There are no rules in journalism about how a writer is supposed report on the discovery of a body. There are, however, conventions. Today, for instance, a reporter is not likely to give an elaborately detailed description of the recovery of the body, in respect for the relatives of the deceased if for no other reason.
Not so, apparently, in 1915. While researching a sensational kidnapping that took place that year in Bingham County, I noticed a story in The Idaho Republican headlined “Kleinschmidt’s Body is Found.” It caught my attention because the name reminded me of an Idaho place name, Kleinschmidt Grade in Hells Canyon. I read enough to see that there was no connection—just enough to “hook me in.” And, you don’t even know that’s a pun yet.
Although the story had a note about the funeral of William Kleinschmidt, it did not mention how he had died. From context, he drowned in the Snake River. The story mainly concerned itself with the remarkably short amount of time it took to find Kleinschmidt’s body, then went on to ponder about the length of time it had taken to find other bodies in the river over the preceding 30 years.
The body was discovered in a near record 53 hours. It was apparently more common to find a body after it had been in the water “nine days which marks a change in the weight of the body,” causing it to float.
“The means employed to find the body was a rope stretched across the stream, with floats to keep it from sinking in the stream and lines nine feet long dropping into the water with sinkers and hooks at the ends.” When anything heavy was encountered, the lines would quiver, and the men would pull up whatever the hook had snagged. This included a 50-pound lava rock that had a hole in it situated just right for the hook.
After describing exactly how and where the body was found in the river—face down, feet downstream, “the face only slightly marked by contact with moss and sand and gravel”—the reporter talked about the records that his readers were, no doubt, wondering about. “Vigils for lost bodies have usually covered a period varying from nine to 600 days. The longest period recorded was about 22 months in the case of George Neal, and the shortest was about one hour in the case of John Loveridge.”
In a mood for reminiscing, the reporter went through the details of the Loveridge drowning of 1890 or 1891, complete with a report on how the family of the man was doing all these years later. They had moved to Utah.
The paper noted that in 1912, one of Loveridge’s sons had come to Blackfoot searching for his father’s grave so he could put some flowers on it. In spite of the fact that Mr. Loveridge held the record for Fastest Recovery of a Body from the Snake River, which should surely have warranted a plaque, no one could find the man’s grave.