The Excitement of the Danger Incurred

“The sad death of young Gale, who broke through the ice, March 19, 1863, deserves a passing notice. Scarcely a boy of the old skaters but has a tale of some escape from a like fate. The only wonder is that we survive. For when the ice was breaking up we were never content with the good skating we might have had, but went on the swaying, crashing cakes, as near the edge as possible.”

— “Notes of Other Days” (1914) by William M. Beauchamp

As winter was turning to spring in 1863, William Gale went skating and became a cautionary tale for the next generation. The Auburn Advertiser of Saturday, March 21st, reported:

“A young man named Gale, about twenty years of age, a son of the proprietor of the Skaneateles Hotel, was drowned in the Skaneateles Lake yesterday, (Friday) having skated into an air hole. After a long time spent in efforts to recover the body it was drawn out by the aid of a trout hook and line. The young man had met with a similar accident the day before, but managed to escape from the water. He was of a venturesome disposition, and had skated several miles up the lake, for the excitement of the danger incurred. The sad occurrence has awakened the sympathy and grief of the neighborhood, and is another of the many warnings against too rash and thoughtless adventure.

“Other reports give us to understand that the unfortunate young man was drowned on Thursday, having gone out to skate on the ice with a friend that morning. After amusing themselves some time, the latter returned to the Village, and left young Gale enjoying the sport that soon after led him to a watery grave. His absence from the noon and evening meal began to arouse painful suspicions regarding him, and it was not until his overcoat was brought in that the horrible reality of his fate flashed forcibly upon the minds of his agonized parents.

“Large parties were out upon the ice skating during the entire day, among whom were quite a number of ladies, but young Gale having gone towards the East shore, he was unobserved by any one. Nearly where his overcoat was found there was a large opening or air hole in the ice, and the brittle and treacherous material had been broken widely and irregularly by the young man’s efforts to get out. His body was found in thirty feet of water, and dragged up to the surface by grappling irons attached to ropes, as we are informed. His name was William Gale, a very worthy and highly esteemed young man, a son of the proprietor of  the ‘Lake House’ at Skaneateles.”


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