Hero of The Hour

BRRR…cold January day here, but nothing like the late winter day along Cayuga Lake in 1923. My dad’s brother-in-law, Delancey Wayne, was quite the fair haired boy in the little village. He knew everyone and everyone knew him. He was a tough and vigorous young man to boot attending Cascadilla Prep and Mt. Pleasant Military Academy in Dobbs Ferry along the Hudson River. Del, as he was called by his many friends, exemplified the old chestnut…

you can take the boy out of Cayuga, but you cannot take Cayuga out of the boy.

After his education, Del returned to the Lake Street home of his widowed mother, Ida Van Sickle Wayne and tended to the farm and the large dairy operation. Del was an only child; his father, George Luther Wayne, having died in 1899 of typhoid.

MARCH 5, 1923

Newspaper Auburn NY Citizen 1923 Barely Escapes Drowning Del Rescues H BullThe Feds were gearing up to check bootleggers coming down from Canada as the warmer weather opened up the roads that March, but Harry Bull of Canoga paid spring thaw no mind. It was his practice to walk across the lake from his Seneca county home to the village of Cayuga where he would board the 3:23 PM train going into Auburn.

When about 500 feet from the Cayuga shore the ice over the Barge Canal channel had been eaten from underneath by the strong current and Mr. Bull broke through into about 20 feet of ice cold water. He clung to his overcoat and suit case and these kept him afloat for a time.

Mrs. Gertrude Smith and Miss Ruth Warrick were walking along Lake Street at 4:30 and chanced to see the man, but a first thought he had slipped on the ice. They then saw him struggle to the edge of the ice and climb out. The ice again broke and he was struggling in the water. The ladies hurried to the office of Dr. J. H. Whitbeck where they found Delancey Wayne.

Mr. Wayne quickly secured a boat and shoved it over the ice to the open water and seized Bull just as he was going down for the third time. There was a deadly struggle as Mr. Wayne had dived for his man and had to drag him back to the boat and get himself and Bull in. The task was accomplished and others from shore assisted in getting the half drowned man who was chilled to the bone to Doctor Whitbeck’s office where dry clothing on the outside and warm stimulants on the inside restored him. Today Mr. Bull is recovered and he as well as all who witnessed the thrilling rescue are hailing Wayne as the hero of the hour.

My dad and Uncle Del had a fondness for purebred pointers…both men bred them. And they haunted the shores and waters of Cayuga Lake all of their lives. I never met my uncle. He died of cancer in 1945 at the age of 53 at his mother’s Springport home. My dad died in 1958 and the two men are buried within feet of each other in Lakeview Cemetery in the village of Cayuga. But I know my cousins. We swam and boated and fished in the lake. We picnicked and frolicked with the dogs along the shore. They taught me to jump off the dock into the cold water and held me on their shoulders when I tired. I slept on the old farm porch with them on warm summer nights.

Today I learned that the wife of Del’s son (Delancey Wayne, Jr.), Norma Bell Coapman Wayne, had passed away on New Year’s Day. Norma’s heritage intertwined with mine through our Coapman roots and the earliest days of settlement in the village on the lake.

Perhaps I should amend the adage…

you can take the girl out of Cayuga, but you cannot take Cayuga out of the girl.

Rest In Peace, Norma.


Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author. Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2015.  All Rights Reserved

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