In the mid-19th century, two young boys, George and Joseph Cox, then aged seven and five respectively, wandered from their homes in Pavia, Pennsylvania, never to be seen alive again. Their remains weren’t found until more than a week after their disappearances, when a local farmer followed the signs he saw in a reoccurring dream that led him to their bodies in a remote ravine.
This isn’t a legend, but the real tragic, creepy, and suspicious all at the same time story of the Cox children’s disappearance.
George and Joseph were the sons of Samuel and Susannah Cox, who lived in a cabin built by Samuel for his wife and kids. It was the morning of April 24, 1856, when Samuel Cox heard his dog barking in the forest and thought that it must have treed a squirrel. So, Samuel retrieved his rifle and headed into the woods. At this time this area of Pennsylvania was still heavily forested and Susannah thought that the boys were estranged from home to follow their father. It was only when Samuel returned without them that they realized their children were gone. They called for the boys but received no replies, Samuel went for help from his neighbors and by that evening more than one hundred men were searching for the children. A nearby stream, Bob’s Creek, was surging with spring snow melt and it was thought that there was no way the boys could have crossed to the other side without drowning. Also a search of the creek was performed but the boys were not found.
On April 26, suspicion fell on Samuel and Susannah Cox. It was thought that they might have murdered their children in the hope of gathering donations from a sympathetic population. However, the family’s cabin and garden were searched but no bodies were found.
The local lore is thick with speculation on the boys’ demise. A witch from Somerset County and dowser were even consulted in searching for the remains, but the dowser found nothing and the witch, despite claiming to know the children’s location, led a search team through the woods for hours without finding anything.
According to the legend, the night after the disappearance a local farmer, Jacob Dibert, heard about the missing children and remarked to his wife that he wished to be able to dream of their location. On May 2, 1856, he had a dream in which he walked a path through the woods past a dead deer, a child’s shoe and a fallen birch tree and eventually to a copse of birch trees in a small ravine. Here he found the bodies of the Cox boys. The dream reoccurred on the two following nights. The farmer told no-one but his wife about the dream. However, he felt that the dream was prophetic and on May 7 he told his brother-in-law Harrison Whysong, who recognised elements from Dibert’s dream. Thus the two men decided to make a search, culminating in the discovery of the bodies just as the dream had described: under birch trees in a small ravine reached along a track with a dead deer, a child’s shoe and a fallen birch.
Jacob Dibert and his brother-in-law Harrison Whysong were remembered as heroes, and the day the boys’ bodies were found the church bells rang through many communities throughout the Allegheny Mountains. Once the boy’s bodies were returned to the Cox home, church and school bells started ringing from Pavia to Bedford to Altoona, announcing the sad news of the boys being found.
Joseph and George Cox, The Lost Children of the Alleghenies, were buried in Mount Union Cemetery.
In 1906, to mark the mysterious tragedy’s 50th anniversary, the community raised money to create a monument to the lost boys. In 1910, they had finally raised enough funds, and a monument was erected on the site where the brothers’ bodies were found over 50 years earlier.
In recent years, visitors have started leaving kids’ toys at the monument. The boys probably wouldn’t have had much use for toy cars and stuffed animals in 1856, but it probably serves to accentuate the tragedy and break your heart if you visit the monument.