Most anyone who has lived in this area for any length of time has at least heard of the little girl whom history has named the Little Lost Child. Hers is a story that grabs at the heartstrings as few can do because her story represents that which every parent fears: the loss of a child.
The event occurred in October of 1879, and in the 1920’s the Comanche Chief (supplied by someone else) ran a very romanticized account of the disappearance of little Frances Ellen Spraggins, making her death seem almost as simple as falling asleep in a field of clover.
Some years later when I began transcribing old newspapers, I located the account of the incident that was written the week that the little girl disappeared. As one might expect, it was a much more graphic representation of the disappearance, the search, and the discovery of little Ellen’s body.
A HORRIBLE FATE!
A LITTLE BABE WANDERS FROM HOME AND IS LOST IN THE WOODS.
Found Dead, after Four Day’s Searching.
The most pitiful and heartrending affair that has ever occurred in our county, took place last week, several miles south of town, on the Cox’s gap road. On Wednesday morning Mrs. SPAGGINS left the house to get some water at a spring, several hundred yards distant, leaving her little child, only twenty-one months old, at the house. Upon her return to the house, she missed the child and could not find it. She searched everywhere, but in vain. The neighborhood was aroused, and the fact was soon made evident by the little foot-tracks in the path that the toddler had attempted to follow its mother to the spring and had become bewildered and alarmed. The whole neighborhood became aroused, and a thorough search commenced.
Again was its trail found and lost, and every moment they expected to find the little fugitive, but were doomed to disappointment. Night fell o’er the scene, and the last sign of the child was found four miles from home. by this time the mother had become frantic! with grief, and her agony was heartrending.. At night fires were built and at early dawn the search was resumed with renewed vigor. Morning passed, and the sun hung low in the west, but no new signs were discovered of the child. A messenger was sent to town for reinforcements. Some fifty or sixty men hied to the scene.
A search was kept up all night by means of numerous lanterns but with the same fruitless result.
By the next morning some 300 resolute men had gathered and a single line was formed, nearly a mile in length and all day long the country was literally scoured wherever it was in the bounds of reason to supposed the child could have wandered.
“Hope deferred maketh the heart sick,” and many gave up all hope of finding the child alive. Many supposed it had fallen a prey to the numerous wolves, bear and cougars which abound in that country, and were about to give up the search when a piece of its dress was found hanging to a bush, far up on the side of a rugged mountain, and fully five miles from home.
This gave the weary hunters new encouragement and vigor. But again the darkness interfered, and the men camped in small groups all over the country. One party slept all night within twenty fee of the dead child’s body, where early next morning (Saturday) it was found dead on the mountain side. The body was found lying on its face, and a bush was caught in the back of its dress. The little feet were swelled to twice their natural size. Thorns had pierced its body; and its breast, face, legs and hands were literally scratched to pieces. There is no way telling or even imagining the suffering and misery the little wanderer endured. The child had only been walking four months and had not been weaned from its mother’s breast.
It would appear impossible to the casual observer for a child to travel over the rough mountains and thickets that this one did. Death, no doubt, was a sweet relief to the little wanderer’s terrible sufferings.
The monument prepared and erected by Mr. Thomas MATTHEWS, to designate the place and to perpetuate the memory of the mournful circumstances of the losing of the little child of Mr. and Mrs. SPRAGGINS, will be dedicated on Saturday, November 22, 1879. The ceremonies to commence at 11 o’clock, a.m. on the spot where the child was found. The dedication discourse will be delivered by Rev. P.W. GRAVIS. The friends and acquaintances of Mr. and Mrs. SPAGGINS are respectfully solicited to attend.- A FRIEND