Freaky Flint History with Joe Schipani - The County Fair August 30, 1912

County Fair
August 30th, 1912

By Joe Schipani

One of the best things about summer is the county fair. The livestock, the food, the games… but it is the rides that really attract the children.

The fair is usually the last big event before going back to school. For one thirteen-year-old boy named Chester Betts, this was the year his dreams of becoming an Aeronaut were coming true. Almost a man, he spent most of his summer training for this day, by practicing rope tying and building up his strength to hold the balloon.

On this beautiful Friday afternoon, after the balloon filled with gas, Chester started untying the ropes. He got the last one free and the balloon ascended into the air, but his foot was caught in the rope and he sailed away with the balloon.

Professor Abner Amedill was inside the balloon manning it. He heard the boy’s cries for help and tried to bring the balloon back to the ground.

The balloon was around two thousand feet above the ground when Chester lost his hold and started falling.

The boy fell onto the roof of a barn on East Court Street, known as the Stewart Estate. The boy’s body busted a hole in the barn roof about eight foot long and four foot wide. His body then tore through the rafters and landed on the cement floor.

Two employees of the estate, August and Albert, were in the barn when it happened. They thought the barn was collapsing when the poor boy came crashing through the roof. Then they heard the boy moaning, incredibly Chester was still alive after the fall. 

A couple of doctors arrived at the scene to find a horrified crowd from the fair gathered around the boy who was moaning in agony. The doctors looked at the boy with tears in their eyes knowing there was nothing they could do for him. His body lay limp and the doctors could tell that almost every bone was broken as blood seeped from his mouth and nose.

Chester was still alive when the ambulance arrived. They carefully loaded him inside and both doctors rode with him but sadly he died on the way to the hospital, before his parents were even notified of the accident.

Later the police interviewed Professor Abner Amedill questioning- why he didn’t cut the rope as soon as he heard the boy’s cry for help?

His response was:  Then both of us would be dead.  

He went on to say that bad luck and unfortunate occurrences had been haunting him for weeks. A couple of weeks before the fair his balloon caught fire and he was burned.  After that a gas bag broke and he fell from the balloon, causing bruising and a sprain.  A week before a similar incident happened with another kid in Kentucky. 

Chester’s accident was the third time this type of accident has happened with the professor.

No charges were ever filed against Professor Abner Amedill.

~ Joe Schipani is the Executive Director of the Flint Public Art Project and the FFAR Project Assistant at the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.  Find him on Facebook at 
Flint Photo Credit: David C. Lucas- DS Photo

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