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J. R. Findsen
Agnes Ellen Gurney born 12 October 1867 in Pepperell, Middlesex County, Massachusetts to Mary Williams Orcutt and Henry Ebenezer Gurney, went missing in 1880 at the age of 12 years old.
The portrait above was taken about 1874 when Agnes was seven years old before she and her mother (Mary Williams Orcutt) left New England for Iowa.
Luckily, for generations that followed, she wrote down memories from her childhood. In her story, she gives an event by event account of the years leading up to 1880 and the years following with little factual details such as dates and full names.
The nagging question I must answer is where was 12 years old Agnes during the 1880 United States Federal Census?
I found her mother in the census living in Charles City, Iowa teaching. She was living alone and suffered from tuberculosis on and off again.
“After teaching for several years in Osage, my mother taught in Charles City, Iowa, and I was sent to stay with my mother’s cousin Bina in Indianapolis where I attended school….The next year I went to Charles City to be with Mama.”
From the information above, this is a no-brainer. In Agnes’s story, she states living with Bina and her husband in Indianapolis for a year. Easy, right?
Maybe my dating is off? Agnes mentions only a few dates.
I can place everyone in her family and the people from her narrative in the 1880 US Federal Census. However, Agnes appears to have gone missing.
Here is what I do know:
You may ask, “Did you check all known relatives and friends households in the 1880 Census?”
I can answer “Yes.” I found everyone in Agnes’s life in the census for that year. She is not listed with anyone including her cousin Albina Jenkins Warne with whom she had gone to live. The census date at the residence of Albina was 2 June 1880.
My best guess at this moment is Agnes was in transit to or from Indiana at the time census takers knocked on doors.
Am I satisfied? No. Will I keep looking? You bet.
Thank you for reading.
J. R. Lowe