WAYNE E. REILLY

Bull charged auto near old Bangor

Posted Sept. 18, 2011, at 6:49 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 19, 2011, at 11:06 a.m.

This headline appeared in the Bangor Daily Commercial on June 29, 1911.

BULL CHARGES AUTO

Two Women Saved by O’Connor’s Revolver on Ellsworth R’d

The heroic age of the automobile occurred about a century ago. Besides mechanical aptitude, you needed a lot of courage to drive one of the new machines. Stories about the difficult conditions that flourished were legion. Hazards included potholes the size of small ponds, frequent mechanical breakdowns, flat tires and angry farm animals, as the above headline indicates. Usually, these animal stories involved runaway horses, sometimes with tragic consequences, but at least once an angry bull locked horns with a hapless autoist near the Queen City of the East.

Hermann Stott, a New York mining engineer, was traveling on the Ellsworth Road toward Bangor when his bright red automobile stalled next to a pasture owned by farmer Sumner Smith. In the words of the reporter, who probably did not own an automobile, “something happened to the magneto” interrupting the journey and causing everyone to pile out of the machine. The passengers included Mrs. Stott, Miss Bertha Taylor of Bloomfield, N.J. and George O’Connor of New York.

While Stott and O’Connor looked under the hood, the two ladies stood a little too close to the nearby farm fence. Presiding over the pasture was a large Jersey bull, who, it was believed, took umbrage at the flaming color of the Stott’s auto. Before anybody noticed, the bull had broken through the fence “almost without warning.” Then the carnage began.

The bull made quick work of the auto. “There were shrieks and a fluttering of white skirts as the animal came up against the side of the automobile with a force which nearly turned it over,” reported the newspaper. “For a moment or two the bull stood dazed by the impact. Then with a bellow of rage, he charged straight at the two women, who had started on the run for a stone wall a few yards distant.”

It is unclear where the men were hiding, but there appeared little chance of escape for the ladies, and Mr. Stott closed his eyes to shut out the sight. Then he fainted.

O’Connor, meanwhile, had been rummaging around in “the bottom of the tonneau” (the rear seating compartment) for his traveling bag, which contained a revolver.

“He at length succeeded in getting the bag open and gaining possession of the weapon. As he raised it and fired, Mrs. Stott sprained her ankle and went down, the bull passing directly over her and crashing to the ground with a bullet through his heart,” reported the newspaper.

Meanwhile, Miss Taylor had made it to the stone wall, but was “badly bruised about the face in falling over the other side.”

Before leaving the scene of this disaster, Mr. Stott regained consciousness soon enough to reach “a satisfactory settlement” with Farmer Smith, whose bull had “badly smashed” a running board and mud guard of the flaming red automobile. Then the group reboarded and roared away to Bangor apparently little the worse for wear except for the two ladies, who were treated by a local physician. The fate of the magneto, for those who know what this device was, went unrecorded.

It is interesting to note that the newspaper scribe recorded the make of the bull, but not the make of the auto, an unusual lapse back in those days when people were familiar with horse and cattle breeds, but more interested in auto brands.

There are plenty of other adventure stories about autos in the Bangor papers from this period. Nearly 8,500 of these machines were registered in Maine by the summer of 1911. Speed demons were setting records. Accidents were becoming more common. Automobilists were appearing increasingly at places like the Eastern Maine State Fair in Bangor, Riverside Park in Hampden and at major resort hotels, presaging a whole new era in recreation. There was even a new type of bandit, who motored to banks, robbed them and then drove off in a cloud of dust. But I have seen only one story about a bull attacking an auto.

Wayne E. Reilly’s column on Bangor a century ago appears every other Monday. An illustrated collection, Remembering Bangor: The Queen City Before the Great Fire, is available where books are sold. Comments can be sent to him at wreilly.bdn@gmail.com.

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