You probably don’t remember anything about Clarence Hamm. That’s most likely because he was only 8 years old when he died from injuries received in a car accident in 1935.
It was a nice 80º day in Wisconsin. Clarence, his brother Arthur, his mother, Emma, and Uncle Paugel were heading home from a day of berry picking north of Antigo, when disaster struck.
The Wittenberg Enterprise, August 8, 1935 —
Clarence Hamm Funeral Is Being Held This Afternoon
Funeral services for Clarence Hamm, the eight-year-old boy who died Sunday as the result of an automobile accident, is being held this afternoon at the Dobber Funeral Home and at First Lutheran church in this village. The Rev. N. B. Ursin officiated in the absence of the Rev. T. Aug. Lillehei, pastor of the congregation, who is on a vacation. Interment was in Forest Home Cemetery. The pall-bearers were Marty Swensen, Vernon and Kenneth Matson, Robert Heistad, Kenneth and Magnus Gunderson.
August 21, 1935
Clarence Hamm Dies Following Auto Crash
Eight-Year-Old Wittenberg Boy Is Fatally Injured Early Sunday Evening
An eight-year-old boy was killed and seven people were injured, two critically, Sunday night when two cars collided head-on on highway 45 just north of Koepenick.
The boy, Clarence Hamm, of this village, died on his way to Memorial hospital at Antigo from a severe skull fracture.
The injured are: Mrs. George Hamm, Wittenberg, mother of the dead boy, condition critical, suffering from a fractured skull and badly lacerated right arm; doctors doubt she will live.
Mrs. Harold Zeiler, Chicago, broken arm and leg and body injuries.
Albert Paugel, Wittenberg, driver of the Chevrolet coach carrying the Wittenberg party, lacerations over entire body.
Arthur Hamm, 12, Wittenberg, son of Mrs. George Hamm, lacerations to the head.
Harold Zeiler; Chicago, head injuries.
Kenneth Anderson, Ironwood, Michigan, lacerations to his head.
Bert Wesley, Antigo, dislocated shoulder.
It could not be learned definitely, just how the accident occurred, says the Antigo Journal. The Wittenberg party was bound south after a day picking blueberries. Zeiler, his wife, Anderson, and Wesley were going north in an Oldsmobile sedan. Zeiler was driving.
Paugel turned out to pass a Chevrolet truck being driven by Vernon Stoltenberg, Amherst Junction. Evidently seeing the other car Paugel tried to turn in again but side-swiped the truck. The Chevrolet then swerved directly into the path of the oncoming Oldsmobile the cars colliding head-on.
Almost all the people in the Chevrolet were thrown clear of the car. Mr. and Mrs. Zeiler were thrown through the windshield of the Oldsmobile.
Passing motorists picked up the injured and rushed them into Antigo. Both cars, especially the Chevrolet, were demolished. Bill Hamm, 23, of Wittenberg, a brother of the dead boy, and Emil Klabunde, about 40, also of Wittenberg were sitting in the rear seat of the Chevrolet with Arthur Hamm. They were not injured, although they were thrown clear of the car.
Zeigler, who lives in Chicago, is a traveling representative of the McClellan stores. He is stationed at Wausau at present. Anderson, also an employee of the McClellan stores, is working in the Antigo store as a relief man.
The impact of the two cars colliding could be heard for more than a mile. Parts of the demolished cars were scattered around the wreckage for more than 25 ft.
A warrant charging reckless, driving was issued Monday against Albert Paugel, driver of the Chevrolet coach carrying the Wittenberg party. The warrant will be served on Paugel as soon as he is discharged from the hospital, says the Antigo Journal.1
The case against his Uncle did indeed go to court and was reported in the Oshkosh paper:
WAUSAU MAN HELD NOT AT FAULT FOR FATAL AUTO CRASH
Judgment Reversed in Supreme Court Also Releases Indemnity Company From Liability
Madison (AP) — The state supreme court ruled today that Harold Zeiler, Wausau business man, was in no way responsible for a traffic accident near Antigo in 1935 in which a child was killed and several persons injured.
The high court reversed lower court judgments returned against Zeiler and the Bankers Indemnity Company, with which he was insured, and ordered that the complaint against them be dismissed.
Nine year old Clarence Hamm was killed and several persons injured in an automobile collision on Highway, 45, 15 miles north of Antigo, Aug. 4, 1935.
I[n] one car were Harold Zeiler, Wausau business man, his wife, Vera and Bert Wesley, Zeiler was driving. In the other car were Albert Paugel, Wittenberg farmer, Emma Hamm, his housekeeper, and her son, Clarence.
HAD DEFECTIVE BRAKES
Trial of three damage suits in Circuit court disclosed that Paugel, whose car had defective breaks, turned to the left side of the road when a truck stopped in front of him and collided with the Zeiler car, approaching from the other direction.
Call uncle, and the latters insurer, Bankers Indemnity Company, were named defendants in suits brought by Mrs. Zeiler, Mrs. Hamm and Wesley. Paugel did not offer defense.
The jury, however, found that Zeiler was partly to blame for the accident by not maintaining a proper lookout.
Against Paugel, Zeiler and the insurance company the jury returned the following judgments; For Mrs. Zeiler, $3,688.75; for Mrs. Hamm, individually and for her son’s death, $5,191; for Wesley, $467.28.
Zeiler and the Bankers Indemnity Company appealed to the supreme court.2
As you can read in the article the insurance company was not happy with the outcome, so they took the case to the State Supreme Court. I was able to find a summary of it online, (use the link to see it.) The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the County court and refused any rehearing of the case.
Combining all the details from the newspaper articles, and case summaries, I was able to get a pretty good sense of where this accident happened too.
According to the court case the accident happened about 15 miles north of Antigo, by a golf course on (old) 45 (now known as B). Well, the map shows the golf course. The bit circled is where there appears to be a dip in the road as mentioned in the case, which you can see if you use google maps street view. The Paugel car was going south towards Antigo, probably heading back to Shawano where they lived.
The newspaper reported that his mother Emma was critically injured and not expected to live, but she did survive her injuries. However she died not too many years later, in 1943. Fred does not appear to have been living with Emma at the time of the accident. He was somewhere in Becker County, Minnesota, according to the 1940 census (the 1940 census asked where you were living 5 years earlier). This is confirmed by the 1934 directory for Shawano, Emma is the only Hamm listed.
Clarence was one of my grandmother Myrtle’s half brothers. I do not know if she ever met him, or even if she ever heard about his death, as he was a son from her father’s 3rd marriage. And if we have a picture of Clarence in our family albums, I am unaware of which one it might be. (The problem of unlabeled family photos rears it ugly head.)
1. Clarence Hamm accident, The Wittenberg Enterprise, Wittenberg, Wisconsin, 8 August 1935, page ? column?, in Antigo Journal, Antigo, Wisconsin. (Transcription of newspaper article found online <www.ancestry.com> HAMM surname message boards.)
2. 1937-11-09, Tuesday, The Oshkosh Northwestern, Oshkosh, Wisconsin; p9, col. 8