21 November 2007

Spouseless, Troutless, Dead

Wednesday, October 6, 1926, was a mild autumn day in Hillsborough, New Jersey. Stanley, Stanley, and Paul decided to spend the afternoon fishing. Stanley number one is 32-year-old Stanley Sobotka - a still young veteran of the Great War with a wife and two small children at home in South Somerville. Stanley number two is his friend Stanley Gersarek. Paul is Paul Prevosnec - the unwitting villain.

South Branch Railroad Bridge, Postcard circa 1909

The three friends made their way to a favorite fishing spot on a bridge crossing the Raritan River north of the Duke Estate. This bridge was used by the Central Railroad of New Jersey's Flemington Branch, which ran southwest from Somerville, across the river, and through the Duke Estate, and on to Flagtown, Neshanic Station, Three Bridges, and Flemington.

Headline from The New York Time, 7 October 1926

The men had an unusually large catch that day - which must have cheered Sobotka, who was in a state of extreme melancholy all afternoon. He couldn't stop talking about his wife who had left him just three days before. He seemed inconsolable. The large quantities of alcohol consumed by the three probably didn't help either - but at least they had the fish!

7 October 1926 Home News

Around 8 PM, as the friends gathered their belongings for the trek home, Prevosnec quietly put everyone's fish into a bag and slipped away in the darkness. Upon discovering that their friend had made off with the fish, Gersarsek began to laugh. Surely this was a joke - all in fun. But Sobotka was not in a joking mood, remarking, "It's tough enough to lose your wife, but when your friend runs away with the fish you've caught, that's the limit!".

7 October 1926 Home News

Gersarsek told the police what happened next: "We heard the rumbling of the train approaching. I told him to look out, but he kept walking towards the track. I said 'Don't walk over there, the train is coming and you'll be killed'. I ran and grabbed him by the arm to pull him back, but Sobotka pulled away and sat on the rails. He said 'I don't give a damn if it does come. My wife has left me, and now Prevosnec has run off with the fish'. I tried again to pull him to safety, but I had to leap back when the locomotive was upon us."

In an instant, Stanley Sobotka was killed. Spouseless, troutless, and dead.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for another bit of anecdotal history of Somerset County.