One of Pennsylvania's Oldest Missing Child Cases

For Missing Person Monday, I selected the oldest case from Pennsylvania listed in NamUs or the national missing persons directory.  

This is the story of a little girl who has been missing for more than 70 years.

On May 8, 1938, four-year-old Majorie West and her family enjoyed a Mother's Day picnic in the rural community of White Gravel in McKean County, PA.

Majorie and her older sister, Dorothea, picked wildflowers from a field near a road and a large boulder. Her father had warned the children about going near the boulder for fear of rattlesnakes.

At around 3 pm, Dorothea went and spoke to their mother leaving her little sister with some of the flowers, but when she returned, Majorie was nowhere in sight.

The family conducted a brief search of the area, but nothing was found so they contacted law enforcement.

Using bloodhounds, police determined that Majorie's scent trail stopped in the middle of the road by the wildflowers that she had picked earlier.

Did Majorie get lost in the woods?

Did she fall into an abandon mine that was evidently nearby?

Trained dogs being unable to find a little girl's scent on a spring day nice enough for a picnic would seem to reduce the likelihood of her getting lost.

Possible but less plausible.

Witnesses told police that two vehicles were seen driving near the West's picnic, but authorities did not believe either driver had anything to do with the girl's disappearance.

But, even in the 1930s, a four-year-old standing alone near an isolated road could have been a kidnapping scenario for an opportunist.

After the case was publicized in newspapers, a taxi driver in Thomas, West Virginia reported that he saw a girl closely matching Majorie's description riding with a man at 11:38 pm on the night she vanished.

The cabbie told authorities that, after being stopped, he gave the man directions to a nearby motel. A few minutes later the man and girl returned--the man saying that the motel was full. He then allegedly asked the cab driver where he could get some liquor, and the driver directed him to a local bar.

Police were unable to identify the man the cabbie spoke to that night or corroborate his story, but the driver did believe that the little girl he saw in the car was Majorie.

Authorities did not rule out the sighting--as it was determined to be about an 8-hour drive from the disappearance location to that part of West Virginia.

Time went by and the case went cold.

Speculation about the missing girl's relatives, abduction scenarios, and other explanations continued to be discussed, but no leads panned out.

The disappearance of then four-year-old Majorie West remains unsolved.

The young girl was last seen wearing a blue dress, red hat, and a navy-blue mid-length coat with the collar edged in pink.


Discussions about the possible kidnapping of young children in the early 1900s, like this one, often include the name Georgia Tann--one of America's most infamous "baby snatchers."

I'll talk about Ms. Tann next week.


A more detailed description of Majorie's disappearance and the painful aftermath suffered by family members can be read by going here

My other Missing Person Monday posts can be found by clicking here.  


A Daft Scots Lass said...

Its quite chilling isn't it?

Em-Musing said...

A heartbreaking story. Curious about Ms. Tann.

Pat Hatt said...

That has to be awful, never knowing.

Miranda Hardy said...

I'm curious about Mrs. Tann, too. Child abductions are such sad cases to hear about. Well, any abduction is sad, really. She was such a cute girl.

messymimi said...

The world has not changed, only now we are quicker to suspect abduction. So sad.

Bonnie said...

Wow, that is so sad. 70 years is a longggg time to be missing. How tragic.
Twitter: @GlamKitten88

Clarissa Draper said...

How sad. No closure for the family.

Carol Kilgore said...

Not knowing what happened to a child has to be one of the worst agonies ever for parents.

BobKat said...

Good to see you back Slam...

I believe the psychology of snatching children back then was far different than it is today. It did happen - there were predators back then, like today, but I would suggest unlikely in the country, as many people didn't drive back then, and those that did had money.

My feeling is a wealthy couple "adopted" young Marjorie. She'd be 74 today if still alive.

It should also be noted that many couples were too poor to care for two children, and often were forced to "discretely" give them up - for "adoption".

Jax said...

Omg...such an old story and it still upset me! I wonder what happened to that child and if she was able to lead a normal life. Ms. Tann? I'm anxious to google that right now!

Hilary said...

Heartbreaking. Folks were less likely to worry about abduction back then.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

Of course the girl was taken.

Humans have been committing this crime for centuries. Just look at the slaves kidnapped from homes in Africa to work at plantations in America.

A sad case for sure as the girl was probably raped by her pedophile kidnapper and then just murdered like that poor Walsh boy that was stolen from Sears.

Bob G. said...

Sad to see that even back then, much was missed, no matter how diligent the authorities might have thought they had been.
Georgia Tann...that's gonna be an intersting read when you post about it.
I look forward to it.

Good post.

Stay safe (and cool) out there.

Brian Miller said...

wow...70 years...i guess back then as well there was not nearly as much to be done to look for them as well....

carma said...

so sad. makes you wonder if it had happened 70 years later with all of the advances in CSI that maybe she would have been found..

Momma Fargo said...

Those are the most disturbing cases and such a tragedy to a family, community, and to law enforcement...especially unsolved. There is no closure for anyone.

Kevina Smith said...

I had to Google this because I've been working with a woman who is 101 years old and talked about a misssing girl in a blue coat

Anonymous said...

Kevina-Can you ask this 101 year old woman the name of the child who wore the blue coat?

Anonymous said...

Kevina-Can you ask this 101 year old woman the name of the child who wore the blue coat?