Grizzly bundle found in city reservoir in 1930
By FRANK BOYETT, The Gleaner
Stomachs weren't just turning over in 1930 -- they were doing hand-stands and double backflips.
Can you imagine the horror when Henderson residents realized they had been drinking water in which a dead baby had been marinating? The thought alone induces queasiness.
"Hundreds of persons, upon learning of the infant's body being found in the reservoir, took jugs and buckets to wells throughout the town," The Gleaner reported.
The newborn was found floating in the city reservoir in Atkinson Park on a Sunday morning 75 years ago.
"Discovery of the decomposed body, which was wrapped in cloth and newspapers, caused a rather unpleasant situation to arise over the water supply, as all water used in the city is drawn from the reservoir.
"Health authorities immediately took hold of the situation. Warning was sent out that the water coming from the reservoir should not be used for drinking purposes until further notice."
City officials doubled up on chlorine at the water plant, "and had the reservoir sterilized with chlorinated lime.
"This was sufficient to protect citizens of the entire city, but as an extra precaution it was recommended that all drinking water be boiled for the next few days."
Elizabeth McLaughlin, the local registrar of vital statistics, "conferred with all local physicians" and determined that "all birth certificates for the month of July had been accounted for."
The tragic bundle in the reservoir was initially noticed by Harry Geibel, Charles Meade and Jake Simon, who were enjoying an early morning game of golf.
"Little was thought of it at the time except that it was rather unusual to see objects in the body of water from which the city's supply was drawn. Arriving home around 10 o'clock from the golf course, Mr. Geibel said he phoned the pumping station."
That prompted Elmer Price to investigate, who found and unwrapped the grisly bundle. He called Coroner C.A. Crawley, whose official report says the chlld's death "if not stillborn, evidently resulted from some intentional violent means at the hands of parties unknown." The body was "recovered in such condition as to make any identification impossible," the report says.
Paul Moss, undertaker with Rudy-Rowland Funeral Home, told The Gleaner that "it was impossible to determine either the sex or whether the baby was white or colored, on account of the state of the body."
Obviously, then, the baby had been in the reservoir for days -- if not weeks. But nobody wanted to dwell on that.
"The manner in which it was wrapped, being tightly bound in cloth and paper, is also believed to have prevented the water from being affected badly, if it had been in the water but a short while, as believed."
A reliable system of death records in Kentucky dates back only to 1911; since then Henderson County has seen at least a dozen other incidents of abandoned babies that resulted in fatalities. A couple of them I could find no documentation for, but the state's database of deaths indicates dead male babies were found in Henderson County on Aug. 25, 1914, and on Feb. 19, 1920. Here is a list of others:
On April 27, 1916, an infant girl was found floating in the Green River near Pikes Landing; on Jan. 29, 1919, a boy was found on Audubon Street between Elm and Green streets; and on April 11, 1927, a woman gathering greens at the east end of Ninth Street discovered the body of a baby girl that had been dug up by dogs.
On June 11, 1933, a baby was found in the lake at Ellis Park racetrack, another was found at the edge of the Ohio River on June 16, 1936, and a tiny corpse was found under the Fifth Street bridge over Canoe Creek on Feb. 15, 1941.
On July 8, 1954, a premature baby of less than three pounds, which became known as "Unwanted Baby Girl X," was discovered on the porch of 828 N. Elm St. She survived only a week.
On Feb. 11, 1970, identical twin boys were found abandoned on Merritt Drive. Autopsies revealed they had died of exposure only hours before being discovered.
The last such incident here occurred May 23, 1983, when an 11-pound boy was found in a dumpster at the county garage.
In researching this information I saw no indication any of these deaths resulted in prosecution.
140 years ago
Two of Henderson's most famous Confederates threw in the towel in 1865. Gen. Adam Rankin "Stovepipe" Johnson took the oath renouncing the Confederacy on July 28, about the same time John W. Crockett was convincing Federal authorities in Louisville that he no longer posed a threat to the Union.
Crockett was elected to the Confederate Congress, during the period when there was a Confederate state government set up at Bowling Green, and represented western Kentucky through most of the Civil War.
50 years ago
Henderson residents were glad to read 50 years ago today that the railroad underpass at Green Street was finally re-opened to traffic, after being closed three months to lower the street more than two feet, according to stories in The Gleaner. The 1955 work had detoured traffic onto North Elm Street.
25 years ago
Henderson County had the sixth-highest crime rate in the state in 1979, according to a 1980 article in The Gleaner.
Only Fayette, Boone, Warren, Kenton and Jefferson counties had higher crime rates. Henderson's crime rate was nearly 50 percent higher than the state average, but one bright spot is that no murders took place here in 1979.
Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS
Copyright 2005 HCH&GS