Search billions of records on

Jacksonville Daily Journal, May 31, 1905


Sad Tragedy Enacted At Ashelbys Pond

C. E. McMeans, and sons, Michael and James Meet Death as Result of Cramps - Narrow Escape of Edgar Ellis - Bodies Recovered - Coroner's Inquest

Charles Edgar McMeans, aged 44 years, and his two sons, Michael aged 15 years, and James, 17 years, were drowned in seven feet of water in Ashelby's pond about five o'clock Tuesday afternoon, and Edgar S. Ellis, who went in after Michael McMeans barely reached the other side of the pond after a vain effort to extend a helping hand.

Michael McMeans swam out into the center of the pond for a fishing pole which was floating around and when within a few feet of the pole was seized with cramps and found he could not reach the pole and called to his father for help. Instead of swimming toward the shore he began swimming in a circle and his father pulled off his coat and started to swim out to his son. Meanwhile Michael went down once and his father, chilled by the water was also seized with cramps and called to his other son to follow. Ellis jumped in with James, who went down when about 30 feet from shore suffering cramps. Ellis swam across to the other side of the pond, but was nearly exhausted before reaching the other side and when about twenty feet from shore, Albert Revis, a colored man, who was standing on the south bank of the pond saw that Ellis was in distress and threw a plank out to him. Ellis was too far away to reach the plank, but was able to reach the shore, where he sank exhausted and was picked up by Revis. Meanwhile the father had gone down before Ellis could reach him.

Ellis was rolled on the bank and other methods of resuscitation employed and soon he was able to go to his home at 425 South West street, where he was driven in a buggy by Melvin Smith.


Charles White, a carpenter, who resides on Lincoln avenue, was at the pond when the tragedy occurred and he constructed a rude raft and endeavored to locate the bodies. With the aid of a ten foot pole he brought up the body of Michael McMeans and by that time the members of the fire department under Chief LaBovteaux had arrived with grappling hooks and soon the bodies of the father and the other son were brought to shore. All the bodies were taken to Gillham undertaking establishment, where the inquest was held.

The McMeans family reside at the corner of West Lafayette avenue and Diamond street and came to Jacksonville two years ago from Mt. Sterling. Mrs. McMeans, the mother, is visiting at the home of her mother, Sarah Jane Gleeson, seven miles west of Mt. Sterling. Emmet, a 9 year old son, was with his father at the time of the drowning and was found by the chief of police when he arrived, sitting on the bank in an apparently dazed condition, looking intently into the water, where he saw his father and brothers go down. The other members of the family who are at home are John, aged 23, Martin, aged 13, Nellie, aged 11, Clarence, aged 4, Leo, aged 6, and Mary, aged 19. One son, Edward, aged 21, resides in St. Louis. The father was employed as a laborer.

The tragedy is one of the saddest that has happened in this community in years and the afflicted wife and family will have the sympathy of the entire city. Mrs. McMeans has been notified and is expected to arrive over the Wabash from Mt. Sterling this morning.


Charles Edgar McMeans was fishing at Ashelby's pond last Sunday and it was there that Ellis made his acquaintance. Mr. Ellis was on the square Tuesday afternoon about 2:30 o'clock, when he met Mr. McMeans again and asked him if he had been fishing any more. Mr. McMeans said that he had been out to the pond all Tuesday morning and succeeded in catching about twenty fish. Ellis told him that he was thinking about going out, but that he did not have any minnows with which to bait his hooks. McMeans replied that they could catch all the minnow they wanted at the brook near the pond and that they would go over to Alexander's store and get a mosquito bar which they would use as a seine. They accordingly bought the required mosquito bar and Mr. Ellis went with Mr. McMeans to the residence of the latter on West Lafayette avenue to get the fishing outfit. Mr. McMeans told his sons, Michael, James and Emmett, that he was going fishing and asked them if they wanted to go. The whole party started for the pond about 3 o'clock, but stopped at the brook near the pond to get the bait. It was about 4 o'clock when the fishing party reached Ashelby's pond and threw in their lines on the north side of the pond and near the center.


They sat on the bank fishing for about an hour, when Michael, the youngest boy, asked his father if he could go into the water and get a fishing pole which had been thrown in the water near the center of the pond by some men who had just left. His father replied in the affirmative and the boy Michael pulled off his clothes, threw them on the bank and jumped into the water. He was a good swimmer and was still a few feet away from the pole, when he was seized with cramps from the chilly water. He called to his father for help and Mr. McMeans pulled off his hat and shoes and jumped into the water and called to the other son, James, to follow. The father reached the boy and took hold of him and they commenced to struggle.


