Tuesday afternoon, October 28th will mark the 75th Anniversary of Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s Snow Cruiser crash just east of Gomer, Ohio on the famed Lincoln Highway. On that date in 1939, the just-built polar exploratory vehicle was traveling from Chicago, IL where it was built, to Boston, MA, where it would soon head to Antarctica, for a polar exploratory mission.
For some reason – crew members claim a steering mechanism broke or malfunctioned, the strange behemoth of a vehicle clipped the north side of a bridge and plunged into the Pike Run, on the Watkins farm, where it sat motionless for 3 days until repairs were made. Over the course of the three day period, it was estimated that over 125,000 people came through Gomer to gawk at the strange disabled vehicle which measured 55’-8” long, nearly 20’ wide and 16’ tall. To say that the crash “put Gomer, Ohio on the map” is quite an understatement. News of the crash made headlines in numerous newspapers across the nation.
Just as had occurred 75 years prior, state patrol vehicles, with sirens blaring and lights flashing, will lead a procession eastward thru Gomer on Lincoln Highway at about 12:30 PM Tuesday, this October 28, 2014, forewarning of the strange and one of a kind vehicle that would follow a half hour later.
To commemorate the crash of Byrd’s Snow Cruiser into the Pike Run, just east of the community grain elevator on the Watkins farm, an historical marker will be unveiled at the site and time of the original crash, 75 years earlier. A small dedication service is planned at the crash site at 1:00 PM, upon which the newly erected sign will be unveiled. Members of the Watkins family, who still farm the land today, will be on hand to share family stories passed down from the scene of the crash. It is also hoped that an eye-witness of the crash can attend and give his memory of that day. An opportunity for other’s recollections of the crash will also be encouraged. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend.
And just like 75 years ago, when local youth sold hot dogs and lemonade to visitors of the crash, they will also be available for sale to visitors on the afternoon of the dedication. Local farmers reported selling out their entire fields parking cars near the crash site, but since 1972 when the new four-lane US Route 30 was built just south of Gomer, Lincoln Highway traffic has slowed considerably and parking should not be an issue for this event. (And neither will closed bridges – they’re both open now!) Traveling east on US 30, exit at Wapak Road, travel north to Lincoln Highway and head east. You can’t miss it. Traveling west, exit US 30 at Watkins Road, travel north to Lincoln Highway and head west. You can’t miss it, either!
The sign project has been underwritten by the Gomer Welsh Museum of Northwest Ohio, the Western Ohio Chapter of the Lincoln Highway Association, and numerous other sponsors. This gathering will be the monthly meeting for the Western Ohio Chapter of the Lincoln Highway Association, so we hope to see you there Tuesday, October 28 at 1:00 PM!!
10339 Columbus Grove Rd.
Bluffton, OH 45817
Secretary/Treasurer, Western Ohio Chapter, LHA
State President, Ohio Lincoln Highway League