Wednesday, August 3, 2016


During the pioneer times, there were no roads, few paths, nor any other markers that would assist travelers as they made their way through the dense forests and marshy swamps of southern Medina County. If they were lucky, they had a guide to lead them through.

Occasionally, pioneers would lose their way and end up far from where they intended. (How Christopher Columbus of them!) Children could easily wander away from their parents. Sometimes, they were never seen again. Medina had just such an instance.

By the early 1820's when Abel Beach and his family moved into Wadsworth Township, the trails weren't much better. Abel brought his wife, Roxey, and three children with him, sons George, and Orlando, and daughter Sylvia, from their home in Torrington, Connecticut. Son George helped Abel build Wadsworth's first sawmill in 1824. When a bear went after the family's pigs, Roxy shot it dead.These were not faint hearted pioneers!

Sylvia had contracted scarlet fever as a child. It left her deaf and mute and also caused her to sometimes get confused easily. Accounts fluctuate as to how old Sylvia was; anywhere from 12 to 26. As her brothers were both born around 1800, it is likely that she was close to them in age, in her early twenties.

One day in March of 1823, she just disappeared from their cabin. Reports varied as to how that happened. Some reports say that she just slipped out of the cabin. Other say that she was traveling behind her mother and vanished without a trace. As soon as the family discovered that Sylvia was missing, they started the frantic search.

There had been a light snow that yielded some faint tracks, but as the snow melted those tracks faded away. The next day, a search party formed drawing on citizens from miles around. They searched for days with no luck. A week later, an even larger search party was formed with over 400 men. By now, they were no longer looking for a live Sylvia, but were hoping to bring some measure of peace to her parents by finding her body. No trace was ever found.

We will never know what happened to Sylvia. Did she fall down a coal shaft in a region that was later known for its coal mines? Did she become the victim of a ravenous wolf pack or hungry bear? Did she simply fall exhausted to the ground and freeze to death? We just don't know.

But Wadsworth has not forgotten about Sylvia. In 2014, Jeff Nicholas and Roger Havens wrote a children's book The Story of Sylvia Beach. And as part of their Bicentennial celebration, children participated in a morbid scavenger hunt "to find Sylvia Beach or her grizzly bear."

Her original tombstone in Woodlawn Cemetery in Wadsworth became unreadable so it has been replaced. The epitaph still reads: Sylvia Daughter of A & R Beach Lost in the Woods 17 April 1824 And Never Found

Photo provided by "essay" on

Wadsworth Memorial by Edward Brown, 1875.
The History of Medina County and Ohio by Baskin & Beatty, 1881.
Remembering Wadsworth from Pioneers to Streetcars by Caesar A. Carrino, 2009
"Deaf Woman's Disappearance a Big Mystery" by Mark J. Price Akron Beacon Journal, 14 March 2016, p. B-1
"Tombstone, But No Grave There" Evening Independent (Massillon, OH), 2 June 1911, p. 1.


Sue Demis said...

Love your stories!!
Here is a modern day version...

Kat said...

66 years old and hiking the Trail alone? Never a good idea!

Anonymous said...

at 22, she wasn't married?

Kat said...

Deaf mute & possibly mentally slow in the 1820's... No she wasn't married.

Anonymous said...