The Lost Children of the Alleghenies
By Walter Hutsky
The Pavia Monument, located on the outskirts of Blue Knob State Park in Bedford County Pennsylvania, was erected in 1906, to mark the 50th anniversary of the tragic yet strange events that involved the deaths of Samuel and Susannah Cox’s two young sons. The monument is better known as The Lost Children of the Alleghenies and is located deep in the woods a few miles off of Route 869 outside the village of Pavia. If you drive on Route 869 you will see a sign that indicates where to turn off to travel back to see it.
The story of the monument starts long ago. In the morning of April 24th, 1856, Samuel Cox set out to do some hunting from his family’s small house in an area known as Spruce Hollow. When he returned later, he and his wife discovered that their two sons, Joseph (age 5) and George (age 7), were missing. Mrs. Cox thought maybe the boys followed their dad hunting without him knowing and may have gotten lost in the woods.
Even to this very day the woods in that part of the mountains are very dense and deep you can be easily lost in them. My father and I were hunting in the woods of Bedford County one time and ended up getting lost for quite a while. Back then I’m sure it was even more difficult to find your way around, especially if you’re a small child with wolves and other ferocious creatures lurking about in the darkness.
Samuel scoured the area around his house but could not locate them. He asked neighbors in the surrounding area for help, but after a long search no trace of them could be found. It was getting dark out and it broke everyone’s hearts knowing the boys were all alone and without food and shelter in the cold snowy mountains.
Hunters, trappers, neighbors and everyone from far near joined in the search. As time went on over a thousand people were involved in the search for the missing boys. Large fires were built on ridge tops in the hope that the children would see one of the fires and make their way to safety.
As day after day went by with no sign of the boys, rumors began to spread about the area and people started questioning whether or not the boys actually disappeared. Some laid the blame on the parents for secretly murdering them. One man in particular, Charley Ross, ended up searching their house and torn through it. He dug up floorboards and gardens looking for any clues to their disappearance, but nothing was discovered.
Neighbors and those involved in the search began getting desperate and turned to anyone they could for help. A colored man in Morris’ Cove was unsuccessfully brought into the search using dosing rods to try and locate them. Still others turned to a witch from Somerset County who ended up taking misleading everyone and taking a search party on a wild goose chase.
About a dozen miles away from the Cox family lived Jacob Dibert. He experienced a strange dream that dealt with the disappearance of the Cox children. In his dream he was searching an unfamiliar area of the woods where he came upon a deer carcass on a trail. He continued on past the deer and found a child’s shoe and further on he came to a small stream with a fallen beech tree that allowed him to cross to the other side. Once he crossed the other side he found the boys dead underneath the roots of a fallen birch tree.
Jacob told his wife of the dream, but they decided to keep it to themselves and dismissed it as nothing more than a dream. It was only after the dream repeated itself a few more times that Mrs. Dibert told him to go see her brother Harrison Wysong about it. Harrison was familiar with the area the boys disappeared in and he said the place described to him in Jacobs dream sounded a lot like a place he knew of.
They two men quickly set out to find the boys and soon enough they came upon a deer carcass, a child’s shoe, a beech tree across a stream and finally to the bodies of the Joseph and Samuel Cox who had apparently died of exposure due to the cold spring nights and lack of food. The boys had been missing for about two weeks and were found on May 8th 1856 in exactly the same manner as in Harrison’s dream. No one searched near the area where they were found because it wasn’t thought they could cross Bob’s creek.
Upon finding the children, church bells tolled all in small towns all across the Allegheny Mountains to let everyone know
they had been found. The boys were buried together in Mt. Union Cemetery on May 8th, 1856. It was said over 5,000 people showed up for the funeral and it was the largest one ever in that part of the mountains.
This story comes from a book by Charles M. McCarthey of Huntington, PA who wrote the book in 1888. He interviewed the Cox parents who were still alive at the time and did at lot of research into this fascinating tale. His full book, titled The Lost Children of the Alleghenies and How They Were Found, was published in 1941 and this was the main source I used in getting my information. The full story can be found in here.
I’ve visited the monument a few times and SPLAT officially went there to investigate it as well. This story remotely touches me on a personal level in a few ways. First off, my dad friend’s last name is Dibert and he says he is distantly related to Jacob Dibert, who was the one that had the mysterious dream telling him where to find the boys. I also had a teacher in high school with the last name Wysong, who lived near where the monument was. She may have been related to Harrison Wysong in this story.
Some people claim to have seen the ghosts of the little boys near monument and others say they have EVP recordings of them but I have yet to hear or see any evidence of this. However, another strange event was told to me first hand about an alleged Big Foot encounter not far from the monument, but that is another story……
The monument is inscribed with the following:
JOSEPH S. COX AGED 5 YS. 6 MS. & 9 DS. — GEORGE S. COX AGED 7 YS. 1 MO. & 10 DS. — CHILDREN OF SAMUEL & SUSANNA COX