I’ve come across many sad spots in my travels around Pennsylvania, but, as a parent, I’m not sure there are any quite like the story of the Lost Children of the Alleghenies Monument.
The Lost Children of the Alleghenies Monument (also known as the Cox Monument) is located in northern Bedford County, a few hundred feet outside of the boundaries of Blue Knob State Park and within State Game Lands 26. The monument marks the spot where, in May 1856, two young brothers were found deceased.
The brothers, George (7) and Joseph (5) wandered from their home in Spruce Hollow on April 24, 1856. Despite hundreds of people searching for them for two weeks, no trace was found of the boys. Every effort was given to find the boys, including searching the Cox’s property for graves and even bringing in a witch who claimed she knew their location.
However, on May 2, local farmer Jacob Dibert had a dream of the boys’ location. After having the same dream for three nights in a row, he told his wife and his brother-in-law Harrison Whysong. Whysong recognized places from Dibert’s dreams, and the two men set off on May 8 to try and follow the path.
Amazingly, the path in the dream led directly to the bodies of the two brothers together against a large birch tree and next to a small stream.
Interestingly, this story was put to music in the beautiful and haunting song “Jacob’s Dream” by Allison Kraus which was released in 2007.
Fifty years after the death of the boys, locals decided to raise funds to place a monument on the spot where they were found. That monument was dedicated on May 8, 1906, and still stands today at the spot where George and Joseph Cox were found.
How to Find the Lost Children of the Alleghenies Monument
The Lost Children of the Alleghenies Monument isn’t difficult to find if you know where to look, and the hike to reach it is very short. However, the road back to it isn’t in great shape and is quite narrow.
The parking area for the monument can be found on the edge of Blue Knob State Park on Monument Road, 2.5 miles from Route 869, at the following coordinates: 40.293182, -78.604480. It has signs for the Cox Monument on several trees.
Technically, Monument Road runs from Route 869 in the south to Blue Knob Road in the north. Having driven the whole stretch of this road, I VERY strongly recommend that you do not drive the portion of the road to the north of the monument parking area.
The northern stretch of Monument Road is VERY narrow and VERY rutted. To be honest, I was surprised that my SUV was able to make it the whole way. I would have turned around on several occasions, but the road is so narrow that there are few if any spots where you can (Which would also be a big issue if you met a car going the other way).
The road to the south of the monument (coming from Route 869) is in much better shape, though care needs to be taken in spots. While it is paved for the most part, I’m not 100% confident that a standard car could drive this portion of the road either, so use caution if you don’t have a high clearance vehicle.
It’s also worth noting that this road is not maintained in the winter.
Again, I can’t stress enough how strongly I recommend only approaching the monument from the south and returning the way that you came. The portion of the road to the north of the parking area is easily the worst “road” I’ve driven on in PA. Even with a high-clearance vehicle, this really isn’t a safe road to travel in my opinion.
[Click here for information on how to use the coordinates in this article to find your destination.]
Hiking to the Lost Children of the Alleghenies Monument
From the parking area, the hike to the Lost Children of the Alleghenies Monument is quite short and easy. In fact, I’d say it’s, at most, a couple of hundred yards from the road and, other than a small 10-15 foot hill, it is perfectly flat.
It’s worth noting that the hiking trail and monument are located within State Game Lands 26, so it’s a good idea to wear orange when visiting the monument.
On the way to the monument, the wide and flat trail crosses two small bridges over Rhodes Run and Ciana Run. It is along Ciana Run where the Cox brothers were found. Just beyond the second bridge and the small hill, you’ll come to the monument and an information sign.
The sign is located just prior to the monument and tells a bit of the story of this spot, along with a photo of Jacob Dibert.
The stone pillar that is the Lost Children of the Alleghenies Monument is located directly adjacent to the creek. It is currently encased in a small wood and chainlink structure to protect it from vandals and the elements.
People have taken it upon themselves to place small toys and stuffed animals next to the monument, as well as creating small wooden crosses in the chainlink fence.
The monument is still easily readable and is carved on all four sides, so make sure to take a moment to walk around it and see all of the sides.
While the strand of birch trees is no longer here, this is quite a beautiful and peaceful spot (though there are a ton of bugs). It’s also hard not to get a bit emotional thinking about the story of the Cox brothers and what they and their family endured.
From here, most will simply return to their vehicle. You could continue along the trail, which also serves as the 26-mile Lost Turkey Trail. If you do, there are no other trails to combine for a loop hike, so you’ll simply want to do an out-and-back hike on the trail (unless you are doing the entire loop, of course).
Overall, visiting the Lost Children of the Alleghenies Monument is a very sobering but interesting experience that allows you to explore a beautiful corner of the Allegheny Mountains of PA. That being said, make sure you are careful about how you get there since the road itself is in dire need of maintenance.
Still, if you can get there, this is definitely a spot you’ll want to check out when in the region.