Monday, May 9, 2011

Stories from the Hoover Dam: Two Deaths

One of the questions people often ask about the building of the Hoover Dam is “How many people are buried in the Dam?”  There is a very simple answer to that: zero.  There is one dog, Nig, who was buried at the site, but humans?  None.   

Although the exact number of those that perished is disputable, the official number of deaths associated with its construction is ninety-six.  But I want to tell you about two: the first and the last. 

Before construction could begin, the United States government had to do a lot of pre-work at the site.  This began several years before the project was ever announced.  On December 20, 1922, an employee of the Bureau of Reclamation fell off a barge into the Colorado River during a geological expedition and drowned.  His death is considered, by many accounts, as the first death to occur in association with the Dam. 

The last occurred exactly thirteen years later on December 20, 1935.  On this day, a young man working on one of the massive intake towers fell to his death. 

The coincidence that they both occurred on December 20th is itself a bit of interesting historical trivia, but there is something else that connects these two deaths that make them even more fascinating. 

The first death--the man who drowned in 1922 was J. G. Tierney. 

The man who fell from the intake tower, marking the last death at the Hoover Dam?

Patrick Tierney. 

His son.