Carried Away in Big Run: A Tragedy in Mercer County

West Salem Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania
October 17, 1911

A Stormy Night

One October morning in 1911, Edward and Ina Reeher left their Orangeville, Ohio home.  They traveled by buggy along with their small daughter, Mamie, to visit Ina’s ailing mother in Greenville, Pennsylvania. Along the way, they crossed over the calm stream, known as Big Run, that flowed diagonally through West Salem Township. They arrived at Ina’s parents’ home at Race street where they spent the entirety of the day. Typhoid fever had put Mrs. Brown in serious condition and reluctant to leave her, the Reehers at last departed at 10 o’clock that night. 

An aerial view of Big Run today

Heavy rains had fallen across the area for most of the day and the Reehers found the outside world sodden. Their rig crawled southwest through the heavy raindrops as the fall night steeped in absolute darkness. Perhaps due to the late hour, the young child slept in her mother’s arms. 

When their buggy approached Big Run, they found no calm stream. Instead, the waters churned and rushed past in pulsing muddy swells, having risen several feet.  The bridge had washed away. At this point, the Reehers were quite tired and irritable, wanting badly to get home to warmth and dryness. With the choice to turn back or push through, Edward took little time in deciding what to do. He would ford the chasm. He believed the rig heavy and stable enough to drive through the water and soon make it to firm ground on the opposite bank.

Edward urged the horse forward but the animal shied at the clear danger. Edward eventually coaxed the horse into the cold, rushing waters, though it went with much reluctance. The animal immediately strained to stay afoot against the force of the stream. The wheels of the rig ground down the embankment and entered the water. The abrupt push and pull of the surge caused the Reehers to shrink in their seats. Fear and dread filled them. They hoped and prayed to make it across.

When they reached the center of the bloated stream, the deep water pummeled the rig’s side and overturned it. The Reehers spilled out into the night, into the swift stream. Edward was yanked up with the harness as the horse fled. He was able to swim to shore where he made it to his feet and ran along the edge in a desperate search for his wife and daughter. He cried out for them but found nothing.

Edward at last ran for help. He found the nearest farmhouse a substantial distance away. Banging on the door, he awoke the residents with his distressed shouts. The bleary-eyed couple listened to his story and made haste to notify their neighbors of the terrible accident. This cobbled-together search party found their way to the scene of the disaster. There, by lantern light, they sought out the mother and child.

They searched all night, roaming the shore and combing the frigid, rushing waters. Their fingers outstretched in hopes of grasping something, but again and again, they came up empty-handed. As dawn approached, the hope of finding Ina and Mamie alive dimmed and ultimately dashed.

In the light of the morning, the men pulled the buggy from slightly downstream. There, they discovered Ina’s lifeless body. When the searchers uprighted the rig, she revealed herself, having been pinned beneath its weight. The following day, Mamie’s body surfaced and her tiny form was brought home for her family to mourn over.

On Friday, October 20th, Ina and Mamie were buried together in a single grave in Shenango Valley Cemetery in Mercer County, Pennsylvania.

Family History

Edward Reeher was born in 1888 in South Pymatuning, the son of William Ray Reeher and Mary Jennie Jewel. Edward was tall, of medium build, with blue eyes and black hair. Ina Brown was born on December 31, 1887, in Mill Creek Township, the daughter of Lawrence Brown and Melvina Shannon. Edward and Ina appear to have had their daughter, Mamie, out of wedlock as the child is said to have been born in 1908, but this detail is up for debate. The couple married on September 16th, 1909 in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, and settled in Pymatuning with Ina’s preteen brother, George Brown. The pair moved across the state border to a farm in Orangeville, Ohio.

Moving On

Ina’s mother, Melvina Brown, having thought lost to the ravages of typhoid fever, recovered. She went on to live a long life weighted by the tragic loss of her daughter and grandchild.

Following the tragedy, Edward returned to his hometown of South Pymatuning and worked as a laborer at Sharpsville Furnace Co.

Edward remarried on February 3, 1915, in Greenville to Della Hannold and settled in Sharpsville. Following the birth of their first son, Carl Edward, in 1916, Edward moved his new family to Vernon Township in Ohio. There, they had their remaining children, Earl, Marion, Elma, William, and Charles. 

