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Lost on the Mountain

The Tragic Death of Emma Clabaugh 

(Published in the Emmitsburg Chronicle - 1887)

Saturday, July 9, 1887 - on Friday, July 1, 1887, a little child of William Clabaugh, who lives on the mountain several miles from Emmitsburg, was lost in a manner altogether inexplicable, and no trace of it has yet been found.

The child, less than two years old, followed its father on his leaving home, accompanied by an older sister, and the mother not perceiving its absence, knew nothing of the matter until the father returned and inquired for the child. As it was less than two years old, and in its bare feet, it seemed quite impossible that it could have gone very far over the rough, stony ground, but when search in the immediate vicinity of the house failed to trace the little one, an alarm was sounded in the neighborhood, and a band of forty or fifty mountaineers started to scour the woods, whilst the frantic mother left to the care of the sympathizing women, refused to be comforted.

All night long the unavailing search went on, and in the morning one of the men was sent to Gettysburg to consult an old colored woman who, it seems, is believed by the mountaineers and a good many sensible, intelligent people besides, to possess the mysterious power of seeing and knowing things hidden from mortal eyes, unless assisted by the devil or some other evil spirit.

The old woman reported that the child was living and in the possession of a neighbor, whose person and dwelling she described. when this information was carried to the excited hunters they immediately surrounded the house and demanded it (the child). The inmates declared that they knew nothing of it, and though a thorough search was made and failed to reveal any trace of the lost child's presence, they continued to keep guard around the premises, threatening to shoot or hang the inmates, and of course growing more and more excited as the hours went by.

Another deputation was sent to the Gettysburg Witch, who insisted that her first statement was correct, but that the old woman who had the child was also a Witch, and made use of some charm to prevent their finding it. She then gave them a counter charm, which they were to manipulate in a certain way till the child's stealer's charm was broken, then they would get possession of it. The opposing charms are still working against one another, nothing has transpired, and the poor little innocent is still missing." In the next two paragraphs the editor gives his opinion of the belief and in the use of witchcraft. Needless to say his dissertation is not complimentary.

Saturday, July 23, 1887

"The Body Found - An Inquest - The Verdict - Story of the lost Child"

On Saturday morning, July 16, 1887, information was lodged before Henry Stokes, Esq., Justice of the Peace, that the body of the child of William Clabaugh, that mysteriously disappeared on July 1, 1887, had been found near the top of the mountain, near what is called Sheeps Rock. 

The Squire thereupon commissioned Constable W. H. Ashbaugh to summon a jury of inquest. The jury was composed as follows:- Henry Stokes, coroner, Francis A. Maxell, J. Henry Stokes, Michael Hoke, Joshua S. Motter, George P. Beam, Daniel Lawrence, Albert Smith, William H. Hoke, James M. Kerrigan, Walter D. Willson, Singleton Dorsey, Jacob L. Topper, and Dr. Robert L. Annan, physician.

The jury repaired to the place where the remains were found, and having viewed them and their surroundings, carefully removed them to the home of William Clabaugh, where the inquisition was held. Thirteen witnesses were closely examined, and the following verdict was rendered:- 'That on the first day of July, in the year 1887, at the home of her parents, the said Emma Clabaugh, wandered away from home and perished from exposure or some other cause unknown to the jury.

The facts of the case may be summed up as follows - that about ten o'clock in the morning of July 1, 1887, William Clabaugh went to a neighbor's to get some butter. His oldest child, a daughter about four years of age, and Amey E. (known as Emma in the family), aged about 22 months, about half an hour afterwards started to follow him, and their mother very soon missed them, after they left the house. The other child met the father at Bensell's, wither he had gone, but all she could tell him of her sister was 'she went up the road'.

On his return home his wife inquired about the child, Emma, and he knew nothing regarding her whereabouts. Shortly after William Clabaugh and his wife started to search for the child and returning to the house he (William Clabaugh) went forth and secured the aid of some neighbors. in the course of time others volunteered their services, until large bodies were on the search through the night, and for days succeeding without finding any trace of the missing one.

About one and one half miles from the Clabaugh home, near the top of the mountain, is a very rough region and not far from some heavy rocks overhanging, the body of the child was discovered on Saturday last. About ten paces from it - at the roots of a tree - the skull, destitute of any integuments without or within and yet perfect in form - was found. it had evidently rolled down the declivity on being detached from the body. The feet and parts of the legs were the only discernable members. one arm was missing and a couple of ribs; the most of the skin remained in a dried state.

The child's clothing, greatly soiled and torn, was the only basis of identification. The verdict of the jury leads to the conclusion that the child, hearty and vigorous for her age, must have wondered to the place where the remains were found, and dying of exposure and starvation, became the prey of the buzzards, whose breeding grounds are in the vicinity. The remains of Amey Emma Clabaugh were interred in the Winebrenarian churchyard, in Friends Creek Valley, on Saturday afternoon."

Some five years later - the following obituary appeared in the 'Chronicle' under the date of Friday, March 11, 1892 - "Died, March 7, 1892, near this place, Mrs. Angeline J. Clabaugh, wife of William C. Clabaugh, aged 26 years, I month, and 27 days. Burial in the Friends Creek Cemetery with the Rev. Mr. Engler of the Winebrennarian Church officiating."

Angeline Shriner Clabaugh was buried beside her daughter. According to neighborhood tradition she never recovered from that effects of the tragedy. William Clabaugh, the husband and father, never married. He died, some years later, at the home of his daughter, in Baltimore, MD. His body was returned to the Friends Creek Valley and the little churchyard. His grave is not marked. 

Do you know of other tragedies in Emmitsburg?
If so, send an account of them to us at: history@emmitsburg.net