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Thread: WV - Sodder Family - 5 children, Christmas eve 1945 - #1

  1. #76
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    Quote Originally Posted by fox1950
    Try this: Louis Sodder
    Louis Sodder they were supposed to have died in a fire two miles out of Fayetteville
    W V there were five children ages six to fourteen and half a good ...
    myusm.com/usm224982.html - 40k - Supplemental Result - Cached - Similar pages
    Welcome to WS!!! Are you from WV? Have you given thought to e-mailing this person and letting them know of our discussion here?

  2. #77
    Actually someone here found that site, and did email them (I think it was someone here, unless I'm mixing people up). I don't think they've heard anything back yet.

    I also have the 1995 article, it gives a great overview. I also now have the George and Melody Bragg book, West Virginia Unsolved Mysteries. They did a good job.

  3. #78
    I just emailed the person and the email bounced. The address is no longer valid.

  4. #79
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    Away all day yesterday. I too found this site about Louis at one point. However, that internet provider (hawksnet, or whatever it was) has been defunct for some time.

    I spent some time at the Fayette County Courthouse yesterday. Not much there that we don't already know. They were living in Smithers and bought the Fayetteville property in 1935 and moved. It was 7.5 acres and the property was in Jenny's name only.

    Also, went to Beckley to the library and found the original article about the fire in the Beckely Post-Herald. It was first reported on Wed. Dec. 26. Mrs. Sodder and John both stated at this early point that they felt the fire had been set. The article indiates that the fire started at the box where the power came into the house, therefore an electrical fire.

    December 28 has a short article about an inquest that was scheduled for the same day because the family felt that the fire had been set. I found no follow-up to that article. The only other mention of this was an article about the community raising funds and getting items they needed donated to help them.

    Didn't have much time yesterday so that is all I was able to locate.

  5. #80
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    Quote Originally Posted by LButler
    I don't want to insinuate anything ugly about the family here or any ethnic group, but I have wondered about the involvement of the Mafia in this case. Anyone else?
    I personally don't think the Mafia had any involvement, but there are other points in that vein that may warrant discussion. Being in the "heartland", people there are patriotic, to say the least. In this period, just at the end of WWII, anti-German, Japanese, and Itilian feelings were still running deep. And, moreover, people in some areas of WV are not shy about showing their prejudices.
    As I haved pointed out previously, the coal fields were a battlefield all their own. There were many deaths over the years directly attributable to battles over mine rights, unionization, etc. The miners fought the mine owner's agents, the agents fought the miners, and everyone fought the independent workers-non-union truckers, for exampe. Running an independent trucking business in the coal fields of the early 20th Century was dangerous business. If someone were determined to get rid of Sodder, they may have seen this as an opportunity to make some cash at the children's expense...

  6. #81
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    I think the "coal war" angle has some merit. However, the Sodders are expecting Joe home from the war any time, John has just returned and George has been very vocal about his dislike of Mussolini, so I don't believe they would have been a target from the "American" part of their community. I think that put them in more danger from his fellow Italians and there was a rather large population of Italians here at the time. Also, from the articles that I read from the Register in 45 and 46, they were very well-liked in their community and people rallied around them to help in their time of need.

    The Mafia angle has just been on my mind because I feel like it would have taken some type of "network" of people to pull this off. 5 kids missing, the mysterious wrong number, the telephone line cut later, someone starting the fire, someone "staged" to be stealing from them during the fire, the fire chief lying at every opportunity, the supposed "sightings" of the kids soon after the fire.... This involved several people who can keep their mouths shut for a long time. There were people in this small community who knew the answers to this mystery.

  7. #82
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    Question

    No I do not live in West Virginia right now but I was born in Fayette County.
    I think there has been some very good points made here in recent posts.
    After looking up and reading the Charleston Gazette article there had been threats made by this one person to Mr. Sodder. It had something to gain, although it is not clear, if Mr. Sodder no longer existed. This man has never be named in any articles I have read. but fire chief J.F. Morris has been mentions on several occassions. The man stated and I quote "I see you have refused to take out life insurance and refuse to sign the papers to settle Mrs. Sodder's father's estate. Your ****** house is going up in smoke and your children are going to be destroyed. You are going to be paid for the dirty remarks you have been making about Mussolini!" In one report the Fayette County prosecutor stated that he did not want to open a case against the people he had to live with and eat with". Did he know who did it. I think it probably had a good idea since he made this statement. Today, the person who made the treat against Mr. Sodder would be investigated...and investigated.

    I think the greatest mystery is why the children never came home. Were they afraid of their abductors and later learned to care about them? Were they told lies? Or did they never know who really did this to them?
    Did they know and trust this person before it happened and felt too guilty later to tell the story? Were they separated or kept together?

    After sixty years, it is not to late to investigate. No one is living now that committed this crime. That we can be pretty sure of. However,
    I think there needs to be some kind of closure to this case. No one can be punished. I am sure everyone is deceased now. So why doesn't someone tell the story if nothing else but to let the sister who was a baby know.

