Anemolic memories of Farmington’s past: the disappearance of the other Harold Titcomb
(I wanted to preface that this story is a little darker than usual, but I think it needs to be told. Anyone sensitive to death may not want to read this article, but for others, let’s get started) . There is a popular quote in the aviation and engineering industries that says “regulation is written in the blood”. Rather, it is unfortunate that serious injury or death often has to occur for rules and regulations to be put in place. Such is the case with the death of Harold Titcomb, 21 (not Harold Abbott “Uncle HAT” Titcomb) in the summer of 1915. Let’s set the scene and return to the beginning of July.
Sunday July 4, 1915 should have been a day of great happiness and joy in the town of Farmington, filled with patriotic fervor and firecrackers. Instead, in the sanctuary of Old South Congregational Church around 3:00 p.m., a funeral takes place. The deceased: young Harold Titcomb. Surrounded by grieving family, friends and former classmates, the coffin is taken out of the church. The porters include former classmates, including Lloyd Morton. One might ask, “How did this 21-year-old die so prematurely?” To answer this question, we have to go back in time to the previous Wednesday evening.
At 9:30 p.m. on the night of June 30, a Ford passenger car operated by Clifford Bangs left North Chesterville for Farmington. The car is owned by Frank E. McLeary Company and carries supplies from Mrs. Florence Norton, who is preparing a wedding reception in Chesterville, to her candy store on Broadway. At around 10:30 am, Bangs arrives at the candy store and drops off the supplies. At this point, Clifford should return the car to Mr. McLeary, but he has other plans.
Fred Jordan, another youngster, joins Bangs for a late night car ride. Turning right onto High Street, the duo meet Raymond Currier, Harold Trask and Harold Titcomb. The three boys climb into the backseat, with Trask on the left, Titcomb on the right, and Currier in the middle. The five boys drive to West Farmington to watch the circus load onto the late night train. Around midnight, the loading ends and the boys wish to return to Farmington Village. This is where the story takes a dark turn.
Going down Bridge Street, the five boys reach Center Bridge and must turn left onto Intervale Road. Unfortunately, the car gained speed going down the slope and the turn became impossible. The automobile struck a telephone pole with its right fender, breaking it. The car then bounced off the road, but unfortunately it went through a fence and over the embankment into Beaver Dam Creek, overturning. Four of the boys came away with minor cuts and bruises, but Titcomb is badly injured.
Trask rushes to the nearest house and requests the services of Drs. George Pratt and Harold Pratt. Doctors arrive and take Titcomb to Howard M. Fuller. Harold Titcomb’s injuries are quite gruesome and extensive. During this time until 5 a.m. he is unconscious. Around 5 a.m. on Thursday July 1, 1915, Harold Titcomb breathed his last. The following Sunday he was buried in the Old South Congregational Church and buried.
There are a few interesting things to note about the circumstances of this horrific accident. Just a day before the crash, the Franklin Journal ran an op-ed saying people were driving too fast in the village and someone would soon be injured or killed for reckless driving. After the tragedy, the town of Farmington issued new rules for driving in the village, including an 8 mph speed limit on bends or at railway crossings. Later that month, another law was passed which strictly enforced the use of headlights on automobiles after sunset in the village. Sadly, that horrific death was what it took for strong regulations to be enacted, as most regulations are written in blood (story from the Franklin Journal).
Layne Nason is a Farmington historian, specializing in the history of Abbott School for Boys and Farmington during the Great War.