Monday, October 20, 2008

Amateur sleuths say they've identified Mountain Lake body

Roanoke Times articles from 1921 detail drowning of Samuel Felder.

Samuel Felder fell overboard as he boated with friends on Mountain Lake late one Saturday evening in 1921, according to Roanoke Times stories from that year.
According to an article that ran in the July 26, 1921, edition of the newspaper, Felder was seated in the stern of the boat while a friend rowed. Felder "suddenly fell backward into the water, and did not rise to the surface, a fact which led to the conclusion that he may have been dead when he sank," the article said.
The water was about 60 feet deep in the spot where Felder went overboard just before 11 p.m., the paper said. A deep sea diver was called in from Norfolk to search for the body but never found it.
Two Virginia Tech graduates who do genealogy research as a hobby believe Felder is the man whose remains were found in the lake a month ago today. After learning that Clemson University confirmed three men with the initials S.F. graduated from the school in 1904 -- matching up with the date engraved on a Clemson class ring found Sept. 20 in the dried-up lake bed alongside the remains -- Jim and John Dalmas began researching those three men.
Felder, whose full name was Samuel Ira Felder, would have been 37 when he fell to the bottom of the Giles County lake.
According to a South Carolina newspaper article the Dalmas brothers found dated July 27, 1921, a deep sea diver arrived at Mountain Lake the day before to search for the body of "S.I. Felder of Troy, N.Y., who fell overboard and drowned late Saturday night while boating with a party of friends."
The discovery of that article prompted The Roanoke Times to search archives from that date.
Roanoke Times stories said Felder and his wife had gone to Salem from New York to visit their friends, Mr. and Mrs. Rufus Bowman.
"The party were boating in the moonlight on the lake," one article said. Felder was in a canoe with his wife, Al Bowman and Nancy Logan when he fell into the water, it said.
The other people "saw him fall from the bow of the boat into the lake. He seemed to choke and struggle for an instant and then he was engulfed by the moonlit waves," the article said.
The rest of the party was fishing at the other end of the lake when they heard calls for help.
"They hastened alongside but all too late, for Mr. Felder was never again seem to come up," the article said. Another article said it was assumed that Felder suffered from heart failure.
U.S. Census records show that Samuel Ira Felder was born May 10, 1884. A native of Orangeburg, S.C., he attended Clemson University.
After graduating from Clemson in 1904, records show, Felder went to New York City, where he worked as an engineer for a telephone company.
A 1920 census shows Felder married to a woman named Catherine. A census from 10 years later shows Catherine Felder still living in New York, but now widowed. The couple had no children.
Last week, Clemson, which was contacted by the Giles County Sheriff's Office, confirmed that the ring was from the university. It was known in 1904 as the Clemson Agricultural and Mechanical College.
The first and last initials found on an engraved belt buckle and cigarette case found near the remains were S and F. The middle initial was unclear - officials first thought it was a C, then a G.

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