  8. #83
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    fox ... my sentiments exactly. I would never dig into this case to see someone punished at this point. I just can't quit thinking about it because the answers are still out there. 5 healthy kids cannot just vanish into the night, no bodies were ever found, without someone talking and giving clues to someone. If this case were to happen today, I agree, the local politicians would not be intimidated into being quiet about it - I hope!!

  9. #84
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    Whatever did happen, it appears to have been well-organized and would have taken the assistance of several people...Phone call to the home, then the phone not working, the trucks not starting...The fire engulfing the home so quickly, and most of all no one seing the children leaving.

    I can think of a few reasons why the children never returned home or contacte anyone...Threats,a gainst either the individual children or the group as a whole, the children being taken out of country, or being told their parnts perished, and being "brainwashed" into new lives...

    There also, of course, exists the most heartbreaking possiblity...That the children never survived the night. Disposing of five children would not have been so difficult in that day. Especially given the relative "wildness" of sevral parts of WV, the many mines in existence...
    I think many, many dark secrets have gone to the grave with former residents of the area....

    Just thinking, isn't it odd that this Christmas marks the 60th anniversary of this event? And that this year we would all find ourselves so interested in it? I wonder if the local TV news or papers plan to do any stories, as they appeared to have done on the 50th anniversary in '95?
    Last edited by shadowangel; 10-23-2005 at 08:52 PM.

  10. #85
    I'm not sure if I posted this, but I don't know about the Mafia angle either. I studied the Mafia for my last book, and it doesn't fit what I learned. But then again, I wasn't even aware that the Mafia was in West Virginia, so perhaps the culture of the Mafia in West Virginia is different than the rest of the country, and besides, even though there was a code, well, I don't have to tell you guys. I got to know a bunch of Mafia experts though, so I plan to ask them their opinion.

    I've heard all the possible reasons for why the kids never came back or contacted their family, but none of them really feel completely satisfactory, do they? Especially the two oldest, Maurice and Martha Lee, who were 15 and 12. Regardless of what they were told, and even if they all left voluntarily.

    Nothing about this story adds up. None of the motives put forward, none of the possible explanations, everyone's actions, including the family's. It's a mystery on every level. To me, anyway. It's like a completely implausible, badly written book. Nothing makes sense. Except the fact that people, understandably, can't forget it.

  11. #86
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    I hope some paper or all paper in the area will do an article this Christmas.

    Here's one idea about the children-Maybe all was set to do this, well organized and everything. However, the children were outside when someone came to burn the house. Now what would you do with them? You couldn't take them back into the house and proceed with your plans. However, you could take them away and murder them later. The only problem-why would anyone come to the house while the lights were still on and knew someone was still up.

    It's like a dog chasing it's tail-just about when you've caught it, it slips away again.


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  13. #87
    Shadowangel, you once mentioned selling the kids into adoption as a possible motive, and that this sort of thing wasn't unheard of in the area at the time. I wanted to ask you about that. It's always been my experience that older kids are difficult to adopt out. Who would buy them?

    The more I think about it, the more I think you are right that they didn't survive the night. But what would be the motive for killing them??

  14. #88
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stacy Horn
    Shadowangel, you once mentioned selling the kids into adoption as a possible motive, and that this sort of thing wasn't unheard of in the area at the time. I wanted to ask you about that. It's always been my experience that older kids are difficult to adopt out. Who would buy them?

    The more I think about it, the more I think you are right that they didn't survive the night. But what would be the motive for killing them??
    Keep in mind the time period we are speaking of. Some people who adopted children weren't looking for someone to love, and nurture...They were, in effect, looking for cheap labor. Girls for housekeeping, boys for long, hard days in the field.
    As to motive...If someone did have a vendetta against George, this would certainly deliver a message. It would be interesting to know if George continued the trucking business after this. (I believe something was mentioned in one of the articles, but my three active brain cells can't recall at the moment). Or, to cover up what had occured? Possibly the children, who would normally have been asleep at the time, saw something they weren't meant to. Several things were happening in the house that were not within the usual routine...The children being up late, the older sister being with them, the mother taking the youngest child with her to bed...
    Its almost as though someone chose Christmas Eve as that is when one would expect the entire family to be together.

    Off topic...Since we're discussing WV, has anyone ever heard of Lake Shawnee, located near Princeton? In the late 1700's, it was the site of the murder of two children by Shawnee indians. In the 1920's, an amusement park was built there. It was the scene of some strange deaths involving children. A newspaper article, citing the drowning death of a boy, used the term "mysteries continue" in relation to the park. It was shut down in 1966 (the year I was born in WV...) I was wondering if anyone had heard of the place before I go digging. I lived there 20 years and never heard of it.

  15. #89
    I was just coming back here to ask about George's trucking business. Does anyone have any specific information about it? What they hauled? The name of the business?

  16. #90
    Is this the "still active trucking company"?
    http://www.askyp.com/Company/1001466267.php

  17. #91
    I will call and see -- thank you!!

  18. #92
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    If you look back at one of my earler posts, not only is their a Sodder Trucking, there is also a George Sodder mine, still active, located in the Beckley area.

