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48 years since tragic deaths shook Quincy

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By Pat Faherty

It was the biggest headline of 1962, possibly the biggest of that decade.

And 48 years later it still touches the lives and the congregation of a venerable Quincy church.

"Tragic Drownings Sadden County" screamed the front page of the Gadsden County Times to a community still in shock.

That Saturday -- Aug. 18, 1962 -- a horrific accident turned a Sunday school outing into a tragedy beyond belief for the small community of Quincy.

Eighteen people, 17 children and one adult, had drown in a boat accident on Lake Talquin.

"Funerals for Victims Will Begin Thursday." reported the Times on Aug. 23, 1962 in the following account.

People of the entire United States and especially those in Gadsden County were deeply saddened upon learning of terrible tragedy that took place Saturday afternoon at Lake Talquin. It has focused the attention of the whole civilized world upon this community and has brought messages of condolence and offers of help from many places. Many acts of love and kindness by white friends of the victims and survivors were  manifest, making things a little easier to bear for those who had lost so much.

Funeral services for the victims will commence today an last through Sunday.

Eleven year old Jerome Maples was the loan survivor of a boatload of 18 children and their Sunday School teacher when the overloaded 14-foot craft submarined at Lake Talquin Saturday afternoon while on a Sunday School outing.

The children were all members of a Sunday School class of Blessed Hope Church on the Hutchinson Ferry Road about eight miles northwest of Quincy. Other family members and relatives were also at the outing, some cooking or playing on shore.

The Maples youth, who has since passed away, stated that the boat went down front first with everybody screaming. "I can't swim, but somehow I got back up and a white man came by in a boat and helped me by handing me the end of a fishing pole."

Seven  of the drowned were from the family of Ester and Mattie M. Watson. They have five other children.

The tragedy, the greatest in the recent history of Gadsden County took place about 1 p.m. about 200 yards from the boat landing operated by Jessie Robinson near Idle Wilde Fish Camp on Lake Talquin.

A witness said the bow of the boat began to take water and Joseph Bouie, the teacher and operator, gunned the motor in an effort to raise the bow. Instead the craft dived under the water, spilling the fully clothed occupants, and then resurfaced empty.

Bouie was 25 years of age, married and the father of two young children who were not on the picnic. he was a valued employee of King Edward Tobacco Company. He was also president of the Quincy Choir Union 3.

Bodies of all of the victims were recovered by divers within a few hours after the accident. The bodies were said to have been closely grouped in water six or seven feet deep. Bouie is said to have been clutching a little girl when his body was recovered. It was apparent that he was trying to save her, witnesses said.

 Thousands of people gathered at the lake following word of the tragedy. Officers from Leon and Liberty counties as well as nurses and doctors from Quincy, ambulances and volunteer workers responded in droves.

Mrs. Lucille Jones, manager of the local Red Cross office stated Monday that she had contacted the Atlanta regional office and had been successful in having he tragedy declared a major disaster. Mrs. Jones has made a survey of the needs of the relatives and made necessary provisions ... arrangements were made for all the burial expenses...

Churches of the community came forward with offers of help both financially and spiritually... Condolences poured in for all over the nation.

Funeral services for the 17 children and one adult will commence today and last through Sunday. Names of the victims, ages, parents and time and place of burial follow: Rose Marie Huntley, 8...

 Mandy L. Green and  Quilla A. Green, 10 ...

Terry Watson, 5, Jennifer L. Watson, 6, Bernard Watson, 8, Leonard Watson, 9, Ethel L. Watson, 11, Delores A. Watson, 12, Essie B. Watson, 14 ...

Gloria A. Battle, 6, Rosa M. Battle, 9...

Queenie E. Grimes, 9 ...

Ruby Green, 11 ...

Annie Yon, 8 ...

Louis Jordan Maple, 12 ...

Dorothy Baker, 11 ...

Joseph Bouie, 25.

From the Aug. 15, 1963 Gadsden County Times; a Memorial Service  for the 18  drowning victims was held on Sunday at Blessed Hope Missionary Baptist Church.

And it is a tradition that continues to this day. This year, like every year, the public is invited to join with the congregation at Blessed Hope for a Candlelight Memorial Service at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 14.