One of the many interesting pieces in our collections is a Carnegie Medal of Honor awarded to William R. Howe in 1911.
Howe was a lock tender at Lock 35 in Indian Castle when one July day three young men canoed up the Erie Canal. A hundred feet from the lock the canoe capsized and the three boys fell in to 8 feet of water.
While two of the young men managed to make it to shore, George Myers, age 8, did not. With his friends screaming for help, Myers struggled to keep his head above water.
Hearing their cries, William Howe unhesitatingly dove into the water. Sadly, the panic stricken boy clung too tightly to Howe’s neck sending them both to their death.
The Carnegie Medal of Honor was presented to Howe’s widow, Leona and their five children. Howe, 32 years old at the time of his drowning, is buried in Youker’s Bush Cemetery.
The medal is inscribed “William R. Howe who died attempting to save J. George Myers from drowing. St. Johnsville, NY July 28, 1911.” The medal, as well as Howe’s tombstone also reads “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
A very sad story of two lives cut short far too early.
The Carnegie Medal of Honor was donated to the library by Howe’s granddaughter Joyce Varano of Herkimer.
remnants of Lock 35 at Indian Castle