‘Miss­ing’ farm girl took off for thrill

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - CELIA STOREY

When a teenage girl van­ished 100 years ago, peo­ple feared the worst — just as they do to­day.

And just as they do to­day, such cases at­tracted at­ten­tion far and wide. In sum­mer 1917, the Arkansas Gazette in Lit­tle Rock took no­tice of a teenager’s dis­ap­pear­ance 155 miles away.

Sus­pect Held in Miss­ing

Girl Case

Spe­cial to the Gazette. Paragould, July 24 — Daniel Burroughs, age 22, re­sid­ing two miles east of Mar­maduke, yes­ter­day was brought here and lodged in jail, charged with hav­ing knowl­edge of the mys­te­ri­ous dis­ap­pear­ance of Miss Flossie Smith, age 15. The girl dis­ap­peared about 10 days ago. She had made her home for the past sev­eral years with Burroughs’ par­ents. Neigh­bors in­quired of the Burroughs as to the where­abouts of Miss Smith, but they said they did not know; that per­haps she was vis­it­ing rel­a­tives at Bard, six miles east of here. Inquiries by friends of the girl re­vealed that she had not been seen in the Bard neigh­bor­hood.

Sus­pi­cions of friends of the girl were com­mu­ni­cated to county of­fi­cials and Deputy Pros­e­cut­ing At­tor­ney Jeff Brat­ton swore out a war­rant for the ar­rest of Burroughs. He in­sists that he has no knowl­edge of the dis­ap­pear­ance of the girl.

Mar­maduke res­i­dents are mak­ing a thor­ough search for the girl. Drainage canals are be­ing dragged. It is sus­pected that she has been mur­dered or met with an ac­ci­dent. Burroughs will be held un­til a com­plete in­ves­ti­ga­tion has been made.

The Arkansas Demo­crat, an af­ter­noon city pa­per in 1917, didn’t fol­low the case. The Gazette had stringers all over the place, though. Here’s its re­port from a stringer July 28:

Sher­iff R.L. El­more has se­cured a pho­to­graph of Miss Flossie Trin­nie Smith, who mys­te­ri­ously dis­ap­peared July 10 from the the home of W.M. Burroughs, near Mar­maduke, this county, and will send copies to of­fi­cials through­out this sec­tion of Arkansas and south­east Mis­souri.

No trace of the girl has been found. Ge­orge Crones of Se­nath, Mo., was here yes­ter­day and said that he would give a re­ward of $50 for in­for­ma­tion con­cern­ing his ward, and that the re­ward would im­me­di­ately be in­creased to $250.

Mean­while Burroughs, who didn’t “seem to be wor­ried,” in­sisted he had no knowl­edge of her dis­ap­pear­ance.

His fa­ther, W.M. Burroughs, was here yes­ter­day to see him, but the of­fi­cers re­fused him ad­mit­tance to the jail.

Aug. 2:

An­other Sus­pect Held Paragould, Aug. 1 — Clint Burroughs, aged 17, was ar­rested last

night and placed in jail in this city. He is charged with hav­ing knowl­edge of the dis­ap­pear­ance of Miss Flossie Trin­nie Smith, the 15-year-old girl who made her home with the Burroughs fam­ily, near Mar­maduke, north of here, and who has been miss­ing since July 10. …

It is in­ti­mated there will be other ar­rests.

Miss­ing Girl Is Found

at Work

Spe­cial to the Gazette. Paragould, Aug. 2 — Miss Flossie Smith is alive and prob­a­bly happy. Wear­ing men’s cloth­ing, she has been work­ing in a cot­ton field in the north­ern part of the county, while of­fi­cers and friends have been search­ing the woods and drag­ging the rivers for her body.

Con­sta­ble Presse of Hur­ri­cane lo­cated her yes­ter­day and ended the search that be­gan with her mys­te­ri­ous dis­ap­pear­ance on July 10. Dis­cov­ery of the girl’s where­abouts also brought re­lease from cus­tody for David and Clay Burroughs, who were be­ing held here sus­pected of hav­ing knowl­edge of the cause of her ab­sence. Miss Smith lived at the Burroughs home, near Mar­maduke.

