Prosperous merchant vanishes without a trace

Albert Morgan, born in 1836 in England, once made a name for himself as a Grand Haven businessman.
Kevin Collier
Apr 29, 2013

He arrived in America in the late 1860s, settling in the city with his wife, Elizabeth, and children Margaret and Samuel.

            Described by newspapers as “a well-to-do” merchant and hotel keeper, Morgan lived in Grand Haven for about a dozen years before tragedy — the death of his wife — prompted him to move on.

            Soon after Elizabeth Morgan died of pneumonia on Dec. 13, 1881, Albert moved to Racine, Wis., to be near his daughter, Margaret, and son-in-law, Charles Kimball.

            Margaret Morgan had wed Charles J. Kimble, a native of Illinois, on Sept. 18, 1878, in Grand Haven. The couple settled in Kenosha County, Wis.

            For a short time, Albert Morgan resurrected his prior success in Grand Haven in Wisconsin and was called by one newspaper “a prosperous merchant of Racine.” Then, one day in 1885, at the age of 49, Albert Morgan vanished without a trace.

            Authorities launched an investigation motivated by Morgan's grown children, but few leads materialized. Evidence failed to exist whether Morgan had met with foul play or simply — for whatever reason — wandered off.

            Word made its way across Lake Michigan to old friends and neighbors in Grand Haven who knew Albert well. Some kept a lookout for Albert on behalf of his children, as some folks imagined he was hiding out somewhere in Grand Haven to be close to his wife's final resting place.

            Others thought Morgan had been robbed and murdered, and a body might never be found.

            Years after hearing nothing from or concerning the whereabouts of their father, Albert's children had, according to some newspapers, “given him up for dead.”

            Courts agreed — determining Albert Morgan was deceased, they issued a death certificate and his estate was divided up among his children. Thus, the story should have ended there.

            Not quite.

            On Monday, Oct. 30, 1911, shortly after noon in her home in Kenosha, Margaret (Morgan) Kimble was washing lunchtime dishes in her kitchen when she heard someone enter her home through the front door. With her husband, Charles, at work, it startled the 49-year-old mother and wife.

            In a defensive move, Margaret took a plate in hand and started for the parlor crying out, “Who is it?”

            She suddenly caught a glimpse of an old, disheveled, weary man coming toward her. She did not recognize him until he spoke.

            “It's father,” the man said.

            Margaret Kimball was so surprised that she dropped the dinner plate, sending it crashing on the floor. Newspapers reported “it was some time before the dishes were washed.”

            The man was Albert Morgan — the man given up for dead who vanished without a trace 26 years earlier.

            The Grand Haven Tribune published a front-page article of the unusual encounter, stating Albert Morgan was “hungry and broken” when his daughter received him into her home.

            “Albert Morgan is recalled by many of the older residents of Grand Haven,” the Tribune reported. “His business office was located at the corner of Third and Madison streets, but the family has been away from Grand Haven so many years that they had been forgotten by many until the (reunion) incident of the last day or two recalled it.”

            News items about Albert Morgan's reappearance made newspapers across the nation for its unusual nature. The Chicago Tribune likened Morgan's tale to “Rip Van Winkle” awaking after a long sleep.

            The strangest thing about Morgan's disappearance is that no answers were forthcoming.

            “(Morgan) refused to give an account of his wanderings since he mysteriously disappeared  from Racine 26 years ago,” the New York Evening World reported on Oct. 31, 1911.

            Albert hung up his hat in his daughter's home and was welcomed to live the remainder of his years with the Kimballs. Son Samuel Morgan lived nearby, thus both children and father were reunited.

            Why Albert Morgan walked away from his Racine home one day in 1885 will likely never be known. He didn't wish to talk about it, so it remained a mystery to those closest to him.

            A few local elderly residents who recalled Albert Morgan when he lived in Grand Haven thought his wife's passing had gotten to him, and he'd gone off for some soul-searching. Apparently, he found it, and returned to his children.

            Albert died in 1916 at the age of 82 and is buried in Wauwatosa Cemetery in Milwaukee.

          

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