Newlyweds & Family Drown in Ohio River on Christmas Day

“For persons, a father, son, daughter and son-in-law, the latter of bride and bridegroom married Christmas eve, are missing and relatives say they perished in the Ohio river in a Christmas Day tragedy Wednesday afternoon, 25 miles west of Portsmouth. A game warden was the last to see them alive, enveloped in a blizzard, their frail craft surrounded by cakes of ice and the occupants calling for help.”

“Two employees of Dam No. 30, near Greenup had a narrow escape from a similar fate, when their craft was trapped in an ice pack near Greenup for three hours Christmas night.”

Corbett Porter, 38, father of eight children, a son, Charles Porter, 14, and a daughter, Mrs. Goldie Porter Kennedy, 21, the bride of a few hours, and her husband, Willard Kennedy, 22, are missing. They started about 1 PM Wednesday from the mouth of Quick’s run, Lewis county, Kentucky, 25 miles west of Portsmouth, and a skiff to cross the Ohio River to visit Kennedy’s parents in Ohio.”

“Game warden Allen Ruggles of Lewis county, patrolling the river bank for violators of the duck law, saw the party leave the Kentucky side, watch them until they reached the middle of the Ohio River and then saw a violent snowstorm enveloped them. He said he heard to shrill screams and then deathly silence.”

“The officers said that considerable ice was running in the river. No boat was available and he could not go to their help in response to their distress call. Relatives said that the group has not been seen since and the boat is missing.”1

Wed In Vanceburg

“Mr. Kennedy and Miss Porter were married Christmas Eve in Vanceburg by Reverend Ira W Stout. The party was en route to visit the Kennedy family in Ohio when the accident occurred.

Mrs. Kennedy, mother of the missing youth, is in a serious condition from shock. Mr. Kennedy has two brothers and sisters living. The Kennedys moved to the Long Lick community in Adams county several years ago from the Manchester community.”

“Five of Mr. Porter’s children lived at home, Opal, Helen, Virgie, Mildred, and Herbert and Floyd Porter lives in Vanceburg. Mr. Porter’s wife also is living.

“Quick’s run is located 4 miles west of Vanceburg and 1 mile east of Dam No. 32.”

“Death by drowning by four persons in the Ohio river Christmas afternoon, 4 miles below Sandy Springs, raised to 11 the toll of persons who have perished in three major accidents in the river in a five-mile section of the stream there in the last 23 1/2 months.”

“Four persons were drowned January 17, 1933 when an automobile backed off the ferry boat at Sandy Springs. Three perished June 11, 1934, when a motor boat capsized.”

“Tragedy followed members of the Kennedy family, widely known and Saturday in Adams county, in all of the accidents.”

Thomas Kennedy, 80, of Vanceburg, perished in the ferryboat disaster. Mrs. Russell Kennedy, 57, and her daughter, Miss Lily Mae Kennedy, 18, both of Sandy Springs, were drowned in the motorboat accident; Willard Kennedy, 22, son of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Kennedy of Long Lick, Adams county, were drowned in the Christmas afternoon tragedy. Thomas Kennedy was a second cousin of Jacob Kennedy, Willard Kennedy’s father. The husband of Mrs. Kennedy was a second cousin of Thomas and Jacob Kennedy.”

“Ice-filled waters of the Ohio River today held bodies of the newly married couple, Mr. and Mrs. Willard Kennedy, the bride’s father, Corbett Porter, 38, father of eight children, and her brother, Charles Porter, 14, who perished Christmas afternoon in midstream after they started across the river from the mouth of Quick’s run, Kentucky, 4 miles west of Sandy Springs, to the Ohio side to pay Willard Kennedy’s parents and brothers and sisters a Yuletide visit.

“A battered capsized rowboat, found Thursday noon by Clifford Fite of Manchester, on the Ohio side of the river, gave mute evidence of the fate that befell the four, trapped in a blizzard that whipped the river, upset the frail craft and plunged the boat occupants to their death in the bitter-cold water.”

Boat Drifted To Shore

“Fite found the boat at a spot near where the party would have landed had they reached sure in safety. The overturned craft, containing but a single pair of oarlocks, minus its oars, had drifted into shore. The frail deathboat is a homemade craft about eight feet in length and several feet in width.”

