Week 31: Help!

August theme: Help

[Note: family photos from David L. Klees davlorkl@gmail.com via findagrave]

Not all stories have happy endings.

Jeremiah Fahringer (1854-1945) and his wife, Mary nee Fetterman (1855-1927) were my DIL’s 3rd great grandparents. They were farmers in Columbia County, Pennsylvania. This story is about two of their grandchildren, Charles Derr and Karl Klees.

Jeremiah and Mary were the parents of nine children, and subsequently, many grandchildren. Their eldest child, Mary Agnes, was my DIL’s great-great grandmother.

Their second child, Hannah Savilla (1879-1954) married John Derr, and they had four children, one daughter and three sons. Hannah and John’s second child and eldest son Charles Edward was born 16 Jan 1907. Charles was a farmer, and married Thelma Berninger on 25 Mar 1931. (No children).

Fifth child was Laura Amanda (1888-1972), who married Charles Harrison Klees. They had three sons. The eldest was Karl Kermit, born 21 Apr 1915. He worked as a hand on his father’s farm.

On May 28, 1935 Charles Derr drove his family to visit friends in Catawissa. There he met up with his Klees cousins, and the boys decided to go for the first swim of the season in Catawissa Creek.

Charles swam out into deeper water and climbed up on a rock 4 ½ feet beneath the water. He slipped and fell into the swift moving rapids. He surfaced twice and shouted for help. Karl swam 35 feet to reach him, but both simultaneously slipped beneath the waters. The younger cousins ran for help, but were too late, and both the men drowned as they were swept over the falls.

The men shared a double funeral, with burial in different cemeteries. Charles’s wife never remarried, and when she died in 1986 she was buried beside him.

Karl was posthumously awarded the Carnegie Medal for heroism.

Karl K. Klees died attempting to save Charles E. Derr from drowning, Catawissa, Pennsylvania, May 28, 1935. Derr, 28, swam from wadable water in a pool in Catawissa Creek to a rock that rose vertically from the creek bed 30 inches below a dam and stood on the rock in water four and a half feet deep. Water around the rock was seven to nine and a half feet deep. Ten inches of water was flowing over the dam. There were strong irregular currents near the rock. Less than a minute after reaching the rock, Derr slipped from it into water nine and a half feet deep. His head twice reappeared briefly. Klees, 20, farmhand, swam from wadable water 35 feet to the churned area near the rock and then sank and did not reappear. Both Derr and Klees were drowned.

1 Comment

  1. Barb LaFara says:

    You are right, not all stories have happy endings. Thank you for sharing the story of these two young men.


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