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1856 A.D.:  Does God Give Closure To Grieving Pennsylvania Hearts?

  Each year there are losses of children that are truly and deeply painful.  They occur in varying ways and under conditions that range from suspicious to mysterious to merely tragic.  And when children are lost, people often turn to the Lord in their thoughts, asking what happened, asking God to return them safely, asking God where their lost ones are, or why it had to happen, or maybe just asking that their little souls be received into Heaven.  Some turn to God for strength and comfort, others blame Him.  But we know that God too watched a Son die in horrible pain.    

  God didn't bring sin into the world, mankind did.  God didn't bring death to man...sin did.  Man did.  Satan tempted, but man succumbed.  Are children innocent?  God too is innocent, whether Father, Son, or Holy Spirit.  'He' or 'They' have not sinned even in minor matters.  Even children have usually sinned in minor matters once they are a few years old.  But though it is not God who is to blame, it truly does seem very unfair when the young and innocent are missing, harmed, or have been found dead.  A well loved sweet little flame was extinguished too early, we often feel.

  And though parents naturally feel that their children are 'their own', in truth an innocent child's soul is not harmed by death and the child always was a creation of God's anyway.  Parents cannot knit a child together in the womb, give it a soul, or infuse it with Their spirit.  This is a work of God, and God alone.  We know that we are a creation of God...all humans are.  Some say that children are on loan from God, trusted to the care of His older human children.  

  But God works in ways that are many and mysterious.  Sometimes God allows for children to be saved in amazing ways.  Or sometimes God brings comfort and closure to the grieving loved ones of lost children.  Here is what appears to be a profoundly unique and well-attested example of that:

 On April 24 of 1856 A.D. in Pennsylvania, USA near a town called Pavia in the hills of the Allegheny Mountains and forest, two young children became lost in the woods on a foggy day.  The parents were Samuel and Suzannah Cox, they were homesteaders working to turn a piece of wilderness into a functional family farm, and on the day that the children became lost it is said that their mother was busy with household chores of the type that kept mothers going just about all day long on the frontier 150 years ago, so she was like mothers all over the world - even through to today - who truly cannot keep a constant eye on their children all day every day.  It's simply an impossibility.  And children can get into dangerous trouble in only a minute of time.  It has always been like that and still is. 

  Her husband was home that day, but their dog began barking out in the mist shrouded woods, and the husband thought it must be a squirrel, as the dog often barked at them.  So, he went off in the woods towards the sound of the dog barking hoping to shoot a squirrel for dinner.  He was gone much longer than he might have expected.  It was about 1 1/2 hours later that he returned. 

  He found that his wife was frantic.  Their two sons, Joseph (5 1/2 years old) and George (7 years old) were missing.  She felt sure that they must have tried to follow him into the woods. The worried father quickly turned back into the forest, calling out loudly for the boys.  But his shouting and searching was fruitless, and he realized that he'd better enlist help, as it was very early spring, though a pretty warm day for the time of year that it was. 

  Soon the other residents of the area were helping, combing the hill side and then the nearby hills.  No one was having any luck.  A day passed, and then two, then more.  The number of searchers swelled to 200, and finally near to 1,000 people by the 2 week point of the search as people from over fifty miles away came to take part in the effort.  Fifty miles was a long trip in those days.  But, they found no trace, and hope of course was greatly faded.  The nights were cold and the boys were young.

  Suspicion began to fall upon the parents.  Perhaps they had murdered their children for some reason?  Could it be true?  The frustrated searchers began to consider it a possibility, and some people searched the area of the cabin looking for bodies or signs of digging.  They even removed the Cox cabin floor boards to see if the children were perhaps buried beneath the floor somewhere.  But, they found no evidence of such a thing.  We can only imagine how the parents felt when such indignity and suspicion was added to the tragedy already unfolding in their lives.

