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Last week, we reported on the loss of three Upper North Platte River Valley folks during the flood of 1917. This week, the search for the bodies continues. A news item in the June 28, 1917, “Saratoga Sun” reads:

Will Patrol the River

Guards to be Placed on Lookout for Floating Bodies of Men Drowned Above Saratoga Last Week 

Preparations are now in progress for the placing of a close watch on the Platte River between the Day Ranch and Saratoga for the purpose of finding, if possible, the bodies of Robert Day, George Day and Garland Gross, who were drowned at the Day Ranch on Sunday, June 17.

The matter is in the hands of the Commercial Club, which has appointed a committee, with William H. Sowder as chairman, to look after the hiring and placing of men to search for the bodies during the coming week.

It is presumed that the bodies will come to the surface within the next few days in case they are not caught in wire fences, drift piles or other debris, and guards with boats will be placed at various points along the river to keep a sharp watch during the next few days.

Also, a crew of men with a large boat will likely spend several days in making a thorough examination of the various islands below the scene of the accident, it being the opinion of many experienced river men that the bodies are lodged somewhere within a mile below the Day Ranch.

The search went on for several weeks, with the first break in finding the victims reported in the July 26, 1917 issue of “The Sun.”

Tie Drivers Find Body

Remains of George Day Recovered a Mile Below Home, Where He was Drowned on June 17

The body of George Day, ll-year-old son of Mrs. R.A. Day, who, with his father, Robert A. Day, and his cousin, Garland Gross, was drowned at the Day Ranch on the evening of June 17, was found late Saturday afternoon by men employed on the tie drive. The boy’s body was found entangled in the roots of a large cottonwood tree which laid in the river at a point about a mile below the ranch house.

The remains were immediately taken to the home and prepared for burial, interment being made in the Saratoga cemetery Sunday afternoon. The funeral was attended by a large number of friends of the family.

The tie drivers are working slowly and searching the river thoroughly for the bodies of the other drowned men, and they will very likely be recovered before the drive is completed. . . and, the search continues next week.

One hundred years ago, the worst flood in history rolled through the Upper North Platte River Valley between Saratoga and Encampment in south central Carbon County. Although water levels in 2011 exceeded that of 1917, tragedy was adverted. That wasn’t the case in June of 1917.

Headlines in the June 21, 1917 issue of the “Rawlins Republican” screamed:

Commissioner R.A. Day Drowned

Popular County Commissioner with Son and Nephew Drowned in Platte River Sunday – Bodies Not Yet Recovered

Last Monday, the people of this city were both horrified and grieved to learn that last Sunday afternoon County Commissioner Robert A. Day with his 12-year-old son George and his nephew Garland Gross, 19 years of age, had been drowned in the Platte River.

At the Day Ranch, which is about 10 miles above Saratoga, there is a footbridge across the river. This bridge is supported by two heavy cables. On one side of the river, the cables were fastened to an exceedingly large tree. On the other side, two trees were used to hold the cables. The bridge was considered to be absolutely safe.

Sunday, the telephone line, which crosses the river right at this bridge, went down. Mr. Day, assisted by his son, nephew and an employee of the ranch, Edward Goggrin, went on the bridge to take up this phone line for the purpose of repairing it and fastening it along the edge of the bridge. The bridge was then several inches above the water. The weight of the men on the bridge caused the structure to lower until it hit the water. When the bridge rested on the surface of the river, the force of the current caused the bridge to turn sideways when the entire strength of the river current, against the flat side of the bridge uprooted the large tree. The bridge then swung out into the river throwing all four men into the water.

Mr. Goggrin, who was the nearest to the edge of the river where the bridge was still held, grabbed the cable and pulled himself to shore. It was only by a supreme effort that he managed to save himself. However, he was unable to swim, and he knew that if he ever let go of the cable, he was lost.

The 12-year-old son of Mr. Day also grabbed the cable, but his strength gave out before he reached the bank, and he went down. Wm. Kenneday was on the bank at the time and witnessed the accident. He saw Mr. Day and the Gross boy swimming down the river in an apparently easy manner and felt no fears for their safety. He saw George Day go down once and started to the rescue of the boy as he saw him working his way toward the bank.