    Here's a link to a site mentioning the George Sodder Coal Co...
    http://www.wvc.state.wv.us/got/mhst/...2E%2C%20George

    and a link to the WV Mine Safety site, which gives some interesting background and history on the industry:
    http://www.wvminesafety.org/default.htm

    Just follow the links on the site.

  19. #93
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    Quote Originally Posted by shadowangel
    Keep in mind the time period we are speaking of. Some people who adopted children weren't looking for someone to love, and nurture...They were, in effect, looking for cheap labor. Girls for housekeeping, boys for long, hard days in the field.
    As to motive...If someone did have a vendetta against George, this would certainly deliver a message. It would be interesting to know if George continued the trucking business after this. (I believe something was mentioned in one of the articles, but my three active brain cells can't recall at the moment). Or, to cover up what had occured? Possibly the children, who would normally have been asleep at the time, saw something they weren't meant to. Several things were happening in the house that were not within the usual routine...The children being up late, the older sister being with them, the mother taking the youngest child with her to bed...
    Its almost as though someone chose Christmas Eve as that is when one would expect the entire family to be together.

    Off topic...Since we're discussing WV, has anyone ever heard of Lake Shawnee, located near Princeton? In the late 1700's, it was the site of the murder of two children by Shawnee indians. In the 1920's, an amusement park was built there. It was the scene of some strange deaths involving children. A newspaper article, citing the drowning death of a boy, used the term "mysteries continue" in relation to the park. It was shut down in 1966 (the year I was born in WV...) I was wondering if anyone had heard of the place before I go digging. I lived there 20 years and never heard of it.
    I remember Lake Shawnee Shadowangel. The frames of the rides stood for many years. It was not a large amusement park. I remember it having a ferris wheel and one of those rides with the swings. There was a picnic area and a small area for swimming. I think that my parents took me there once when I was a young child or maybe I just remember driving by it.

    While looking for info I found this:

    "Scariest Places on Earth," hosted by Linda Blair, which investigates two creepy urban legends. Young visitors go to Lizzie Borden's notorious home in Fall River, Mass., where her mom and dad were brutally murdered with an ax. Also shivery is a nighttime exploration of the reputedly haunted Lake Shawnee Amusement Park in West Virginia, which was built on the site of an Indian massacre.

    Lake Shawnee: Is it one of the scariest places on earth? ABC show thinks so...
    Posted: Monday, Aug 22, 2005 - 05:51:04 pm EDT
    By BARBARA HAWKINS

    Mercer County will be a site for an upcoming segment of ABC's "Scariest Places on Earth," according to people who met with the producer, Aaron Yampolski and his staff a few weeks ago.

    Apparently the ABC affiliated company insisted on secrecy ... but like most secrets, word leaked.

    The Mercer County Convention & Visitors Bureau has confirmed the reports. Meetings have been held and plans made.

    According to our friends at the MCCVB, Yampolski contacted them saying he wanted to do a show about Lake Shawnee, the Indian burial grounds and the Clay Family Massacre ... and wanted more information about local people and historians.
    more at the link http://www.bdtonline.com/articles/20...01tuesbarb.txt
    Retired 08/03/03

  20. #94
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    It is my understanding that Sodder Trucking existed until recent years (confirmed by a friend) and may still be in operation today. And, there are several mine permits listed under "Sodder" on the mining web site.

  21. #95
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shadow205
    I remember Lake Shawnee Shadowangel.
    "Scariest Places on Earth," hosted by Linda Blair, which investigates two creepy urban legends. Young visitors go to Lizzie Borden's notorious home in Fall River, Mass., where her mom and dad were brutally murdered with an ax. Also shivery is a nighttime exploration of the reputedly haunted Lake Shawnee Amusement Park in West Virginia, which was built on the site of an Indian massacre.
    This is where I heard about it. Some of the buildings are still standing, as is the ferris wheel! Also, there is a swing set, which when in operation went around at a high rate of speed. It was reported that a truck, making deliveries to the park, accidentally backed up into the path of the swings, and a young girl was killed when she struck the truck...I was just really surprised that I never heard of the place.

  22. #96
    guys, I'm confused, how many children are missing? This obit for Mary Ann 'Marion' Crowder confused me even more. Scroll down to Crowder.
    http://www.montgomery-herald.com/obi...259121615.html

  23. #97
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    5 children were missing after the fire. 5 survived. I saw the reference to "Michael" in her obit and the only thing I could come up with was that they had another child after the fire? Sylvia was only 3 at the time of the fire, so it is possible that they would have another. But, he must have died young to have been deceased before some of the others!! I agree, that confused me as well!!

  24. #98
    It seems to me like the obits saying John and Michael Sodder died before Marion. Also it lists Joe, George jr. and Sylvia as survivors. Who is missing?

  25. #99
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    First, the 5 missing children are not mentioned in this obit. Counting Marion, there are 6 listed in this obit. I just had a thought - maybe Michael died before the fire as a young child?

  26. #100
    Ok, sorry guys, but I'm playing catch up. Listed in the news article, missing children are Louis, Betty and Maurice and another name on the billboard that I can't make out. Is it June?

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