In This Place: July 30, 2014
The Sad but Terribly Human Story of David Raleigh
by Trish Adams
I was intrigued by this clip from a July 3, 1959 Clarke Sanford column to investigate the full story.
The disappearance of little David Raleigh after he caught his first trout three weeks ago seems on the way to a legend if the lad’s body is not found. I have been told many times, “The boy is not in the mountains.” A man on the street said to me last week, “A million men could not find the boy.” I asked him why. He replied “Because he is not there.” The man expressed no notion of what he thought happened to the boy.
I knew the outcome was probably grim, but along the way, theNews presented week by week an account of one of the most astonishing, exhausting and exhaustive boy-hunts in the history of this region. In all the many thanks and salutes to searchers and volunteers of every stripe, there was one entity whose job remained largely thankless: the reporters and newspapers who gave inch after inch, word after word, to cover the search to its bitter end. Sure, lost boys sell papers, but the quality, integrity and fine line walked between bathos and accuracy in this paper is a testament to the solid humanity at its helm. What I present here is probably less than half the coverage afforded David Raleigh in these pages. Throughout the search, the heroic stoicism and grace of Stuart Raleigh, while enduring immense grief, in particular stands out.
Meanwhile, here is a sampling of this dramatic and heart-wretching search as told in the News, featuring some of our legendary rangers, game protectors, scout leaders and troopers. Here’s the first report, dated June 19:
Weary, frustrated volunteers, many of whom have gone with out sleep for five days, continued to comb the dense, rain-drenched forests in the vicinity of Winnisook lodge Wednesday in the despairing search for five-year-old David Raleigh of Fayetteville, N.Y.
The husky, blue-eyed boy disappeared suddenly Saturday night minutes after alighting from a small rowboat in which he, his father and brother had been fishing on tiny Winnisook lake at the foot of Slide mountain before wind and rain began lashing the water.
The search was spurred Wednesday morning by remote clues. An area that had previously been lightly covered was found to bear faint prints similar to those which could have been made by the canvas tennis shoes David had been wearing. A mushroom with fresh tooth marks—possibly those of an animal—had been found lying atop a rock.
The area is covered by dense hardwood growth, and ferns and shrubbery blanket the forest to a depth in places of four feet. Several footpaths lead from the boat landing to the cabins which make up the Winnisook colony.
It was in the stone cabin owned by Herbert Shultz, president of the Winnisook corporation, that David and his family had been spending the weekend. They arrived Friday evening for their first visit there since they were guests of the Shultzes two years ago.
While David’s mother, Mrs. Stewart Raleigh, and Mrs. Shultz had gone to Big Indian shopping, the fathers had taken their youngsters fishing. Their object was to catch nine fish, so that all members of the two families could have trout for breakfast. They had the fish when the wind arose and rain began.
As the boats were beached in a small pavilion at the upper of the lake, the children clambered out and milled around, while the men gathered the fishing gear, the catch and secured the boats.
The men took a nose count, but David was not seen. His sister had seen him stepping away from the pavilion at a distance of about four feet. That is the last he was seen.
The party started up the trail to the Shultz cabin, about 150 yards by trail from the pavilion. They found no trace of David. They retraced their steps, calling David’s name, but their voices were muffled by the rain and the dense underbrush.
As alarm grew, Kenneth Herdman, caretaker at the club, alerted the Big Indian-Oliverea fire department. State police were notified about 10 p. m. As soon as word spread, firemen and other volunteers converged on the club. Troopers began to gather from all parts of the Troop C eastern area and from other troops near the Hudson river.
When the wet, near-freezing dawn broke Sunday there still was no trace of the boy. Firemen from other Ulster county departments, Pine Hill, Shandaken, Claryville and Fleischmanns and Margaretville joined the search Sunday morning, as did deputy sheriffs, BWS police, conservation department men and residents of the adjacent valleys. At one time there were an estimated 400 men in the woods and at the lake Sunday.
Bloodhounds were brought in from the state police barracks at Hawthorne, but could not pick up the boy’s trail in the sodden undergrowth.
