Tuesday, September 27, 2016

On This Date in Minnesota History: September 27

September 27, 1890 – Tommy O’Rourke, a 5-tear-old boy from Montana, disappeared on this date while visiting relatives in Foley, Minn. The men of the family, including his father, were harvesting some fields, and Tommy had tagged along. Once the men realized Tommy was no longer in the area where they had last seen him, they began a search, yelling for him as they walked through the fields, but he had simply disappeared!

Tommy O’Rourke1

Did the boy wonder off and become lost? Could the Indians have taken him? Friends and neighbors assisted in the search; by the third day there were more than 100 men searching for Tommy, including all the workers from the Foley Lumber Miller.1

After he’d been missing a week, the Great Northern Railroad donated the use of a special train to take (125-150) searchers from St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids out to Foley to conduct one last massive search on Sunday, Oct. 5.1
On that last search, it was his cousin Michael O’Rourke, who discovered a scared, crying Tommy sitting on a stump in the woods near Foley station, in Benton County, about a mile and a half from where he was last seen. The boy was in almost famished condition, but with careful nursing would live. For nine days he had subsisted entirely on berries, acorns and water. His recovery brought wild excitement, as the whole surrounding country had followed the story.
Having given up hope of finding him alive, Tommy’s mother and sister had already started for their home in Glendive, Mont., when the good news of his recovery arrived.


The Independent Record; “Tommy O’Rourke Found. Almost famished and Living on Acorns and Water.”; Helena, Montana; Oct. 6, 1890; p. 1.

St. Paul Globe; “Tommy O’Rourke Found. The Little Fellow Lives on Berries a Week.”; Oct. 6, 1890; p. 1.



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