Momma Went Missing: Carrie S. Nickles

Not much is known about Carrie S. Nickles (née Burnap), except that she died in May of 1897 — her body wasn’t found until June of 1897. Details of Carrie S. Burnap’s early life are not known, but she was the wife of Benjamin J. Nickles and the mother of two sons, on an unknown and Benjamin Harrison Nickles (the husband of my first cousin 3x’s removed).

When Benjamin Jr. was only nine years old, his mother, Carrie went missing. This was in 1897, 23 years before women got the right to vote and much before good mental health practices were developed.

On May 27, 1897, Carrie went missing from her home in Centralia, Washington — a little town just south of the state capital, Olympia,.

An article in the Morning Olympian in 1897 made mention of this incident:

Momma went Missing

The article is as follows:

Searching the Skookumchuck

Mrs. Nickles, of Centralia, Thought to Have Drowned Herself

Centralia, May 28 — Mrs. Nickles, wife of B.J. Nickles, mysteriously disappeared from her home yesterday evening. It is thought that sickness and trouble deranged her mind. she left without a wrap or head covering, after her husband and two sons had retired, and has not been heard of since.

Several theories as to her whereabouts have been set forth, the most general being that she had drowned herself in the Skookumchuck river, which flows near the Nickles resident. Giant powder and drag-hooks have been used, but as yet without avail. 

After reading this small amount of print dedicated to the life of Carrie Nickles it is a wonder what she is running from. We can assume that the remark from the article that relates to “sickness and trouble deranged her mind,” is remarking to some sort of mental illness or psychiatric condition that Carrie suffered from.

Pontiac State Hospital - Oakland, Michigan, Administrative Building (1939)
Pontiac State Hospital – Oakland, Michigan, Administrative Building (1939)

Mental illness affects 1 in 4 people across the globe, which if you think about it, is a staggering number (450 million). This can range from anxiety to depression to schizophrenia and any number of mental illnesses.


Nearly all of us have suffered from some moment in our lives where we have fought off a depression or faced anxiety about something — and I want to let you know, you aren’t alone.  My own mental illnesses aren’t something I talk about in public too much because they are still considered a taboo topic to converse about in many circles.

I am a bipolar, ADD/ADHD, anxiety-ridden person. I’m not saying this to brag or to show off, but to let you know that you aren’t alone. You don’t have to be alone.

If you are looking for resources be sure to check out NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), a grassroots organization dedicated to helping those who suffer.

You can find The Hipster Historian on Facebook & on Instagram. #onfleekfamilyhistory


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