The Abduction of Harry

Photo Credit: Krzysztof (Kriss) Szkurlatowski via
Photo Credit: Krzysztof (Kriss) Szkurlatowski via

For about the past twenty years I have heard the tale of missing baby Harry, the son of John James Hilton and Susie Kerr. I have searched newspapers on and off for any mention of Harry or his kidnapping. I decided it was time to dig deep, get all the different versions of the stories together and see what I can find. Via Facebook I left a message for my family to have them send me the stories they have. Basically, it comes down to the following two stories.

Story 1:

Susie was in the hospital due to a fire the neighbors were watching Harry. The night before Susie came home, the neighbors disappeared in the middle of the night with baby Harry. Never to be heard from again. The family believes that family that disappeared with Harry is the Cunningham’s.

The “Cunningham” family was believed to go back to England, where their family was from.1

Story 2:

After delivering Harry, Susie found a lump and was in the hospital to have it removed. John was bringing the baby to the hospital for Susie to nurse a few times a day. After awhile, John reached out to the neighbor to assist with nursing baby Harry. She had just lost a baby and was happy to help, as Susie and her were best friends.

One morning, John went next door to check on the baby and the house was empty, the horse and carriage gone as well. IT is said that the only thing that helped Susie through this was knowing that this act was out of love because her friend had lost her baby and could not imagine losing another child.

The family was believed to have headed west, traveling as far as possible the first day. Hiding the horse and wagon until it was safe enough to move forward.2

Completed Research:

  • I went through Ohio Birth Records on Ancestry and FamilySearch to see if I can find any record of his birth. Unfortunately, I did not. However, there are records for the births of other children before and after Harry. These records show that the family lived in Salt Lick Township, Perry County, Ohio. According to family members Harry was either the second or third child born to John and Susie. That would make his birth from 1895 – 1898. Though I looked well into the 1900s.
  • I also looked through Newspaper Archives at Columbus papers, Columbus is the next biggest town. There is no story about this. A google search tells me to look at the Perry County Tribune, which is not available on GenealogyBank, Ancestry or their Newspapers websites.
  • Since I looked into the 1900s for a birth, I decided to look at the 1900 and 1910 US Census to look at the neighbors. See if we have anything close to the Cunningham’s.
    • In 1900 there is no one close to Cunningham in  the census. I tried the page before and after as well.
    • In 1910 the family enumerated before the Hilton’s is the Chadwick’s*, they are English as the one family story states. The family has two children already.3
  • I followed the Chadwick family forward in the census and either they are not the family or they were really silly and did not hide. In 1920 and the Chadwick’s have moved to Athens, Perry County, Ohio. They have another son, Clyde. No birth record is found for Clyde in the Ohio records (I did not find one for their son Clinton either).4

*It is important to note that I am not blaming the Chadwick family of abduction or any wrong doing. I am just looking at the possibilities that surrounded the Hilton family.

What’s next:

  1. According to John’s probate record, there is a family bible. I would love to be able to track that down and see if the births are mentioned.
  2. Look at directories for the area and see if there are other families that could be the “Cunningham’s”.
  3. Go through the family completely and verify I have all the birth records and children accounted for. According to Emma Hilton’s birth record in 1913, she is the 11th child. That would mean I am missing two children of Susie’s.

  1. Family Story shared from J. Swartz, N. Swartz R. Lanier and M. Swartz 

  2. Family story shared from R. Dodd via T. Leslie 

  3. 1910 US Federal Census, Hilton and Chadwick Families, Ancestry; accessed 7 June 2016 

  4. 1920 US Federal Census, Chadwick Family; accessed 7 June 2016 



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