This page will relate some of the stories of Chazy Lake. One of the most frequently referred stories is the drowning of students on Saturday, July 3, 1927. The following is a first hand account by my uncle, Claude BIGELOW, who was one of the students who survived, followed by local newspaper accounts. These accounts were researched by my friend Don Jackson.
Claude remembers a lot of this incident and it was one of the more important events in his early life. Even when he visited our camp recently, he remarked of how dangerous the lake is. Claude says they were rowing boats across the lake from the pumphouse side to the Lyon Mt. side. There were 2 boats in all and they were clapboard rowing boats as he described them. This was the senior class picnic, but because of such a small class they invited juniors along too. Claude was half junior as he describes it. The wind was strong and it appears it was coming from the southwest. The wind wasn't bad when they started out, but as they approached the west shore it picked up and waves were coming over the transoms of the boats. The boat that was swamped appeared to be overloaded with passengers: Kathleen Smart, Tom Tobin, Bernadette Drollette, Edwin Rowan, Catherine Canning, and Teacher---Miss Emma Dunk, as well as a small white dog. Claude said the girls were screaming "Turn around!", and whoever was rowing knew it was wrong and why we'll never know, but they started to turn around and were swamped. The boat flipped over and all were holding on to the boat for awhile. Claude had landed with the 2 Signor boys and a Miss Dobbs, and said he could see the boat from shore and also the white dog. It must have been frigid water because all slipped away from the boat except the teacher and drowned, including the dog, which was never found. Miss Dunk had caught her hand in the boards of the boat and drifted with the boat into Seine Bay. Claude, and people from the other boat, ran along the road, from the RR station to the shore of Seine Bay. The teacher, Miss Dunk, was unconscious when they finally got to her in the shallows of Seine Bay. They had to rip her hand out of the boards after many tries, and then she was so heavy they had to roll her onto the beach. He said it took four of them to put her in the back of a pickup truck, but she was the only survivor.
Victim of Drowning Tragedy Discovered by State Troopers Yesterday Close
Pictures and further article may be found at LINK.
Efforts of searchers to recover bodies of Saturday's accident, meet with first success within few hours. After fervent prayers are offered by children at Mass in Dannemora Church, July 4, 1927.
Within less than a few hours time from the hour when young friends of the five Dannemora High School students who were drowned in Chazy Lake last Saturday afternoon when a boat in which they were riding capsized during a sudden squall, attended mass at 8:00 o'clock yesterday morning at St. Joseph's Church in Dannemora and prayed fervently that the bodies of the unfortunate victims of the tragedy might quickly be recovered. The body of Bernadette Drollette, 18, was recovered shortly before 10:30 by State Troopers Ward and Robillee. The body was discovered in about fifteen feet of water and in a spot not quite three hundred feet from the shore and directly in front of a cottage from which place boats engaged in searching for the bodies of the five young people had been accustomed to start out upon the lake.
When found Miss Drollette was dressed in a white shirtwaist and knickers. A sweater which the young woman was wearing the day of the picnic is believed to have been cast away by her as she made a last feeble attempt to swim to the shore after hanging on to the overturned boat for more than half an hour. At a late hour last evening no trace of any part of the clothing of that worn by the other four victims be discovered either by those combining the lake bottom or by those searching along the shore.
For three days searchers for the bodies of the five young people had set out upon the lake at a point directly in front of a cottage near the boathouse of Xavier King. For three days the searchers had employed grappling hooks of many discriptions in an effort to thoroughly comb the bottom of the lake. A few however, had dropped their hooks into the water as near as two hundred feet after setting out from the shore, and it was not until yesterday morning shortly before ten-thirty as Troopers Ward and Robillee were dragging the lake parallel to the shore in front of the cottage were the efforts of searchers rewarded.
Upon its discovery, the state troopers brought the body of Miss Drollette to the King boathouse and following an examination by Dr. Sartwell of Peru, coroner, the remains were taken to the Brown undertaking parlors in the city. Later in the afternoon the remains were removed to the Drollette home in Dannemora.
Miss Drollette was a senior in Dannemora High School as as a member of this year's graduating class was to have graduated from the institution June 20. The young lady was well known and most highly esteemed and popular with a wide circle of friends not only in Dannemora but throughout Clinton County. Besides her parents, she is survived by one sister, Genevieve; and four brothers; Edgar, Clarence, James, and Francis, all of Dannemora. The funeral will be held Friday morning with high Mass of requiem at St. Joseph's Church, Dannemora, N.Y.
