Route 24: The Warren Behrend Story

- A cryptic message at the bottom of a memorial cross, a teenage driver of a school bus and a tragedy a family never overcame paves the way for tonight's trip along route 24.

This Route 24 takes us back to 1929.

Warren Behrend was the only son of Ernst and Mary Behrend, owners of Hammermill Paper Company.

The Behrends lives all changed the afternoon of December 20th, 1929 when Warren Behrend was killed.

A cryptic message can be seen at the bottom of the memorial cross next to the Behrend Chapel in the Wintergreen Gorge Cemetery.

It reads, "On his way to join his family at Christmas, gave his life that school children placed in jeopardy thru no fault of his might live"

So what's behind this inscription?
Warren and a friend left Deerfield Massachusetts on their way to see Warren’s parents in Charlestown South Carolina.

It was December 20th 1929.

After stopping for gas in Pine Hill, South Carolina they saw a school bus, loaded with children heading straight towards them.

Rather than hit the school bus, Warren had a choice.

He could hit the school bus or head off the road.

He went into the ditch, his friend was injured but Warren was killed on the spot.

That’s why the stone mentions saving the lives of school children.

But could this tragedy have been averted if an adult was at the wheel of the school bus?

The bus was being driven by a student, an older student who shouldn't have been driving and was not observing the rules of the road.

The death of Warren devastated his father Ernst.

He kind of lost interest, became less active in the company, it was a real blow to him and Mary Behrend.

Ironically, the last two letters between Warren and his mom mention the tragic trip south.

Mary Behrend wrote to her son “Please proceed with caution, lots of crazy drivers on the road... Love Mother”.

Warren replied, “Ned Richardson and I have both promised each other to drive carefully and told you “Don't worry”

The Behrends had the chapel built for their son as his final resting place.

The cross was originally placed at the site where Warren was killed but was moved to the cemetery in 1the 1950's

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