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1895 Tragedy in a Bronx River Swimming Hole

During September of 1895 the city was gripped by near record heat with temperatures in the low 90’s. Jeremiah Murphy was a postal clerk at the General Post Office. He took a few days of vacation, staying home rather than working in the torrid interior of the post office. He lived with his parents, John and Anna and his sister Elizabeth at 1231 E 167th St. Elizabeth worked at the post office like her brother, but she was working through the heat wave.

The Bronx River was only a block away from his home and so he aimed to cool off by taking a swim on the last day of his vacation. He put on his everyday suit and made the short walk to the river where he would undress to his shorts and go for a swim. Today we have specific sets of clothing for exercise, swimming, leisure and work, but in 1895 Jeremiah had one style of clothing for work and play. It was likely that he had swum here many times with his friends on weekends or after work during the long days of summer.

Somehow the 25-year old drown. His clothing was found near the Westchester Avenue Bridge and turned over to the police. John Murphy identified his son’s clothes at the Morrisania Police Station. It was supposed that he was taken with a cramp while swimming. His death was ruled an accidental drowning by the Coroner. He apparently had swum alone on that hot Tuesday, September 23rd, 1895.

Written by Ron Meade, great grand nephew of Jeremiah Murphy
February 2010

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