Continued efforts yesterday of bell divers, state troopers and others engaged in the search for the bodies of the drowned victims failed to reveal any trace of any of them other than that of Miss Drollette recovered by Troopers Ward and Robilee. The lake yesterday was ruffled by a steady breeze and this hampered considerably efforts of both bell divers and those dragging the lake's bottom with hooks in the search for the bodies. The search will be renewed at an early hour this morning and is expected that an organized effort will be made immediately to comb the bay in the vicinity of the King boathouse and where Miss Dunk, school teacher, and only survivor of the party, was found.
If not recovered immediately by either the bell divers or those employing grappling hooks, it is expected the remaining four bodies will not be found within a period of from six to ten days. the water is still quite cold and it is not likely the bodies will of themselves rise to the surface of the lake much before that time. When recovered, the body of miss drollette was found to be in a well preserved state, the temperature of the water preventing any disfiguration.
The following is another newspaper account of the tragedy.
BODY OF ONE OF THE STUDENTS IS RECOVERED --
MISS BERNADETTE DROLLETTE'S BODY FOUND IN LAKE --
TROOPERS RECOVER BODY -------------
Found in ten feet of water, scarcly twenty feet from shore ---
The body of Miss Drollette, 18 years of age, one of the five Dannemora High School students who met death by drowning in Chazy Lake in the sad accident which occured on Saturday afternoon when a rowboat in which they were crossing the lake capsized, was recovered yesterday afternoon shortly after nine o'clock. The body was found in about ten feet of water hardly two dozen feet from the shore at Seine Bay on the west side of the lake. it was recovered through means of a grappling iron in the hands of tropper Ward of Troop B, State Police of Malone Barracks. Trooper Robillee was rowing the boat at the time.
The body was taken to brown's undertaking rooms in this city where it was embalmed and later removed to the home of the girl's parents in Dannemora. the young lady is survived by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Elmore Drollette, one sister, Genevieve, and four brothers, Edgar, Clarence, James, and Francis Drollette, all of that village. The funeral will be held from St. Joseph's church, that village, tomorrow morning at nine o'clock.
Rev. Father Hervienx, pastor of St. Joseph's Church yesterday morning celebrated a high mass, asking divine intervention for the early recovery of the bodies of the victims. Hundreds of residents attended Holy Sacrifice and offered their prayers. It was during the Mass being offered that Miss Drollette's body was recovered.
Nine members of the State Police under command of Liut. H. C. Herrick, twenty convicts from Dannemora Prison in the charge of Parole Officer John Quinn and dozens of volunteers, residents of the Chazy Lake section, returned to their duties of dragging the bottom of the lake yesterday at dawn, a work which did not end until darkness last night. Throughout the day, the three divers who were assisting in the work, covered the remaining area of Seine Bay without success. This morning at dawn, the location of the searching party will be moved southerly to a point opposite what is known as "Rock Point" and "Deep Inlet" where two other victims are believed to have gone to their death. Whether or not the efforts of the searching party meet with success as they scour the bottom of the lake at this point., the search will later be carried southerly towards "Badger's" a deep stretch of water where the overloaded rowboat is believed to have capsized when it was swamped by a huge wave, and two members were drowned.
Miss Emma Dunk, school teacher, the only survivor of the party of six, was permitted to leave her bed at the residence of Xavier King at Chazy Lake yesterday and spent part of the afternoon sitting on the porch of the home. She is on the road to complete recovery after a most dreadful experience which she has borne in mind ever since the sad accident of Saturday afternoon.
Once more the "great reaper", his hand has shown,
taking from us, those we have known,
As sister, brother, son, daughter and friend
For them life's journey has reached its end.
With our hearts bathed deep in sorrow tonight
We try to believe His judgement right,
And to still a most resentful mind
Can it be that His justice is blind?
It doesn't seem right and we wonder why,
He did not summon, you or I
Instead of those to whom life was all.
Who had much to live for, why should he call ----
Kathleen and Bernie, dear little "Kate"
Edwin and "Tommy" why, those did he take?
This is the question, that, we left behind,
Ask Him whose judgement, hard, we find.
And yet I suppose as it is often said,
Tis not I to question - instead
Though our hearts be broken "his will be done".
We must "carry on" till our time has come.
Brave we must be, they would have it so
E'en though the wound to heal, be slow
So, therefore, we force to our lips a smile
And in Benediction, we pray the while.
"In Peace may they rest, forever more
and find joy eternal on yonder shore
May God in his wisdom be kind to them
And harken to the requiem."
and TEACHER---MISS EMMA DUNK -------
Follow the following links:
Chazy Lake Page , for pictures of the Lake today.
Chazy Lake History , new book on Chazy Lake history.
More Chazy Lake History , History of the Lake and Chazy River.
More Chazy Lake Stories , More stories of Chazy Lake.
More about 1927 Drownings, pictures
Lyon Mountain History, nearby community.
Dannemora History, nearby community.