Skip to main content

Dead Baby Found in Abandoned Mine

A Montour County Unsolved Murder

In 1901, two teenagers playing in the woods north of Danville discovered the lifeless body of an infant inside of an abandoned mine. Sadly, the perpetrator of this heinous crime was never caught; as was the custom of the time, the body, after a hasty examination, was buried in an unmarked grave in the "potter's field" adjacent to the county poorhouse (presently the site of Memorial Park across from Woodbine Lane). Today, thanks to the miracles of forensic science and DNA testing, such a crime would rarely go unpunished. Tragically, the mystery of the "babe in the mine" will forever remain unsolved.

Here is the newspaper account of the discovery, as it appeared in the March 28, 1901 edition of the Montour American:

The abandoned mines north of the borough have figures in another tragedy, which bids fair to go on record as another "mystery of the mine". Down in the clammy depths of one of the old slopes Sunday was found the body of a new-born babe. It is an uncanny story unavoidably associated in the mind with some woman's shame, some mother's unnatural act.

John Woods and Benjamin Bookmiller, Jr., each about 14 years of age, while returning over the ridge from Hunter's park Sunday afternoon upon reaching the air hole of the monkey drift near the borough line, out of boyish curiosity stooped down and took a good view of its interior as far as they could see. In the dim light their eyes discerned an object wrapped in heavy paper. They crawled in and partially unwrapping the bundle were amazed to see a baby's hand protruding. Amazement gave way to fright and the boys ran to the home of Benjamin Bookmiller, relating the story to Mrs. Bookmiller. The lady advised the lads to lay the matter before Officer Voris, who lives near.

Officer Voris in turn presented the matter to Justice-of-the-Peace Bare, on whose advice a party consisting of himself, Officer Voris, Poor Director Theodore Hoffman and Dr. George A. Stock, poor physician, with the two boys, Woods and Bookmiller, as guides, were driven out to the mine hole for the purpose of taking possession of the body and making an examination.

The autopsy, conducted by Dr. Stock, revealed that the infant, a female, was of premature birth; that it had lain in the mine for a period of probably two days, not longer. Justice Bare took charge of the body. It was brought along back to town and Monday it was interred in the burying ground connected with the almshouse.
There seems to be no one on whom suspicion falls and the wretched mother who consigned her babe to that lone and unhallowed tomb will in all probability never be known unless overcome by remorse she should be driven to make confession.

Popular posts from this blog

Mount Carmel's Mysterious Suicide Cell

Tucked away at the head of North Oak Street in Mount Carmel is a quaint shop housed in a tiny historic brick building. The Shop at Oak & Avenue is a must-see destination for visitors, offering an impressive variety of gifts and handmade jewelry. It is a gem in an otherwise drab coal town whose glory days faded away with the demise of the steam locomotive and the trolley.

While this quaint small town gift shop gives off a pleasant appearance, the history of the building-- one of the oldest in the borough-- is tinged with horror and death. For this tiny building, erected in the 1880s, served as Mount Carmel's first city hall and jail, and this jail had a rather dark distinction of being the site of the cursed and mysterious "suicide cell".

History records six suicides taking place in the basement cell, along with scores of other attempted suicides. For a reason that has defied explanation, this tiny jail in this tiny town seems to bring out the darkest demons lurking wi…

The True Story of Shamokin's Famous "Mystery Head"

Hardly a week goes by that I don't receive an email from a Pennsylvania Oddities reader asking me to write about the Shamokin "mystery head"-- yes, the very same human head, complete with curly hair and mustache, that was put on display in the window of the Farrow Funeral Home (presumably to show off the establishment's embalming abilities) and later displayed at a local mining museum. The head belonged to an unidentified murder victim whose headless body was found in the woods near the Hickory Ridge colliery in 1904, and the head has been a source of local pride and urban legend ever since.

I've resisted the urge to write about the "mystery head" for a few reasons. Having grown up in the area, I heard about it so many times that the story has worn thin. Secondly, the erroneous local legends and false claims are probably a lot more entertaining than the actual truth about the "mystery head". These local legends run the gamut from plausible to …

Mount Carmel's Night of Terror: The Strantz & Yorkavage Crime Spree of 1937

On the evening of April 9, 1937, two bandits with their guns blazing left a trail of carnage through the sooty streets of Mount Carmel and Shamokin. For one of the gunmen, the trail came to a bloody end in Diamondtown after a shootout with police. For the other gunman, the trail led to the electric chair at Rockview State Penitentiary, with 2,000 volts of electricity coursing through his body.

The Ballad of Joe Cabbage and Wild Wally

A reunion of sorts took place in January of 1937, after Joseph Yorkavage was paroled from the Northumberland County Prison in Sunbury. Known to his friends as "Joe Cabbage", the notorious ruffian was released on the 25th and, oddly enough, this was the very same day Yorkavage's best friend, Walter Strantz, was paroled from the infamous Eastern State penitentiary in Philadelphia.

Back in 1919, "Joe Cabbage" was one of three men who staged a failed train robbery in Centralia. The three men dynamited the tracks and then hid in the bus…