Children Thru the Ice: The 1923 Tragedy in Gregory, Michigan
No city, town, village, hamlet, or community is immune to tragedy. The small town of Gregory in Livingston County is no exception.
It was on January 6, 1923 when Maxie Sprangers (age 10) and his sister Johanna (age 8) went out to play in the snow. They grabbed their sled and were off to join their friend, Earl Carr Jr. (age 9). They went down to Williams Lake, where they figured the ice was strong enough to hold them. Maxie and Johanna got on the sled and Earl pulled them for a ride and went out on the ice. But it just wasn’t thick enough to hold. All three kids fell through the ice. Earl managed to pull himself out of the water and ran a couple of blocks to get help for Maxie and Johanna. By the time help arrived, it was too late – both children had drowned.
Maxie and Johanna were the only two children of Leo and Eliza Sprangers. Leo was born across the sea in Holland in 1873, only made it thru the eighth grade, and worked painting houses. Eliza, born in England in 1874, made it as far as the tenth grade. She and Leo married in 1911, Maxie was born the following year, and Johanna in 1914.
After the accident, a distraught, heart-broken Eliza stayed in bed for weeks. In 1940 she passed away from inflammation of the middle layer of the heart wall…or, some might say a broken heart. Leo died almost 25 years to the day of the accident: January 16, 1948.
Earl Carr Jr, the boy who was pulling the sled and went for help, only made it thru the sixth grade and wound up making a living by doing odd jobs around town. For his entire short life, he never married or had children of his own. He passed away from pancreatic cancer in 1945 and is buried in Jackson’s Woodland Cemetery. He was only 33 years old.
Tragedy in Gregory: The Sprangers Children, 1923