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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


The New York Times
December 26, 1909

W. M. Gregory Had a Narrow Escape from Death on the Bridge Over Little Neck Bay.


Long Islander Fell Exhausted In His Home After Plodding for Hours Through Saturday Night's Storm.

Marooned in his automobile in the middle of the inundated Little Neck, L. I., causeway, William M. Gregory, a livery stable keeper of Manhasset, L. I., had a narrow escape with his life early yesterday morning in the midst of the snow storm.

Gregory, whose family have lived on Long Island for several generations, had been spending Christmas with friends in Flushing, and was returning home alone along Broadway in his auto.  When he reached the half-mile causeway across Little Neck Bay, between Bayside and Douglaston, he found that the fierce northeast wind and the high tide shad driven the water of the bay up over the causeway.  Gregory thought the water was not very deep.  But the causeway sinks somewhat in the middle at the point where where Little Neck Creek is crossed by a thirty-foot wooden bridge.  When Gregory had driven his automobile to the latter point, he found that the water had reached above the wheels of the car.  It flooded the floor of the automobile and then put the spark plug out of commission, bringing the automobile to a final stop.

Gregory roosted helpless on the seat of the car for an hour, not knowing what to do.  In the darkness the waves beat against the car and the snow swirled and the wind whistled about him.  There is only one shanty on the bay, and this was far away.  Finally, fearing that he would freeze to death in the storm, the livery keeper threw aside his coat and let himself down into the water, which reached to his thighs.  It was so cold that it numbed him, and he feared that he would make a misstep in the darkness and fall from the causeway into the morass.

Feeling about gingerly with his hands and feet, and lighting a few matches which he had had the foresight to keep dry, he got hold of the almost submerged wooden fence by which the causeway is guarded.  Beaten by waves, he felt his way along the causeway until he reached a rowboat belonging to Edward Wanzor, and employe of a lumber concern, who lives on the east side of the bay.  There were no oars in the boat, but Gregory tore up some of the planking of the bridge and paddled himself to the east side of the meadows.  He got out and walked three miles to his home, reaching it at 4 A. M., falling exhausted in the hallway.  To reporters yesterday, however he said that he was not much worse for his experience.  He sent a chauffeur to get his abandoned automobile.  He says that his struggles in the water and his subsequent was home took him four hours.

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