HOPKINTON – The darkness would be falling soon and supper would be ready at home. The warm house promised a great respite from the bone-chilling winter air but kids didn’t think about that. It wasn’t dark yet and no amount of cold could ruin outdoor fun.
Howard Llewelyn Crandall and his friend May McLearn, both seventeen, were out on the frozen sheen of Wincheck Pond that Monday afternoon of Jan. 22, 1894. With his feet laced into skates, Howard gaily pulled May across the frozen pond as she laughed and held tight to the sled she was seated in. But the laughter suddenly stopped as a loud cracking sound rose up from beneath them. As the ice shattered, both Howard and May sank into the frigid water.
May screamed as she struggled to climb back out. “Hold onto the sled!” Howard instructed her. May did as she was told, holding her arms above the water and planting her elbows firmly on the remaining ice to steady herself.
Howard, however, had nothing to cling to. “Oh, Mother! Mother!” he suddenly screamed before slipping beneath the water. As she watched her friend disappear, May gave a hysterical cry that could be heard by residents living as far as a half mile away.
One of the children who attended school with them, 13-year-old Percy Coon, was the first to respond to the scene. He attempted to walk out onto the pond and provide assistance but the ice under his feet broke and he too plummeted down into the freezing cold water.
As May and Percy screamed for help, several residents made their way toward the sound. One of them, upon realizing the severity of the situation, went back home to retrieve his boat. By the time he returned and was able to rescue May and Percy. Howard had been under the water for 45 minutes. It took another half hour for rescuers to retrieve his body. He was quickly brought to his parent’s house in Rockville were Dr. William Macomber tried for over an hour to resuscitate him. But it was hopeless.
Howard’s mother and father were inconsolable. John Edwin Stillman Crandall and his wife Lucy (Pendleton) had already suffered more than their share of heartbreak. Their 6-month-old son Lucius had died in 1866 of cholera, and their 17-year-old daughter Ella had passed away from the effects of consumption in 1882, after suffering for more than two years. Out of the four children they had welcomed into the world, only son Charles was now left to experience adulthood.
For John, the weight of the world on his shoulders only grew heavier as his life went on. His wife Lucy, who had been seriously ill for three years, was an invalid suffering from severe kidney disease, and disease of the uterus and intestines. Abnormal growths and constant pain would exist until her death in the summer of 1909.
On Sept. 17, 1916, John passed away at the age of 81, having outlived all but one member of his family. He was buried beside his wife, where a double stone marks their resting places.
Kelly Sullivan is a freelance features and history writer for Southern Rhode Island Newspapers.