Edward found new employment as a welder for VanHuffel Tube Co.

While mowing the lawn at her Orangeville home on a September evening in 1935, Edward’s mother, Mary Jennie Reeher, suffered a heart attack and died. A neighbor later discovered her body lying in the grass. Mary had been seventy-five years old.

In 1936, Edward and Della’s oldest child Carl passed away from nephritis at the age of nineteen. He had been quite ill for ten months.

Despite his losses, Edward lived a fairly long life. He passed away at the age of seventy-eight in 1967 and was buried in West View Cemetery in Vernon. One can assume that the guilt of his choice to ford the stream ate away at him for his entire life. Perhaps he often wondered what his and Ina’s life would have been like if he had simply turned around. Who would little Mamie have become? Or maybe he shoved the tragedy down and away from all thought, never to bear it in mind again. Was he a doting or distant husband and father to his second family? Newspapers do not provide that sort of information, leaving out details I long to know. Instead, they offer only the cold, hard facts.

The tragedy turned into local lore. Through the decades, teenagers whispered titillating ghost stories to each other. They told of spirits walking the bridge that now passes over Big Run. By the time I heard the story in the early 2000s, the story had twisted into a tale of a bride and groom overtaken by a flood and drowning on their wedding night. It was surely make-believe, I thought, a fantasy born of bored minds. It took me twenty years to learn the true account behind the tragedy. I had no idea how heartbreaking the reality was.


  • Edward Reeher and Ina Brown Marriage: “Pennsylvania, County Marriages, 1885-1950,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 10 March 2021), E A Reeher and Ina M Brown, 16 Sep 1909; citing Marriage, Mercer, Pennsylvania, United States, multiple County Clerks, Pennsylvania.
  • “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 3 June 2022), Mamie P Ruher in household of Edward A Ruher, Pymatuning, Mercer, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 171, sheet 2A, family 24, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1375; FHL microfilm 1,375,388.
  • Mrs. Ina Reeher Death: Pennsylvania, U.S., Death Certificates, 1906-1967
  • Drowned In Big Run – Mrs. Edward Reeher and Three-Year Old Daughter Meet Death Together Tuesday Night: Warren Daily Tribune 19 Oct 1911 1:6
  • Body Found: Warren Daily Tribune Oct 20 1911 1:4
  • Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, PA; Pennsylvania (State). Death Certificates, 1906-1968; Certificate Number Range: 093501-097120
  • Edward Reeher and Catherine Della Hannold Marriage: “Pennsylvania, County Marriages, 1885-1950,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 10 March 2021), Edward A Reeker and Catharine D Hannold, 3 Feb 1916; citing Marriage, Mercer, Pennsylvania, United States, multiple County Clerks, Pennsylvania.
  • “United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918”, database with images, FamilySearch ( : 25 December 2021), Edward Abner Reeher, 1917-1918.
  • “United States Census, 1920”, database with images, FamilySearch ( : 3 February 2021), Edward A Recher, 1920. 
  • “United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 3 June 2022), Edward Reeher, Vernon, Trumbull, Ohio, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 54, sheet 8A, line 16, family 180, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 1884; FHL microfilm 2,341,618.
  • Mary Jennie Reeher Obituary: Warren Tribune Chronicle 20 Sep 1935 9-3
  • Carl Reeher Death: “Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 8 March 2021), Edward A. Reeher in entry for Carl Edward Reeher, 17 Aug 1936; citing Vernon Twp., Trumbull Co., Ohio, reference fn 54217; FHL microfilm 2,022,689.
  • “United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 9 January 2021), E A Ruher, Vernon Township, Trumbull, Ohio, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 78-84, sheet 6A, line 22, family 110, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627.  Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 – 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 3158.
  • “United States World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 10 March 2021), Edward Abner Reeher, 1942; citing NARA microfilm publication M1936, M1937, M1939, M1951, M1962, M1964, M1986, M2090, and M2097 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
  • Edward Reeher death: “Ohio Death Index, 1908-1932, 1938-1944, and 1958-2007”, database, FamilySearch ( : 30 June 2021), Edward A Reeher, 1967.
  • Edward Reeher Obituary: Warren Tribune Chronicle, Jan 17 1967 7:2

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