Lost Children of the Alleghenies

(The Cox Children)

 

Picture of the monument when it was erected in 1910.

It began on the morning of April 24, 1856, amidst the dense forests of Spruce Hollow.  Samuel Cox had returned to the little log cabin he had built for his wife, Susannah, and two small sons, Joseph, 5, and George, 6.  He was returning empty-handed from his hunt for small game.  As they sat down for dinner, their dog, “Sport,” was barking and Mr. Cox immediately trudged out with his gun.  Before Joseph left he told his wife, “Sport” had a squirrel treed, and he would go get the squirrel for meat for his family.

Samuel was gone about an hour and a half from the cabin and returned by a different route that he had left the cabin.  On entering the clearing where his cabin stood, he was met by his wife.  Susannah Cox was crying hysterically because the two boys were missing.  Susannah frantically told her husband how she had repeatedly called them and then searched the area.  She was sure that something had happened to them.  The woods in the area had many fast-flowing streams that two small boys could easily drown in.

Samuel Cox immediately began searching for his sons.  Again and again he desperately called their names and listened intently after his echo for the small voices of the boys’.  The only thing poor Mr. Cox heard was the birds high in the trees and the rustling of leaves by the wind through the forest.  Finally, Samuel went to his neighbors who lived a farther up the valley to ask their aid in the search.

Within hours, over 150 people were searching the Blue Knob area for the young boys.  They searched until nearly daybreak, rested briefly and renewed their search at the crack of dawn.  Nearly ten days went by and almost 1,000 people were trudging through the woods in every direction to aid in the search for the boys.  Some came from as far as 50 miles away. 

By now the entire area was completely involved with the thoughts of what extreme misfortune the Cox family was experiencing.  Rumors flew wildly as neighbors told stories to one another.  They had drowned…they were killed by a man-eating beast seen prowling the forest…the parents had murdered them.  Several neighbors went as far as to tear up the floor of the Cox cabin to relieve those acquisitions. 

It was then, at the height of all the rumors, that a young farmer named, Jacob Dibert, had a nightmare.  In his nightmare, Mr. Dibert was part of the search parties looking for the Cox boys.  He became separated from the other men.  He could not recognize the part of the forest he was in, but he came to a fallen tree.  Near the tree lay a dead deer.  Stepping over the deer, Mr. Dibert followed a deer trail and soon found a small boy’s shoe just beyond where he found the shoe there was a beech tree lying across a stream.  He went across the stream, up a steep ridge and into a ravine.  There, by the roots of a large birch tree, were the missing boys, dead from exposure. 

Jacob told his wife about the dream, but they said nothing to anyone else.  The next night he dreamed the same dream over again.  So, they decided to tell Mrs. Dibert’s brother, Harrison Whysong, who lived in Pavia and was well acquainted with the area in which the boys had disappeared.  At first Whysong was skeptical of the dream, but he said nothing.  He knew where there was just such a ridge, brook; but he regarded it as a wild goose chase unfortunately.  To ease his sister’s mind he took Jacob to the edge of the forest, and they began their search on May 8, 1856.

Five minutes later as Dibert traced his steps in his dream they stepped upon a fallen tree and there laid a dead deer.  Beyond the deer, some eight yards away, a child’s shoe was laying upon a mound of earth.  Both men began to run.  They crossed a brook on a fallen Beech tree just like the one in Dibert’s dream.  As they crossed the brook the scrambled up the steep ridge.  Dibert spotted a giant Beech tree with a shattered top, too astounded to speak, he could only point.   Just like in his dreams, at the roots of the Beech tree they found the bodies of George and Joseph Cox, dead from exposure.

The bodies of the boys were returned to the Cox home, and the church and school bells tolled- farther and farther from Pavia, to Bedford, to Altoona- telling that the boys were found.  Questions were raised throughout the counties as to where, how, and by whom were the boys found.  Some said Whysong, others said Dibert, and some said they both were heroic. 

In 1906, the people of Pavia contributed funds to erect a public monument at the spot where they brothers were found.  The monument is still there today- standing as a memorial to the nightmare of the young farmer, Jacob Dibert.

Early in July of 2002, the Cox monument was vandalized.  The monument was overturned and the fence surrounding the monument had been pushed in.  Workers from Culp Monumental Works of Schellsburg moved the Lost Children of the Alleghenies monument back into place.  The workers included C. Robert Daugherty, Richard Sparks, Philip Fletcher, and Jim Miller.  C.B. Culp, founder of the family company in 1899, made the original chiseled marble stone in 1906.

 Directions to the historical site can be found at the store in Pavia or the directions to graveside at the Mount Union Cemetery, where the boys were buried, can be found at Lovely's general store.

 

 

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