“Officials and relatives of the victims are handicapped in their efforts to recover the bodies by the ice-filled river and the near-zero temperature.”

“William Kennedy, 22, of Long Lick, and Goldie Porter, 21, of Quick’s run were married in Vanceburg Christmas eve by Reverend. Ira Stout. They met a tragic fate the next day, their honeymoon hardly started.”

Game Warden Seen Tragedy

“Alan Ruggles, Lewis county game warden, saw the ill-fated party leave the Kentucky shore and start for the Ohio side. Shortly after the quartet reached the middle of the river, the boat and occupants were enveloped in a violent snowstorm. The game warden heard two shrill screams and then deathly silence. No boat was available for him to answer the distress call and it would have been almost certain death for him had he attempted to reach a spot where they were last seen.”

“A sister of the bride and youth, who perished in the accident, accompanied them to the waters edge but decided not to make the trip across the river. She informed officials that Charles Porter, the 14-year-old youth was rowing the boat when they started across the river.”

Auto Plunges Off Ferry

“Four persons were drowned and two had narrow escapes January 17, 1933, when an automobile backed off the Sandy Springs ferryboat on the Ohio side of the river. The car was in reverse gear when cranked, crashed through safety chains and plunged into the river.”

“Persons who perished then were: Mrs. Nettie Cooley Sparks, her son Robert Cooley, 8, her stepdaughter, Mrs. Maggie Aldridge of Pond Creek and Thomas Kennedy, 80, of Vanceburg.”

Paris Aldridge, husband of Mrs. Maggie Aldridge, and Alfred B Sparks were rescued by the ferryboat crew. The car belonged to Paris Aldridge and the party was returning from Vanceburg when the accident occurred.”

Motorboat Capsizes

“Three persons, including a mother and daughter, were drowned and three others had remarkable escape from a similar fate, when a motorboat capsized in the Ohio river one mile east of Sandy Springs, at 8:15 PM, Monday, June 11, 1934.”

“Persons drowning in the motorboat disaster were: Mrs. Russell Kennedy2, 57, her daughter, Miss Lillie Mae Kennedy, 18, and Miss Hazel Morgan, 24, all of Sandy Springs.”

“Six persons occupied the small motorboat, owned and piloted by Pete Kessinger, 24, a Selby Shoe Company employee. Miss Morgan, an expert swimmer, went to her death a heroine trying to save her helpless companion, Lillie Mae Kennedy.”

“Those who escaped were Mrs. JH Morgan3, 50, mother of Hazel Morgan, David Dawson, 5, who lived at the Morgan home and Kessinger, a roomer at the Morgan home. Kessinger said that he did not know whether the boat sprang a leak or became overbalanced. The accident occurred in about 10 feet of water, 40 feet from shore.”4

Boat’s Victim’s Body Recovered

“Manchester, February 28.- Ice water of the Ohio river Thursday afternoon surrendered the body of one of four persons who met a tragic death in the river Christmas afternoon when their boat capsized during a blizzard.”

“The body of Willard Kennedy, 18, son of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Kennedy5, living on the Ervin farm, two miles east of Rome, and a bridegroom of but a few hours, was found Thursday at 3 PM, floating a half-mile below the scene of the tragedy by Harry Piatt and Wheeler Cook of Rome, employees of Dam 32 as they were en route to work.”

“A sister, Minnie, identified the body by missing tooth and several articles in the youth’s pockets, after the father was unable to identify it. Coroner Dr. ET Gibboney of West Union returned a verdict of accidental drowning.”

“Bodies of Mr. Kennedy’s wife, Mrs. Goldie Porter Kennedy, 18, a bride of a few hours, her father, Corbett Porter, 43, and her brother, Charles Porter, 14, have not been recovered. The party of four left the mouth of Quick’s run above dam 32 across the Ohio River to visit the Kennedy family. Disaster overtook them as the Gail struck.”

“Mr. Kennedy is survived by his parents and several brothers and sisters, including Minnie, at home, Mrs. James Gilbert6 of Concord and Roch, at home.”

