On a Dam Coincidence

The title here is not a typo. The story is about the building of the structure that became known as the Hoover Dam. The name of the dam that was built on the Colorado River between Arizona and Nevada comes to us because the president at the time the funds were allocated for the construction was the much-maligned Herbert Hoover. Hoover, presiding over the worst economic downturn in American History, knew the construction of such a dam would have drastic and amazing consequences for the entire southwestern United States.

First of all, the influx of government money to the severely depressed region would be warmly welcomed. Jobs were created. The water collected by the dam led to an explosion of agriculture in an area that had largely been desert. Floods were controlled. Lake Mead was created. The electricity that the dam produced completely changed the lives of everyone in that part of the nation. And so on.

It is an amazing engineering feat. Hoover himself is the only professionally trained engineer to hold the presidency, so that tracks. In today’s money, the dam cost almost three-quarters of a billion dollars. Almost 3.5 million cubic yards of concrete was poured to construct it. And the building of the massive structure was so fraught with danger because of the scale of the venture that it eventually cost over 100 lives.

The first person to die at the building site was a man named John Tierney. He died in a flash flood that roared through the canyon where the dam would eventually be built while he and a survey party were scouting a possible suitable places to build. This happened on December 20, 1921, long before the dam’s plans and funding were approved.

Ironically, the last person to die during the dam’s construction happened 14 years later to the day. On December 20, 1935, a worker fell to his death between two of the intake towers in the dam. That coincidence was not lost on many who worked on the massive project.

Rumors abound to this day surrounding the build. Some say that there are workers who were accidently cemented inside the dam and their bodies never removed. Some say that the project was the first one in the world to have required hardhats be worn by all construction workers because of the deaths. Some say that the dam is haunted and therefore jinxed by those who lost their lives there. Of course, none of these is true.

And those rumors are peanuts compared to the coincidence of the first and last deaths that took place at the building site. The fact that both men died on the exact same date 14 years apart is amazing on its face. What makes it even more eerie–almost downright spooky–is the other coincidence about the deaths.

You see, the man who died 14 years later after John Tierney was named Patrick Tierney–a man who was John’s only son.

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