Boating accident involving Ethel and Jane Ray

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 10 Aug 1923 [unknown]
Location: Clayton, Jefferson, New York, United Statesmap
This page has been accessed 42 times.

Copied and typed from handwritten letter addressed to Herb Ray

Written at Frontenac on Round Island, Thousand Islands, N.Y. (near Clayton, N.Y.)

Brackets [ ] added by, George J. Merrick, grandson of the letter writer

Aug. 10, 1928

Dearest, dearest,

First – I must tell you that we are every one of us all right [sic] but we had a dreadfully narrow escape.

This morning as we were leaving Clayton, the A.R.K. [a 25-foot motor boat] exploded and then burst into flames. I don’t know just what happened then except something was being said about life preservers and I was thinking all the time that I must jump with Jane [her 3-year old daughter] before the whole thing was blown to bits.

I grabbed a bumper which helped a little (but it should have been a life preserver) and jumped – thinking oh so hard that I must save Jane if it took my last breath. It was taking my last breath [sic] – for she was grabbing me around the neck when Deen came up with a preserver and helped with Jane. Then we were hauled in a boat [per newspaper article, boat named “Buccaneer” piloted by W.O. Eaton of Fishers Landing].

Aunt E. stayed in the A.R.K. with flames all around her and was just ready to go in with a life preserver when a man helped her in his boat. Ahti [?] and Bob had jumped in the water. I must say everyone kept their head except that I didn’t grab a preserver. Deen was splendid.

I’m alright dear, just a slightly sickish feeling in the pit of my stomach. Thank God we still have Jane.

A lot more tomorrow.

Yours forever,


Letter from Herb Ray written the next day. Ethel’s first letter of Aug. 10th must have been sent via special delivery to reach Herb on Long Island, N.Y. in just one day.

Saturday, Aug. 11, 1928


Have just received your letter of yesterday and feel terribly shaky. I don’t like to have to stay here and try to calmly feel that you and Jane and the others are perfectly alright. I wish I could be sure, that I could telephone you and hear you assure me you are unharmed. If I could only be up there now and see you and Jane. I’ve never wanted to see both of you half as much as I do after what happened. My poor sweetheart, I’m so thankful you’re alive and that Jane is alive. Were you burned at all – was anyone? The picture of Jane holding on to you in the water is horrible.

You say Deen was splendid. Tell him I knew he would be. I owe him everything for helping you with Jane, he saved you. The writing of your letter makes me believe at least your right hand is alright – wish I could be sure.

Poor Aunt Elizabeth too, did the shock affect her heart at all? I’m worried about her too.

You’re not going to keep anything back from me are you? On your word of honor, tell me dearest, are you alright, aside from the shock which I know you must still be feeling? How nearly I lost you – what an empty world this would be if that had happened. Sweetest, it makes me realize that you, and Jane but not nearly to such an extent, are my entire happiness.

If I had the slightest hint from you that you wanted me to come up right now I’d leave in a minute. To hold you in my arms right now, to comfort you and to give thanks to God together for sparing you and Jane. How sweet life would be if we could only realize how unhappy we are when we are separatedeven for short periods – you can’t be unhappy as Frontenac but still your happiness, you make me believe would be more complete if I was there.

I’m anxiously waiting for your next letter and will send this special delivery hoping you will get it tomorrow.

Dearest sweet, you are my all – I only wish that I knew you are perfectly alright. You are a real mother for you certainly saved Jane’s life and were willing to give yours for her. Thank God it wasn’t necessary.

I love you more than have ever.


Letter to Herb Ray has the same date as the first one from Ethel, but was likely written on Aug. 11, 1928? Brackets [ ] added by, George J. Merrick, grandson of the letter writer

Aug. 10, 1928


A gloomy horrid day and I haven’t you to snuggle up to. How I needed you last night. Just couldn’t sleep – every nerve on edge thinking over and over about the fire.

The poor boat is just a shell now and the only reason she is even a shell is that the explosion which we all expected after the first one – didn’t happen. Nothing can possibly be done to the A.R.K. now.

I hope that you write to mother Ray often but don’t tell her about the accident until we get home – she would only worry. Bob is expecting to hear from you too (He did last night) [maybe a phone call?].

Jane’s duck came the day before yesterday just as she was waking up from a nap. I told her something nice and she instantly thought you had arrived and was all excitement. I hated to disappoint her.

Some man has told Uncle Bert that the A.R.K. can be made over even if the whole front part is just a shell. So – one of the Clayton’s best builders is coming over tomorrow to work on it and the repair man (that Uncle B. always has) is sending for certain necessary parts. It will be nice to have it again as the K.S.F. [?] was not launched this year because of the short time they are here. Did I tell you Deen has a new boat?

Did you see any accounts of the accident? If so, try and get some. We were so late in going for a paper that we could only get one and the account was certainly cockeyed. [I have copied a newspaper account of the accident – some names were spelled wrong, most notably, Ray was spelled “Wray” in the newspaper.]

Well dearest, next Sunday at this time I hope you shall be sitting here with me and it will be as nice a day.

My happiness shall then be complete.

Love from Jane and Jack.

P.S. Bob was tickled with your letter

Letter to Herb Ray

Brackets [ ] added by, George J. Merrick, grandson of the letter writer''

Aug. 13, 1928

Dearest Heart,

It was sweet of you to send the special but I wouldn’t have had you so worried for anything.

As things turned out I could have stayed in the boat as Aunt E. did and have been transferred to the one that came along. But Uncle Bert and the boys were furious at Aunt E. for staying so long as the tank might have blown up – the whole front of the boat was in flames – but the back was alright.

As usual I did the wrong thing by jumping too soon and without a life preserver. But not so soon but that it was on the tip of my tongue to ask Deen to take Jane. I quickly realized tho [sic] that Deen would have to be captain of the ship and take care of Aunt E. So it was up to me to me [sic] to take care of that precious Jane of ours.

I can’t tell you how right I felt about jumping quickly because I was so sure the thing would be blown to bits. And yet how scared I was – just worried sick about Jane.

Deen’s hair and eyebrows were badly burned – Aunt E. has a bad black and blue mark on her leg and I have a lame back. Otherwise, we are as usual and it is the truth, dearest on my word of honor.

As much as I would love to see you and pour forth the whole story into your sympathetic ears – it is best that you come as planned.

Five more long days, dearest – and then you.

Love and love and love, Ethel

P.S. The special [delivery] didn’t come until this (Monday [Aug. 13]) morning.

  • Login to edit this profile and add images.
  • Private Messages: Send a private message to the Profile Manager. (Best when privacy is an issue.)
  • Public Comments: Login to post. (Best for messages specifically directed to those editing this profile. Limit 20 per day.)

Leave a message for others who see this profile.
There are no comments yet.
Login to post a comment.