Christmas tragedy in Skaneateles
I first heard about the accident when I was a young boy, but didn't know the circumstances or the terrible consequences until I found these stories online via www.fultonhistory.com.

In our family it was always referred to as "Leo's accident." Now I know it was much, much more. Also, this wasn't the first time Leo Major's parents, Mary Quigley and Patrick Major had to deal with a tragic, unexpected death that abruptly followed a happy event.

Auburn Citizen, December 21, 1929
Boy Dead, Two Girls in City
Hospital as Result of Crash

A 16-year-old boy is dead, a girl of the same age lies in the City Hospital here in a critical condition and another girl, also 16, is in a serious condition in the same institution, as an aftermath of a motor crash late yesterday afternoon in Skaneateles Village. Four other young people escaped with minor injuries. The automobile in which the seven youngsters, all students of the Skaneateles Falls Union School, were riding struck a telephone pole at Jordan and Elizabeth Streets after clipping the fender of another machine.

Leo Major of Skaneateles Falls, operator of the automobile, was killed instantly. He was a second cousin of Charles P. Major of Auburn.

Margaret Walsh of Skaneateles RD 2 is a patient in the Lansing Street Hospital where she is being treated for a severe laceration of the neck, lacerations of the scalp and right hand and a fracture of the nose. Her condition is regarded by hospital authorities as critical.

Helen Durham of Skaneateles Falls is suffering from fractures of both thighs, possible internal injuries and a fracture of the nose. Hospital officials consider her condition serious. Both girls are being attended by Dr. Raymond F. Johnson

Four Others in Car.

The four other occupants of the five-passenger sedan, whose hurts consisted only of minor cuts and bruises, were Woodrow Wilson, 16; Lynn Wright, 17; John Irish, 16, and Edward Boscabich, 16. They were treated at the office of Dr. William Dolan, a short distance from the scene of the tragedy.

Investigation by deputy sheriffs revealed that the machine driven by young Major, a frequent visitor to Auburn, merely brushed a car operated by Mrs. Schultz of Hannum Street, Skaneateles, at the intersection before crashing into the pole.

Major was driving down the incline in Jordan Street toward the business section of the village. Mrs. Schultz was driving in Elizabeth Street. Major apparently saw the other vehicle too late or perhaps the car skidded along the icy street as he applied his brakes.

Officials who assisted in the investigation – Dr. William R. Winne, coroner; Deputy Sheriffs Hoffmire and Schmidt, and Sergeant Dillon, Corporal Lyman and Trooper Burnoski of the state police – believe the car driven by Major must have been traveling at a fast rate, for it struck the pole with such force that the entire life side was demolished.

Women Tell of Accident.

The theory was substantiated by Mrs. Schultz and by Mrs. Marie Luddington, also a resident of Skaneateles. Mrs. Luddington told Coroner Winne that the car passed her in Jordan Street a short distance from where the accident occurred.

Mrs. Schultz told officials she had stopped her car as she arrived at the intersection and shifted into second gear to cross Jordan Street. At the time she did not see or hear any other machine. She said she had just about reached the center of the intersection when the machine driven by Major clipped the rear of her car and turned it completely around.

By a freak of fate, the left front wheel of the students’ machine missed the pole and the impact centered on the left of the machine just to the front of the driver’s seat, crushing the side of the car and tearing away a section of the top.

H. W. Tiffany, proprietor of a garage a short distance away in Jordan Street, was servicing a machine in front of his place. He looked up the street just as the crash occurred and was one of the first to reach the scene. With others he assisted in extricating the two girls from the wreckage.

Miss Durham was placed in the machine of Deputy Sheriff John Dent and Miss Walsh in a car driven by Herbert Splane. Both were rushed to the hospital here, arriving at 4:45 o’clock.

The other occupants were taken to the office of Doctor Dolan. Rescuers realized that the driver was dead and the body was not disturbed until the arrival of Coroner Winne.

Loses Finger in Machine.

It was reported that young Major’s father, Patrick Major, lost the tip of one finger in a machine in a Skaneateles Falls mill when he was informed of the accident.