Mr. Ellis leaped into the water immediately after the father left the bank and was followed by the other boy. Ellis was within about fifteen feet of the struggling men, when he realized that the exertion was too much for him and he could not assist the boy. He then swam on past the men toward the other bank. When he was within thirty feet of the shore he let himself down and tried to touch bottom, but the distance was too great and he had a hard time reaching the surface of the water again, as he swallowed considerable water while going down. A colored man on the bank threw out a board, but Ellis could not reach it. He looked around and saw that all three of the men were under the water and then tried to touch bottom again as he was getting fatigued, but this time he was a great deal nearer the shore and his toes rested on the bottom. He waded on out and stepped up on the bank and cried "My god. I couldn't have gone a foot farther." The shock and exertion were to much for him and he fell to the ground in an exhausted condition.

A colored man by the name of Albert Revis came to his assistance and picked him up and helped him walk around the pond to the other side, where he was taken care of by Melvin Smith and his brother. James, the last boy to enter the water, went down when about twenty-five feet from the bank without a struggle.


Melvin Smith immediately telephoned for Dr. Reid and some one also telephoned to the police station for help. A crowd of about twenty persons was standing on the bank when the drowning occurred and Charles White rigged up a raft and pushed out into the water. He went to where he had seen the men go down and began fishing for them with a long pole, and in about half an hour he was rewarded by finding the body of Michael, which he brought to the shore. It was laid on the bank and covered over. Chief Laboyteaux, Samuel Hunt and George Wiseman, of the fire department arrived at the pond in the patrol wagon just about the time the youngest boy's body was found. They had brought ropes, pike poles and grappling hooks with them and immediately began the work of trying to locate the remaining two bodies. Mr. White changed his pole for a pike pole and went out on his raft again and succeeded in bringing the body of the father up in about fifteen minutes after the first boy was found, and the body of James McMeans was brought to the surface by Mr. White shortly afterward. Chief of Police Donovan and Thomas Leatch arrived upon the scene in about thirty minutes after the men went under the water. The three bodies were all found within a few feet of each other.


Edward S. Ellis, who jumped into the water to assist Michael McMeans, told the following story of the affair to a Journal reporter, who called upon him about 7:30 o'clock Tuesday evening. He said: "The first time I ever saw Charles Edgar McMeans was last Sunday, when I saw him fishing at Ashelby's pond. I met him again Tuesday afternoon about 2:30 o'clock, and I asked him if he had been fishing any more, and he replied that he had been out all morning and that he had caught some twenty-five fish. I told him that I was thinking about going, but that I did not have any minnows to use as bait, and he said that we could catch all we wanted at the brook, which runs near the pond. I then told him that my lines were at home and that I would have to go home and get them; but he told me that he had plenty of them at his house and if I would go up there with him he would lend them to me. We went over to Mr. Alexander's store and purchased some mosquito bar, which we used as a seine at the brook. Mr. McMeans and myself went to his house where he got me a line and we started to the pond about 3 o'clock, accompanied by Michael, James and Emmett, all sons of Mr. McMeans.

We stopped at the brook on the way out and spent about three-fourths of an hour there seining for minnows. We then went over to the pond and there in our lines on the north side of pond about forty feet from the place where the tile empties into the body of water. A fishing pole was floating around near the center of the pond which had been thrown there by some one. Michael, the youngest boy, asked his father if he could go out and get the stick, and the father replied in the affirmative. He took off his clothes and commenced to swim toward the pole, and I don't think he reached it. He turned around and started to swim back toward the shore again, but lost control of himself and was going around in a circle. I saw that he was going to go under, so I pulled off my shoes and jumped in to assist him.

The father took of his hat and shoes and jumped into the water, calling to his other son, James, to follow. I swam directly toward the drowning boy, but played out when I was about fifteen feet from him and swam for the other bank. I reached down and tried to touch bottom when I was about thirty feet from the shore, but nearly lost my breath in the attempt. I tried it again when I had gone about five feet farther and touched it with my toes. A colored man threw me a board about four feet long just before I touched the bottom, but I could not reach it. I waded out to the bank and when I reached it I was so weak that I sank to the ground. A colored man by the name of Albert Revis helped me up and assisted me to walk around to the other side from which I had started.

"When I got over there Melvin Smith and several other fellow rolled me in a blanket and put me in a buggy and Melvin Smith drove me and Emmett, the younger McMeans boy, back to town in the rig. We met Dr. Reid on the road and he stopped and inquired about me at my house, 425 South West street.


"My father came out to the house about 2:45 o'clock and told James, Michael and myself that he and some other fellow were going fishing and that we could go if we wanted to. We stopped at the brook on the way out and got some minnows. Shortly after the 5'oclock whistle blew Michael asked father if he could go into the water and get a fishing pole, and he said that he could. He got out in the water and tried to get back again. My father, Mr. Ellis and my brother James went into the water after him. Mr. Ellis got out, but my father and two brothers went under the water. The chief of police made me go home with Melvin Smith and Mr. Ellis in the buggy.