  Meanwhile, about 15 miles away, an unusual series of events had begun to happen.  A young farmer named Jacob Dibert began to have a strange dream one night.  In his dream he was part of the search party and he was walking along a forest trail.  Then, there in front of him was a dead deer.  After he had walked around it and gone further, he saw a child's shoe on the deer trail.  Following the trail further, he saw a tree fallen across a creek, and the tree could be used to walk across, so he walked across using the fallen tree and got to the other side of the water.  There, on the other side of the creek he walked further along a ridge and came to a grove of beech trees at a small ravine.  He turned off the trail there, in his dream, and walked back into that stand of beech trees.  One tree was partly fallen and had a broken off top, and as he looked at it, following it's trunk downward, he saw that at the bottom the trees roots began to fan out and reach into the ground, and there in the protection of the roots the dreaming man saw two boys huddled back into the roots, against the trunk, dead from exposure to the cold.  That's when his dream ended.

  He said nothing of the dream at first, as it was known all around that area that two boys had gone missing, and many were searching for them.  (I could not find out if this man had actually taken part in the search or not, though, prior to the dream.)  But it probably seemed that at such a time this sort of dream might not be too very unusual.  But what did seem very unusual to the man is that he had the very same dream the next night.  So, for two successive nights the dream had been the same.  Puzzled, he spoke with his wife about it.  Then he had the dream a third time.  

  She thought that her husband should tell that dream to her brother, who lived near Pavia where the boys had disappeared and who was well familiar with much of the woods in that locality.  Jacob took her advice, and upon his recounting it, his wife's brother Harrison Whysong, though skeptical, told Jacob that he knew of a certain area that pretty much matched some of the description that he was hearing.  They decided that they owed it some credence, given the odd circumstances, so they set out to go to that very place that was brought to Harrison's mind by the dream.

  It was May 8, 1856 when they traveled to Pavia and began their search.  It was two weeks after the boys had disappeared.  When they were close to the area that Harrison thought it could possibly be, and had entered the trees, they began to be on a trail, and it seemed to Jacob like the trail in his dream.  They soon came upon a dead deer, also just as in the dream.  Before long, there was the child's shoe laying there in plain sight as they walked along.  And then finally, they  came to the fallen tree that lay across the creek, which was the feature that had apparently sounded familiar to Harrison.  They crossed over the creek on this tree, and as in the dream, they soon came upon a ridge and then the stand of beech trees by the trail, so they turned off into it.  The partly fallen tree with the broken off top was immediately noticed, so they walked up to it, and there at its base, huddled together but killed by exposure to the cold, were the bodies of the two missing brothers, Joseph and George.   

  It was not the happy ending that might have been wished for, but it ended the questions, it ended the need to search, and it ended peoples' suspicions about the parents.  The bodies of the boys had been found and it soon became known that they had died a natural death, though a hard one.  Church bells rang through out the communities all around, and word of Jacob Dibert's dream began to spread as well, exciting much wonder and comment among the area settlers.  Though I read nothing specific of prayers, I would assume a great many had been said by people in all of the churches in the region, since so great a number of people had joined in the search.  They must certainly have sensed that the hand of God was involved.

  Fifty years later in 1906 a monument was erected on the exact site where the young boys bodies were found, and it is still there near Spruce Hollow, Pennsylvania.  The boys themselves were buried in the Union Gap cemetary nearby.  Hikers sometimes make the trek out to see the monument and read its words.  

  Lately, in 2007, a singer named Alison Krauss sang a song on one of her albums, a song called 'Jacob's Dream' which tells this story.  I thought it was a beautiful and well done ballad, and at present as I write this account you can find it easily if you would like to listen to it.

  Did God clear up the mystery for the sake of the many prayers that were lifted up to Him or perhaps for some other reason that only He knows?  I would surmise that he did.  What do you think?  He is, after all, a God that knows every single thing about every single thing.  Praise be to God, ever and always, right?  He shows His greatness in so very many ways, and yet so often we forget to acknowledge it.  Sadnesses happen, and we blame Him and not our fallen sinful state.  It is our own sin that brought all such sadnesses into the world if you get down to the root of it.  And that same sinfulness will keep us from attaining salvation, in fact it will route us deservedly to hell unless we turn to God's Son Jesus, whom He sent to teach us, and Who then also died unfairly, harshly, our own evil hands...for us.  Let's not miss our own chance to be rescued!  Let's not throw it away; it is precious and a one time offer.      



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