Name: Mary Jane (Barnes) Buck
From: The Steuben County Courier, Bath,
AUTO PLUNGES INTO CONHOCTON
Date: June 8, 1917
Killing Mrs. Charles Buck, of Reading, and Injuring Three Others
While on its mid-day trip from Corning to Bath on Tuesday the Wolcott
Corning-Bath auto bus pitched twelve feet down into the Conhocton river at the
Curtis bridge as the driver attempted to make the sharp turn from the state road
to the detour. Mrs. Charles Buck of Reading Center was drowned and her husband
and the two young men who were acting as chauffeurs were badly injured. The
chauffeurs were Reed Vastbinder, of Corning, and Harvey Hawkes, of Painted Post.
It is probable that all four of the people in the car would have been killed if
it had not been for the stopping of a passing Pennsylvania motorist who stopped
at the end of the bridge to raise the top of his automobile. As he did so he
heard a moan from the river bed below, and looking down saw the overturned car
lying in three feet of water. He could only guess at the scene the wreckage hid
Jumping into his machine the Pennsylvanian drove his car like mad back towards
Curtis village for aid, tooting his warning horn constantly as he ran. John S.
Curtis, whose house stands not far from the south end of the bridge, heard the
tooting horn and reached his front gate just in time to hear the man call out
that four men were in the river pinned under a car. Mr. Curtis secured his hired
men and with the assistance of a team of horses and of neighbors who quickly
reached the scene, the car was raised sufficiently to free the occupants who
were alive. Mrs. Buck's lifeless body was then taken out of the wreckage. She
had drowned immediately after the accident, being pinned under the wreckage in
such a manner that she could not raise her head above water. Her companions were
held fast in such a position that they could not help her.
The Bucks live at Reading Center. The husband formerly carried the mail between
the post office in that village and the railroad station. He was a retired
farmer. He formerly lived in Altay, but has been a resident of Reading Center
for 25 years. The Bucks left Reading Center that morning and went to Corning on
their way to Campbell to visit Mr. Buck's brother, James Buck.
The accident occurred just before noon. There was a driving rain at the time and
it was difficult to see everything ahead. Failing to observe the red flag a few
rods east of the turn, which is intended to warn motorists of the danger, Hawkes,
who was driving, and who was not familiar with the road, came suddenly upon the
detour sign and the obstruction in the road which from the Curtis bridge to
Campbell is being retopped. He attempted to swing the big Peerless car to the
left and onto the bridge, but the wheels skidded. Vastbinder saw the danger and
grabbed the wheel to help. But the car struck the front rail at the line of the
bridge, knocked it over and plunged into the river twelve feet below.
The car landed bottom side up with the front wheels back toward the bank, the
car having turned over lengthwise as it fell. Mrs. Buck had been in the back
seat with her husband. The wreckage pinned her head down under the water. Her
husband's head was clear of the water as was Hawkes'. Vastbinder could not
support his head and Hawkes whose head was above water had to reach out his hand
to support Vastbinder's head above the water.
How long the occupants of the car remained in this position no one knows. It
seemed like hours to the unfortunate men, but the period was probably not longer
than four or five minutes. Then along came the car of the Pennsylvanian who
heard their groans and cries for help, and the rescue came.
The three injured men were carried into the house of John S. Curtis, where they
were given attention in a room which was soon turned into an improvised
hospital. Drs. E. E. Whipple and G. W. Lane, of Corning, were summoned and also
Dr. H. S. Gillette, of Savona.
Mr. Buck, the husband of the woman who was drowned, is about 70 year old.
A pocket book that contained nearly $100 in money belonging to Mr. Buck was lost
from his clothing while he lay struggling, held fast to the river's bottom.
Young Vastbinder was for some time a resident of Bath. He is a son of N. H.
Vastbinder, who was in charge of the Singer Sewing Machine business in Bath
before removing to Corning. He drove the Stocking bus between Bath and
Hammondsport for several months.
S. K. Wolcott, the owner of the car that was wrecked, will not have to stand
personal responsibility for damages as his application for a $10,000 liability
policy was accepted 20 minutes before the accident happened. At the time of the
accident, Mr. Wolcott did not know whether or not his application had been
accepted, but was informed that it went into effect at 12 o'clock noon, Tuesday,
and the accident happened at 12:20.