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  • Writer's pictureSara McNabb

Missing Since 1926

Around 1:00 PM on October 30, 1926, Marvin Clark headed out from his home in Tigard, Oregon for a surprise visit with his daughter in Portland, just nine miles away. Some reports say set off by bus, others say by stagecoach (who knew they were still running stagecoaches in the 1920s, knowers!) but one thing is certain:

He never arrived.

It was two days before his daughter Sidney and wife Mary got in contact and realized that Marvin never made it to northwest Portland’s Hereford Hotel, where Sidney was both manager and resident. Police and family all set out in search of him, with Sidney offering a $100 reward for information leading to her father’s whereabouts.

Local newspapers covered the disappearance, with updates daily. Marvin suffered from a slight paralysis and walked with a distinctive limp, with they hoped would make him easy to spot. Many were concerned that Marvin had been attacked or killed by an old enemy from his days as a town marshal.

On November 9, The Bellingham Herald of Bellingham, Washington, reported that Marvin’s son Grover had received a postcard, postmarked in Bellingham, that was supposedly written by her husband and indicated that “the aged man's mind is wandering as it was badly jumbled.” Witnesses claimed to have seen Marvin at two hotels in the area on November 2 and 3.

Unfortunately for Marvin’s family, that was the end of the case until May of 1986, when about 20 miles north of Portland, a group of loggers discovered a human skeleton in the woods, with a .38 revolver and a spent shell nearby. The state medical examiner ruled it a suicide, and Marvin’s granddaughter put fort the theory that perhaps it was Marvin’s body and that depressed from the paralysis he suffered, Marvin had disappeared after taking his own life. The medical examiner had doubts as the remains seemed to be those of man ten to twenty years younger than Marvin. But with technology of the day, there was no way to confirm the identity of the body. So the case remained open…

…until 2011, when a forensic anthropologist at the Oregon state medical examiner’s office was reviewing old files (honestly, knowers, I’d be doing the same thing) and assigned forensic pathologists to retrieve DNA from the skeletal remains—which they did.

But they had nothing to match it to.

They spent years combing through genealogy databases until they located Marvin’s great-great-granddaughter of who provided DNA samples from herself and her son to compare to those harvested from the skeletal remains the state had stored for over thirty years.

And here, knowers, is where life doesn’t go like the movies: it wasn’t a match.

Marvin Clark’s disappearance is one of the oldest active missing person cases in the United States. Some say it’s the oldest, but my research is turning up a few other contenders for that title, which I’ll share with you in the near future.

In the meantime, what say you? What do you think might have happened to Marvin Clark? Post your thoughts in the comments, and let’s see if we can figure something new on this case.

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