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#66 Cadets Aided in a 1925 Kidnapping Manhunt

Jeff Dobbin 200 Things about Norwich, Norwich Was There

Norwich Guidon, Volume III, Issue 12 [14]Earl Woodward was a 27-year-old farm hand employed by Lucille Chatterton’s family in Granville, about 15 miles southeast of Northfield as the crow flies. After Woodward and Chatterton disappeared, the sheriff’s men searched the woods in Braintree, Roxbury, and Brookfield for five days without any luck. Finally, the state attorney general asked Norwich’s President Charles Plumley for some cadets to help with the search-and-rescue mission.

When the announcement was made at morning chapel on Thursday, April 30, nearly the entire student body offered to serve (though fewer members of the junior class volunteered, as it was Junior Week). The volunteers assembled on the parade ground at 8:30, and 125 were chosen to board cars and trucks headed to the search location. The cadets spread out on foot through the woods south of Northfield, but for hours they found neither hide nor hair of Woodward and Chatterton.

Sandwiches and coffee were delivered from the NU mess hall to revitalize the tired but determined cadets. Just when they were about to give up hope, word came that Woodward had been spotted near West Brookfield. They boarded their trucks with renewed determination and searched the area surrounding Brookfield in bone-soaking rain all afternoon to no avail. When the fall of darkness forced them to give up for the night, the drenched cadets returned to the Hill, whereupon many of them promptly toweled off and headed over to the Junior Ring Ball.

The next morning, the exhausted cadets awoke to wonderful news—police dogs had located Woodward in Brookfield overnight, and Lucille Chatterton was returned home safely. The story splashed across front pages of Boston and New York newspapers, even reaching as far as Pittsburgh. Under every headline, the resolute Norwich cadets received credit for the enormous amount of manpower they provided, forcing the kidnapper into a confined location and directly aiding in his capture.

You can read full accounts of the 1925 manhunt in the Record, Guidon, and Northfield News, all available from the Norwich University Archives. Historical student scrapbooks from this time period also document the events of April 30, 1925.