Carmel, Allegheny Co, N.Y., July 19, 1883

Mr. Dake, Very dear Sir,

For a few days past I have been thinking of an event which transpired fifty years this present month. I now allude to the drowning of Warren Dake, who was a student of Union College in Schenectady. At that time I was a boy twelve years old and was working for his brother, Benjamin C. Dake, who was living with his parents Charles and Abigail Dake. Warren had been home staying for a few days previous to Commencement. He left home on Monday morning just at light to take the cars at Ballston for Schenectady. It was Levi Hanford's turn to carry him to the cars as we were about the same age and took turns in carrying him to Ballston. Warren when at home occupied the bedroom in the southwest corner of the chamber. The girls, Pheobe and Cynthia in the northwest corner, Levi and I slept in the large room in the east end. It was hardly light when he passed though the room we occupied with his coat on his arn, walking quite fast, As he was opposite our bed he spoke quickly, saying "Come Levi".

The Commencement was on Wednesday, July 24. It was a loweiy [sic] day. Quite a number of young people from Greenfield went down to the exercises. Those I remember were Joel Gardner and wife, Sally Deake Gardner, Pheobe and Cynthia Dake, Sarah Ann Gardner, Joel B's sister (Warren's intended), Manly James and Howland Day.

When they reached the tavern five miles north of Schenectady they heard that a student had been drowned that morning. The company remarked that it could not be Warren as he hardly ever went in swimming. On reaching the City Hotel, they were informed on making inquiry ofMr. Davis, the proprietor, that it was Warren Dake, son of Esq. Dake of Greenfield. What sad intelligence to that young and happy group who were so animated and frill ofjoy. As they arrived his body had just been raised from the water. Every means was take to rescuscitate [sic] him, but his spirit had gone to Him who gave it twenty three years before.

Messengers were sent to convey the terrible news to the family, at that time we had no telegraph. They reached Deacon Dakes', sun about an hour high, and when they saw how frail the father was, they had not courage to reveal the awful fact. There was a young woman working there and to her they made known their business. She after a few moments informed the parents.

I never saw such agony manifested before. The father walked the room and groaned, saying Oh, oh, oh. A few of the near neighbors had gathered in to mourn them. After a brief interval said the crushed in his deepest anguish "Let us have a season of prayer". It was to his God that the old saint went in his overwhelming grief for support. I was sent to inform Benj. Dake, who was mowing on the farm one half mile south west, toward Grinnell' s Mills, now called, I believe Jamesville.

The corpse and sisters with their associates arrived at eleven o'clock at night. The funeral was at the house the next day, July 25, at one o'clock. Rev. Skinner of_ Corners, their pastor officiated, assisted by Rev. Thomas Powell of Milton. I well recollect hearing the pastor remark, "Little did I think, when I saw Warren Dake walking down the aisle last Sabbath, that I should be called upon to officiate in these solemn duties so soon, yet such are the uncertainties of life."

The funeral was one of the largest and most imposing and solemn ever held in the region. Deacon Dakes' family stood very high and Warren was a particular favorite among the young people. He was very sociable, amiable, and fine looking, had a penetrating blue eye, rather reddish cheeks, brown hair. His motions were more than ordinarily quick. His speech sharp and quick, he had no equal in Greenfleld, I presume was the first in the town that had completed a college course. He was to have graduated that day, to have delivered the Hebrew oration. A little event that transpired that morning made quite an impression on my childish mind. I was sent to carry the breakfast to the hired men, John Cornell and David Jones. They sat down about three rods north of the corners near Mr. Morehouse's mill. While eating Jones looked solemn and said "Look out for bad news. There is part of a rainbow in the west." It was about that time that Warren Dake was sinking down in his watery grave.

Still sine [sic] the drowning of that noble, moral, and highly literary young man, every year the impression sinks deeper and deeper in my memory. Though I have lost near relatives and dear to me, none of them ever made the impression on my mind that the death of Warren Dake did. Every year for the past half century, that subject has been one of conversation and deep sorrow.

Yours Truly,
John M. Shotwell




The night previous to the Commencement, Warren Dake, who was to deliver the Hebrew Oration, came to my room & slept with me & in the grey of the morning of Commencement day, when I awoke he was up & dressing & said that he was going down to the river to bathe & asked me to go along. I told him that I had been in the night before, but I would go with him. I arose & got a classmate of mine, David L. Bryan, and Dake got one of his Horace Handy & we four started for the river. This was a little before sunrise. In going along, I proposed that we should go to the nearest point, where there was a raft & deep water, but Dake objected, because he could not swim, so we had to go about a mile down the river to where there was shoal water. Going along Dake and I walked together, I asked him why he chose the study of Law and not Theology. He replied that he did not feel himself prepared, and that he did not consider himself a Christian.

When we arrived at the place a little below the Ferry, the other three went into the water & a little after I dove in also. As I rose to he surface I saw Dake under the water struggling. He was about two rods from me and very near to Bryan. I shouted to Bryan to help Dake for he was drowning. "No" said Bryan. "He is playing". "No" I replied & that moment Bryan sprang and seized him. Dake had probably risen twice to the surface & after Bryan went to his help they rose & sank three times. As they came to the surface I could see that this was a terrible struggle, at last they sank & I ran to the fence & tore off a plank that was spiked on stoutly, how I had the strength to tear it off was always a wonder to me, & I brought it down & threw it into the water. Bryan at this moment ran and left Dake. Bryan for several weeks carried the marks of Dake"s grasp. The water was about 10 feet deep & the current strong. When I first saw Dake, I should have gone to his assistance, if Bryan, who was a much stouter person and better swimmer than I, had not been so much nearer. Afterwards I considered that if I went, we would all be drowned. Handy stood all this time in water up to his breast without moving.

I dressed as quickly as I could, told them to get him out as quickly as possible * ran up to the Ferry where were standing a one horse rig & a two horse carriage waiting to be ferried over. I ran & sprang into the one horse carriage. Mr. Smith the man who was drving them had got out & gone down the river a few rods to see what the matter was with us. I ran the horse in his rig up to North College & got Dr. Jocelyn & hastened back to the river, hoping that they would have gotten Dake out & that we would be able to bring him to. But his body was not recovered until 10 AM when a heavy thunder shower came up and the body rose. A brother & two sisters of Dake coming in from Greenfield, Saratoga Co., when they arrived to attend Commencement & to take thir brother home, in crossing the Ferry & seeing the crowd on the shore below, inquired why they were there & learned that their Brother was drowned.

This appalling circumstance produced a great affect, clothed the students & house in mourning, & allayed in some measure the bitter feeling of the citizens & the Commencement passed off with only a few groans & ___. Such My Dear Liz are my recollections, after nearly twenty two years & never, never shall I forget the awful strength & the terrible effort of Bryan to free himself from the death grasp of the beloved and greatly lamented Dake, than whom perhaps there was not a more amiable & worthy student in College.

I am Very Respectfully Your Obt. Severent

Leonard G. Olmstead, New York