The Bewildering Disappearance of Catherine Winters
She vanished from the streets a century ago, but the people of New Castle, Indiana continue to wonder what happened to little Catherine Winters
Catherine Winters was born on February 10, 1904, in the small town of New Castle, Indiana. Her father, Dr. William Asa Winters, was a dentist who everyone called Doc. Catherine’s mother, Emily Whistler, died of tuberculosis when Catherine was five, and her brother, Frankie, was two.
Doc needed help taking care of the children after his wife died. His sister-in-law, Ida, and mother-in-law, Eliza, moved in. Byrd Ophelia Ritter and her sisters worked at a hotel called The Bundy House, not far from Doc’s dental office. Doc took notice of the dark-haired beauty and married her on September 5, 1910.
Catherine’s aunt Ida and grandmother didn’t think much of Byrd and moved into a house nearby. Byrd was a stranger to them. There was no courtship before she was thrust into the lives of Doc’s two very young children as their new mother. Byrd, to make sure everyone knew she had the upper hand, sued Ida and Eliza for back rent.
Doc built an American Foursquare style home at 311 N 16th Street in New Castle. The house was opulent, with indoor plumbing, a telephone, and electricity. Catherine picked out a window seat in the dining room that she called her favorite.
Outwardly, Byrd didn’t appear to be a terrible stepmother. She was a talented seamstress, so the children always wore beautiful clothing. Catherine donned fashionable dresses and matching hair bows as she happily strolled her favorite doll along the streets of New Castle.
Inwardly, the Winters family had problems. The family must have struggled with finances because they began taking on boarders. Doc started to drink more and more. Byrd objected strongly to his drinking and even evicted boarder, William Ross Cooper, for getting Doc drunk.
Still, the family continued to build a life with some semblance of normalcy for three years. But in 1913, a tragedy would blindside the Winters family and leave the people of New Castle forever wondering what happened to little Catherine Winters.