Biker Saves Miner
A Kittitas County miner lay in an Ellensburg, WA hospital with blood poisoning, and foul weather grounded aircraft that could bring a serum that might heal the man.
Instead, it was a Seattle motorcycle courier who made the run across Snoqualmie Pass in what was then record time to deliver the serum.
The story begins with Frank Walter Sagar who was working in gold mines in Liberty, WA.
Sagar was caught in a mine collapse on Nov. 4, 1929, which crushed his leg. In addition to the broken bones, he also developed a severe form of blood poisoning. Dr. William A. Taylor at Ellensburg General Hospital requested a serum to treat the poisoning from a Seattle pharmacy.
But heavy fog precluded getting the medicine to Ellensburg by air, and rail service would not get the serum there until at least the next day. Sagar, it was said, would not live that long without the treatment.
It was decided to have a courier deliver it by motorcycle.
Clifford Amsbury, a 25-year-old pharmacy messenger was given the assignment to get the medicine to Ellensburg that day. Bear in mind, this was in the days before the Interstate Highway System, which meant a longer trip on rougher roads than we’re used to today.
To aid him in his run, King County Sheriff Claude Bannick deputized Amsbury, giving him the legal authority to travel with all possible speed and not stop for anything, according to the Seattle Star. Bannick also called ahead to make sure authorities along Amsbury’s route would keep the road clear for him.
Amsbury was also given a state patrolman’s badge in case anyone tried to stop him.
Amsbury hit the road at noon and, with speeds reaching 70 mph, made it to Ellensburg in a record-setting two hours and 45 minutes.
Newspapers in Seattle and Ellensburg touted Amsbury as a hero. “It cannot take rank with the historic dog team dash to Nome with the diphtheria antitoxin, but it is unusual enough to attract attention,” the Seattle Daily Times noted.
Ellensburg newspapers reported days later that Sagar’s health was improving, both because of the medicine Amsbury delivered, as well as an amputation of Sagar’s leg.
Unfortunately, Sagar was eventually succumb to blood poisoning, on Nov. 20, and he was buried in 1930 — after the ground thawed.
This is not Clifford Amsbury