McKean County, Pennsylvania
Marjorie’s sister, Dorothea at age 12, 1939
Dorothea at age 65, 1993
Marjorie West was only 4 years old when she disappeared on Mother’s Day, May 8, 1938 in McKean County, Pennsylvania. It has been 84 years since she vanished.
The family of five; Shirley (father) and Cecilia (mother) along with Marjorie and her two siblings, 11 year old Dorothea and 7 year old Allan, attended a church in Bradford, Pennsylvania. Afterwards, they drove along highway 219 to a clearing in the Allegheny Forest in Marshburg, Pennsylvania for a picnic to celebrate Mother’s Day. It was there that the family met up with close family friends, Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Akerlind.
At 3pm Cecilia headed to the road to rest in her vehicle while her husband prepared to go trout fishing with Lloyd in a nearby stream. The girls, Dorothea and Marjorie wanted to pick wildflowers around a large boulder in the area. Dorothea walked away from Marjorie with her bouquet of flowers, to deliver them as a gift for their mother. In just a few minutes of being alone, Marjorie had vanished.
The police were notified, but no evidence of Marjorie’s whereabouts was found. Police dogs were brought in to pick up her scent trail through the surrounding forest area and 3,000 locals and 500 policemen conducted massive searches for 5 months, but still nothing came of it.
Several newspaper articles state the dogs followed Marjorie’s scent “half a mile up a mountain” to a cabin with its door nailed shut. However, nothing of interest was found inside. Other articles say Marjorie’s scent was followed to the road alongside the forest.
Marjorie’s first cousin Catherine wrote a blog post about her disappearance in 2006. “The searches found the crushed bouquet of violets, picked for her mother on Mother’s Day, lying on the ground not far from the rock.” https://catrackgraphics.com/2006/08/29/marjorie-west-missing/
It is mostly believed that little Marjorie wandered into the forest and became lost, or that she had fallen into an abandoned oil well. But without much evidence, anything had become possible. Engineers pumped out the muddy well, but nothing was found.
There was a theory that she was picked up on the road because witnesses told the police that three cars had passed by the clearing at around 3pm. Two of the three drivers were identified only two days later. The third driver, who witnesses claimed was a man, was seen fleeing in his Plymouth sedan so fast that an oncoming motorist had to pull off the road and into a ditch to avoid a collision.
Marjorie’s father Shirley refused to leave the forest, searching for a full 7 days before finally agreeing to come home. He ate a meal at home and then returned to the woods to continue the search. Mother, Cecilia, stayed at home so she would not miss a phone call. Around 1953, the couple had divorced.
Around 1998, when the internet was becoming more widespread, a writer and college professor named Harold Thomas “Bud” Beck, posted a $10,000 reward for information regarding Marjorie. He included up-to-date photos of Dorothea, assuming Marjorie would resemble her. A woman contacted him saying she had worked with a nurse named Sylvia in Florida who looked similar. Harold decided to take a trip to meet her. The nurse did look like Dorothea, but she denied being Marjorie. All was quiet until 2005, when Harold heard from Sylvia, she had moved to North Carolina to live in her childhood farmhouse. When Harold caught up with her there, she related a story that her mother told her when she was nearing the end of her life. In 1938, Sylvia’s father left that very farm, and took a drive north to work in oil refineries over the winter. He was an assistant engineer at Kendall Refining. When spring rolled around, he headed back towards home, and drove south, past the Allegheny Forest on Mothers Day, and he struck a little girl with his vehicle. There was no one around in sight, so he picked the child up and placed her in his car. He was afraid she was dead, but as he drove, the little girl began to gain consciousness, and seemed to be unharmed. He and his wife had lost their only daughter that winter, so he decided to take her to the farm and raised her there. A few years later, he lost an arm in the second world war and he told his wife it was “God’s way of punishing him for what he had done.” Sylvia claimed she used to tell her parents that she remembered another family, but they dismissed it. She claimed to have remembered the names Dorothea and Allen as a child. She said she also remembered a place with “snow way over her head.” After world war two, her parents had four more children. The nurse told Harold the story, on two conditions: one, he couldn’t tell anyone of her identity except for Dorothea because she wanted to meet her, and two, Harold could not publish her story until after she died. Unfortunately, by that time, Dorothea was ill and couldn’t meet the nurse, who was possibly her sister.
Sylvia passed away in February of 2009. Harold kept the other promise, and waited until 2010 to publish his book, “Finding Marjorie West.” Not many people looked at this story as credible, however, including Catherine.
Marjorie’s closest family members went to their grave hoping she was still alive somewhere.
There are many, many theories surrounding her disappearance, and I highly recommend looking into the links provided to find out more in-depth information, and to form your own opinions.
Marjorie West has never officially been found and her case remains unsolved.
If you have any information about this case, please contact the McKean County Sheriff’s Office at 814-887-3454.
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