Attention was turned to the lake and the two small ponds which feed it. The ponds were drained, but as attempts were made to drain the lake, a valve on the outlet pipe broke. State police vetoed suggestions to dynamite the dam because of the danger of flooding the valley.
The lake, though it has a muddy bottom, is nearly crystal clear. It is about one-quarter mile long, 200-300 feet wide and about 30 feet at its deepest point.
Grappling and lake search operations continued Monday. Underwater vision boxes and improvised sub-surface search gear were augmented by skin diving troopers. The lake was crossed and recrossed by the searchers. Bottom visibility was excellent; men could identify objects as small as a band-aid lying on the bottom.
The search of the woods spread out Monday as volunteers were joined by 150 airmen from the Stewart Air Force base at Newburgh. They returned again on Tuesday, and were increased by 50 more on Wednesday. Wednesday nearly 200 young college boys from Sullivan county were brought to the scene. Expert Scout leaders and Explorer Scouts from the Hudson Valley council and from as far away as North Syracuse helped to guide the airmen in the ways of the woods. Phoenicia Boy Scouts under Scoutmaster Clifford Segelken had searched for several hours Sunday.
Many of the troopers from the city areas had difficulty traveling the difficult terrain. Those familiar with these mountains and local residents fared better.
As the days wore on without results, better discipline grew and parties sent out Wednesday were assigned to specific areas, one or more with experienced woodsmen in charge of each. Trees were blazed to show which areas had been covered. The search fanned out more than five miles from the lodge, using trails as arteries to feed side explorations of the dense woods.
At search headquarters at the main Winnisook lodge, women from the valleys and fire department auxiliaries joined their men and set up emergency feeding stations in the lodge dining hall and kitchen. Donations of food poured in.
Mrs. Marvin Ray, wife of a Grahamsville construction worker, showed up at the lodge Sunday and has hardly been out of the kitchen. When sandwiches and other food ran out, Mrs. Ray went home to fetch 40 loaves of bread and a quantity of beef stew Tuesday. Weary, hungry volunteers made short work of this. She expected 600 eaters Wednesday.
With tears accenting her fatigue and anger Wednesday morning, Mrs. Ray stood up and reamed out grizzled state police lieutenant because he had let his men go into the woods Tuesday with only sandwiches for supper. She vowed that her husband’s pay check Wednesday would be spent for more food, unless the Red Cross takes over.
Like Mrs. Ray’s there are many tales of individual heroism and self-sacrifice in the five days of the hunt. Men like Ken Herdman, Game Protector Henry Bernstein, Forest Rangers Frank Borden and Lester Rosa, along with many others, would come in from the trails an hour or two, have a cup of coffee, a sandwich and a few minutes of rest on a mattress thrown on the floor before going out again.
In the early days of the search the cabins on the property and nearby were gone over thoroughly, from rafters to foundation. Stones were turned over. Each cesspool was pumped out. There seems little area where a husky five-year-old could hide on the Winnisook property that has not been searched.
Mr. and Mrs. Raleigh have stayed at the Shultz cottage hoping by the hour of word of their son’s fate. Their other children were taken home by relatives Sunday and are with Mr. Raleigh’s mother in Syracuse.
Mr. Raleigh, an insurance agent and former newspaperman in Syracuse, has been on many of the search parties. He and his petite wife stood by to welcome friends from their hometown who have traveled the 150 miles to aid in the hunt.
An air of frustrated hope which hung over the colony Monday has given way to an air of determined hope. Said one state trooper, “We’ve looked everywhere and don’t know where to search next. But we can’t give up.” The words ‘I’ve got kids of my own,” set the course for one more trip out after a second, third and fourth fruitless trek.
There have been many persons lost in that part of the Catskills. The searches usually have a happy ending. After a night in the wilds, the victim wanders down into the Oliverea, Neversink or Woodland valleys. The only exception in recent years is the disappearance of a 23-month-old child in the Grahamsville area about three years ago. No trace was found.
The hunt for David Raleigh continues, despite snow flurries and icy rocks Sunday, strong, cold winds Monday, drenching rain Wednesday.
David, who was five in March, is 40 inches tall, has blue eyes and crew-cut blond hair. When he left the boat he was wearing a short-sleeve polo shirt, long corduroy trousers and tennis shoes.
