|The Hatbox Baby, then . . . |
The mystery of the Hatbox Baby has intrigued Valley residents for decades. That such a tiny personage could engender such widespread and enduring interest, perplex so many -- and even work to damage innocent lives -- can seem almost inexplicable.
Yet: One baby. In one hatbox. Managed to do just that.
Christmas Eve of 1931, a young couple, not long married, was driving home though the desert. They had taken their cousins up north to see snow, and were on their way back home, when their car broke down about seven miles west of the mining town of Superior, a town not far from the Superstition Mountains, home of another Arizona legend.
|The Hatbox she was found in.|
She called for Ed.
Ed came over and looked more closely. Inside the hatbox, lay a 10-month-old baby.
|. . . and "The Hatbox Baby Now." |
83 yr old Sharon Elliot in 2013
Maier temporarily placed the baby in a maternity home run by a woman known as Ma Dana. A few days later, she was adopted by a couple with no children.
The story made national news in 1931. Valley newspapers usually ran Christmas stories about her discovery each year. For decades afterward, Valley residents and newspapers asked, "What ever happened to the Hatbox Baby?"
The answer: she had a full life and even raised three kids of her own.
For most of her life, Sharon Elliot didn't know she was the famous "Hatbox Baby." In fact, she didn't even know she was adopted. She finally learned the truth in her mid-fifties. Yet, she still doesn't really know who her mother was, or how she came to be abandoned, in a pasteboard hatbox, in the middle of the open desert on Christmas Eve.
But what of the couple who found her?
The couple hadn't been married long, and wagging tongues claimed it had been a "shotgun wedding," the baby "discovered" in the desert so they wouldn't have to own up to their premarital misdeeds.
In the end, the couple fled the Valley, moving elsewhere, seeking land where no one had heard of the baby they found in the desert. It became a point of contention between the two of them, and they constantly refused to answer interview questions from reporters who hunted them down years later.
Thus, while we ponder who could have left a baby in such an inhospitable place -- in only a hatbox -- we are also faced by what may well be the greater mystery of the Hatbox Baby: Why did folks allow wagging tongues to do so much harm to a young couple who did nothing but save a baby from near-certain death? In one sense, the Stewart's lives might have been much simpler if they had simply convinced themselves that they had heard nothing crying out there in the lonely desert on that Christmas Eve. But, then again, they would have had to live with the guilt.
This quandary filed not in the Twilight Zone, but in the SleuthSayers blog, under "A" for Arizona oddities.