The father, aged 44, was five feet seven inches tall, slightly bald and had a red mustache. Michael, aged 15, was five feet four inches tall, square build, with brownish hair and was boyish in appearance. James, aged 17, was five feet ten inches in height, had brown hair, was of a strong muscular build and looked to be about 20 years old. All three of the men are said to have been expert swimmers.


Undertaker Gillham was notified and sent the ambulance to the pond and the bodies were taken to his undertaking parlors. Coroner J. H. Spencer arrived about 9 o'clock and held the inquest. The following jury was impaneled: Thomas Duffner, S. A. Bracewell, Mike O'Brien, James Normile, J. B. Seng and G. F. Campbell. After hearing the testimony of the following witnesses: Melvin Smith, W. M. Mitcherson, H. J. Hammond, Noah Wright, Charles German, Carl Smith, T. F. Leetch and John Wilson, the jury at 12:15 o'clock gave as their verdict that "Edward McMeans, James McMeans and Michael McMeans came to their deaths by drowning in Ashelby's pond, May 30, 1905, the cause being accidental.

Jacksonville Daily Journal, June 2, 1905

Contributions in Behalf of Stricken Family Received at This Office.

There were many subscriptions made voluntarily at this office yesterday as a relief fund for the mother and eight children who survive in the McMeans family. Neighbors have kindly offered their assistance and contributed money and other articles to assist those who have been brought so suddenly to face life's battles with the head of the family and two sons taken from them.

A father with eleven children found need for every dollar which he brought into the home and his sudden death not only removes the one on whom they depended for support but there is left no funds for the mother and children to provide for the necessities of life. There are those who are soliciting funds to assist the family in arranging for a respectable burial of those who gave up their lives for each other and contributions have been liberal. There is need yet of money for the members of the family and all contributions left at this office will be acknowledged through the columns of the paper each day and the funds will be given over to the mother and her children.

The following voluntary subscriptions were left at this office yesterday and should there be others who feel disposed to contribute to a worthy cause the same can be left here or at the courier office or with others who are assisting in the work. Following are contributors and the amounts:

B. P. Andrews & Sons..........$5.00
Mrs. James Wright..........$1.00
A friend..........50
Mrs. Mary Rogers..........50
Miss Sadie Thompson..........50
A lady..........1.00
Philip Lee..........50
A lady...........1.00
Mrs. Sarah Dodsworth..........1.00
J. H. Cannon..........50
A lady..........50
George E. Mathews..........1.00
Mrs. Wadsworth..........2.00
N. B. Plummer..........50
W. G. Wolfe..........1.00
Mrs. E. Koch..........50
Miss Sophia Degen..........50
J. W. Walton..........1.00
H. Bancroft..........1.00
W. W. Beadle..........1.00
A. E. Fell..........1.00
Roy Counley..........50
Ralph Withee..........1.00
G. F. Campbell..........1.00
Earl Rogers..........50
Frank Paradise..........50
Byron House..........1.00
J. E. Fish..........1.00


Jacksonville Daily Journal, June 3, 1905

Many Contributions Were Made Yesterday.

A large number left contributions at this office Friday for the unfortunate widow and children of the McMeans family. Over forty dollars was the amount of Friday's contributions and this amount with the money left here Thursday makes a total of $65 which will go to this family.

W. O. Peters, Louis Brandt and C. T. McMeans made a canvass of the city for contributions and succeeded in raising $113.35. Of this amount they paid $80 for funeral expenses and the balance of $33.35 was given to the family.

Should there be any who would still like to contribute to this worthy cause, same can be left at this office or at the Courier office.

Thursday's contribution..........$29.50
Friday -
Daniel T. Keating..........3.00
C. C. Phelps..........2.00
Joseph G. Fernandes..........1.00
James Meehan..........1.00
William Tobin...........1.00
James Heneghan..........1.00
John Higler..........1.00
Ben Pyatt..........1.00
Alex Campbell..........1.00
James McGinnis...........1.00
Mamie Shields..........1.00
Dr. Albert Dollear..........1.00
Charles Souza..........50
George Hocking..........50
William McNamara..........50
William Sheely..........50
Herman Johnson..........50
Jerry Sweeney..........50
Earl Martin..........25
Cutting department of J. Capps & Sons:
M. C. Hook..........5.00
G. D. Pecock..........50
N. M. Doty..........50
Charles Reinhart..........50
E. G. Pecock..........50
Gus Scurlock..........50
Arthur Howell..........50
W. H. Humphreys..........50
D. D. Sutcliffe..........50
R. S. Kauffman..........50
William Schumm..........50
Arthur G. Ellis..........50
Emil Carlson..........50
Ed Aldrich..........50
J. W. Chipehose..........50
Erle Sutcliffe..........50
S. M. Carlson..........25

All material contained on these pages are furnished for the free use of those engaged researching their family origins. Any commercial use, without the consent of the host/author of these pages is prohibited. All persons contributing material for posting on these pages does so in recognition of their free, non-commercial distribution, and further, is responsible to assure that no copyright is violated by their submission.