“The Lost Boy” is one of the longer chapters in my history of early Princeton, which covers the years prior to World War II.
The chapter details the disappearance of 11-year-old Harvey Whittemore in 1883, the discovery of his body several days later on the banks of the Fox River, the arrest and trial of his killer, and what became of each of the key players in the tragedy.
The research materials used for background for the chapter included the Princeton Republic, other state newspapers, court documents, prison records and land records.
Ellen Long, a widow and mother of two young children, slit Harvey’s throat and initially hid his body in her home on Water Street before moving it to the river bank. Long had been having an affair with Harvey’s father (her cousin’s husband) and apparently killed Harvey because the father had decided to end the affair and move the family to Wausau.
After several twists and turns in the case, Long pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison in Waupun.
The only detail of the case that I was missing when I completed the first draft of the chapter was the location of the Long home. The Republic’s coverage in 1883 provided this description: a small, neat brown house on the north side of Water Street, about three blocks from the business district.
Another report from earlier in the year, before the murder, provided another clue to help locate the house using land records at the register of deeds office:
Princeton Republic, April 26, 1883: Al. Eygabroad has purchased a lot of Megow, just east of Mrs. Ellen Long’s residence, and has the materials on the ground for a house.
After examining the 1892 illustrated map of Princeton and a plat map, it seemed the most logical place to start the records search was lot 10, Block 2, of the Henry Treat and Nelson Parsons Addition (now 216 West Water Street). The real estate transfers confirmed the location.
George Long was a carpenter and millwright who also was bridge tender for a time. He married Ellen Myers on July 3, 1869, when he was 24 and she was 17. George purchased the property at lot 10, block 2 (now 216 West Water Street ) from Lafayette Fisher in December 1872 for $350.
Princeton Republic, March 5, 1873: “G.A. Long moved a little building back of Luce block (514 West Water Street) to a lot on West Water Street on what has long been known as Ruffle Shirt Hill. Mr. Long will fit up the building for a residence.”
George died of diabetes in April 1878, leaving Ellen with two young children, a boy and a girl.
According to the property records, Ellen Long and her children sold the property in 1895 to Clemens Nikodym for $750. The old home was razed and replaced with a larger, more modern residence. The first glimpse we get of it comes from the 1927 Sanborn map.
The only remaining “loose end” to the Harvey Whittemore story, in my opinion, is where the boy was buried. Local history buffs have been unable to find the location. For now, that’s a mystery I’m going to leave to others to solve.