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The Search for the Lindbergh Baby Hits Our Area
Written by Larry Roeder, Editor
2017-08-09

            An extensive search, recently conducted by area police, for a suspect believed to be on the run in the area of Sumneytown Hill in Upper Salford Township, reminded us of a time when another search was conducted near the same area.

            It was a nationwide search that brought law enforcement officials to our local

communities, searching homes and interviewing residents.  And, it involved the family of one of our country's most popular aviation pioneers, Charles Lindbergh.

           In 1927, at the age of twenty-five, Lindbergh was the first man to fly the Atlantic Ocean solo. He was acclaimed a national hero and given the rank of colonel in the U.S. Army Air Corps.           

            In 1929 Charles married Anne Morrow, daughter of U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Dwight Morrow.  Their first child, Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr., was born in 1930. 

            Lindbergh and his family were constantly hounded by the press during this time, and became more and more uncooperative and reclusive.  Journalists were determined to report on every movement of the Lindbergh family.  To escape their scrutiny, Charles built a house on a 390-acre tract near Hopewell, NJ.  It was here that the darkest chapter in their lives was written.

            On March 1 1932, 20-month old Charles Jr. was kidnapped from the family's home.  The child was discovered missing at 10 PM, and a ransom note was found on the sill by an open window.  Lindbergh grabbed his rifle and made a frantic search of the grounds around the home. 

            He telephoned the New Jersey State Police at 10:40 PM.  Within 10 minutes, every communication method of modern science was utilized to broadcast the alarm.  Police departments were mobilized in a four-state search for the missing baby.

            During the period of March 2 to May 12, when the baby's body was found, there were three separate hoaxes going on.  One of them brought the search for Charles Jr. into our region.

            John Hughes Curtis was a respected boat builder in Norfolk, Virginia. He reported that he had made contact with the leader of the kidnappers, and described the members of the gang. He said that he "could maintain contact with the gang through a woman named Hilda."  His strange story was made credible by his support from Admiral Guy Hamilton Burrage, the man who had brought Lindbergh back from France in triumph in 1927. 

            Curtis sent the police on a wild-goose chase along the mid-Atlantic coast claiming that he was in constant contact with the kidnappers, and that he had actually held the child in his arms.  His bogus reports sparked a flurry of investigative activity that included theories that the kidnappers crossed the Delaware River into lower Bucks County using the Lambertville, Upper Black Eddy, or Riegelsville bridges.

            There was some physical evidence that gave support to a few of Curtis' tales.  In March of 1932, Quakertown Chief of Police Harry Rhoades received a call from Lt. Rowe of the Newark NJ Police department.  He reported that he had received a letter postmarked in the Upper Bucks County community stating that the "Lindbergh child was being held in Quakertown."  Chief Rhoades conducted an investigation to find the sender or a possible clue to the missing baby.  His investigation concluded that the baby was not in Quakertown.  However, it was suggested that an abduction gang could easily occupy a house in the more isolated Haycock region. 

            A week later Pa. State Police, acting upon a tip, conducted an extensive search of unoccupied cottages along the Swamp (Unami) Creek in Marlborough Township.  The region was home to many summer colonies at the time.  Most were remote, and some of the roads were nearly impassible, making the cabins a place where the kidnappers could stay without much fear of detection.  The investigation and hunt was centered in the Sumneytown area.  It included questioning local residents to learn of any suspicious actions in the region.  The investigation failed to turn up any tangible evidence, and police shrugged it off as another unfounded rumor.  

            The child's body was found on May 12, 1932 – 72 days after the kidnapping.  Soon after that, Curtis confessed that his information and stories had all been a hoax.  He stated that "for the past seven or eight months, due to financial pressures, he had been insane."  He apologized abjectly, and was eventually given a fine and a one-year suspended sentence for giving false information and hindering an investigation.

            Eventually, Bruno Richard Hauptman was arrested, tried, and convicted of kidnapping and murdering the child.  He was put to death in 1936.


 

 

 

 

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