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Laura Abigail Bozarth
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Birth: Sep. 19, 1886
Death: Jul. 28, 1906

A Double Drowning

Carelessness on the part of the occupants of a rowboat caused a double drowning in the lake at Rancocas Park on Saturday (28 July 1906) night, the first fatal accident to happen since the opening of the resort.

The members of the party were Miss Paula (Laura Abigail) Bozarth, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Benjamin Bozarth; Mrs. Albert Rossell, who was Susie Stilts; Clarence Carmelia and Raymond Rambo, all of Mount Holly and the young women were the victims of the drowning.

The event that attracted these young people to the park was the annual picnic of the United Circles of the Brotherhood of America and they had gone to the resort for an evening of pleasure. Boating appeared to be a popular pastime and this party decided to join the throng on the lake. It was about 7 o'clock when the young men engaged a boat and the pleasure trip was begun.

Rowing toward the dam, the quartet appeared to be in high spirits and they attracted some attention from people along the shore and others on the lake by what was considered unusual conduct in a boat but as the craft moved along in safety there was no interference. Splashing water on each other seemed to be the principal delight of the young people.

Finally the boat passed around the bend and disappeared from the view of those on shore and that was the last seen of the party by those whose attention had been attracted. A short time later, about 7:30 o'clock came news the young women had been drowned and those who had seen the reckless behavior needed no explanation of the sad accident. Many indeed had expected to see the overturning of the boat while it was in sight of the landing.

There were no eyewitnesses of the drowning and the only explanation that can be accepted as correct is that given by the young men whose efforts to rescue their companions were without avail. Rambo was the oarsman. He was rowing ahead while other members of the party were having a jolly time when suddenly one of the oars slipped from the lock and the boat careened, water rushing in. Becoming excited, the occupants moved and caused the boat to take in more water. As they believed the craft would overturn the women jumped into the water followed by the young men. All tried to keep their heads above water by grasping the side of the boat, but their combined weight caused it to upset.

Rambo and Carmelia directed their attention to saving the women and they succeeded in swimming with them to points near shallow water but the women relaxed their hold on the rescuers clothing before places of safety had been reached and they disappeared and sank to watery graves.

By the time the young men were safely on land, people who were boating had been attracted to the scene but they arrived too late to be of any service. The report of the accident quickly spread throughout the park and men in boats with grappling irons and hooks were soon searching for the bodies. This search continued until 12:30 o'clock when Budd Goldy of Centerton located the bodies with his apparatus. That of Miss Bozarth was found first in about six and a half feet of water while that of Mrs. Rossell lay in the water of only three and a half feet in depth. When the body of the latter was stood up the water did not come up to the shoulders.

Being taken ashore the bodies were turned over to undertaker H.H. Earnest of Mount Holly who had been summoned to the scene. Later Sunday morning they were taken to the parents of the victims, Mrs. Rossell going to Smithville.

The funerals took place yesterday afternoon:
Mrs. Rossell is interred in the Brotherhood Cemetery, Mount Holly. At 1:30 o'clock services at the house and grave conducted by Rev. G.F. Smith, pastor of the Lumberton and Smithville Methodist Churches assisted by Rev. D. Everett Van Dright of Seaville, formerly of Lumberton. Miss Bozarth was buried at St. Andrew's Burying ground on Pine Street at 4:00 o'clock. The services were conducted by Rev. James Stoddard and the pall bearers were six young women from the factory of the Mount Holly Shoe Company were the deceased was employed.

In order to determine whether the young men connected with the drowning were guilty of criminal carelessness, Coroner DeWorth conducted an inquest at the Court House yesterday morning. A jury composed of Charles Hancock, Foreman, Benjamin W. Zelley, S. Early Assay, William H. Goldyard, William Sherman of Mount Holly and Daniel Ewan of Smithville was impaneled Monday morning and these men served at the inquest. Shortly after being sworn in on Monday they viewed the bodies and visited the scene of the accident in charge of officers.

The inquest began at ten o'clock. Prosecutor Atkinson conducted the examination of the witnesses and V. Claude Palmer appeared in the interest of Carmelia and Rambo. Detective Ellis H. Parker lesser and manager of Rancocas Park was the first witness. His principal statement was as to the capacity of the boats he has placed on the lake, one of which was used by the young people of Saturday night. He said the boats are fourteen feet long and about four feet wide, flat bottom, made of cedar and constructed so as to carry found persons.

The water where the drowning occurred is five to eight feet deep and the channel at that point is about twenty feet wide. He had been told by the young men that the boat tilted and when the water rushed in all four jumped to prevent upsetting the craft. Parker discovered after the accident that both young men had been drinking, from their breaths and not their actions. The witness has repeatedly given special instruction to his assistants not to hire boats to any persons appearing to be under the influence of liquor and the liquor Carmelia and Rambo had certainly had not take effect, as they would not have been able to secure the boats if intoxicated.

