Portage to the Past: Young couple lost to Wisconsin River

10:36 AM, Aug. 7, 2013  |  Comments
Rhonda Whetstone
Rhonda Whetstone
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Rose Dorothy Krueger, born May 5, 1889, in Stevens Point, was just 24 the day she died. Walter Voigt was only 18. The Stevens Point Gazette followed the story for days, as details were unveiled.

It was Wednesday, June 25, 1913, when Rose and Walter, who had been dating for some time, decided to go out on the Wisconsin River for a boat ride, something they had done many times the previous summer in a launch. This was the first time they were trying a row boat however, one of the common, rounded-bottom boats, which were known to be rather unstable.

The couple started upstream at about 3 o'clock. Rose was seated in the stern of the boat, while Walter occupied the seat directly ahead and was rowing. Midway between the Clifford Lumber Co.'s saw mill and the pumping station of the Stevens Point Water Co., at about 3:20 p.m., they decided to exchange places.

While directly opposite each other in stooping positions, the boat began to rock. Rose lost her balance and fell against Walter and before either could recover, the boat had capsized, and both of them were floundering in the water.

The couple was within 25 feet of the boom, which served as a pocket in which the logs were secured. Thirteen-year-old Frank Nowak, along with four companions, were on the boom, and they called to the couple to hold on to the overturned boat while one of the boys ran for a pole to pull them to safety.

Joseph Weyber, a water plant engineer also saw the couple from an open doorway. After calling to the boys to get a pole, he ran the thousand feet to his boat, but the boys called to him that neither person had surfaced, so he returned to the plant and called acting police chief Lon Myers and Mayor Walters.

At first, Rose clung to the back of the boat and Walter to one side, but after a few moments, Walter tried to jump up to the top of the craft, but he missed his hold and fell off entirely, causing the prow of the boat to rise high in the air and forcing Rose to release her grasp. The two then were thrown outward toward the middle of the river. Walter, unable to swim at all, sank immediately and never surfaced again.

The area where the incident happened was known to have a whirlpool created by piers and booms.

Rose, with a slight knowledge of swimming, held her head above water for several seconds, and then went down. She surfaced again a couple of times, but without someone being able to assist, she could not be saved either.

Immediately, a rescue party was formed and began a search for the bodies. The river was 15 feet deep at that point, which made it hard to drag the bottom. Shortly before 5 o'clock, Lyman Rowe found the bodies in 18 feet of water, 50 feet further along from where they went down. They were lying on the bottom of the river within 10 feet of each other.

From the time she was 11 and her mother died, Rose had been in charge of running the family home at 609 Wisconsin Ave., helping her father, Herman, raise her younger sisters. She had attended business college during the previous fall and worked for a laundry service for a short time. She was said to be a bright and happy girl, with good character and was highly esteemed among her friends.

Rose's sister Bertha was the one called to positively identify the body after it was taken to the Boston Undertaking Rooms. Bertha then had to go home and break the bad news to her father and sisters, Elsie and Clara. Brothers Edward and Albert, who lived out of town, were notified and arrived in Stevens Point as soon as possible.

Walter's body was also taken to Boston's, and his parents in Tisch Mills were notified. Had he lived, Walter would have graduated from school the next day.

Sadly, like many before and since, two more young lives were ended by Wisconsin's most prolific serial killer - the Wisconsin River.

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