Walk on Erie ice led to witnessing chilling event

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the OBSERVER in 1970.


The dictionary defines a duel as a secret personal combat between two persons, usually in retaliation for some personal insult. Although dueling was outlawed in the United States in 1861, it continued to be practiced in secluded places.

It was not yet dawn one cold morning in the early spring of 1881 when C.A. Fooleh awoke at his lakeside home at Fox’s Point near Irving. A long day of uneventful routines lay ahead of him, so he tried to go back to sleep. But he fell to thinking about some ice fishing equipment that he had left out on the frozen lake. He had noticed, the day before, signs of the ice breaking up, heralding a spring thaw, so at 5 a.m. he arose, got dressed and started out in the darkness across the lake’s rough surface to retrieve his apparatus.

Lumbering over great ice mounds in the biting wind, his progress was slow. When he had gone about three miles out and the sun was just rising, he noticed an ice boat in the distance coming up the lake. In a short time it drew opposite him but behind a chain of ice mounds, hiding it from his view. He climbed one of these and saw five well-dressed men disembark. Curious, but deciding that discretion should take the better part of valor, he remained hidden and watched them.

Walking away from each other, the men separated into two parties. When they were about 100 yards apart, they turned and faced each other. Then one man from each party stepped out from his companions and all at once it dawned on the solitary spectator that the two men were about to fight a duel. The men with them (who the watcher later assumed were a physician and two seconds), took two long pistols from a case and examined and loaded them. Each second then returned to his principal. The physician walked off to one side, carrying the empty pistol case under his arm.

When he reached a safe distance, the physician stopped, turned, and called in a clear voice, “Gentlemen, are you ready?”

“Yes,” both replied.


Two sharp reports rang out on the frigid air, frightening Fooleh so badly that he lost his balance and slid about 15 feet backwards down the ice mound. When he regained his wits and his former position, he found the party gathered around a recumbent figure and heard the physician say, “Through the lung.” The wounded man was carried onto the boat. Its sails were set, and turning into the wind, it was soon lost to sight among the ice mounds.

Fooleh walked over to the scene of these events feeling that he had imagined the scene, but knew he hadn’t when he picked up a bloodstained handkerchief. As he headed for home, he wondered if, down at the local newspaper, they would believe him when he reported the incident.

Apparently they did, for they printed it.

Agnes Pfleuger is a Dunkirk resident.