The Disappearance Of Emma Cothrell

Seventeen year old Emma Cothrell left her father's home in Chicago, Illinois at two in the afternoon on December 30, 1893 wearing a black dress and a short black jacket trimmed with white fur. She told her grandmother she was going skating with a young man named Frank Patten, who was a grocery clerk, and that if she did not come back, "she would be drowned." She never returned. Her father, a railroad switchman named Charles, called upon the Chicago police to investigate his daughter's disappearance.

Chicago detectives Wilbasky and Ross took up the case, scouring local ponds and rivers for any sign of five foot five, one hundred and thirty five pound Emma and questioning skaters that may have seen her on the ice. Naturally, Frank Patten was questioned. Quoted in the January 5, 1893 issue of the "Chicago Tribune", he said, "I do not think she drowned. The last I saw of her was Wednesday, in the evening. We never went skating together nor did I leave the house with her the day she disappeared. The idea that she could be drowned is improbable, as she always went to Jefferson Park to skate, where the water is shallow."

In the days following her disappearance, Emma's grandmother told authorities that she had taken "special pains with her toilet" that day... and her father discovered she'd in fact left her skates behind. Unless she'd borrowed a pair of skates from somebody else, which didn't make any sense as she had a pair of her own, the detectives surmised Emma had lied to her father and grandmother about her plans to go skating with Frank Patten that day.

At the time she went missing, her father was living with Emma's grandmother at 154 South Wood Street in Chicago. Emma usually resided with her mother (also named Emma) in Fort Wayne, Indiana, so it was theorized that she may have simply 'ran away' from her father and grandmother's residence. However, when her mother was contacted, Emma hadn't materialized there either.

The mystery of Emma's disappearance was solved on January 11, 1893 when a telegram arrived at her mother's home in Fort Wayne: "Have eloped. Am now Mrs. George Fredericks. Will write particulars." What those particulars were or how the aftermath of Emma's dramatic disappearance played out is anyone's guess, but one thing is for certain... if you're going to elope and use skating as part of your cover story, you just might want to take your skates with you.

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