Budd Goldy of Centerton testified that he recovered the bodies and was paid $5 for his services by Detective Parker. He has seen several of the boats of Rancocas Park and in his opinion they will carry four persons if they remain quiet. Although when he attempted to pull one of the bodies over the side of the boat he was using, he discovered that it was too heavy and would probably have upset had the operation been continued.

Charles Gilbert of Mount Holly who had the charge of the boats and hired the one used on Saturday was positive that the young man showed no signs of intoxication when the party left the landing.

Charles W. Hubbard of Camden was boating on the lake and he saw the young men and women splashing water and when he passed the boat one young man appeared to have been in the water. At that time the women were sitting still. After he had gone a short distance down the lake he happened to look around and then he saw all of the party in the water. He and his companion rowed back quickly and they called for help of others on the lake.

When they reached the scene, Rambo was on shore and Camelia was resting on the overturned boat almost exhausted. It was the opinion of the witness and his companion that the young men had been drinking, as they smelled of whiskey plainly. They did not know just how the accident happened.

William F. Habnan of Camden who was with Hubbard corroborated the latter's testimony. When they passed the jolly party, he heard one of the young men say: "give me another drink of rum."

Misses Mamie Baumgartner of Philadelphia and Laura E. Flictner of Masonville noticed that the young ladies were standing up at the time and after the boat left the landing.

R.D. Coze of Moorestown saw the boat being rocked while the party was out in the middle of the lake.

Archie (William Archie) Bozarth of Mount Holly, brother of one of the victims testified that Rambo said to him on Sunday morning that they were rocking the boat and splashing water just before the boat tilted. Both young men admitted to the witness that they had been drinking.

Raymond Rambo was next called. He was warned by Prosecutor Atkinson to be careful what statements he made on the stand if he desired to testify at all, as his testimony would be a matter of record for the State to use in the event of any criminal prosecution. After taking the stand he stated that he is 18 years of age. He and Carmelia frequently visited the Bozarth residence where Mrs. Rossell boarded to call on the young women and on several occasions they had been boating with them.

On Saturday night the young men made arrangements for a meeting at the park and after this meeting it was proposed that a boat ride be taken. He told of the accident as described in detail above. Regarding the whiskey that he admitted having he stated that during the afternoon he purchased a half-pint at a Mount Holly hotel where he had obtained liquor on previous occasions. Later in the day after he and other had drank the half-pint he returned to Mount Holly and at the same hotel purchased a pint bottle. He had but one drink from the latter bottle before he entered the boat. While rowing down the lake all members of the party decided to take a drink from the witness' bottle and they returned to land for that purpose. He could not remember that the boat was rocking just before the accident and it was his opinion that the slipping of the oar caused the boat to careen which frightened the women and they jumped. Rambo grabbed Miss Bozarth in the water and after she had gotten a firm grip on his shoulder, he started to swim using both hands. He was making good progress towards the shore when she slipped away and disappeared.

Clarence Carmelia was given a warning similar to that given to Rambo. He stated that he is 19 years of age. On Saturday afternoon he purchased a half-pint of whisky at the same hotel where Rambo made his purchases and several of his friends helped drink it. His description of the accident was the same as that given by Rambo although it was his opinion that there must have been some rocking of the boat just before the water ran in and the party jumped out. They were all having a good time and he did not deny that he and Rambo were probably careless in their actions. Although not a good swimmer he was able to get Mrs. Rossell within 10 feet of shallow water before she relaxed her grip on his clothing.

The taking of the testimony ended at about 12 o'clock and after few remarks by Coroner DeWorth supplemented by Prosecutor Atkinson the matter was placed in the hands of the jury. The six men considered the case for about 15 minutes and returned with a verdict to the effect that the drowning was due to the accidental overturning of the boat exonerating the young men so far as any criminal action is concerned. The verdict was certainly just what the evidence offered called for.

The drowning of Mrs. Rossell is the third accident of that kind in the Stilts family, two of the children having been drowned when they fell through the ice a few years ago.

SOURCE: "A Double Drowning", New Jersey Mirror newspaper, Wednesday, 1 August 1906.
Family links: 
  Benjamin R. Bozarth (1843 - 1920)
  Margaret C. MacIntosh Bozarth (1848 - 1921)
  John Henry Bozarth (1884 - 1902)*
  Laura Abigail Bozarth (1886 - 1906)
*Calculated relationship
Daughter Of Benj & Maggie Bozarth
"A light is from our household gone."
Saint Andrews Graveyard
Mount Holly
Burlington County
New Jersey, USA
Maintained by: Brian Bozarth
Originally Created by: Lynne
Record added: Jul 19, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 73588592
Laura Abigail Bozarth
Added by: Brian Bozarth
Laura Abigail Bozarth
Cemetery Photo
Added by: Russ Dodge
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