Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Death of Wed Napper, Malachi Dorton, and Dennison McGinnis

The following brief account of the death of Wed Napper, Malachi Dorton and Dennison McGinnis appears in Volume 1 of A Standard History of the Hanging Rock Iron Region of Ohio:


 “Among the early settlers in the vicinity of Hartley’s Mill were Peter Starr, a relative of Houdascheldt, who accompanied him to the locality; Isaac Hawk and his son, Benjamin Hawk, who settled in the northern part of the township in 1842 (Isaac died in 1863;   Benjamin Hawk, in 1865); Michael Carpenter, Ivory Thacker, Thomas Thacker, Holman Thacker, James McNeal, Louis Dowell, Malachi Dorton, Dennis McGinnis and W. Knapper. The last three were drowned at Hartley’s Mill in 1857 by the upsetting of a canoe in which they were rowing.

While the book clearly states the date of the tragedy as 1857, contemporary news reports of the time indicate that the accident occurred two years earlier, in 1855.


From the Jackson Standard, May 10, 1855:

Sad Occurrence, Two Men Drowned

A sad and mournful occurrence took place at the Mill known as Westfall’s Mill, in Vinton county, about sixteen miles from this place, on May 3d.  It appears that nine men had occasion to cross the creek just below the dam, all of whom got into a skiff or canoe with that intention; the vessel was headed towards the falls of the dam, for the purpose of frightening an individual that was in the company, but they ventured too far, and was taken under by the suck or whirlpool, two of the company, Denison McGinnis, and Wetherford Napper, were drowned, and the other seven, after great exertions narrowly escaped a watery grave. The bodies of the two unfortunate men were not found until Monday last.  Since writing the above we have learned that a Mr. Machia (sic) Dordan (sic), one of the persons that jumped into the water has died from the severe effect of strangulation.



From the McArthur Democrat, May 11, 1855:


We are informed that two men were drowned on the 1st inst., in crossing Raccoon in a canoe, at Berkhermar’s Mills, in this county.  One named Denison McGinnis, and Wed Napper.  We cannot get the facts and have heard several different tales about the manner of the accident.  We have also learned that the body of McGinnis was since found, near the breast of the dam.


And finally, from The Gallipolis Journal, May 17, 1855:

Three Lives Lost by Folly in Vinton County, Ohio

We find the following in the Chillicothe Metropolis of the 11th inst. It says:

“We learn from the Jackson Standard that a few days since nine men got into a canoe at Westfall’s Mill, in Vinton county for the purpose of crossing the creek. The men who had charge of the oars, for the purpose of frightening one or two who were timid, rowed the boat up close to the fall and suddenly the water struck and filled the little vessel.  The result was that two men, named Dennison McGinnis and W. Napper, were drowned, and M. Dordan (sic) so severely strangled that he died a day or two afterward with congestion of the brain.  The other’s escaped, with some difficulty.


Since there were nine men in the canoe, I suspect that the named men in Hanging Rock Iron Region volume starting with Michael Carpenter make up the remaining six individuals.  I was hoping for a confirmation in one of the newspaper accounts, but did not find anything to corroborate this.

Based on this information, Wetherfoot Napper and Dennis McGinnis died on May 3rd with Malachi Dorton died either on the 4th or 5th of May 1855 not 1857.




1.       A Standard History of The Hanging Rock Iron Region of Ohio, Volume 1, Eugene B. Willard, Ironton, General Supervising Editor, pages 574 -575 , The Lewis Publishing Company, 1916.

2.       Jackson Standard, May 10, 1855, Page 2, Column 1

3.       McArthur Democrat, May 11, 1855, Page 2 Column 1

4.       The Gallipolis Journal, May 17, 1855, Page 2 Column 4


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