Family Stories

Into a Watery Grave

The News-Leader, Springfield, Washington County, Kentucky

July 18, 1907

Into a Watery Grave

Sad Fate of Four Members of a Camping Party on Beech Fork on Last Friday Morning

Event Casts a Shadow of Gloom Over The Town

The Dead

Jacob L. Pardieu

Miss Nellie Noe, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles W. Noe

Miss Mary Comstock, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W. T.   Comstock

Eddie Brown, colored boy, son of Bell Brown

While members of a fishing camp, the persons whose names appear above met death in a watery grave on last Friday morning in Beech Fork River, about three quarters of a mile from Maud, a small town on the Springfield and Bloomfield turnpike and about twelve miles from Springfield.  The unfortunate victims were all residents of Springfield.  The bodies of Miss Comstock and the colored boy were recovered shortly after the accident and within a few feet of where they were seen to sink.  The body of Miss Nellie Noe was recovered at about 11 o’clock on the following morning, a quarter of a mile below the fatal spot and below the old mill.  Mr. Pardieu’s remains were not recovered until Sunday morning when the body rose to the surface near the spot where the accident occurred and was found floating.

There has not been an event to occur in Springfield for years that has cast such a gloom over the entire community as the sad accident which took away the lives of four well-known people in the town.  The first message came by telephone from Maud and stated that four persons had been drowned.  The news spread like wild fire and everyone was soon making anxious inquiries for particulars.  Later reports confirmed the sad tidings and it was definitely learned that the victims of the unfortunate accident were Misses Nellie Noe and Mary Comstock, Mr. Jake Pardieu and Eddie Brown, the little colored boy.  Immediately searching parties were organized and more than a hundred men from Springfield were on their way to the river, prepared to search for the missing bodies.  Before the Springfield crowd had reached the spot the bodies of Miss Comstock and that of the colored boy, Eddie Brown, had been recovered.  News of the disaster had spread through all the neighborhood and during the day several hundred people had gathered on the river banks to render what aid they could in recovering the bodies of the unfortunate victims.

The Accident

There are a number of more or less conflicting reports about the particulars of the accident, but after talking with some of the eyewitnesses the News Leader is able to give the following version which we believe to be correct in all its essential details.  A camping party made up of the families of Messrs. C. W. Noe, Jake Pardieu, Richard Walker, W. T. Comstock, besides other friends had been in camp on the river bank for a day or two.  The men had placed a trot line and had been engaged in “running” it and for purpose had used two or three small row boats.  Two of those boats, especially, were frail affairs and were not intended for rough use.  In the party were two young men, Messrs. Harlan White and Arthur Thompson, who suggested to the young girls, Misses Nellie Noe and Mary Comstock that they go boat riding.  Accordingly the two small boats were brought into use and Miss Noe embarked in the boat with Harland White, while Miss Comstock went with young Thompson.  The young people were rowing about in the big pool of water above the old mill dam, which is quite deep in places.  Mr. Pardieu was in a larger boat and with him was the Negro boy, Eddie Brown.  He rowed out to where the young folks were and called to them to come back up to the shore, that he wanted them to help with the trot line.  While Pardieu was near the boats Miss Nellie Noe became alarmed at the water rising in the boat in which she was riding and clamored over into the boat occupied by Pardieu.  The other small boat containing Miss Comstock and young Thompson also drew near and Miss Comstock also attempted to get into the larger boat, but missed and fell into the water.  Mr. Pardieu dropped from the side of his boat to help the girl, but in some manner, probably owing to the moving over of the other occupants, the boat was upset.  In the excitement and probably in their efforts to help the girls the three men and the colored boy and the two girls were all floundering about in the water, which was some twelve or fifteen feet deep.  The three boats were overturned and useless.  Just what happened then, accounts differ.  The current at that point was swift and the unfortunate young people appeared to be doomed.  The struggle was brief.  The drowning girls grasped desperately at their companions and Mr. Pardieu was seen to be making a brave effort to save one or both of the girls, but the boats were gone and the shore was too far away to reach.  Before any of the other members of the party on shore could reach the spot the waters had closed over the unfortunate young ladies and the colored boy, and Pardieu, who was a good swimmer, was making a desperate struggle.  He was evidently too nearly exhausted, however, to make any progress and soon sank for the last time.  In the meantime the two young men, Thompson and White, after struggling in the water managed to grasp one of the capsized boats and to cling on until help reached them.  White was almost unconscious, having gone down twice before grasping the boat to which he clung.

Searching for the Dead

The news of the terrible disaster soon spread and willing workers came from every direction, and the work of rescuing the dead from the watery grave was begun.  Owing to heavy rains the night before, the river had begun to rise that morning and the swift current made the work of the searchers quite difficult.  After a short time the bodies of Miss Comstock and later that of the colored boy were brought to the surface and cared for.  All day Friday a hundred men dragged and dived in the river in the vicinity of the fatal spot in an effort to locate the two missing bodies, but without success.  The particular place is known as the “old mill pond” and a long and deep hole of water is formed in the river by an old mill dam over which the water was flowing freely on the day of the accident.  The use of dynamite was resorted to in the hope of causing the bodies to come to the surface, but the effort was unsuccessful.  With the coming of night the work of the searchers was suspended, but early on Saturday morning the work began again and was carried on systematically more thoroughly.  The searchers extended operations on down the river below the dam and here it was that the remains of poor Nellie Noe were discovered where they had lodged in shallow water.  The point was about a quarter of a mile below the scene of the disaster.  Encouraged by the finding of this body, the searchers went to work with renewed energy in their efforts to locate the one remaining corpse, that of Mr. Pardieu.  Despite heroic work, however, no trace of the missing body was discovered, and the tired out searchers went to their respective houses Saturday evening with their work yet unfinished.