In going to the boy, it was necessary for Mr. Kennaday to pass around a clump of willows. He saw the boy as he reached the willows but upon coming out from behind the bushes, the boy had disappeared, and although search was made for him, there the little fellow was never seen again. It is believed that his strength gave out and he was dragged under the water by the cable.

Realizing that the boy was lost, Mr. Kenneday started down the river to locate Mr. Day and the young Mr. Gross whom he was sure had managed to reach the bank. When he failed to find them, the help of the entire section was sought and a thorough search started.

Join us next week as we search for the victims of the tragic flood of 1917.

A natural phenomenon, known by many monikers such as “Big Medicine,” “Healing Waters,” “Magic Waters,” “Medicinal Water” or “Hobo Pool” is probably responsible for the location of Saratoga.

Hot mineral water comes to the surface in the valley through fissures at the peak of a geological formation resulting from the upheaval of a rock ledge. There are a number of these springs located throughout town, including at the Saratoga Hot Springs Resort in the North Platte River, which runs through town, and on the west side of the river at the present Hobo Pool, which is owned by the Town of Saratoga.

Many legends link Indians to hot springs. The Indians believed in the supernatural powers of the waters. They believed by bathing in the mineral waters they would regain health and long life, and sometimes, warriors did so believing that the first to bathe would be the most enduring fighter.

The earliest settlers in the Upper North Platte River Valley refer to the hot springs as the “Indian Bathtubs.” 

Professor WH Reed, who came in 1868 to study and gather specimens, has told the most believable stories about the springs. He traveled throughout the state and often came to Saratoga.

He said, “The hot springs at this place used to be very popular with the Indians. They would resort to this valley by the thousands. This was neutral ground for every Indian tribe, for they all wished to bathe in the waters and be healed. No matter how much they might war outside of its boundaries, here they would fraternize, bathe and be healed. All roads led to these hot springs, and there were deeply worn trails made by the dragging of teepee poles. The waters were ‘Big Medicine.’”

Reed also said when the emigrants came through the area in about 1847, they brought smallpox to the Indians, who then came to the hot springs for treatment. Some research indicates it may have been cholera rather than smallpox. In any event, treatment consisted of sweating each patient in the hot water, listed as between 118 and 128 degrees, then plunging him into the cold waters, about 40 degrees, of the nearby river.

The result was nearly always fatal. Old hunters have said the treatment of many other Indian diseases was the same. The Indians decided a bad spirit had gotten into the waters and was killing all who bathed in them so, from then on, they shunned the valley and called the hot springs “Bad Medicine.”

Although white men, such as William H. Ashley and his band of fur trappers, are said to have passed through the Upper North Platte Valley as early as 1825, it wasn’t until the Overland Stage line was moved south in 1862 to what is known as the Overland Trail that many emigrants saw the valley … but then that’s for the next time we gather to soak in the hot pool.

Dear faithful reader: Although I’m late in submitting this Memorial Day tribute, I haven’t forgotten the many men and women of this great nation who sacrificed their all for our many freedoms. It’s never too late to say thanks for your service and God Bless to those who made the ultimate sacrifice! – Dick Perue

An editorial in the May 29, 1913 “Saratoga Sun” reads:

The nation tomorrow bows its head for one brief day to honor the men who saved the union. As years roll on and few of the heroes of other days are left in the land of the living, we take up with more real meaning every year the memory of those who fought that the United States might someday be the greatest united nation on the face of the earth.

The dream is true, and many lived to see it come to pass, but where one lived, thousands gave their lives. Honor to the few who still remain, and honor to those who rest at peace with the world. To those who sleep, we cast a tear and leave a little flower. To those who live we offer our hand, we cannot pay you in coin, in gratitude or expression. What the nation owes you can never be paid. Only in the great life to come will you get blessing due you.

