Christy Mathewson Jr. injured; wife dies in crash

There is a story of a terrible plane crash carried in the Enterprise in January, 1933 that happened in China and in February, 1933 there was a terrible accident when three local people drowned in Upper Saranac when their car went through the ice.

The plane was piloted by 28-year-old Mathewson; the story follows:

“Gradual improvement in the condition of Christy Mathewson, Jr., for three years a resident of Saranac Lake with his mother, widow of the famous New York Giant pitcher, and seriously injured when his airplane crashed near Shanghai, China, is the word received locally by friends of Mrs. Mathewson, Sr.

“The popular member of the Saranac Lake younger set was hurt January 8 when his plane nose-dived into a river bank, killing the former Miss Margaret Phillips of Philadelphia, Pa., his bride of two weeks. The couple were on their way to Hanchow where Mr. Mathewson is an instructor in a Chinese aviation school.

“Now in a Shanghai hospital, the young flying master is showing slow improvement. Both arms, which were broken, are nearly healed, but a broken leg is causing anxiety, according to letters received here. Physicians fear gangrene in the leg.

“Mrs. Mathewson expects to return to her home at Old Military Road and Park Avenue here as soon as her son does not need here attention, but was uncertain when this would be or when Mr. Mathewson would be able to travel.”

I did find a follow-up story about the crashbut unfortunately it was in his obituary. He had his leg amputated after the crash, regained the full use of his arms and was commissioned an Army Captain and served as a flight instructor in World War II.

The tragedy was that he died at age 43 in an explosion at his home in San Antonio, Texas in 1950.

The drownings in Upper Saranac

A car went through the ice in February, 1933 in which three local people drowned and the Enterprise reported there were two other incidents within a month where cars went through the ice; one on Lake Placid and one on Little Wolf Pond in Tupper Lake but all survived.

Those drowned were Mrs. Arthur Otis, 52 and Mrs. Theresa Lamay, 42 both of Paul Smiths and Warren McClathchie, 21, of Saranac Lake.

The car was driven by Martin Otis, 30, who escaped, (also called Melvin in other stories) and was the son of Mrs. Otis.

Following are excerpts from various Enterprise stories:

“Among witnesses to the tragedy were R. H. Stevens, superintendent of Saranac Inn, and John Jackson of Saranac Lake, ice fishermen. Stevens saw Otis and the three he believes to have been the two women and the man, pass him on the road on the Saranac Inn shore of the lake.

“He waved to Otis with whom he had been acquainted for years, he said, and watched while Otis drove his car onto the ice near the hotel. Otis drove to the fishing shack where Jackson was fishing. After receiving some ice fish, Otis started back for the shore whence he came, Jackson said.

“Apparently, however, the man changed his mind and started to cut across the ice towards his own fishing shanty about a half mile away, and intending to continue across the ice to the Norton camp.

“Jackson saw the car sink near a spot where a wide crack had been split in the surface of the lake a few days before. This crack had been ‘watered up’ and should have been regarded as dangerous, lake residents said.”

Other excerpts:

“After pulling himself [Otis] out of the water, apparently having swum up from the bottom of the lake, Otis was seen to run for the Norton Camp, half a mile away, calling for help. Search of the camp failed to uncover the man who is thought to have been fear-maddened.

“Blood on the jagged ice about the hole indicated Otis had fought desperately to free himself from the automobile before he could swim up.

“The automobile with the bodies was recovered from 35 feet of water four hours after the accident. The two women were huddled together in the rear seat and McClatchie was hanging from the broken window.”

Later, Otis was found at Camp Sunrise, where he was the caretaker. He was under the care of Dr. Rae L. Strong of Bloomingdale for cuts about the face, hands and legs and for nervous shock.

Escape from Lake Placid ice

“On January 18, 1933, Miss Doris Holcomb, a guest at the St. Moritz Hotel, Lake Placid and Henry Schuab, ski instructor at the hotel, were forced to leap for their lives from the former’s automobile.

“Mr. Schuab was driving the machine on Lake Placid when it began to sink. His companion leaped to safety, but he barely had time to disentangle himself from the steering apparatus before the car sank in the water. The water at that spot was 145 feet deep.”

Escape from Little Wolf ice

“Eight Tupper Lake people managed to save themselves last Sunday [also in January, 1933] when their car crashed through the ice of Little Wolf Pond near that village. The machine settled in 10 feet of water. Ice prevented the occupants of the interior of the coupe from opening the door and they were forced to push through the rear window to escape. Others in the rumble seat and on the running board escaped with only a ducking.

“Those involved in the accident were Mr. and Mrs. Francis LaBarge, Mr. and Mrs. Edward Hache, Mr. and Mrs. Percy Forkey, Miss Julia Tremblay and George Girard.”

[The newspaper clippings are from the archives of the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library.]