On Sunday morning the news came to town that the body of Pardieu had been discovered.  It was found floating in the pool near where it had gone down by a colored man, Tyler Bland, who was on the river bank alone at an early hour.  The treacherous waters had given up their dead after successfully resisting the efforts of searchers for forty-eight hours.  The remains were taken to a neighboring house and later on brought to town.  There was a general expression of relief and thankfulness that the last of the earthly remains of the unfortunate victims of the great disaster had been recovered.

The Funerals

The sad duty of burying the dead was the next trial of their friends.  The services over the remains of Miss Mary Comstock took place at the Baptist church at 3 o’clock on Saturday afternoon, and were largely attended.  The funeral discourse was delivered by the regular pastor, Rev. W. H. Williams, and six of her girlfriends acted as pallbearers.  The interment was in Cemetery Hill.

On Sunday afternoon the friends of the departed ones were called on to witness the sad and unusual occurrence of a funeral service over two remains at one time.  At St. Dominic Church at the same hour the funeral ceremony over the remains of Miss Nellie Noe and Mr. Jake Pardieu was held, and later on the two bodies were consigned to rest in St. Dominic Cemetery.  Six girlfriends and schoolmates of Miss Noe carried the remains of their departed friend to the grave.

Eddie Brown, the colored lad, was buried on Saturday evening on Cemetery Hill, after services at the colored Baptist Church.


Jacob L. Pardieu, December 8, 1869 – July 12, 1907, St. Dominic Cemetery, Washington County, Kentucky

Jacob L. Pardieu

Jacob L. Pardieu had lived in the vicinity of Springfield about 17 years.  His parents came from North Carolina and he was born in Claybourne County, Tennessee, where his parents resided for a while before coming to Kentucky.  He was 38 years of age and at an early age was married to Miss Mattie Walker, daughter of Mr. Green Walker, at Logood, Indiana.  Besides his wife, four children, the oldest being a son of 15 years, survive.  There was perhaps not a more industrious and hardworking man in the county than Jake Pardieu.  He worked and struggled sometimes through adversity in an effort to provide a competency for his family and he won the respect and friendship of all with whom he came in contact.  The bereaved wife and little children have the sympathy of the entire community in their loss.

Mary Comstock

Born August 1897, died July 12, 1907, she was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W. T. Comstock, and was born and reared in Springfield.  She was of a bright and cheerful disposition and had many warm friends both among her young associates and among the older people of the community.  She had been a member of the Springfield Baptist Church for several years and her life was that of a conscientious Christian character.  She had been a regular attendant of the Springfield Graded School and was a bright pupil and a general favorite with her classmates.

In the death of Mary Comstock a father and mother have lost a valuable aid and comfort, and brother and sisters will miss her kindly advice and help.


Nellie Noe, Mary 20, 1889 – July 12, 1907, St. Dominic Cemetery, Washington County, Kentucky

Nellie Noe

Another one of the victims of the distressing tragedy was born May 20, 1889, and was consequently just eighteen years of age.  She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles W. Noe and was born and reared in Springfield.  There was perhaps no brighter mind, nor stronger character among the younger set of girls of Springfield than possessed by Nellie Noe.  She was ambitious and talented.  She stood at the head in her classes at school and won the respect and love of both teachers and pupils.  She was the idol of her devoted parents and her shocking death was a sad blow to them which will tax all their Christian fortitude for them to bear.  The heartfelt sympathy of many friends of the bereaved family goes out to them in this their sad hour.

A Tribute

Nellie, how very, very much you will be missed, especially so by loved ones at home and associates as well.  How sad the death of this sweet girl and in such a shocking way.  God in heaven, give father, mother, sisters and brother strength to bear this great grief.  Oh how sad it must and does make the entire community and how very sincerely do all sympathize with them.  Nellie was loved by all who knew her, she being of a bright and loving disposition, was a general favorite, to  know her was to love her.  Sunny and pleasant seemingly making it her one point to be congenial to all alike.  How cruel this sudden snatching her from our midst seems, how hard it must be for loved ones to bear.  But remember, bereaved ones, this will give you a desire to live a good, Christian life in that you may meet her in heaven.  Nellie, in her own sweet way, was always ready to lend a helping hand to any who need help, always glad to be of service to her companions, thereby commanding their love and good will.  She was a sweet and obedient child to her parents, their will being her pleasure.  Again do we most sincerely ask God a blessing on bereaved ones in this their unspeakable loss with the assurance that one day all things will be made plain to those who trust to God their all in all.  J. O. W.  Maryville, Tennessee

The Relationship

Mr. Pardieu and Nellie Noe and Mary Comstock were closely related by blood and marriage.  Mr. Pardieu’s wife and Nellie Noe’s mother are sisters, they being members of the Walker family.  Nellie Noe and Mary Comstock were own cousins, Mrs. Comstock being a sister of Mr. Charles Noe, the father of Nellie.

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