On July 5, 1914, Dr. Sherman Voorhees, his wife Lilian, and their son Sherman, who was known as “Laddie,” were motoring along what is now Comfort Hill Road in the town of Ashland. Somehow, the doctor lost control of his 1913 Chalmers, and it went careening over an embankment. The vehicle rolled over and over, expelling the three passengers along the way, and came to rest in a field of daisies. Sherman was gravely injured; Laddie suffered from multiple cuts and bruises; and Lilian was killed almost instantly when her neck was broken. This is thought to have been the first fatal automobile accident in the county.
|Portrait of Dr. Sherman Voorhees, Lilian Voorhees, and their
Sherman Persons “Laddie” Voorhees, Star-Gazette, July 6, 1914
|Where the Voorhees’ car toppled over the embankment, |
Star-Gazette, July 6, 1914
|Dr. Voorhees’ car after the accident, Star-Gazette, July 6, 1914|
While Sherman was undergoing his convalescence, Laddie was also recovering physically and emotionally. He joined the newly-formed boy scout troop in Elmira and was chosen as No. 3 patrol leader. On October 10, the day his father returned from his stay at the sanitarium, Laddie and Scoutmaster John G. Addey led a boy scout hike to Daggett’s beyond Bulkhead.
While Sherman’s return home was celebrated, he never did recover from the injuries he suffered in the crash. Shortly after leaving Owego, he went to Atlantic City for three weeks then spent some time in New York City before moving in with his sister Dr. Belle V. Aldridge in Brooklyn. On May 1, 1915, ten months after the accident, Dr. Sherman Voorhees passed away from complications which developed from a fracture at the base of his skull. His body was brought back to Elmira on Erie train No. 7, and he was interred next to Lilian in Woodlawn Cemetery.
After Sherman’s death, John N. Willys of Elmira was formally appointed the guardian of Laddie. The young man went on to be a successful business man and was instrumental in bringing the first soaring and gliding contests to Elmira in the early 1930s. He passed away unexpectedly at his home in Hartford, Connecticut on February 7, 1964 at the age of 63.
Sometime after the accident, a cross was erected on the spot where Lilian died. No one is sure who created the memorial, but it may have been her husband or, more likely, her son. The inscription on the cross reads: This spot is made sacred by the death of Mrs. Sherman Voorhees by accident July 5, 1914.
|Cross erected in memory of Lilian Voorhees off Comfort Hill Road, |
photo taken March 5, 2020
|John F. and Chad McDonald beside the new sign, |
Star-Gazette, September 21, 1989