Robert A. Purcell signed the Davis-Monthan Register on Friday, August
21, 1931 at 12:15PM. Based in Alliance, OH, he was apparently solo westbound from
Roswell, NM to Santa Monica, CA. He flew Monocoach NC8953.
Interestingly, Purcell was a pilot whose itinerary we can trace from airfield to airfield. He landed on Thursday, August 20th at Parks Airport, East St. Louis, IL. In that Register, NC5893 was identified as an Alexander Eaglerock. But NC8953 was clearly a Monocoach 201 (S/N 5002). He, or whomever entered the information for him in the Parks Register, entered the wrong airplane identification. The next day we found him signed in the Davis-Monthan Register at Tucson at 12:15PM, as above, and then in the Clover Field, Santa Monica Register at 5:15PM. It had been a long two-days' flying for him.
Purcell was born June 24, 1903, son of William H. Purcell and Gertrude Hartzell. The 1920 Census placed him living in Alliance, OH with his parents and three sisters. His father's occupation was a manufacturer of steel. The 1930 Census placed him living (age 26) as a newly-wed with Elizabeth H. (23) in Alliance, OH. They rented their home for $65.50 per month. His occupation was coded as "Engineer" in a "Machine Factory." That factory was the Alliance
Machine Company, for which his father was president. The company made overhead cranes and heavy lift equipment.
He did not know it, but at the time he visited Parks Airport, Tucson and Santa Monica, Purcell had barely nine more months to
live. He flew West in an airplane crash near Lexington, OH on June 14, 1932.
Robert Purcell and Ruth
Kolb Meet Death In
Bucket Brigade Saves Barn
verdict of Accidental death was returned Wednesday when
coroner T C McQuate upon completion of the tragedy in which
Robert Purcell , 28, son of Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Purcell, and
Ruth Kolb, 22 of 232 South Seneca Ave, lost their lives when
the airplane in which they had been flying over the city
crashed into a barn and was destroyed by flames about 8 p.m.
the bodies of both victims were burned beyond recognition,
the coroner declared that the death of each was caused by the force of the
impact created when the aircraft struck the barn.
"Both had fractured skulls and are believed
to have been instantly killed, the coroner said after he
had conducted post mortem examinations at the Cassiday and
Turkle funeral home late Tuesday night.
showed that Purcell, who had been flying the last five years,
had borrowed the Velie coupe airplane owned by Louis
of Alliance, for the evening and that he and Miss Kolb had
been flying over Alliance and vicinity for some time before
Plane Hits Barn
occurred on the farm of Charles Wolpert, about a mile and
a half north of the city, at the intersection of Lexington
road and the road leading east toward the airport on North Webb road. It is
known as the old Rickard farm. It was believed that Purcell lost control of
the plane, the left wing striking the top of the barn with the nose then hitting
the wagon shed, which is a small adjoining building.
obtained by the coroner was to the effect that, when the
airplane hit the building, the two occupants were hurled
forward and their skulls fractured. The impact broke the
gasoline tank and the fuel was sprayed over the craft and part of the building.
Flames immediately broke out.
brigade was formed and the Alliance fire department called
at 8:05 p.m. By the time the department arrived, the brigade had the flames
under control and the barn was saved. The airplane, however, was destroyed. Considerable
time elapsed before the bodies could be removed from the
fire. A wrist
watch worn by Purcell had stopped at 7:50 p.m. indicating
that to have been the time of the crash.
had been obtained at the airport, when Purcell, Miss Kolb,
Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Orwig, Marcella Doyle, and Owen Lewis,
brother in law of Purcell, went to the field early in the
evening. Purcell invited Miss Kolb and Mrs. Orwig, sister
of Miss Kolb, to take the flight with him. Just as they were ready to leave
the field, Mrs. Orwig declined to go and Purcell and Miss Kolb made the fatal
trip by themselves.
" Police Chief
Harry L. Stark and Lieut. Earl Schultz made a thorough investigation
for the Alliance police department and after the arrival
of the coroner, the department lent assistance in the probe.
Hundreds of persons were attracted to the scene of the tragedy
and police were kept busy handling traffic.
was born here July 24, 1910. She was a member of St. Joseph’s
Catholic church and was graduated in the January, 1930, class
of Alliance High School. She is survived
by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. William Kolb; one sister, Mrs.
A. R. Orwig of Alliance and a brother, Karl of San Francisco.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete.
was the last survivor of a group of aviators who learned
to fly at the same time. Others including Aubrey Hess, and Billy Leonard had
was born in Alliance and had lived here his entire life.
His 29th birthday would have fallen on June 24th. He was
a graduate of Alliance high school and attended
Mount Union college. He was graduated from the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology with an engineering degree.
technical school, Purcell did considerable work of note in
engine development, particularly in regard to lubrication.
Since graduation, he continued this work and had recently
developed an efficient kind of super-charger for racing cars
and airplane motors. He was working on Diesel engine development
and on special machinery.
was vice president and production manager of the Alliance
Machine Company. He also served as director of that company,
the Alliance Manufacturing Company, Machined Steel Casting
company and the Mount Union bank. He was a
member of the exclusive aeronautical club, the Quiet Birdsmen,
and of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon national social fraternity.
his wife, Elizabeth, and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. W. H.
Purcell, he is survived by three sisters, Mrs. C. J. Rodman,
Mrs. Owen Lewis, and Miss Ruth Purcell, all of Alliance.
Private funeral services will be conducted at the Cassiday
and Turkle funeral home at 2 p.m. Friday. Dr. W. H. McMaster,
president of Mt. Union college, and J. W. Stephens, Jr.,
pastor of the First Presbyterian church will be in charge.
Burial will be made at the city cemetery. The family has
requested that there be no flowers.
City Band Postpones Opening
"At the request of Mayor
C. S. Westover and in view of the recent air tragedy, which
has cast a gloom over the city, the concert of the Alliance
City band announced for Wednesday evening at Stanley Park.
Opening of the summer concert season of the band will probably
take place next week."
Cited below are news articles from the New Philadelphia Daily Times (OH), June 16, 1932, Salem News (OH), June 16, 1932 and the Zanesville Times Recorder (OH), June 15, 1932, and the local Alliance
Review of June 15, 1932, right, courtesy of a site visitor.
New Philadelphia Daily Times (OH), June 16, 1932 (Source: newspapers.com)
These articles present slightly different "facts" surrounding the accident.
Salem News (OH), June 16, 1932 (Source: newspapers.com)
Below, we learn that Miss Cobb was a relative.
Zanesville Times Recorder (OH), June 15, 1932 (Source: newspapers.com)
R.A. Purcell, Grave Marker, 1932 (Source: ancestry.com)
The site visitor who provided the Alliance Review article says, "Mr.
Purcell was an up and coming young engineer likely to take
on a big role in the Alliance Machine Co. (Manufacturer of
Overhead cranes and steel mill eqpt.). He built a big home
in Alliance complete with a ballroom etc. but never got to
occupy it due to his untimely death."
UPLOADED: 10/29/07 REVISED: 07/28/17