Saturday, May 19, 2012

I'll see you again

     Thomas Powers was a man of great mystery. He was taciturn to the greatest degree and would say nothing about himself. Mrs. Wolcott said that he came to her home in the later part of February from Philadelphia. For a long time she knew him simply as "Mr. Powers". He would say nothing about himself. He was a man of very peculiar habits in that he seemed at times utterly oblivious of his surroundings. While he did not rudely repel any advances to conversation with him, he would quietly withdraw. He did not care to talk about any of his work and when the conversation drifted toward that channel he would leave the room. He was a man of good habits, always coming home early and Mrs. Wolcott says that not over two or three nights did he remain out of the house after 9 in the evening, coming home early and immediately going to bed. About three weeks ago he was sitting alone in the sitting room, through which Mrs. Wolcott passed. She made some remark to him and when he looked up she noticed that his eyes were red. She asked him if he was ill and he said:
     "No, Mrs. Wolcott. I'm not sick but I'm awfully homesick. I've never had a home since I was a child."
     He broke into crying and Mrs. Wolcott asked him to come and make himself more at home and not all by himself. He seemed to cheer up and commenced to visit. He said again that he had no home and said he was afraid he might lose his position here. He told Mrs. Wolcott that he liked the place very much and hoped he could remain. Mrs. Wolcott tried to cheer him up and he burst into another fit of weeping.
     Once he asked Mrs. Wolcott if she thought that any one would know him in Watertown. He would give no reason for his making such a strange statement. Since Sunday he had acted queerly. He seemed to lose his appetite and when Mrs. Wolcott asked him if he was sick he said he had not been well in two years, but that there was nothing serious. While the rest of the family might be talking and laughing loudly, he would drop off to sleep, oblivious of his surroundings and the noise.
     On Wednesday night he ate little for supper and left the house about 7. A postal card from his brother was on the table and it was carried to him. He did not look at it, but simply slipped it in his pocket. With one of the boarders he walked to a cigar store, bought a cigar and said, "I'll see you again."

Watertown Daily Times: 3 April 1909

That was on 31 March 1909. Thomas Powers jumped into the Black River from Watertown's Court Street bridge. Except for the evening's darkness and the swiftness of current, his northwest view — downstream — would have looked something like this:

It would be 1915 days (five and a quarter years) before Thomas would be seen again: on the shore of Lake Ontario, near where Stoney Creek empties into it, 32 km southwest of Watertown. The trip downriver and through the lake would have been at least 50 km.

Thomas' suicide might have gone unnoticed were it not for the concern of his brother, James, who offered on April 10 — after a week of fruitless searching — a $100 reward for the finding of the body. On that same day another person, Thomas Blacklock, jumped off the Court Street bridge — but this would not become known until June 7, a couple of days after a Joseph Kellar, who had faked a suicide off the bridge on May 2, was found alive and well. Blacklock's body, found in Dexter on May 21, had been claimed — and buried — as that of Kellar.

     Watertown Daily Times: April 2 — Thomas Powers is still missing
     The Syracuse Herald: April 11 — James Powers offers $100 reward
     The Syracuse Post-Standard: April 12 — the reward spurs search for a body
     Watertown Daily Times: April 15 — a fake body is chased down the river
     The Syracuse Post-Standard: May 3 — did Joseph Kellar jump into the Black River?
     Watertown Daily Times: May 21 — a body is found in the river at Dexter
     The Syracuse Post-Standard: May 22 — the body is identified as Joseph Kellar
     Watertown Daily Times: June 2 — James Powers increases the reward
     The Syracuse Herald: June 5 — Joseph Kellar is alive; claims he did not fake suicide
     The Syracuse Post-Standard: June 5 — Kellar's handwriting matches suicide note
     Watertown Daily Times: June 7 — the body is identified as Thomas Blacklock
     Watertown Daily Times: July 7 — the Thomas Powers search resumes
     Watertown Daily Times: July 8 — diving apparatus has arrived
     Watertown Daily Times: July 9 — the bell diver nearly drowns
     The Syracuse Post-Standard: July 10 — coroner doubts Thomas Powers suicide
     Watertown Daily Times: July 10 — the diving continues
     Watertown Daily Times: July 12 — bell divers abandon the search

     Watertown Daily Times: 30 June 1914 — a body is found June 28 in Lake Ontario
     The Lowville Journal and Republican: 9 July 1914 — how the body was identified

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