Conowingo Dam

Construction work at the Conowingo Dam.

Q: You wrote an article about the deaths associated with the construction of the Conowingo Dam. You named a Hunter H Bettis as one of the fatalities. He was my Great Uncle, having a surviving sister, Augusta Love, my paternal grandmother. We always heard the legend of him being only 17 years old and weighted down with rivets when he fell into that deep and unforgiving current. Are there any other sources that I might learn more about this tragedy?

— Steve Ritter

A: On November 21, 1927, Hunter H. Bettis, an employee of Day and Zimmerman Company, drowned while walking along the edge of the cofferdam at Conowingo. Carrying a heavy bag of rivets across the works, the young man lost his balance, falling into thirty-five feet of water. Divers and dredging parties immediately started a search but were unable to locate the body until sometime the next day. He was the son of Mr. & Mrs. Lonnie Betis of Havre de Grace and was survived by his parents and brother, Evans. Interment was at Angel Hill Cemetery. This was dangerous work, and there are many counts of men in this hard-driving industry losing their lives. Harford County Coroner William B. Selse told one newspaper that twenty men perished on the project as he investigated Hunter’s death. A few years ago, I undertook an investigation to name these men for a Maryland Public Television documentary and identified fifteen workmen who made the ultimate sacrifice building the Conowingo Dam. It is important to remember these fallen workers, men who paid a high price while toiling away on this dangerous construction site.

— Mike Dixon

Do you have a question about Cecil County that the Historical Society of Cecil County’s panel of experts might be able to answer? Send them to history@cecilwhig.com.

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