Disasters · Graves · New Jersey

5 children drown during sledding accident

December 13, 1874
Wayne, New Jersey
Five of the nine Dotterweich children died while sledding on an icy pond

According to Preakness and the Preakness Reformed Church, Passaic County, New Jersey: A History by George Warne Labaw, 6 of the children (Caroline, 16; Augusta, 14; Maggie, 13; John, 11; Philip, 9; and Barbara, 6) decided to slide on a nearby pond. The ice had only recently frozen and could not support heavy weight, and to make matters worse had begun to thaw.

Most of the children either climbed onto their sled or were pushing it onto the ice while John stayed behind on the edge of the pond. The combined weight of the children centralized on one spot cause the ice to break and John ran to alert his parents. Mr. and Mrs. Dotterweich attempted to reach their children by walking on the ice, but each step further cracked the surface. They then waded in neck-deep water to attempt to reach their children who were approximately 50 feet from shore, but the only rope they had was too short and they were forced to cease their rescue efforts. The bodies were retrieved an hour later, and their funeral brought between 800 and 1,000 mourners.

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