This Week in Riverhead History: Woman goes missing, never to be found

A 'lost' ad published frequently in the County Review after Margaret Metzner disappeared in 1939. (Source:Livebrary/County Review archives)
A ‘lost’ ad published frequently in the County Review after Margaret Metzner disappeared in 1939. (Credit: Review archives)

75 years ago this week

No trace of woman lost in woods

A Valley Stream woman disappeared on Aug. 13, 1939 while picking berries with her family near the Suffolk County Airport in Westhampton, prompting a search by ground and air through the woodlands between Riverhead and Eastport.

Margaret Metzner, who was 88 at the time was still being searched for when The Riverhead News went to press on its Aug. 18, 1939 edition. Neither bloodhounds nor a Navy blimp that flew over what was then referred to as the Quogue Plains could find her.

Her family said she had complained of fatigue and headed back for her automobile before disappearing for good.

When she still hadn’t been located two weeks later, her family offered up a $100 reward, according to a report in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

The Riverhead News, Brooklyn Daily Eagle and New York Times all covered the search for several weeks.

Other publications later covered her daughter’s unrelenting search for her mom. Several times a year the daughter would run “lost” ads in the County Review asking if anyone had seen her mom. According to the ads, the daughter, also named Margaret, said someone did report seeing her mother at the East Quogue train station one day after she went missing.

The last story ever written about the search for Ms. Metzner appears to have been published in the Aug. 16, 1956 issue of The Watchman. The headline read “Still seeks mother lost 17 years ago.”

“Despite a search that for weeks included hundreds of police, Boy Scouts and sympathetic citizens, no trace of her was found, and her disappearance remains a complete mystery nearly two decades later,” the story reads.

“It is my duty to find her,” the younger Ms. Metzner, who was 76 years old at the time the last story was published, said of her mom. The daughter died 10 years later, according to Social Security records.

10 years ago this week

Curtain may rise after all

Riverhead Town received three proposals from groups looking to purchase and restore the Suffolk Theater before the deadline of Aug. 13, 2004, according to that week’s News-Review.

The largest offer of $700,000 came from the Spector Group, which aimed to reopen the theater as a “multiplex and performing arts center with a dining pavilion.”

But history has proven the most imprtant offer that week came from a group headed by Bob Castaldi, which proposed to purchase the theater for $640,000 and turn it into what it is today. The theater finally reopened in 2013.

A third group, Main Street Entertainment, offered $600,000 to convert the theater into a live music venue.

20 years ago this week

Joe’s town vehicle drives board to action

Was Riverhead Town Supervisor Joe Janoski wrong to drive his town vehicle out of state to visit his mother?

That was the subject of an article in the Aug. 18, 1994 issue of the News-Review after the supervisor suffered a heart attack and his town vehicle had to be picked up by the chief of police.

Councilwoman Harriet Gillam, the lone Democrat on the board, questioned why the chief of police, the highest paid cop in town, was sent out-of-state on an all-expense paid trip to retrieve the car.

The chief and  other members of the Town Board defended the supervisor.

50 years ago this week

Group complains about duck waste pollution

The Aquebogue Civic Association was concerned enough about duck waste entering Meetinghouse Creek to show up at the Riverhead Town Board meeting on Aug. 18, 1964 to ask the town to take action.

Association president “Salvatore Barone has complained repeatedly to the Town Board, county health department, state Attorney General’s office and even Governor Rockefeller,” we wrote in that week’s News-Review.

“The board agreed to hire a special attorney to study the feasibility of adopting local town ordinances to control disposal of duck farm wastes.”

70 years ago this week

Potato market dead

The potato market was “as dead as King Tut” for 1944, we reported in the Aug. 18 issue of that year, with extreme heat blamed as the killer.

“On Thursday all shipping markets in this area were closed down. There was no price, no market and shipments were absolutely zero. It is believed that if the cooler weather that is promised for Friday actually materializes, the market will again become as active as the Allied Advance in France.”

100 years ago this week

A great year for producing pickles

Riverhead Town growers came up shy of breaking a new local record when they produced about a million pickles in the summer of 1914, according to an article in the Aug. 21, 1914 edition of the Riverhead News.

William R. Fanning was expected to be the top producer with about 100,000 pickles that year. Mike Mackel delivered 80,000.

The contract price for pickles in 1914 was $2.25 a thousand.

“The growers have realized pretty well from this feature of farming,” we wrote.

The record year at the time for pickle production on the North Fork was 1912, according to the article.