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Horror on the River

By Hillary Delaney

A day of fun turned to tragedy on a warm June evening in 1891. A group of friends and co-workers who had spent the day playing tennis in the hot sun decided to take a small boat out on to the breezy Ohio River. That decision, combined with poor visibility and even poorer timing, cost the lives of five carefree people.

The group consisted of: Thomas Thurman, 54, Kitty Riddell, 35, and Joseph Zins, Edith Zins and Katie Cox- all under 25 years old. Thurman and young Joseph worked for the Banner Tobacco Company. Edith Zins was Joseph’s younger sister, and Kitty Riddle was their cousin. Katie Cox was the fiancée of Joseph Zins. All of the group lived in Cincinnati, with the exception of Kitty Riddell, who was a Burlington resident.

The party boarded their small rowboat in the Riverside neighborhood of Cincinnati. They had been lazily floating downstream, when they decided to cross the river, perhaps to head toward the shores of Boone County. The lights of the tugboat “Frank Gilmore” headed downstream were clearly visible, but the multiple barges she pushed did not have lights. The small craft moved directly into the path of the barges, with no time to change course. A woman’s scream alerted a barge worker, who was only able to see a “dark shape” go beneath the barge. No bodies were immediately recovered, only a woman’s hat and several handkerchiefs.

Seth Foster, a cousin of the Zins and Riddell, ran reward ads in the paper, offering $50 apiece for the recovery of Joseph, Katie, Edith and Kittie. His plea would be answered by half within days of the accident, though the other half would take weeks.

Constance resident Levi Fox had the misfortune of discovering the first victim, two days after the accident. Fox was crossing the river near the Anderson Ferry, approaching Kentucky, when he saw a dark shape floating in the water. It was the body of Mr. Thurman, though had it not been for his clothing and graying hair, he would have been unrecognizable. That very same evening, another man from Constance, William Masters, spotted pair of lifeless eyes staring at him from the dark waters of the river, it was Edith Zins. The river surrendered the body of Kitty Riddell the following day, near Aurora, IN, several miles downstream from the previous day’s ghastly discoveries.

The bodies of young lovers Katie Cox and Joseph Zins would not be found for nearly another two weeks, but within one day and a couple of miles of each other. Speculation was that the pair was entwined in one another’s arms in a watery grave for those many days.

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