On Sunday afternoon, June 30, 1912, John Dean of Auburn offered two friends from Skaneateles a ride in the country in a new Stevens-Duryea touring car, with a six-cylinder engine that could produce speeds of up to 60 miles per hour.
William Topp, a shoemaker, and J. Charles Stephenson, Jr., son of the proprietor of the Skaneateles Free Press, were seated in the back when Dean rounded a curve outside of Cato, saw a horse and buggy approaching, swerved and hit a telephone pole head-on. The pole snapped like a match stick; the car flew into the next pole and flipped. Dean’s passengers “were hurled from the car as though shot from a monster slingshot, turning over and over as they went.”
The Auburn newspaper reported, “Former Sheriff Jesse Ferris of Cato who lives a mile and a quarter distant from the scene of the tragedy said he plainly heard the twang of the impact when the iron monster struck the telephone pole.”
Topp and Stephenson were dead at the scene, and Dean was critically injured. When John C. Stephenson, Sr., was found at the Packwood House and told of his son’s death, he fainted and fell to the floor in the lobby.
I will let the Auburn Journal tell the rest of the story:
“For three days it was believed Mr. Dean would die from his injuries, but although that was less than a month ago, he showed no ill effects of the accident to-day.
“‘Never any more fast driving as long as I live,’ remarked Mr. Dean as he stopped to receive congratulations from friends on Genesee Street. ‘I’ll never drive faster than six miles an hour. I did not realize the high speed when the accident occurred.’
“Mr. Dean is planning to spend the next two months at the home of his aunt… He said that by that time he would be able to resume his duties as an auto salesman.”