The Harry Browe, Jr case is a mystery. It is an old Michigan missing person case from the 30s.
What do we know?
On September 5, 1936, around 430pm, brothers Charles (9) and Edward (7) Browe left from home to visit Clark Park (Detroit) with their baby brother Harry in his stroller. At that time Harry is 15 months old but in news articles his age ranges between 15-20 months.
What happened is unclear but baby Harry disappeared. Whether his stroller disappeared with him is unclear as well.
Police quickly widened the search to the adjoining states to try and find the infant but they never found him.
The authorities reportedly considered three scenarios:
- Harry was injured after falling out of his stroller and his brothers, afraid to tell their parents, made him disappear. Charles did mention that Harry fell when the disappearance was reported. Police dismissed this theory. After questioning it was clear that Harry fell from his stroller while going to the park. Both Charles and Edward said that he was not injured. The fall happened shortly before Harry disappeared.
- A (childless) woman/couple stole the baby. The brothers said that a woman gave them money for candy (others reported it was ice cream) and that they left their baby brother with her for a while. They mentioned seeing a man nearby.
- A child kidnapper took the baby and possibly killed Harry. Police checked the usual suspects. I have not found anything more about this angle.
The second option.
Joseph Hayden, a motorcycle driver, told police that he saw a child resembling Harry at Goshen, Indiana. “While I stopped to get gasoline at Goshen,” he said, “an automobile with Michigan license plates drove in. There was a man and a woman and a crying baby in the car. I did not know about the Browe kidnaping. I asked the woman what was the matter with him and she answered: ‘Oh, he’s not standing the trip very well.’ After I got back to Detroit and saw the Browe baby’s picture, I was positive it was the same child.” Note that Hayden only mentions a couple and a crying baby.
A description of the car and its occupants was shared with Indiana state police. As far as I know, the Browe Family never received a ransom note.
We cannot be sure that Harry was taken by a childless couple who wanted a baby to raise as their own. If a couple or a person took Harry they could have done so as traffickers. I say this because in other papers I found the following: Charles and Edward were on their way to the park but got distracted by other children. They started to play with those other children and paid little attention to their baby brother.
Around 7pm, a strange woman with two small girls gave Charles money to buy ice cream across the street and told Edward to go with him. So all these children were still out alone (no mention of any parents around), it was around dinner time, and in this article the woman reportedly was with two other children. No mention of a man nearby. Now compare this to what Hayden said: only a couple and a crying baby in the car. No mention of two small girls.
Harry is white with blue eyes and light brown/dark blond hair. He had a double mastoidectomy that left scars behind each ear. A mastoidectomy removes diseased mastoid air cells that sit behind your ears in a hollow space in your skull. This is often the result of an ear infection that has spread. The fingernail on his left hand ring-finger is missing. These details were found at Porchlight but there is no source to check. Harry’s case is not in NamUs. I am still checking to see if there are unidentified babies in the Indiana/Michigan area who match Harry’s age.
If Harry was taken by people to raise as their own he was most likely given a different name. If alive, Harry would be 82-83 years old. He might have a family and grandchildren. If at some point they learn his birth name and check their heritage they will find this. Harry was a missing child and was loved by his family.
Browe Family Updates
On January 30, 1950 Harry’s mother Alice (40) passed away. She was killed on Saturday Jan 28 in a car accident. Her husband Robert (48) was critically hurt. Alice was struck by a car as they walked along a road in the Dearborn township of Wayne county. There was a mention in another paper that they were struck by oncoming traffic as they were apparently blinded by the lights of an approaching car.
The driver of that car, Michael J. Steffan (29) pleaded innocent to negligent homicide before Justice of the Peace W. J. Feidler. I am still trying to find more details. Services and funeral arrangements for Mrs. Alice Browe were held at the Michigan Memorial Cemetery.
That article reported that Harry had 10 brothers and sisters: Robert Jr, Marion, Irene, Clifton, August, Shirley, Henry, Viola, David, and Louise.
After the accident that killed his wife, Robert was unable to work. The oldest son, Charles, took over as breadwinner for the family. Tragedy struck again as he too died in a truck collision in 1952. Since then, the Browe Family lived on Charles’ insurance money in the home of Robert’s mother, Mrs. Marion Burgett. She passed away in 1952. I am still searching in old newspapers for more information. If you have any newspaper clippings about this case or links to databases where Harry’s case is listed, please let me know so we can update this post.
If you have any information about Harry Browe Jr, please contact the Detroit Department for Missing Children at (313) 596-2069 or email them at [email protected]
In the series “Case of the Month” I highlight old cold cases. These posts are not an in-depth analysis. Often more information can be found online or in newspaper archives. The goal of these posts is to get the cases back in the spotlights, to get people talking again, and if anything to make sure that we do not forget the victims. Just because their cases are cold does not mean that we can forget about them.
If you have any thoughts about the Harry Browe, Jr case I encourage you to post them on your social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, etc.) Every time that we mention Harry’s birth name online we enhance his digital footprint. We must make sure that he keeps his web presence if we ever wish to find answers in his case. You can help by linking to or sharing this post.
Salt Lake City Tribune Sept 8, 1936
Detroit Free Press Sept 6, 1938
Detroit Free Press Jan 30, 1950
Detroit Free Press Dec 24, 1952