Event Person

Robert Arthur Van Nostrand Drowns

“Slipping down the side of the riverbank and back of the Stockham of Ice Company plant at 11th and Chillicothe streets about 10 AM Saturday Robert Arthur Van Nostrand, 13-year-old son of Mrs. Virginia Van Nostrand of 817 11th street, fell into the chilly waters and was drowned. Carl Spurck, 13, son of Mrs. Phoebe Spurck of 1254 Eighteenth street, heroically dived into the cold waters in an effort to save the life of the youth but the water was so cold that he was forced to climb out.”

“According to relatives of the victim he left home about 20 minutes before meeting his death. He was carrying a sack of golf clubs and was in route to the Raven Rock golf course where he was a master caddy.”

“A man reported to officials that he saw Van Nostrand standing on the top of the river bank knocking balls across the river. Officials advanced the theory that one of the balls he struck fell short and rolled down the bank. In an effort to retrieve the ball before it went into the water the boy ran down the bank, slipped and fell into the river.”

Body is found

“Spurck told officers that he was in route to a barber shop to get a haircut. He said that he stopped on top of the river bank when he heard the boy’s screams. He ran down to the edge of the water and dived in. He said that he got within a few feet of Van Nostrand but that the victim sank below the surface and he was unable to grasp him. He said that his legs started cramping in the freezing water and he returned to the shore where he summoned help.”

“The fire department life-saving crew, headed by Chief Robert Leedom, made a hurried run to the scene, where they started dragging the river in an effort to find the body. The body was found several hours later and was removed to the Emrick funeral home.”

“The river has a strong current where the victim fell in and also full of large rocks. This hampered the rescuers in their efforts to find the body.”

“George Keller, one of the first man to arrive on the scene, saw Van Nostrand’s body come to the surface about 50 feet below where he fell in. He said that the boy had taken off his coat and it was floating near the body.”

Golf sticks found

“The golf sticks which Van Nostrand had in his possession were found near where he was knocking golf balls. There were six sticks in the bag when found, and officials advanced the theory that he had a club in his hand when he fell in.”

“Spurck was taken to his home, where he was given a hot bath, wrapped up in blankets and sent to bed.”

“Spurck is a student of St. Mary’s school and is in the seventh grade.”

“Nostrand was the bell-ringer for St. Mary’s school and was very well known. He was a Boy Scout and a member of Troop No. 17. He was in eighth grade in school and a brilliant scholar, standing third high in his class.”

“His father, Rhodes Van Nostrand, a former newspaperman, died July 19 last.”

The victim is survived by his mother, Mrs. Virginia Van Nostrand, three sisters, Marjorie, Bertie and Dawn, and one brother, William, all living at home.”1

  1. Believe Youth Slipped, Fell While Playing. (1931, March 14). Portsmouth Times, p. 1.
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