An Old School Mystery

It’s amazing what you find when you search the web. One day I happened to go poking around through the old, old, archives of MIT’s school newspaper. My grandmother graduated from there in 1920. A while back they scanned old copies of the paper and uploaded pdfs and text that was generated from an auto-OCR process. Yes, I found my grandmother in the pages of the paper. In fact, she worked on the paper, so her name is on the masthead/credits. One story, though, surprised me. I hadn’t heard anything about the events described in it from any family member. I found out about a significant traumatic event my grandmother went through… by searching on the web.

The Tech, the MIT newspaper, ran a front page story in its issue of April 2, 1919.

This is the first story:



Electrochemists Are Victims of Automobile Accident in Governor Square Last Sunday Evening


As a result of an automobile accident in Governor Square last Sunday evening, two Technology students, Joseph Coleman Deyette ‘20 of Portland, Ore-,gon, and -Miss Florence Fo-ler ‘20 of Billings. Montana. are now in the Commonwealth Avenue Hospital in a serious condition. The accident occurred as, the couple, returning home from Boston, were crossing Commonwealth avenue in front of the Hotel Buckminster. An automobile, belonging to Erick F. Carry of 10 Downinw street, Brookline, is said to have speeded towards Deyette and Miss Fogler without warning, skidding
into them, and then proceeding up the avenue.
Both students were unconscious when a passing motorist rushed them to the hospital. In several hours the identity of the pair was determined, and Deyette’s fraternity house and Miss Fogler’s relatives were notified. Latest reports from the hospital at the time of going to press, state that Deyette’s condition is critical, as he is still unconscious from the combined effects of concussion of the brain and an intense physical shock. While the doctors do not expect him to come out of this state of coma before several days they are confident that he will ultimately completely recover. Miss Fogler is resting comfortably, but hospital authorities state that she will not be able to leave for at least a week, and then it may require some time to recover from the severe nervous strain.

When interviewed, relatives of Miss Fogler said that the pair were working over some reports early Sunday evening and having completed the work, went out for a short walk. It was on their way back, when but a block from Miss Fogler’s house that the accident took place. After having struck the couple and driven away, it is said that the man driving the Carry automobile returned to the scene where he was detained and questioned by the police.

When news of the accident reached the Institute on Monday morning, several members of the faculty visited the hospital to find out the condition of the students, and to see if the Institute might be of service in providing for their comfort. In addition, the many Technology friends of Miss Fogler and Deyette were deeply concerned over the unfortunate affair and many inquiries have been made as to the progress of the two.

Miss Fogler is prominent in the Institute’s undergraduate activities, being an Alumni Editor of THE TECH, secretary of the M. I. T. Branch of the A. I. E. E., secretary of Cleofan, and a member of the Cosmopolitan club and the Electrochemical society. She is in the Electrochemical Enginleering course with
the Class of 1920.

Joseph C. Deyette is a Theta Delta Chi man, also in Course XIV, with the Class of 1920. He is well known in Technolqgy circles as the manager of the championship varsity wrestling team, and a member of the Finance Committee and the Electrochemical society.

Believing it is expressing the feelings of the faculty and student body of Technology, THE TECH extends to Miss Fogler and Deyette its sincere wishes for a speedy recovery and an early return to the Institute.

In the next issue of The Tech, sad news:



Joseph Coleman Deyette ‘20 Dies after Unsuccessful Operation

The Tech regrets to announce the death of Joseph Coleman Deyette 20 of Portland, Oregon. Deyette was injured last Sunday evening when he was struck by a passing atuomobile while crossing Commonwealth Avenue, and was immediatelv rendered unconscious. He was rushed to Commonwealth Hospital and an examination showed him to be in a critical condition. However, his recovery was expected until his continued unconscious state led to a consultation of three of Boston’s best doctors, and it was decided that an operation should be performed. The result was that his brain was found to have been practically crushed to a pulp, Deyette died Tuesday Morning. His parents had been notified immediately after the accident, and they were kept posted as to his condition. When notified of his death, they desired the body to be sent home, and the funeral is to take place there.

Deyette was a course XIV man member of the Electrochemical society and a member of Theta Delta Chi fratenity. He was prominent in activities and held the positions of a member of the Finance Committee and manager of the varsity wrestling team.  Miss Fogler who was with Deyette at the time, was also injured and taken to the hospital, however, she is improving rapidly and as her injuries were not ver seriously her condition is not alarming.

This story is corroborated by some of the old “while you were at college” correspondence I’m going through. The letter I quoted in my Influenza Epidemic post was dated December 1918. My great-great grandmother was due to take a trip from Montana to Boston. I don’t know how long she stayed (I only have two small stacks of letters; more at my parents’ house). I would like to find more of the letters that date from that time. I know that my grandmother and her sister did live together in the Boston area. But in the stack of letters I do have, there is one letter from Portland, and it mentions “Joe” in it (past tense)—who was a friend of the writer’s son, who is also at MIT, I gather. I’ve also seen another letter that may have been written by his mother to my grandmother. I remember being struck by a reference to someone—in past tense (died), and wondering who that was. After reading up some old school papers, I know a bit more.

(Here’s the search that will bring up the results I found.)

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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on May 02, 2007 in • GenealogyPersonal History
2 CommentsPermalink

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What an amazing find! There is such a wealth of information in newspapers.

Do you think the accident was so traumatic that your grandmother never spoke of it?

footnoteMaven  on 05/03  at  09:00 AM

For all I know, she did speak of it. She died when I was young (and living on the other side of the American continent), so anything I know is based on what others say that she said. I’m due to sit down with my mom for another oral history interview… I’d like to know what my Mom knows.

As to degree of trauma, there’s an event that, well, overshadows this one, that takes place about 11 years later.

Susan A. Kitchens  on 05/04  at  06:39 AM

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