Our Past | 1934: Former Empire Press owner dies in auto accident

Selected by Karen Larsen

The following excerpts from an article published in the March 1, 1934 Waterville Empire-Press provide some history of the Empire Press as well as a sad story of the untimely death of a former owner. Thank goodness for the emergency response services we have nowadays!


Loses Life in Auto Accident on Pass

Funeral services for J.M. Stoddard, who was killed instantly in a car accident on Snoqualmie Pass the night of Feb. 21, were held in Ellensburg last Friday morning. The First Reader of the Christian Science Church conducted the services.

Mr. Stoddard was born in Nevada, Iowa, on June 10, 1881. When quite a young man, he went to Nebraska, where he learned the printer’s trade in the office of an uncle. In the fall of 1908, he and his family, came to Bridgeport, Wash., where he purchased the Bridgeport Republican. In 1913, he purchased The Big Bend Empire and moved to Waterville, later consolidating this paper with the Douglas County Press. Last fall he became editor and manager of the Ellensburg Capital.

Mr. Stoddard was prominent in the Republican Party for many years and served as secretary to Lt. Gov. John A. Gellatly at two sessions of the Legislature. He was also closely associated with former Gov. Roland A. Hartley. He was a past president of the Washington State Press Association and special writer for the Seattle Star and later the P.I.

The accident occurred when the car in which Mr. Stoddard was a passenger, in company with three other men, struck a truck and trailer which had jack-knifed across the highway. William F. Webster, driver of the car, saw the headlights of the parked truck but could not stop in time to prevent the crash, due to an icy spot on the highway. The car went into a skid and crashed broadside into the front of the truck. The side of the car was crushed in by the impact and Stoddard, who was riding in the back seat on the driver’s side, received a head fracture and died instantly.

Jack Kelleher, another passenger, was the only one able to get out and he and the truck driver both attempted to flag passing cars, but everyone dodged around them without stopping.

Kelleher finally managed to stop two men who took the other two passengers, who were seriously injured, to the Ellensburg hospital. He stayed with the body of Mr. Stoddard and came in later in the night.