Whatever happened to Bobby? A Mystery Unsolved

Bobby Dunbar and his mother.

 Eight months later the authorities appeared on the doorstep of the distraught parents with a boy that fit Bobby’s description

For over a hundred years, a riddle has haunted avid mystery followers.  If you are one of these followers of mysteries gleaned from true life, you will remember snippets of the case.  You will remember seeing photos of young Bobby’s face, and other photos of him beside a car.  He disappeared on a summer vacation in the hot, humid, heat a Lousiana summer can provide.

     In 1912, Bobby’s parents, Lessie and Percy Dunbar, decided to take their young family on a brief respite.  They had a son, Bobby, the oldest (born in 1908), and a younger son—a family of four.  They would go camping in Opelousas, near Lake Swanze, which was more of a gator-filled swamp, probably not a wise choice.  Not long into the vacation, Bobby went missing.

     Eight months later the authorities appeared on the doorstep of the still-distraught parents.  They had with them a boy that fit Bobby’s description to a tee.  Flies on the wall might have noticed that neither parents or boy, displayed that spark of happy recognition.  He was very similar to their son.  They checked him over for identifying marks and accepted him as their long-lost boy.   Maybe they had a case of wishing it to be true psychosis.  Another woman who had been following the story came forward and claimed it was her own boy, to no avail.

     A magazine had run a story to draw attention to the Dunbar’s plight.  The article stated that no boy was found in the swampy lake, but that Bobby’s hat had been found not far away.  The Dunbars had offered a large reward, and the town had added a heap more to the amount, for the return of the boy or information.

     At the time the boy was returned to the Dunbars, police arrested a traveling tinker who had him—William Walters of Mississippi.  The return of Bobby was celebrated with a parade and a brass band.  It was sort of like a big drama from which there could be no turning back.

      Walters was in jail for kidnapping the boy and knew his neck was already in the noose.  His days were numbered, yet he insisted that the boy that was with him was not Bobby Dunbar, but his own nephew, and he had permission for the boy to travel around with him.  The odd lady came forward again, Julia Anderson, and backed up Walters’ story.  She claimed to be his natural mother but was also skittish about identifying the boy face to face.  Her credibility then went out the window.  The Dunbars continued to raise Bobby, even though rumors swirled about.

     Almost one hundred years later, Margaret Cutright could not put the mysteries about her grandfather, Bobby Dunbar, to rest.  She began a journey of research that lasted years and took her to many libraries in the South.  She combed through newspaper clippings and began to believe Julia Anderson’s account.  Margaret’s family members wanted her to let things lay.  Stirring it up again would not come to any good.  Margaret happened to meet Julia Anderson’s granddaughter, Linda Taver, who was haunted by the same mystery and in the middle of her own investigation.  The two women swapped information and formed an alliance.  Then, a big feud erupted between them stalling their combined progress.

     It their research, the women had found a letter that was sent to the courthouse during the incarceration of William Walters.  It was signed The Christian Woman,  and, she emphasized in the letter that the boy given to the Dunbars was actually Bruce Anderson—son of Julia.  She went on to say that something wasn’t right.  Why didn’t the Dunbars immediately recognize their own son? 

     Margaret Cutright had been pestering her own father for four years to submit a DNA sample to put the thing to rest for once and for all.  He would not oblige—but on the fourth year, in 2003, he was overcome by too much curiosity himself.

Margaret hoped to compare her father’s DNA, to the DNA of the Dunbar’s second child—the real Bobby’s younger brother.  The two samples did not match.  By this time, the rest of Margaret’s family was really mad at her for not leaving it alone.  Margaret’s father was not a Dunbar; he was Bruce Anderson’s son.

     Where was the real Bobby Dunbar?  No one knows.  When the boy who was raised as Bobby was questioned, he said he remembered traveling with the tinker Williams, and that there was another boy traveling with them, but that he had died shortly before he was taken from Walter to go live with the Dunbars.  What?

     William Walters was released from prison, and he claimed to know nothing of a second boy.

Sara Marie Hogg is the author of It Rises from the Pee Dee. Please click here to find the novel on Amazon.

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