Posted By: Mary H. Cochrane, Volunteer
Date: 7/2/2019 at 16:37:42
of Decatur County Home
Des Moines Tribune
Des Moines, Iowa
Just Molly, That’s Her Only Name
LEON, IA – Sixty-four years ago some Decatur county residents, traveling along the wild, winding road near Davis City, came upon a pre-school age child sitting alone on a stump by the roadside.
The youngster, apparently deserted by transients, was too young to explain what had happened to her. All she could tell her rescuers was that her name is “Molly.”
Today, living at Decatur county home five miles southeast of here, a tiny, graying woman nearly 70 putters about the farm or works a bit at some mending. “That’s Molly the Unknown,” as she has been listed in county home records since 1883.
Records do not indicate whether any attempt ever was made to locate relatives, but in those early days the systems of locating missing persons hadn’t been developed.
For only a few weeks out of her life, since she was found, Molly has been away from the county home. Once, according to the records, “a family named Newman” took her, as a young girl, to their farm for a few weeks, as sort of a hired girl. Another time she went to a country school for two weeks.
Mr. and Mrs. Roscoe Oney, stewards of the Decatur county home more than 16 years, say that Molly always has been an energetic, hard working inmate, cheerful and apparently happy.
The woman isn’t required to perform any of the menial tasks of the farm any more, doing only those bits of mending which she asks to do. Lately, she’s been piecing quilts.
There were days, now long ago, when Molly worked very hard. She has worked in the farm laundry, she scrubbed and cleaned the buildings, and she mended.
Conversing with Molly now is difficult. The woman is almost stone deaf. Questions can be yelled into her ears – and she will answer, but the answers often as not pertain to something else. It appears that she guesses what the question was – and guesses wrong.
Somewhere . . .
Somewhere – possibly within the rangy hills of Decatur county – Molly may have relatives. Perhaps she’s someone’s sister, but that mystery has little hope of solution. The authorities naturally, have long since given up any further quest.
Never having been into the “outside world” for long, Molly shows no desire to go anywhere. Apparently she’ll finish out the rest of her years at the farm until her grave is marked, as has been her life, just “Molly the Unknown.”
MOLLIE THE UNKNOWN
Mollie was a very small child when found hear Davis City, July 6, 1883.
She could only tell others her name was Mollie --- just Mollie, and that was all that was ever really known about her.
Mollie was taken to the Decatur County Home and except for a short interval she spent her entire life at the Decatur County Home, where she died at the age of 75, on April 18, 1949.
Mollie’s closest friend was Susie Kelly who lived at the County Farm and was deaf and dumb. Susie and Mollie are now buried under the same stone at the Leon Cemetery.
See the wax rubbing of Mollie’s tombstone made by Orange Dorsey. The date of Mollie's death had never been inscribed on the Stone.
NOTE: The above information came from a sign that used to be posted in the Decatur County Historical Society Musuem, Leon, Iowa. The sign currently is located in a binder labeled "Early Settlers of Decatur County."
The wax rubbing made by Orange Dorsey has been lost at this time but may be found among the files at the Decatur County Historical Society Musuem.
Des Moines Tribune
Des Moines, Iowa
They Call Her Mollie . . . ‘The Unknown’
Found in a Stump
The Tribune’s Iowa News Service.
LAMONI, IA – She is called “Mollie, the Unknown.”
No one knows where she came from, who her parents were or what her real name is.
She was found sitting on a stump along the road near Davis City, Ia, on July 6, 1883, and taken to the Decatur county farm.
She was just a small child, too young to answer questions and all she could tell them was that her name was “Mollie . . . just Mollie.”
The years have not revealed her identity. All that is known of her are the five lines which some one entered in the record book at the county farm 59 years ago:
“Mollie is called ‘the unknown’ because of the peculiar circumstances under which she was brought to the home on July 6, 1883. The story is told that she was found sitting on a stump along the side of the road near the town of Davis City, when only a small child. She was left there by transients and her real name was never known. She was taken from the county home once by a family named Newman and then returned. She has spent most of her life as an inmate of the county home.”
Time has erased all that might have been discovered about the little girl. Today no one can remember the incident, no one knows who found her or whether she was taken to the poor farm immediately, Old-time residents, who probably could recall hearing about the strange incident, are gone and present citizens have never heard the story.
Who could have left this tiny 2-year-old daughter along the roadside? No one knows, but it is thought that she was abandoned near Davis City by someone going through this section of the country in a covered wagon, as that was the mode of travel most transients used in those days.
History records that the year 1883 saw a number of covered wagons headed west and residents of this are recall seeing many covered wagons and wagon trains passing through, some of them with “Kansas or Bust” painted on the sides.
Perhaps one of these wagons was occupied by a grief stricken father who decided that raising a motherless daughter was too big a task for him to do alone and selected the thriving little village of Davis City as a likely place to leave his child; hoping some good couple would take her in.
Maybe the child was an orphan and her relatives decided they had enough children of their own to care for. Or perhaps she was willingly abandoned by shiftless parents who wanted to travel went without being hampered by a child and left her to the mercy of strange hands.
The Mollie of today is a plain, quiet lady, who is a friendly person but so shy that she only speaks when spoken to.
Living all of her life among the mental patients, who are also kept at the county farm with the indigents, has not been conducive to normal development and makes it difficult to determine what Mollie’s capacity to learn might have been. She grew up with old people.
If she ever had a memory of a loving father or a loving mother, time has erased all of that from her mind.
NOTE: Molly was interred at the Decatur County Home Cemetery where she shared a gravestone with her good friend Susie Kelly, also an inmate of the County Home. ~ SRB
Transcriptions and Submission by Sara LeFleur, Decatur County Historical Museum, January of 2014
Decatur Biographies maintained by Constance McDaniel Hall.
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