Mysterious & Unsolved Disappearances: “Dropped From Sight”

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

“Dropped from Sight”

In the spring of 1914, Carrie Newell who had been living with an aunt, Mrs. E. K. Pierce in Azusa, California, rented rooms closer to her work. She also talked about moving to Los Angeles. Her disappearance was not noticed for several days.  On March 5, 1914,  43 year old Carrie Newell “dropped from sight” after applying for a job as a domestic at the Andrew Boddy Ranch home near San Dimas canyon.

Carrie Newell, courtesy Andrea Usher

Once her disappearance was noticed, Mr. & Mrs. Pierce “spared no effort to try to find her, the only traces they found were at near by places near the mountains.” When they asked people around the area, they were told that Carrie had “stopped and asked for work and the people had noticed peculiarities in look and actions that made them suspect dementia.” They offered her money, but she “exhibited considerable money and said all she wanted was  employment.”

No trace of the Newton grade school teacher could be found after that interaction.

Miss Newell was a well respected 1st and 2nd grade teacher in Newton in the late 1890s.  Her father, Rev. L.M. Newell was the pastor at the First Baptist Church in Newton, Ks.  In April 1898, he passed away. His first wife, Maria Pierce Newell died in 1878 in Villisca, Iowa. A second wife, Sarah Singer Newell died in 1889. One can imagine that in addition to teaching school, Carrie help care for her father.

After teaching in Newton, Miss Newell went to teach in Colorado. Her health declined and she went to live with her aunt, Mrs. E. J. Pierce in Azusa, CA.  Mrs. Pierce  noted that her niece was “subject to spells of nervousness, but she never appeared mentally unbalanced.”

“Can Anyone Locate Miss Carrie Newell?”

Evening Kansan Republican, 11 February 1916 

In January 1916, two men hiking through the area made the discovery of the skeleton, “while picking their way through a thicket.”  The men discovered a skeleton “clad in a gray suit and red sweater, which were the garments worn by Miss Newell when she disappeared.”

Another reporter add these details,

“A strand of dark brown hair . . clung to the skull . . . one arm had been severed from the body.”

Mrs. E. J. Pierce was called and on January 6, 1916,  she “identified the skeleton of a woman, which was found in Live Oak Canyon by  Will and Earl Rummel, . . . as that of her long-lost niece, Miss Carrie Newell, who disappeared from Azusa 23  months ago.” 

The Fate of Carrie Newell

Newton Kansan, 2 March 1916.

Mrs. Pierce and her son, viewed the head and “the identify was established by an  examination of gold-filled teeth. Further proof was furnished by a check on a Glendora bank, which had been given to Miss Newell by a girl friend  . . . found in the grass near the body.”

The body was found five miles away from  the Ranch where she  was last seen.

“It appeared that she had gone up the canyon instead of down the road and had fallen from sheer exhaustion down 100 feet of rock to her death. Her watch, breast pin and stick pin were found nearby.”

One theory for Miss Newell’s death is that she became dehydrated, which led to confusion and she became lost.  In her exhaustion, she fell from the cliff and died.  The descriptions of her behavior by the last people to see her seemed to support that theory.

Miss Carrie Newell was 43  and was buried at Azusa, CA.


  • Weekly Republican: 11 June 1897, 9 September 1897, 8 April 1898.
  • Newton Kansan: 4 August 1898, 2 March 1916.
  • Evening Kansan Republican, 11 February 1916, 2 March 1916.
  • Hutchinson News: 14 February 1916.
  • Los Angeles Herald, 25 January 1916.



This post was inspired by a Facebook question in the a Kansas history group, Kansas History Geeks, in February 2022. Andrea Usher posted the photo and asked for more info. Many people quickly helped find clues. Since Miss Carrie Newell spent time in Newton, Ks, I thought it was appropriate to gather the information, do some more research and share her story.  Thanks to all the people that provided clues. I’m sorry I did not get all of your names, but I hope you will enjoy this post too.




Mysterious & Unsolved Disappearances: “Seeing the Sights”

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Throughout Harvey County’s 150 years of history there have been the occasional mysteries. People that seemed to disappear, never to be heard from again.  This is the first in a series of blog posts “Mysterious & Unsolved Disappearances” that we will share periodically.

“Seeing the Sights” James Beam

The story of James Beam illustrates the absolute lack of law enforcement in Newton in 1871 and the difficulties of communication.

According to newspaper reports twenty-five-year-old James Beam, along with a friend, came to Newton, Ks with the goal of “seeing the sights in a frontier town” in October 1871. They were from Upper Sandusky, Ohio. According to witnesses, James explored the town and at about midnight he entered the Gold Room Saloon in the 600 Block of Main, Newton. One witness reported he heard “three shots and the cry ‘Murder,’ the night of Beam’s disappearance.

Daily Commonwealth, 31 October 1871.

James M. Beam was never seen again.

He left baggage at the hotel. His friend thought Beam had about $2,500 “on his person.

The last mention of James Beam in the the Kansas papers was on November 10, 1871. The Weekly News Democrat mentioned the story from the Topeka Daily Commonwealth, October 31, 1871, and indicated no progress had been made in finding James Beam.

Beam left behind a wife and three children in Ohio.

That seemed to be the end of the story.

Or Was It?

Darren McMannis recently uncovered a clue about the disappearance of James M. Beam in the July 4, 1922 edition of the  Hutchinson News. It seems that James Beam did not communicate with his friend of his plans to move on to Reno County or that  his family would join him later.  The clip reads:

“The first house below the river was built by ‘Jim’ Beam in the fall of 1871 on his claim.  Mrs. Emma Beam and her son, Frank M Beam, who live at 101 6th Avenue West, Hutchinson, were among the earliest settlers of the county, ‘across the river.’ . . . The arrived in Hutchinson . . .on February 17, 1872 . . .They were met there by her husband , James M. Beam. . . who came to Reno County in October 1871. J.M. Beam brought the lumber with him by wagon, from Newton, and with it erected the first house on the west side of the Arkansas River, just west of South Hutchinson.”  (Hutchinson News,  July 4, 1922, in McMannis,  Murder & Mayhem, Vol 1,  pg. 57.)

From that clue, much more about the life of James M. Beam was discovered.

Hutchinson News, 13 November 1916.

James M. Beam was one of the earliest settlers in Reno County arriving in October 1871, “before the Santa Fe railroad had been built.” He hauled lumber from Newton to build his house on the south side of the Arkansas River. He lived  on the homestead until 1905,  when he and his wife moved to Rogers, Ark. While in Reno County, he was engaged in the drug business.

Beam also served as deputy sheriff, and was a Reno county commissioner in 1876-1877. He was born in Licking County, Ohio, March 8, 1848. In 1863, at the age of 15, he enlisted in Company C, 76th Ohio Inf.  He fought the Lookout Mountain battle. He was also with Sherman’s army on it’s march to the sea.  He helped to save portions of Columbia from burning after the confederate army left. At the end of the war, he was at Bentonville, N. Carolina.

He married Emma Huff Beam on April 11, 1868 and they had two children.

It seems likely the local papers did not comment on his reappearance because they forgot he had mysteriously disappeared.


  • Daily Commonwealth: 31 October 1871
  • Weekly News Democrat: 10 November 1871
  • Hutchinson News: 13 November 1916.

Secondary Sources

  • McMannis, Darren J..  Deadly Encounters: Murder & Mayhem in Harvey County, Kansas, 1871-1899. Darren McMannis, 2019.