Stafford Merry’s Death

When Rose’s daughter, Alice Fielding, married George Merry in 1906, they quickly set about starting their family. My grandfather, Frederick James Merry (Pop) was born in 1907 and his brother, Stafford Fielding Merry, was born in 1910.

Alice and George Merry with sons Stafford (L) and Fred (R). Circa 1920

As a child, the only story I remember hearing about Stafford was that he was killed by a milk truck while riding a cart in the street near his home. I’m not sure why the story was told that way. Stafford was indeed killed in the street near his home, but it was a hit and run incident involving drunk drivers in a car, not a milk truck. By this time, Prohibition was the law in the United States, so not only were these men drunk, they were “bootleggers”.

The following account appeared in The Utica Observer on July 26, 1921.

“Small Boy Killed by Speeding Car”

“Stafford F. Merry, Eleven Years Old, of 711 Court St., Crushed By Car and Died in Hospital – Three Little Falls Men Arrested and Brought Back to City.”

“Eleven year old Stafford Fielding Merry of 711 Court St, struck down by a recklessly driven Hudson super-six, is dead and three Little Falls men are under arrest charged with failing to stop after an accident. The men under arrest are Boleslaw Nowakowski, 29, saloon keeper and owner/driver of the car; Walter J. Kula, 37, laborer and Joseph Skulski, 26, laborer.”

“It was expected the men would be arraigned in City Court here this forenoon, but press of other business rendered this impossible. It is quite likely that the technical charge now against them will be changed to a more serious one.”

“Car Was Speeding”

“Tearing over Lincoln Ave. at about 8 o’clock last night at the rate of at least 45 miles per hour, the men in the big car came upon two little boys coasting with a cart at Roberts St. With Stafford Merry was David Parry, eleven, of 711 Court St. The escape of David was almost a miracle, for both he and Stafford were close together riding on the cart steered by Stafford, upon which they were coasting. The cart was completely demolished. Besides getting a bad fright, young Parry suffered a few scratches upon his legs.”

“The car bore down upon them and then passed on, the speed being increased, if anything, bystanders said. Apparently, no effort was made to ascertain what damage had been done. Men and women hurried to the boy and picked up the unconscious and bleeding form. He was rushed to St. Luke’s Hospital, where it was realized that his injuries were fast taking what little life was left in him. Death relieved his suffering at 10:15 o’clock.”

“Occupants Were Recognized”

“Many persons in the vicinity noticed the car and its occupants and the feeling of resentment that swept the neighborhood towards the men made it easy for the police to secure information, for everyone who had any knowledge on the subject were anxious to give it. It was stated that there were 5 men in the car and they appeared to be drunk, and several said they could be certain in identifying the auto – dark brown with license plate number 666-592.”

“Officer Knopka On Scene”

“Officer Knopka reports that many people were sitting on their front porches last evening and noticed the excessive speed of the car and that the occupants appeared to be drunk. The car continued after hitting the boys and swerved to avoid a streetcar.”

“The boys were trying out a new cart. A passerby warned them to get out of the road and do their coasting on the sidewalk, but they failed to heed the warning. A few seconds later, David Parry noticed the big car bearing down upon them. He gave a cry of alarm. Stafford tried to stop the cart, but his foot was caught. With the crash, David was thrown several feet, but Stafford was crushed with the cart. One splinter pierced his left lung, while the weight of the auto crushed his skull. His body was covered with bruises and there was a deep hole in his back.”

“Stafford is the son of Mr. and Mrs. George H. Merry. The father is a foreman for the Utica Knitting Company Mill No. 2. The parents have lived in Utica for many years and they will have the sympathy of many friends in the irreparable loss sustained by them.”

“Stafford was nearing his eleventh birthday. He was born on August 15, 1910 and attended the fifth grade at Kernan School. His family attends Plymouth Congregational Church.”

“Stafford is the nephew of Frank Stafford, the assessor in Little Falls, so this case will attract a lot of attention in the area.”

“It was the Hudson’s oil cup found at the scene that provided the clue to identifying the car. Bootlegging is suspected as the cause for leaving the scene.”

Another account of Stafford’s death – July 26, 1921 Utica Morning Telegraph


The Utica Observer reports on July 27, 1921 that the three men arrested for Stafford’s death were arraigned. Boleslaw Nowakowski admitted he was the driver and was charged with second degree manslaughter. Kula and Skulski were fined and released. The trial was held a few months later.

At the end of his trial, Boleslaw Nowakowski, in lieu of jail time, was ordered to pay a total of $3000 in fines, including $1500 paid to George and Alice Merry as restitution for Stafford’s death. In 2019 dollars that would equal almost $43000.

Stafford Fielding Merry was laid to rest in July 1921 in the Merry Family plot at the Forest Hill Cemetery in Utica, NY.

Gateway to Forest Hill Cemetery – Utica, New York
Merry family plot – Forest Hill Cemetery – Utica, New York
Headstone for Stafford Fielding Merry – Merry family plot – Forest Hill Cemetery – Utica, New York

(Newspaper images courtesy Old Fulton New York Postcards)

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