Hello Fellow Berlinites. Continuing with my history of Berlin almost 68 years ago, the first fatality to occur at the Dolly Copp Forest Camp, since the conversion of that area into a public camping ground took place on Tuesday morning, May 31, 1949.
Seven-year-old Alan Watson of Merrimac, Massachusetts, was killed when a large boulder in a rock-slide toppled onto him as he went over the bank of the Peabody River to go fishing. The young lad had come here with his parents and younger brother in their trailer to spend the weekend and Memorial holiday and were preparing to leave when the accident occurred.
State Trooper Clarence LaDuke, Police Chief Erville Hatch, Dr. F. M. Appleton and the ambulance all responded to the scene, but there was nothing that could be done for the lad. It was certainly a sad ending to what was probably a long weekend of fun.
It was announced in the local news that the third week of June 1949, was one of the hottest weeks in Berlin's history. The average weekly temperature ending on the 19th was 74.1. This exceeded the record for for a week in June, which was 73.9 set in 1946.
In fact the week discussed was the hottest week for any month in 14 years, with the exception of the last week in August of 1948, which averaged 75.2. These facts were reported by Mr. Ed Fenn of Brown Company, who said the average temperature for a week in June is 61.6.
The Red Cross was conducting swim classes in Berlin at our local Community Club. Swimming can be a lot of fun, but it can also be dangerous, tragic and fatal. There were 6,900 persons drowned in this country in 1948. Drownings were the second leading cause of accidental deaths among people five to twenty-four years of age.
Since 1913, the American Red Cross had given swimming and water safety instructions here in Berlin, to reduce the number of who die in the water and since then drownings were cut in half locally and nationally.
It was still a fact though in 1949 that only about 7 percent of all Americans who went swimming could swim well. 43 percent could swim a little and the remaining 5 percent could not swim at all. The people of Berlin were exceptionally fortunate to have an opportunity to learn to swim at the Community Club all under the direction of Robert “Bob” Lowe, Red Cross water safety chairman, who taught hundreds of Berlin's youth how to stay afloat.
It was the duty of all adults and every child to learn the art of swimming and also save others from drowning. This would reduce the annual drowning rate and take the worries out of our summer fun. I know that Bob Lowe taught me how to swim at a young age and many of Berlin's citizens were taught how to swim by this same man.
In a story that I wrote almost 15 years ago, Abraham Semerey, 62, who was struck in the face twice by the blunt end of an ax, on July 28, 1949, was reported to be in “not too bad condition”. Mike Yudo, 58, of Green Street, appeared in police court on the same day for a charge of aggravated assault and was placed under $2,500 bail by Judge Jean Louis Blais. The bail was not raised and Yudo was taken to West Stewartstown. His case was scheduled for Superior Court in October 1949.
Yudo claimed that he and Semerey had a fight on Thursday night July 28, 1949. During the court session State Trooper Clarence LaDuke reported that Yudo said Semerey knocked him down and kicked him in the face several times.
Then, Yuda went out to get his ax, returned to Semerey's bunk and him twice in the face with the blunt end of this piece of logging equipment. Mr. Yuda then went to the Dummer selectman Ernest Stiles, who employed the two men. He told Stiles that he had had a fight with Semerey, but did not mention the outcome of the conflict. Styles then found a place for Yuda to sleep Thursday night.
The next morning, Yuda changed his story, telling Styles that he had hit Semerey with an ax. Styles went to the cabin and saw the “gory scene”. He told selectmen Holt, who also went to the cabin and then notified the state police. They in turn notified the Berlin Fire Department ambulance which took Semerey to the St. Louis Hospital in Berlin.
Doctors gave Semerey little chance of living at first, but he gradually gained strength. The report given to Judge Blais when Yuda appeared before him was that Semerey was badly maimed, but that he would probably survive.
The following week the headlines in the newspaper read like this: “Dies after clinging to life since July 28.” Then, Mike Yuda was committed to the state hospital for a mental examination on Saturday, August 6, 1949 according to the solicitor George Keough. An autopsy was then performed by Dr. L. P. Beaudoin, County Medical Examiner, on the body of Abraham Semerey. The results showed that death was due to cerebral injuries resulting from a blow or blows to the face.
Adam Semerey was born in Volhin, Russia. He was a World War I veteran, with no known survivors. His funeral was held at the Rioux Funeral Parlor and he was buried in the city cemetery. I wonder if he was ever claimed by any relatives since.
I went forward to find the court case and result of the Yuda trial and it said the 57-year-old Michael Yuda was listed as being a resident of Dummer, New Hampshire received a sentence of not less than six years and not more than 10 years in the state prison in Concord, New Hampshire. He was charged with manslaughter in Semerey's death. This sentence was handed down by Judge Harold Wescott on October 19, 1949, during the session of Superior Court at the Coos County Courthouse here in Berlin.
After being examined at the state mental facility, Mr. Yuda was returned to West Stewartstown and was never able to meet his bail. After his conviction, he went from the county jail to the state penitentiary.
Ex-mayor of Berlin and famous attorney Arthur Bergeron represented Mr. Yuda during his trial. This must have certainly been the talk of this small town back then. I wonder if there are any citizens left there, that can remember this incident?
I will continue with a history of 1949 in my next writing.