Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
There must be something about the Ohio River that leads to odd behavior – at least as far as folks from Carter County are concerned. There are no shortage of strange stories surrounding the Ohio River and the Ohio River Valley. But two oddities in particular from towns on the river, one related to a premature report of death and the other an apparent attempt to end a life early, came home to Carter County and caught our eyes as we flipped through old newspaper clippings. The first, from a 1914 issue of the Carter County Progressive, noted that an Olive Hill man apparently jumped into the Ohio River while working as a brakeman on a train for the C&O Railroad at Catlettsburg, with a view to committing suicide. While the Ashland Independent identified the man as Walter Day, the Progressive identified him as Walter James, who was “well known and has many friends here.”
While his motivations aren’t discussed any further, James was, thankfully for those “many friends,” unsuccessful in his attempt.
The second story starts out sad but ends on a much lighter note.
A year after the April 1914 events in Catlettsburg, Olive Hill residents received word that another of their native sons, Will Edd Carpenter, had died in the river city of Portsmouth, Ohio.
The Herald reported that Carpenter’s sons, Elmer and Joe, set out for Portsmouth to recover their father’s body upon hearing the news. Upon arriving in Ohio, however, they found their father alive and well. He returned with the boys to Carter County for a visit where he reportedly “look(ed) to be safe for several more years,” much to the relief of his family, we’re sure.
We can’t say what siren song drew Day into the water, or spun the false tune of the premature Carpenter death, but next time you’re near the Ohio River, take care.
You never know who, or what, might try calling you into the water.
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