On the morning of April 24, 1856, the two young sons of Samuel and Susannah Cox vanished. The boys, George (seven) and Joseph (five), had wandered off into the woods near the family shack, and they didn't respond to their parents' repeated calls. Samuel made his way to the house of his nearest neighbors to enlist their aid. One of them set out on horseback to enlist more help from all the farmers scattered for miles around. By nightfall, more than a hundred people were searching the woods for the boys... but they had no luck.
It had been a warm night, so there were good odds that the boys were still alive; at daybreak the search began again, with more volunteers who had traveled several miles to assist. But, once again, the searchers came up empty-handed... and they did so for the next ten days as well, even though the number of searchers swelled to over a thousand. The parents became so desperate that they asked a local dowser and a local woman with the reputation of being a witch to help; neither could.
Soon, suspicions turned on Samuel and Susannah Cox themselves as several people accused them of doing away with their own children. The floor of the family's shack was torn up and the yard around the home was dug up, in an attempt to prove the theory, but nothing was found.
It was at this time that a farmer named Jacob Dibert, who lived about 12 miles distant from the Cox's, had an odd dream. In it, he was searching alone for the children in a section of the woods that he had never seen before. As he walked forward he discovered a dead deer just past it. He stepped over the body and followed a deer trail until he found a child's shoe; beyond that was a fallen beech tree which allowed him to cross a stream. Next he came to a stony ridge that led into a ravine with a small brook; and there, in the shelter of a semi-circle formed by the roots of a birch tree, he found the boys... dead.
Dibert told his wife about the dream, and they decided to keep it to themselves; but when the dream repeated itself on the following two nights, they decided to tell Mrs. Dibert's brother, Harrison Whysong, about it. Whysong was familiar with the area the boys had disappeared in, and there were similarites between this area and Jacob's dream. So the two men went to the area and began to search; five minutes later, they found a dead deer... exactly as in the dream. Then the child's shoe... the beech tree over a creek... the stony ridge... and the birch tree. At the roots of the birch tree they found the boys, George and Joseph Cox, dead of exposure. The boys were buried in Mt. Union Cemetery on May 8, 1856.
In 1906, on the fiftieth anniversary of the tragedy, the stone monument was erected near the site the bodies were found so that the strange event would never be forgotten.
Of course, this doesn't answer the big question... did the event that the stone memorializes happen, and did it happen as described above?
The earliest source of the story I have is Bender's 1955 FATE Magazine article. In this article, she cites as her source for the story the three-volume History of Bedford and Somerset Counties, by E. Howard Blackburn and William H. Welfley. I will try to track down a copy of this set of books, as well as try to find some contemporary newspaper articles from the time of the occurrence. Please be patient, eh?
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