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The Missing – Clarence Nagel

By Cecelia McKeig


Beltrami County has a lot of sloughs, bog and lakes. Every so often, someone went missing. Some were found after a period of time; others were never found.


I have a personal interest because a woman in our family disappeared from her farm in Wright County about 1867 and was never found. She left a husband and four children behind. He had to put the children in a Saint Paul orphanage until he remarried and brought them home.

Funkley Lake

In 1946, the residents of the Funkley area spent days searching for a missing ten-year old. The young boy named Clarence Nagel was reported missing on Thursday October 1, 1946.

The boy was last seen just before dusk when he left the farmhouse riding a horse to round up some stray cows. Because the horse was well-trained to remain in one place where the reins were dropped, and since the animal was found with the reins still on the saddle, authorities expected to find the boy nearby. The animal was found in a thicket the following day about one mile from the Nagel farmhouse.


Repeated searches of the area produced no results. An early winter snowstorm handicapped the beginning of the search. After 10 days, the snow had melted, and the unusually warm weekend weather lent itself to a massive search. Hundreds of men and women formed into organized search parties which included Funkley and Blackduck residents, forest rangers, members of the Bemidji American Legion disaster committee, and game wardens. Aircraft piloted by members of the Paul Bunyan Flying club, including my father Waldo Wattles, were also used in an effort to find the body or to afford the youth an opportunity to signal to the low flying craft if he had been injured and was still alive.

Hundreds of men and women formed into organized search parties which included Funkley and Blackduck residents, forest rangers, members of the Bemidji American Legion disaster committee, and game wardens.

The area was carefully searched on Saturday but taken up again on Sunday when perfect weather influenced Sheriff John Cahill to organize the party and once more comb the area. This time the searchers found the body of the boy in a water-filled bog hole about three miles northeast of his Funkley farm home.


Searchers surmised that the boy might have been thrown from the horse or struck his head on the branch of a tree. The body was partly covered with water, and it is believed the boy died from exposure.