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(I wanted to preface that this story is a bit darker than usual, but I feel that it must be told. Anyone sensitive to the topic of death may not want to read this article, but for others, let us begin). There is a popular quote in the aviation and engineering industries which states, “regulation is written in blood.” It is rather unfortunate that often serious injury or death must occur in order for rules and regulations to be put into place. So is the case in the death of 21-year-old Harold Titcomb (not Harold Abbott “Uncle HAT” Titcomb) in the summer of 1915. Let us set the scene and travel back to early July.
Sunday, July 4, 1915 should have been a day of great happiness and joy in the town of Farmington, filled with patriotic fervor and firecrackers. Instead, in the sanctuary of Old South Congregational Church around 3:00pm, a funeral is taking place. The deceased: young Harold Titcomb. Surrounded by grieving family, friends, and former classmates, the coffin is brought out of the church. Pallbearers include former classmates, one being Lloyd Morton. One may ask, “how did this youth of 21 die so prematurely?” To answer that question, we must turn back time to the previous Wednesday night.
At 9:30pm on the night of June 30th, a Ford touring car operated by Clifford Bangs leaves North Chesterville for Farmington. The car is owned by Frank E. McLeary Company, and is transporting the supplies of Mrs. Florence Norton, who is catering a wedding reception in Chesterville, back to her candy store on Broadway. Around 10:30, Bangs arrives at the candy store and drops off the supplies. At this point, Clifford should return the car to Mr. McLeary, but he has other plans.
Fred Jordan, another youth, joins Bangs for a late-night car ride. Turning right onto High Street, the duo run into Raymond Currier, Harold Trask, and Harold Titcomb. The three boys get in the back seat, with Trask on left, Titcomb on right, and Currier in the middle. The five boys motor over to West Farmington to see the circus load onto the late-night train. Around midnight, the loading finishes and the boys wish to make their way back to Farmington Village. This is where the story takes a dark turn.
Speeding down Bridge Street, the five boys reach Center Bridge and must make the left-hand turn onto Intervale Road. Unfortunately, the car has picked up speed from coming down the hill and the turn becomes impossible. The automobile strikes a telephone pole with its right mud guard, snapping it. The car then rebounds back into the road, but unfortunately it goes through a fence and goes over the embankment into Beaver Dam Brook, turning upside down. Four of the boys have made it out of the accident with minor cuts and bruises, but Titcomb is gravely injured.
Trask rushes to the nearest home and requests the services of Drs. George Pratt and Harold Pratt. The doctors arrive and remove Titcomb to the home of Howard M. Fuller. Harold Titcomb’s injuries are quite gruesome and extensive. During this time until 5:00am, he is unconscious. Around 5 in the morning on Thursday, July 1, 1915, Harold Titcomb takes his last breath. The following Sunday, he is given a funeral at Old South Congregational Church and buried.
There are a few interesting things to note about the circumstances of this horrible accident. Just a day prior to the accident, the Franklin Journal published an opinion editorial about how people were driving too fast in the village, and that someone would soon get injured or killed for driving recklessly. After the tragedy, the town of Farmington issued new rules to driving in the village, including an 8-mph speed limit when taking corners or at traffic crossings. Later in the month, another law was passed that strictly enforced the use of headlights on automobiles after sunset in the village. Unfortunately, this horrific death was what it took for strict regulation to be enacted, as most regulation is written in blood (Story sourced from the Franklin Journal).
Layne Nason is a Farmington historian, specializing in the history of the Abbott School for Boys and Farmington during the era of the Great War.

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