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The Lost and Found


Today’s stories are about the lost being found. The first one takes place in McLean County in a little town called Dogden, founded along the Soo Line Railroad in 1906. On this date in 1923, an eighteen-month old girl named Lillian Disapenko wandered away from her parents’ home, and after some amount of time, she apparently laid down and fell asleep. Unfortunately, the place she chose for her nap was on the railroad tracks.

The engineer of an oncoming Soo Line passenger train spotted Lillian, but by the time he managed to stop the train, the locomotive, two baggage cars and part of a passenger car had already passed over her. Lillian was rushed to a Bismarck hospital but was found to have only a few bumps and bruises – which she possibly sustained before ever reaching the tracks.

Now here’s a bit of trivia about Dogden. The town was named for nearby Dog Den Butte, an area preferred by wolves. Previously, it was named for another type of dog – when Verendrye passed through on an exploratory mission, he named the area Maison de Chein, or Prairie Dog’s Home. Four years after Lillian Disapenko survived her railroad tracks adventure, the town’s name changed to the one it currently holds – Butte.

Our second lost and found story took place on the same day as the first and concerns a “traveling man” who brought a 16 year-old girl to Valley City. He got her a job, set her up with room and board and told people he met her and another man trudging along the road near Jamestown. When he stopped, she appealed to him for help, and he obliged.

Goldie Schumacker was from Wisconsin, and it was from her hometown of Prairie du Chien that she said she’d been kidnapped six months earlier. Since then, she had been traveling with the perpetrator, an employee from a garage back home. By the time her Good Samaritan ran off her kidnaper, Goldie was ragged and worn out.

The local police checked out Goldie’s story with authorities in Prairie du Chien, who confirmed the girl was indeed kidnapped the previous May. But, other than the housing and job the stranger secured for her, Goldie appears to have remained destitute. She appealed to the Salvation Army for help, and they, in turn, asked Valley City businessmen for contributions. When all was said and done, the fund was sufficient to get Goldie safely back to her home.

Our third story springs forward 30 years to this date in 1953. The Korean War had resulted in a large number of missing U.S. soldiers, and for three years, Allied Intelligence had compiled a list of men the enemy was believed to have captured. It was estimated some 7,000 servicemen had become prisoners of war, and horror stories about their treatment at the hands of their Korean and Chinese captors caused great anguish during the final months of the war.

Between April 21st and May 3rd, Operation Little Switch returned 149 U.S. prisoners who were most in need of immediate medical treatment. Operation Big Switch began on August 4th and continued until September 6th. During that exchange, 3,596 American prisoners were returned.

But, that left thousands of POWs unaccounted for. During this week in 1953, freed POWs from North Dakota started trickling back home. But as of September 9th, 944 American families were still anxiously waiting for news of their missing loved ones.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm