Over La Salle County the plane engine began to sputter and Lindbergh switched on his reserve tank for another 20 minutes flying time. The reason the plane ran out of gas, as he later learned, was the 120-gallon fuel tank had been replaced without letting him know by an 85-gallon tank.
Realizing he would have to bail out, Lindbergh ascended to 5,000 feet when the engine again cut out.
“When one is contemplating a parachute drop, one craves for height,” Lindbergh said in an article that appeared a few days later in Ottawa’s Daily Republican-Times newspaper. “For a parachute does not open until the speed of the fall has created such a rush of upward air as to exert pressure under the silken folds.
“Twice before I had made emergency parachute jumps,” Lindbergh recalled. “Once at Kelly Field, Texas, the ship I was piloting crashing in midair with the plane of another poor devil, and I went over the side. Again, while testing a ship at St. Louis, it fell to pieces with me several thousand feet up. The parachute, of course, saved me. But those jumps had been in daytime with land in sight.”
Lindbergh jumped from his plane and pulled his parachute ripcord. He estimated it was about 8:40 p.m.
“It is not a very pleasant sensation to drop out of a plane when you can’t see the ground,” Lindbergh told a reporter from The Daily Republican-Times the next morning. “I had no idea whether I was going to land in a field or in a lake.”
Then, to Lindbergh’s surprise, he heard his airplane’s motor reengage. It turned out when he jumped it caused the plane’s remaining fuel to drain toward the engine’s carburetor. The plane spiraled down next to Lindbergh, an event dramatically recreated for the 1957 movie “The Spirit of St. Louis” staring Jimmy Stewart.
To avoid ending up straddled on a tree limb or wire, Lindbergh crossed his legs and covered his face with his hands, landing in a cornfield with stalks taller than he was.
He gathered up his parachute, found some wagon tracks, and began walking.
DeBolt heard the plane circling above his home and crash.
“I drove to a field south of the house where I found the crashed plane,” DeBolt said in his written recollection prepared by his sister, Hazel DeBolt Wiley. “Earl Luck, who lived next door, also came to the scene for the crash.”
DeBolt went back home and got on the phone. Esther Barr, 24, of Ottawa, “the well-known telephone operator was on duty,” he recalled. She contacted Sheriff E.J. “Mike” Welter to come and get the mail.
“In the meantime,” said DeBolt, “Francis and Ella Johnson, who lived one and half miles northeast of my home also heard this plane circling and lowering in altitude, set out in their Maxwell car to find the crashed plane. Driving around on country roads they found a lone man walking along, dragging his parachute. They picked him up and took him to their home. Mrs. Johnson called the operator and told her the story. Esther, always helpful in any emergency, told them to take the man to the Jason DeBolt farm where they would find the crashed plane.
“Upon arriving at the crashed plane, Lindbergh found several people gathered. Looking in the cockpit he noticed his gun missing from the holster that was attached to the panel. He informed the people this was government property and the gun was returned to him.”
The mail bags were retrieved. Sheriff Welter drove them with Lindbergh to the Ottawa Post Office — which now is the Ottawa City Hall — arriving about 10:45 p.m. Post office employees got the bags on the 3:30 a.m. train to Chicago. Lindbergh next stopped at the Ottawa Police Department, arriving just as Desk Sergeant Frank McNamara was listening to a distress call about the missing pilot and plane.
“Lindbergh stayed that night and the next night in my home, sleeping in the south bedroom upstairs,” DeBolt recalled. The day after the crash the demolished mail plane was pulled to the DeBolt farmyard and sheltered in the barn. It was determined only the plane’s Liberty motor was worth saving. It was loaded on a Ford Model-T truck and driven to St. Louis.
“On Sept. 18, 1926, I drove Lindbergh to Ottawa where he left by train. Later I received a thank-you note from Lindy with ten dollars enclosed.”
Back in Chicago, Lindbergh checked into the Congress Hotel. Perhaps still a little unsettled he went to see a movie. The newsreel that accompanied the feature “What Price Glory?” reported on competition for the Orteig Prize of $25,000 for the first completed transatlantic flight and Lindbergh’s famous quest began.
Today the DeBolt house is the Fox River Bed and Breakfast. The hostess is Charlotte Beach, an R.N. at OSF Saint Elizabeth Medical Center. She took over on March 30, 2007.
A native of Virginia, Beach was living in Lisle when she began to explore Starved Rock Country and became a regular visitor. She actually had moved back to Virginia but returned when the B and B’s previous owners, who are friends of hers, needed to relocate for personal reasons.
Beach is continuously restoring and decorating the house. She especially caters to family reunions and extended-stay guests.
“it has been a wonderful experience meeting people from all over the world,” she said. ticking off the many countries her guests have come from.
Some visitors are surprised — and pleased — to learn about the Lindbergh connection. For others, such as skydivers bound for nearby Skydive Chicago, it is the purpose for their stay. The room where Lindbergh stayed has a photo of the pilot at the crash site as well as several other related images.
There also are a few “gentle spirits” — as Beach calls them — who seem to be permanent guests.
One is a female named Virginia who loved to dance but died young. Beach said she can sense Virginia’s presence when she is playing music and dancing a bit herself while making up rooms.
“I can kind of feel her,” Beach said.
Another spirit is Walter.
“He is very mischievous, he’ll hide things,” Beach said.
For instance, once when she could not find her keys in their usual place a paranormal researcher who had been to the house happened to call and Beach explained her dilemma.
“She said Walter probably took them and to tell him you want them back right away.”
When she did a voice told her to look under a bed and there the keys were — even though that place had been checked before. Another time Walter wasn’t kidding around.
“One day as I got home all I could think about was basement, basement, basement — and as I pulled in the driveway I got really sick to my stomach,” Beach said. “So I went down to the basement and there was a vagrant down there.”
The La Salle County Sheriff’s Police were summoned.
“The paranormal investigator told Beach Walter made her sick as a warning,” Beach recalled.
“She said Walter takes care of me because I take care of the house. “I replied I hoped he could find a different way to do it if it was necessary in the future.”
For more information on the Fox River Bed and Breakfast visit: foxriverbnb.com