When one thinks of the community of Windham in the 1930s, they are likely picturing idyllic country scenes, summers at Cobbett's Pond, and a simpler way of life. There is probably not even a remote possibility one would picture the less-than-pleasant events of Depression era Windham, such as accidents on Cobbett's Pond, or even a kidnapping at Searles School. According to The Portsmouth Herald, on October 24, 1932 a Mrs. Josephine Stutz of Boston appeared before a police court in Portsmouth having been charged with kidnapping her niece from Searles School in Windham. Just two weeks earlier Mrs. Stutz, who also went by Mrs. Jarrow, had gone to Searles School and took her 15-year-old niece, Sophie Jaroskepski from her class. Jaroskepski, who lived in the Canobie Lake district, had previously written her aunt to express her desire to live with her aunt in Boston. Despite having been told by the Rockingham County Solicitor that she could not take her teenage niece out of New Hampshire without the consent of the girl's mother, Mrs. Stutz ignored the warning and brought Sophie back to Boston with her. When the pair arrived at the aunt's home on Commonwealth Avenue Mrs. Stutz informed her niece that she must abandon her surname and instead go by the name Sophie Jarrow. Likely alerted by Sophie's mother, the Boston police began searching for Mrs. Stutz and Sophie. About a day after the kidnapping Mrs. Stutz learned that the police were looking for her and turned herself in at a Boston police station and informed the officers she would return the girl to her New Hampshire home, which she promptly did. When Mrs. Stutz was eventually brought before the police court she was ordered to be held on $200 bail to later appear before a grand jury. Unfortunately it seems the conclusion of the case did not garner the same publicity as the kidnapping, as the newspaper lacks any note of the outcome of the trial.
Derek Saffie is an avid Windham historian who enjoys researching and sharing his collection with all those interested in the history of the New England town.