The Disappearance and (Possible) Rediscovery of Bobby Dunbar

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On August 23, 1912, a four-year-old boy named Bobby Dunbar was staying with his family in their Louisiana cabin. The Swayze Lake region is notorious for being hard to navigate: its swampy climate and plentiful pitfalls make it difficult even for adults to traverse. Bobby’s parents, Lessie and Percy Dunbar, took their children and family friend Paul Mizzi to the cabin for a day trip.

Mizzi took Bobby and the other children out to the lake to fish that morning. When the group returned to the cabin, Lessie immediately realized Bobby wasn’t with them. They immediately began searching for him and launched a large-scale operation, but divers and authorities found no sign of Bobby in the lake or surrounding swamp. 

The lack of physical evidence in the case led investigators to believe someone abducted the boy.

Bobby’s Return

In April 1913, eight months after Bobby disappeared, a boy who looked like him was found in the care of William Cantrell Walters, a tinkerer who lived in Hub, Mississippi. Walters allegedly whipped the boy viciously, and citizens intervened to question the youngster about his past. The tinkerer allegedly gave conflicting stories to townsfolk about how he came to care for the child. Suspicion grew that he was the missing Dunbar. According to Walters, the child was Bruce Anderson, but Walters couldn’t give a consistent answer about who the boy belonged to.

Investigators in Hub contacted the Dunbars to tell them about the potential sighting of their son. His resemblance to Bobby was striking, as he had the same scar on his left foot and mole on his neck that Bobby had. Despite this, the child seemingly didn’t recognize his own family.

Questions Linger

Walters eventually confessed that the boy belonged to Julia Anderson, his brother’s mistress. Anderson told authorities that Walters did take her son Bruce but insisted he was only supposed to keep him for a few days. Anderson visited with the child back in Louisiana and told authorities he was her son.

By this point, the boy insisted he was Bobby Dunbar. He sent Anderson away, claiming he didn’t recognize her. He would go on to live out the rest of his life as a Dunbar. Still, questions about his origins continued to gnaw at the family for nearly a century.

In 2004, his son, Bobby Dunbar Jr., consented to a DNA profile. The research determined that Dunbar Jr. was not related to the rest of the Dunbar family. This test ruled out the possibility that the boy found in Hub in 1913 was Bobby Dunbar. As such, the fate of the boy who went missing in the Louisiana swamp in 1912 remains unknown.