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Back in Time: In 1906, fast-acting teen pulled boy from Erie Canal

Back in Time: In 1906, fast-acting teen pulled boy from Erie Canal

A boating trip resulted in a rescue on June 2, 1906, in our weekly Back in Time feature.

Eckley Coxe Goyne — there was a name people could remember.

Lester Harris, 10, would never forget it. Lester and Eckley met in the waters of the Erie Canal outside Amsterdam on Saturday, June 2, 1906.

Harris was among 80 boys and girls on a boat chartered by the Epworth League — young people who belonged to the Methodist Episcopal church.

During the trip, Harris was playing with other boys on the boat when he was pushed overboard. Several girls began yelling that someone had fallen into the water; 18-year-old Goyne, who was in another part of the boat, pulled off his coat and ran to the girls’ spot on deck. “Where?” he asked.

Goyne dived into the water, and spotted Harris as he surfaced from beneath the waves. The stricken boy had been carried a short distance from the boat, and children and adults aboard wondered if Goyne would reach his objective in time. When Harris sank under the water, Goyne was upon him. He was able to get the unconscious Harris to a canal bank, and men in the boat quickly reached him.

Harris, of 17 Duryee Ave., eventually returned to life.

“I once read in a book that you should keep your mouth shut when you fall in the water and can’t swim,” he told his rescuers. “And when I found myself in the water I remembered that and didn’t scream. I just kept my mouth shut tight and kicked.”

Harris received further medical attention in Schenectady.

Goyne, originally from Richmond, Va., worked in the drafting department of the General Electric Co.

“When I got hold of him, I was afraid that he might grab me. So I got behind him and pushed him along toward the canal bank,” said Goyne, who lived at 844 Union St. “I hope the boy is not sick, but he seemed all right after they revived him.”

Harris was well enough to accept responsibility for the fall into the drink. “I was fooling with the boys,” he said. “And almost fell in once before. It was my fault and I ought to have stopped.”

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