“Funeral services will be held Saturday at 2 PM, at the Wilson funeral parlor, Reverend O Womack in charge, and burial will follow in the IOOF Cemetery.”8

Death Certificate of Willard Kennedy

Recovered Body May Be Vanceburg Woman

“Vanceburg, March 21-A body believed to be that of Mrs. Goldie Porter Kennedy of near Vanceburg was recovered from the Ohio River near Cincinnati today.”

“Mrs. Kennedy was one of four persons drowned near Vanceburg during a blizzard Christmas Day. The body of her husband, Willard Kennedy, was recovered recently. Bodies of two others have not been found.”

“Floyd Porter, brother of Mrs. Kennedy, went to Cincinnati today to view the body. Clothing corresponded with that worn by Mrs. Kennedy, relatives said.”9

Second Body Of Tragedy Is Found

“Vanceburg, March 21-floodwaters of the Ohio River have surrendered the body of Mrs. Goldie May Porter Kennedy, 18, one of the victims of a quadruple tragedy in the river Christmas afternoon opposite the mouth of Quick’s run near here. Her father, brother and husband were the victims of the blizzard that raged as they attempted to cross the river from Kentucky to Ohio, the violent Gail upsetting the frail craft.”

“Mrs. Kennedy’s body was found near the mouth of the Miami River near Cincinnati Friday. A brother, Floyd Porter, identified the body by the clothing and a wedding ring. Mrs. Kennedy was a bride of only a few hours. She and Willard Kennedy, 18, were married in Vanceburg Christmas Eve and were in route to the home of Kennedy’s parents when death overtook the party.”

“Mr. Kennedy’s body was recovered on the Ohio side of the river a short distance from the scene of the accident several weeks ago and buried in Manchester.”

“Bodies of Corbett Porter, 42 and his son, Charles Porter, 14, have not been recovered. The body of Mrs. Kennedy will be brought to Vanceburg Sunday. Plummer Brothers will be in charge of the funeral.”10

Death Certificate of Goldie Mae Porter Kennedy

Body Of Third Victim Is Found

“Vanceburg, March 25-Floating on a pile of drift on the crest of the swollen Ohio River, the body of Corbett Porter, 42, was found Tuesday afternoon by Albert Sharon. Mr. Porter was one of four persons who perished Christmas afternoon and the Ohio River opposite the mouth of Quick’s run when their frail craft capsized in a blizzard while crossing to the Ohio shore.”

“The bodies of Mr. Porter’s daughter, Mrs. Goldie Porter Kennedy, 18, a bright of the few hours, and that of her husband, Willard Kennedy, 18, were recovered recently.”

“Coroner ET Gibboney of Adams County, Ohio, said that the body was identified by insurance papers and a Chesapeake & Ohio Railway pass. It cannot be identified otherwise because of being in the water over such an extended period.”

“The body of a 14-year-old son of Mr. Porter has not been recovered.”

“The body of Mr. Porter was to be buried today at the Quick’s run Cemetery. He is survived by his son and daughter, Floyd and Helen, of Vanceburg and three young children in the Kentucky orphans home in Louisville. His wife preceded him in death. The body was cared for by EG King of Manchester and Plummer Brothers of Vanceburg.”

“Mr. Kennedy was buried in the IOOF cemetery in Manchester and Mrs. Kennedy in Cincinnati.”11

  1. 4 In Boat Lost As Gale Whips River. (1935, December 26). Portsmouth Times, p. 1.
  2. Etta Lawson Kennedy
  3. Bertha Lee Morgan
  4. 11 Persons Die in Ohio River Near Sandy Springs in Three Major Accidents in 23 Months. (1935, December 27). Portsmouth Times, p. 1.
  5. Nancy Alice Fetters Kennedy
  6. Neoma E Kennedy Gilbert
  7. Boat Victim’s Body Recovered. (1936, February 28). Portsmouth Times, p. 2.7Boat Victim’s Body Recovered. (1936, February 28). Portsmouth Times, p. 2.
  8. Recovered Body May Be Vanceburg Woman. (1936, March 21). Portsmouth Times, p. 1.
  9. Second Body of Tragedy is Found. (1936, March 22). Portsmouth Times, p. 16.
  10. Body of Third Victim is Found. (1936, March 25). Portsmouth Times, p. 1.
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