death. The younger Riesen, Henry, the one who escaped, works for Henry Toevs in the Fair.  Mr. Warkentin and son and D. Goerz and son Rudolph went out this morning to Claassen’s and with a number of others are searching for the bodies and doing all they can to regain them.  The Halstead Independent, Halstead, Kansas.  Friday, July 2, 1897.  Page 1.  (c) Transcribed by Darren McMannis for the Harvey County Genealogical Society. 

Found A Hat 
B. Warkentin, J.J. Krehbiel and D. Goerz went out this morning to Claassen’s mill to continue the search for the bodies of Abraham Dick and Jacob Riesen.  C.F. Claassen remained there from yesterday.  A hat has been found, which belonged to one of the drowned young men.  It was found one mile south of the dam and is the only trace yet discovered by the searchers.  As the river has fallen a great deal, however, the men have hopes of making some discovery today.   Later – At a late hour this afternoon the mill people received a message from Mr. Warkentin at Moundridge that the body of Abraham Dick was found at almost the exact spot where he was drowned.  In the message there was nothing save the bare mention of the discovery and it is not known just what disposition will be made of the body.   It is said, however, that the interment will be in the new cemetery near the college.  Upon receipt of the news, J.W. Edwards immediately left for the mill.   The Daily Republican, Newton, Kansas.  Wednesday, June 30, 1897.  Page 4. 

Both Now At Rest 
Both Abram Dick and Jacob Riesen and Interred at the German Cemetery   Last night after the searching party at Claassen’s mill dam had found the body of young Dick and had given it over to the undertaker, they continued the search until they found that of Riesen. The body was found very near the dam and so firmly imbedded in the sand that it was hard work dislodging it.  Finally it was gotten out of the sand and brought to the city.  Late last night at the German cemetery near Bethel college both bodies were laid to rest in the presence of friends and relatives.  The Daily Republican, Newton, Kansas.  Thursday, July 1, 1897.  Page 4.  Note:  “German Cemetery” is the Bethel College Cemetery which is no longer in existence.
Reburial:  Jacob Riesen’s body was moved to Greenwood Cemetery on December 22, 1936 and buried in a lot provided by his family.  His headstone gives a birth date of December 11, 1875.  He is buried in the 1st Addition, Block 12, Lot 30, Space 2.  Greenwood’s burial index spells his name as Jakob Reisen.  

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