Deaths at the Cameron Park Bridge

The Tragic Deaths of
Fay Clanton and George B. Smith
Cameron Park Bridge
December 19, 1915

(Fay Clanton and his friend George Smith were killed at the bridge that crosses Wilson Creek in Cameron Park, just north of the present-day Herring Avenue Bridge. This is a photo of the bridge that was upstream at Lindsey Hollow, but a similar “rustic bridge” existed before the more solid concrete bridge was built, and it must have looked a lot like this one. This photo is from the 2010 book by Mark Firmin “William Cameron Park: A Centennidl History 1910-2010.”)

December 20, 1915,
The Waco Morning News

Fay Clanton and George B. Smith, Waco young men, instantly killed when auto shoots twenty feet into ravine.

George Nettles, Driving High-Powered Roadster, Escapes With Painful Injuries-Turns Too Sharply At Foot Of Steep Hill-Clanton Funeral Today, Ship Smith’s Body To Arkansas.

Fast speed, a long incline, a high bridge and a powerful roadster proved too much of a combination for George Nettles, driving two friends for a joy spin in Cameron Park yesterday at 1:10pm and as a result Fay Clanton and George B. Smith, prominent young men of Waco, were instantly killed and Nettles was seriously injured but will recover. After a Trojan attempt to right his car after getting at the base of the long but sharp hill leading from the Country club over the rustic bridge into the heart of the park, the momentum of the big eight-cylinder roadster was too much for the driver’s strength and it shot through two heavy balustrades for a sheer twenty feet to the bottom of the ravine below. A speeding car in front of the Nettles machine seemed to cause the first swerve before reaching the bridge and the speed and sliding made the situation unmanageable.

Hurtling from the edge of the bridge, the car seemed to nose its radiator into the root-covered bank and then fall bottom upwards, pinning the three occupants underneath. The heavy machine had to be turned completely over in order to extricate the three bodies. Smith’s head was crushed by the car as it hit the bank, and Clanton’s neck was broken by the crash. Nettles was in a way protected by the two bodies and escaped miraculously with a shattered arm and a deep bruise on his forehead. He is in the Provident sanitarium.

The big car, which was a gift to Nettles from his mother, was practically a complete wreck and when turned over sank deeply into the soft bed of the little creek. Hundreds of visitors crowded to the scene after the news of the accident spread over the city. Sunday pleasure motorists flocked to the spot all during the afternoon.

Park Employe Hears Crash
Two employes of the park were the first to the scene of the accident. One of the men was driving a sprinkler at the top of the hill and hearing the crash after two cars whizzed by by, ran down to the bridge. He could do nothing but kick open one of the doors of the car, which gave fresh air to Nettles in the almost air-tight compartment which the bank had made with the tonneou. He then ran to the corner of Herring Avenue and Fifth Street, over two blocks, to a telephone. Chief of Police Guy McNamara rushed to the scene in his private roadster, and after getting some reinforcements from the Casino, was able to turn the car over and release Nettles and extricate the two bodies.
Chief McNamara said the motor of the overturned car was still running when he got to the machine. The casings of the machine showed that the driver had made a heroic attempt to prevent the accident by using the emergency brake. Heavy wheel tracks in hard gutter of the driveway and the burned casing rubbed into the bridge timbers told their own tale of the accident.

In accounting for the swerve from the right railings, B. C. Nettles, well-known automobile dealer of Waco and brother to the driver, said that George had been used to an older machine with considerable play in the steering gear, and that he probably turned the steering wheel too far unconsciously under the stress of the situation.

Clanton Funeral Today
The funeral of Fay Clanton will be held at the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. C. J. Clanton, 1009 South Seventh Street, at 3 o’clock this afternoon. The body of George Smith will be shipped to Wilmer, Arkansas for burial and the father will arrive this afternoon to accompany the body.

Clanton was a young Waco boy, of a prominent family and one of the favorites in the younger set. He was 22 years old. After receiving his high school education in the city schools, young Clanton began working for the Rotan Candy factory, of which his father is the manager. He was a salesman for the company, and a member of Waco Traveling Men’s Association.

Smith was local manager of the Oriental Oil Company and had many friends here in the city. He was considered to be a young man with a promising future before him in connection with his company.

Rev. John A. Morris, pastor of the Fifth Street Methodist church, and Rev. J.A. Whitehurst, presiding elder of this district, will conduct the funeral services at the Clanton residence this afternoon. Interment will follow in the Oakwood Cemetery.

The active pall bearers are: Frank Wood, Carlie Ettleson, T. H. Boyd, Edwind Drake, Jr, Bob Montgomery, Leonard Stone: Honorary: H. H. Shear, M. M. Catton, J. E. Ivey, Charles B. Ivey, J. S. McClintock, C. W. Wilson, Winfrey Barnes, O. H. Weisinger, Will St. Clair, J. W. Barnett, W. N. Morand.

It is estimated that more than a thousand visitors viewed the two bodies in the L. C. Puckett undertaking parlors yesterday afternoon.

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