The wrecked machine in which the students were riding is owned by Miss Leonore Perry of 105 Cogswell Avenue, Solvay, a teacher in the school. Miss Perry was located in Skaneateles by Doctor Winne and she told him she had allowed Major to take the car but did not realize he had taken the students with him.

About 10:30 o’clock yesterday morning she and young Major made a trip to Syracuse to purchase some Christmas articles for the school, she said, and they arrived back at the school about 2:45 o’clock.

Soon after this he asked permission to take the machine to Skaneateles where he was going to buy some presents to give out in the school. She consented, she told Coroner Winne, but had no idea who went with him. Soon after his departure she was apprised of the accident and hurried to Skaneateles.

Young Major is believed to have suffered a fractured skull. The remains were taken to the morgue where an autopsy will be performed to determine the exact cause of death.


Skaneateles Press, December 26, 1929
Miss Helen Durham

Miss Helen Durham, 16, of Skaneateles Falls died Saturday afternoon at the Auburn City Hospital as a result of injuries received in an automobile accident the afternoon previous in this village. She was the only daughter of Thomas and Irene Mooney Durham, who, with her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. James Mooney of Skaneateles Falls, survive her. Funeral services were conducted Tuesday morning at 9:30 o’clock from the home of her grandparents and from St. Mary’s of the Lake Church at 10 o’clock. Burial was made in St. Mary’s Cemetery.

Miss Durham was very popular in the community and in her school.

Miss Margaret Walsh
Miss Margaret Walsh, a resident of Skaneateles, died at the Auburn City Hospital Sunday, Dec. 22, 1929, where she was taken after the automobile accident which occurred last Friday afternoon.

Miss Walsh is survived by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Walsh, three brothers, Robert, John and Arthur, and four sisters, Marion, Helen, Dorothy and Ruth, all of this town.

Leo Major
Funeral services for Leo Major, 16, of Skaneateles Falls were held Monday morning at 9:30 o’clock from the home and from St. Mary’s of the Lake Church at 10 o’clock. Burial was made in St. Mary’s Cemetery.

Young Major was instantly killed last Friday afternoon in an automobile accident at the corner of Jordan and Elizabeth streets.

Surviving besides his parents, Patrick and Mary Quigley Major, are three brothers, Edward, Hugh and Donald.

Young Major was well thought of and very popular in the Skaneateles Falls Union High School. He was a member of that school’s basketball team.


Auburn Citizen, May 28, 1930
Victims directed not to take ride
Miss Lenore Pieri, a teacher in Skaneateles Falls High School, forbade girl students to accompany the late Leo V. Major when he drove to Skaneateles on the afternoon of December 20, 1929 to buy presents to be placed on the school Christmas tree, according to testimony given before Justice Smith and a jury in Supreme Court yesterday afternoon in Syracuse.

The heirs of Miss Margaret Walsh, 17, are seeking to recover $50,000 from Miss Pieri, owner of one automobiles; Mrs. Corinne Shultz, driver, and Mrs. Flora Schultz, owner of another car figuring in a collision. Major, Miss Walsh and Miss Helen Durham, 17, died of injuries following the accident.

Miss Lucille Honors, 15, as a witness for Miss Pieri, said she heard the teacher tell Miss Walsh and Miss Durham not to accompany Major. The trial is slated to end today.

Auburn Citizen, May 31, 1930
Heirs of student denied
damages for crash death

Verdict of no cause for action by heirs of Miss Margaret Walsh, 17, against Miss Lenore Pieri of Solvay and Mrs. Corrine Shultz and Mrs. Flora May Shultz, both of Skaneateles, was reported to Justice Smith by a jury in Supreme Court in Syracuse yesterday.

Miss Walsh was one of three students of Skaneateles Falls High School killed last December in an automobile accident at Elizabeth and Jordan Streets, Skaneateles.

Leo V. Major, who was driving Miss Pieri’s automobile to Skaneateles to buy presents to be placed on the school Christmas tree, and Miss Helen Durham, 16, a passenger, also died of injuries suffered when the automobile struck a pole after a collision with another car.

Miss Pieri’s defense was that she informed girl students they were not to go to Skaneateles with Major and some other boys. Miss Pieri was represented by McCurn & Farnham and the other defendants by Vann, Tuck, Sheridan & Sheridan.