Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Alphonso Burt vanishes at Chariton in 1871

Photo by Doris Christensen for Find a Grave

This is what remains of Elizabeth "Betsy" Burt's tombstone in the Newbern Cemetery, now badly deteriorated. But earlier decipherings report that according to the inscription she died Nov. 13, 1874, at the age of 54. That was three years after her husband, Alphonso, vanished.

Alphonso and Betsy had brought their family of six children, ranging in age from 10 to 25, west during the spring of 1869, settling on a farm some three miles from the Lucas-Marion county line village of Newbern.

Two and a half years later, near the 1st of December 1871, Alphonso walked away and never returned.

The disappearance took place during what is a black hole in the news from Lucas County --- The Chariton Democrat had ceased publication during July of 1871 and editions of The Patriot from the 1850s into the early 1870s have been destroyed.

But we do know because of an article published in The Centerville Citizen of Oct. 26, 1872, that his family still was attempting to locate Alphonso a year later. The article reads, 

"Information is wanted of Alphonso Burt, who left his home in Marion county, Iowa, about the first of December, 1871. He stated, on leaving home, that he was going to the village of Newbern, about three miles from his residence; but went the same day, with one of his neighbors, to the town of Chariton, a distance of fifteen miles from his home, and was seen the same day by another person who knew him in the town of Chariton.

"He owned when he left, a good farm in Marion county. He left a wife and six children.

"He was born and raised in Herkimer county, New York; removed about two and a half years ago to Marion county.

"He is about fifty years of age, about five feet ten inches high, has brown hair, blue eyes, light beard, front teeth out; is very reticent; is a carpenter and shoemaker.

"Any information of him will be most thankfully received by his family, and his son, Marion Burt, whose post office address is Newbern, Marion county, Iowa."


Marion County records show that not long after this notice was published, Alphonso's family had him declared dead, allowing his estate to enter probate. His widow and children continued to live in the Newbern neighborhood, some for the remainder of their lives.

So far as is known, Alphonso never was seen again. The most likely explanation: He came to Chariton, the nearest town with rail transportation, from Newbern and climbed aboard a train heading east or west toward a new life. But it seems unlikely we'll ever know for sure.

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