The girl is said to have ex­plained that the quiet life of the farm bored her and she set out to find ad­ven­ture. She wanted to do some­thing un­usual, she said, so she se­cured some man’s cloth­ing, put it on and left home to take a look at the out­side world. She soon found work in a cot­ton field, where she re­mained un­til dis­cov­ered.

If you’ve ex­pe­ri­enced the great joy that is work­ing in a cot­ton field, you are won­der­ing what part of this story Flossie or the sher­iff or the re­porter de­cided to with­hold. Although (on sev­eral name-track­ing web­sites) Flossie ranks No. 10,070 in the baby-nam­ing hit pa­rade to­day (down 263 places from 2016) it was an “ex­tremely pop­u­lar” nick­name for girls named Florence in the early 20th cen­tury, ac­cord­ing to Name­berry.com. The So­cial Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s data­base ranks Florence as the 14th most pop­u­lar girl’s name in that decade.

A char­ac­ter in The Bobb­sey Twins chil­dren’s book se­ries, first pub­lished in 1904, was a Flossie.

So while it is tempt­ing to imag­ine that stray­ing child mov­ing to Cros­sett where, in 1923, a Miss Flossie Smith was maid of honor at the wed­ding of Ven­nie Mae Max­well and Jesse Bond Doo­ley, we have no idea.

By co­in­ci­dence, the name also ap­peared in an amus­ing poem by a widely cir­cu­lated news­pa­per ver­si­fier, James T. Mon­tague. Mon­tague (18731941) was a re­porter for the New York Evening Jour­nal in 1910 when the Gazette pub­lished this item from his syn­di­cated col­umn More Truth Than Poetry: Sim­plic­ity of Child­hood

When Flossie Smith met Trixie Brown upon the street last week,

She threw her arms about her neck and kissed her on the cheek,

With sim­ple, girl­ish friend­li­ness that fond ca­ress was fraught.

And this is what she said to her:

You dear old thing, you look too sweet,

That dress is sim­ply swell. A stun­ning cos­tume for the street,

And suits your style so well;

Do come and see me, dar­ling, soon,

That hat’s just gor­geous! Hey!

Come up to­mor­row af­ter­noon!

Good-bye (smack! smack!) Good-bye!

And this is what she thought:

There’s two new wrin­kles on her face!

She’s get­ting gross and fat! That dress is im­i­ta­tion lace —

Great heav­ens! What a hat! I know she pads, be­cause she’s got

Such weird, out­landish curves.

I hope she doesn’t come! Great Scott!

But she gets on my nerves! Flossie leaves the poem at this point, and Mon­tague in­tro­duces other, equally in­sin­cere char­ac­ters, Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Green. Green owes Jones money from a game of bridge, and Jones wants her cash. Af­ter ef­fu­sive friend­li­ness Jones thinks:

I sim­ply won’t be fleeced by friends,

Still I can’t make a scene; And — well, the hor­rid thing pre­tends

She don’t know what I mean.

In the next stanza, a Mr. Tom meets a Mr. Bill upon the av­enue. Into the near­est bar they go to hoist drinks and de­clare their manly ad­mi­ra­tion and broth­er­hood. Mean­while, Tom thinks

I know he’s crooked to the


He’s just a com­mon con

Is there no hon­esty in peo­ple? The poet leaves his read­ers with hope:

When Fred­die White meets Wil­lie Black be­hind the al­ley fence,

He ut­ters no con­ven­tional and trite in­con­se­quence;

He eyes the stranger for a while, he sets his teeth and blinks;

And this is what he says to him, and also what he thinks:

Hey, wot you lookin’ at you guy?

Sup­pose my hair is red? If you keep starin’ at me, why

I’ll come and punch your head.

You ain’t no brute, as I can see.

You’re too dressed up an’ fat;

I told yer not to look at me, Take that! (punch punch) an’ that! Lucy Turnipseed did a lot of re­search for to­day’s Old News.

James Jack­son Mon­tague’s syn­di­cated po­ems were pub­lished by the Arkansas Gazette in the early 20th cen­tury.

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