BRADFORD, Pa. - It was Mother's Day and little Marjory West
likely wanted to surprise her mom with flowers she picked all by
herself in the woods.
When 4-year-old Marjory didn't return to the family picnic site
on May 8, 1938, her family became alarmed and began searching. In
the days and weeks that would follow, the thousands who took up the
search for the child in the woods south of Marshburg came up
empty-handed. And to this day Marjory has never been found.
The mystery of what happened to Marjory West is being revived by
the fifth-grade reading enrichment class at School Street
Elementary School in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the
In addition to thoroughly researching all aspects of the case,
the students hope to make safety presentations to younger
elementary students on May 8, the anniversary date of Marjory's
Enrichment teacher Tammy Dittman said students in the class were
looking at doing research on Bradford history and thought the West
story would be interesting. She said the more the children
researched the story on the Internet and at Bradford Landmark
Society, the more their interest grew. Some of the students also
found they had their own connections to the incident. Student
Matthew Dennis said that while doing his research, he learned he
had a direct link to the tragedy.
"My great-grandpa searched for Marjory West," Matthew said of
his great grandfather, Lt. Leth Dennis, who had served on the
Bradford City Police Department.
Others in the class were ready to provide all of the details
relating to Marjory's disappearance, including the fact that she
had been picking flowers that day on Chappel Fork Road near her
11-year-old sister, Dorothea. Her father, Shirley, and brother,
Allen, were fishing and her mother, Cecilia, was at the picnic
One girl in the class said their research had shown them that
Marjory, like many 4-year-olds, had picked the flower heads off the
stems for her mom. The flower heads were later found near the road.
They also said Marjory's 5th birthday would have been on June 2 of
that year. And rewards that ranged from ,2,000 to ,10,000 were
offered for her return.
Several young detectives in the group have developed theories on
who might have taken Marjory. Some believe the girl was likely
taken by someone in one of two cars that were seen driving in
opposite directions on the rural road a short time before Marjory
disappeared. They also believe that Marjory's red hair, blue eyes
and similar appearance to child movie star Shirley Temple might
have made her a target.
Some of the students also believe there was a possible
connection with the case to a woman named Georgia Tann, a known
kidnapper in the country who sold babies to wealthy people.
The group also had found an article on-line that claimed Marjory
had been found.
"The kids were excited about this but we didn't know how that
could have happened," Ms. Dittman said, noting they are skeptical
about that information.
"It's been fun trying to find out the facts about her and trying
to find her," added student Dana Kline.
Ms. Dittman said the students also searched the Social Security
Death Index and found that all of the West family members, except
Dorothea, had died. They said they sent letters to a Dorothea West
Nicolson in a town near Pittsburgh but haven't heard back from
The class said they hope that their research on the case will,
in turn, help children in the community.
The students plan to visit younger children at George G.
Blaisdell Elementary School to tell them how to remain safe in
their everyday lives. Ms. Dittman said the Pennsylvania State
Police also have offered to do fingerprinting of the children
during the event.
In addition, she said the class is interested in doing a
memorial plaque for Marjory near the site where she
"We're looking into that, too," Ms. Dittman said.