Historical Highlight: Sadness on the Death Curve
Our historic stories are often not as heart warming as we like, but they are still our stories. One such story comes from August 1934 and a place called Death Curve. Since moving here with my parents in 1970 I’ve heard many nick names for places around Cameron. Places like Grandview Station, Thrill Hill, 5-acre pond, Old Junction, Beaver Flats and others. A few years ago, I ran across a nick name I hadn’t heard. It was a place called Death Curve. It didn’t have the cheerful ring to it like Vinegar Hill or 5-acre pond.
I happened across a newspaper clipping that featured a photo of the Death Curve. It was captioned with a story about a couple fatal car crashes that occurred the past weekend. It doesn’t describe where exactly the “Death Curve” was, but it was obvious the curve had a bad reputation. I asked several people where it had been but came up blank. One day I happened to see Maxine Curtis Thompson at the south Casey’s. When I asked her about it, she pointed to a spot just south of the intersection of Evergreen and Walnut and said it was “Right there”. She remembered hearing about it when she was a little girl and was familiar with its history.
I took a walk to the corner and realized the road had still been there when we moved here in the 1970s. It was just a gravel path by then, but it was still recognizable as an old roadbed. It was located just north of the old Trueblood Oil or South Standard station on 69. It went east to a corner that turned north on Walnut. If you could drive it today and missed the curve, you’d end up in Charlotte’s High Fashion Salon parking lot.
Hazel Harrison was killed in the accident referred to in the article. According to the Cameron Sun, Hazel was to be married that weekend to J.W. Wharton in Ottawa Kansas. A 22-year old college student Vincent Allison was also killed in the wreck.
The road was put in as part of an improved U.S. highway system, but the planners in the early 1900s, didn’t have the experience to understand how dangerous a sharp corner like that could be. It took on the sinister reputation as a result of over 40 serious accidents in its first 18 months. It was considered the deadliest section of road between Chillicothe and Kansas City. Eventually it was redesigned into the safe wide sweeping S curve we have today. Not all our stories are cheerful. In this story, time alone has helped erased the sadness on the Death Curve.
Thanks for your comments and suggestions for story ideas.