Memorial Day brings to us the thought of a life to come, where all things are equalized, where the sorrows and sufferings of earthly things do not exist, where we meet again the dear ones who have gone before. It is not necessary that only the dear, old soldiers be remembered. Remember the others, too, that have gone on. If the silent marble lips of the veterans could speak, they would ask no greater plaudits than that we remember all, of both high and low, civilian or soldier, on this day of memory. They would not ask that they alone be remembered. Far from it. They claimed no glory for themselves. Great noble hearted men, who died that the nation might live.

Set aside your business tomorrow, and in your heart, remember the men who are worth your memory. Show some appreciation for the men who were, and show your heart to the men who still live. It is the duty of every American citizen, to let the red blood circulate through his body and let his breast fill with pride for the heroes of by gone days.

A May 30, 1920 advertisement in the “Sheridan Post” asks:

If He Were Alive Today…

Would you pin a flower on his coat – the hallowed coat of your country’s defender?

Would you smile into his love-lit eyes and wish him happiness?

Then, since God, in His infinite wisdom, has called many of our Beloved Heroes to the Great Beyond, place flowers on their graves in kindly remembrance and sincere appreciation of the sacrifices they made. It is the least you can do for those who fought and died that you might be safe and happy.

To the Sacred Memory of all American Heroes, both living and dead, this space is dedicated . . .

As the United States entered World War I against Germany, local newspapers were doing their part to help with front page headlines and articles, such as the one that appeared in the April 19, 1917, issue of “The Saratoga Sun.”

More Than One Way to be a Patriot, Says the President

In Address to All the People President Wilson Outlines Plans by Which All Citizens May Give Assistance to the Republic in Her Hour of Need – Great Food Store Needed

“The supreme test of the nation has come. We must all speak, act and serve together!” With these solemn words, President Wilson concluded his address to the nation issued from the White House Monday, in which he appeals to all his fellow country-men of both sexes to enroll themselves in a vast “service army” to marshal and increase the economic resources of the United States for the most effective use in the war with Germany.

“We are fighting,” says the president, “for what we believe and wish to be the rights of mankind and for the future peace and security of the world.”

The president’s appeal to this great “service army” to be formed for the nation’s defense, may be thus summarized:

To Farmers: Increase the production of your land and co-operate in the sale and distribution of your products.

To Men and Boys: Turn in hosts to the farms, to help cultivate and harvest the vast crops imperatively needed.

To Middle Men: Forego unusual profits and “organize and expedite shipments of supplies.”

To Railway Men: See to it that there shall be no “obstruction of any kind, no inefficiency or slackened power,” of the “arteries of the nation’s life.”

To Merchants: Take for your motto, “Small profits and quick service.”

To Shipbuilders: Speed construction of ships, for “the life of the war depends upon you.”

To Miners: If you “slacken or fail, armies and statesmen are helpless.”

To Manufacturing Men: “Speed and perfect every process,” for your “service is absolutely indispensable” to the nation.

To Gardeners: By creating and cultivating gardens, you can help greatly to solve the problem of “feeding the nations.”

To Housewives: Eliminate wastefulness and extravagance.

To Editors and Advertising Agencies: Give widespread circulation and repetition to this appeal.

An editorial on page 2 of the same newspaper urges:

Patriot and His Duty

The president’s statement to the country calling on all patriotic citizens to rally to the service, in some form or other, in the present crisis is timely and brings home to every man and woman whose love of country is paramount to his or her duty in the present trying times. This does not mean that all shall enlist to fight. Many, of course, must do that, but there is also an important service that the man who is to stay at home can render.

The farmer and stockman can see to it that the armies of this country and of the allies are furnished with meat and other food products, and this, in itself, is an important service to render to the country. At the present time, the farmer is already busy getting ready to plant additional crops, and the stockman also has a duty to perform in growing more forage crops for his stock and in bringing his animals to the highest efficiency for slaughter before marketing.

Those who are able can also render an important service in helping to provide for the destitute who will suffer as a result of the war, and there will be such. And, in helping to sustain the families of those who volunteer to fight, there are hundreds of ways in which the patriot may render a service to his country in this crisis. It is up to the individual to look for his opportunity and, when it comes, to do his duty, no matter what the sacrifice involved.