An old Statehouse tale holds that an Idaho Statesman carrier fell almost 200 feet from near the top of the Capitol Rotunda to his death many years ago.
On Friday, the Senate’s senior member, Denton Darrington, told colleagues that a newspaper boy did indeed die in a fall. But the drop was about 40 feet, from the fourth floor to the first floor on a Saturday shortly before Christmas in 1926.
With help from state archivist Rod House, Darrington told the story shortly before the Senate adjourned Friday morning. House found an Idaho Statesman clipping that described 9-year-old Grant Ward’s fall on Dec. 18, 1926.
Ward had been delivering papers on a downtown route that included the Capitol. “Then he did what kids do, and that’s mess around,” said, Darrington, R-Declo.
The boy was sliding down the marble banister in the northeast stairway and fell off, tumbling to the first floor and landing in a mineral exhibit.
“The boy’s head struck several of the larger pieces of ore,” reported the Statesman.
Said Darrington: “It crushed his skull and ultimately it killed him, within an hour.”
Though Coroner William McBratney said there was no evidence of contributory negligence, he held an inquest after consulting with the attorney general and governor’s office.
No one witnessed the accident and the building was largely empty. A janitor and an elevator operator heard Ward’s fall and attended to him, bandaging his head with towels. Dr. Alfred Budge then arrived, and, according to the Statesman, “an effort was made to remove the youth to the hospital, but the injured boy died on the way.”
Capitol custodian John Craig said at the time: “Children always have been our main problem, and they remain even more of a problem. Had it been during working hours, when the building is constantly full of attendants and visitors, the boy might have been stopped. But there was no one on duty, no witness of the accident, and we are left in a dilemma as to how to prevent its recurrence, except by a constant patrol.”
Ward was born in Oakley, a farming community near City of Rocks in Darrington’s district. He was the son of Iva Bedke Ward and Clarence Ward. He is buried in Morris Hill Cemetery.