Mr. Shultz issued the following statement on behalf of the club and his guests:
To all of David’s friends:
We wish it were possible to thank each one of you individual ly for the work you are doing in the search for our David.
We can never express adequately our gratitude for your determination in the face of the bad weather and almost impossible terrain. That you have come in such numbers and in such spirit to help a little boy has given us a new understanding of the meaning of brotherly love.
Cille and Pete Raleigh
July 10, 1959 — Where is David? Officials Continue Search But Uncover No Sign of Boy
While state police and conservation men continue to explore Slide mountain and its approaches for clues to the disappearance of five-year-old David Raleigh, friends of Mr. and Mrs. Stewart Raleigh of Fayetteville, N. Y. have offered $1,000 reward for information “concerning the whereabouts” of young David.
The search continued full-scale
for two weeks, with thousands of volunteers trampling over miles of the surrounding woodland in the shadow of 4,200-foot Slide mountain.
The first four days of the hunt were under difficult conditions, with rain, wind and low temperatures chilling the volunteers. Snow fell during the first night. It bred the greatest humanitarian effort the Catskills have ever known when hastily-set-up facilities, operated by volunteers, helped to feed the thousands of searchers who participated.
The fully-clothed skeleton of little David Raleigh was found early Saturday afternoon.
Hundreds and hundreds of m en in groups as large as 600 had searched for the five-year-old lad since he disappeared. News of his disappearance gained wide publicity. The story, which wrenched hearts of parents of half the nation, was carried in newspapers, radio and television for many days.
No trace of the child was found until Trooper Nicholas spotted the clothes and skeleton shortly before 2 o’clock on Saturday. David was found three quarters of a mile from Winnisook lodge in a little hollow of the ground, the right size to hold his body, a natural grave it might be called.
The skeleton was fully clothed with gray corduroy trousers, a light shirt and diamond tread blade sneakers. How far the child had wandered before he went to sleep in the little grave is a matter of conjecture.
The body had disintegrated from natural causes, it had not been molested in any way. Cpl. Lecakes, who came upon the body, was one of a group of men who were searching the forest walking five feet apart. There were three other groups, a total of 64 men. Mr. Raleigh was with group four, under command of Kenneth Herdman, superintendent of 74- year-old Winnisook club and Game Protector Henry Bernstein of Phoenicia.
Three shots from Winnisook lof|ge notified them that the body had been found. David was found about 400 yards below a ledge of rocks which runs around the shoulder of Slide mountain, directly to the southwest of the Winnisook lake. As the crow flies, the boy’s body was found about one mile, due east, from the lake. He was in a place which had been gone over many times before, but the boy’s body could not be seen without looking down into the spot where he was found.
The skeleton was brought down the mountain in a jeep operated by Franklin Borden of Pine Hill, a forest ranger. It was removed to the Gormley funeral home at Phoenicia, where it was put in a casket.
It is thought that David got off the path to the cabin and followed an old wood road. He must have almost reached the top of Slide mountain before he fell. The finding of the body of their son, whom they felt certain had died, was a relief to Mr. and Mrs. Raleigh.
In command of group one, which located the boy, were Lester Rosa of Arkville and Byron Hill of Rosendale, both forest rangers. Saturday, after David had been found, Mr. Shultz, at whose home the Raleighs had been staying, said that this tremendous 113 day search has not been the work of any one man, but of thousands of dedicated persons.
Mr. Raleigh and his brother-in-law spent much time during the summer in making a plaster paris model of the mountainous area, to scale. At the close of the search, Mr. Raleigh, who through the 16 weeks of harrowing experience, had earned the great admiration of all who had any part in the various searches, participated in by more than 4,000 persons, appeared at the base headquarters to offer his thanks.
Funeral services for David were held on Tuesday at the Pebble Hill Presbyterian church at Dewitt, N. Y., near Syracuse. Burial was made in Oakwood cemetery, Syracuse.
Sept. 14, 1972 — First Scholarship Memorial
The first scholarship award ed in memory of David Raleigh, who became lost and died on Slide mountain in 1959, was given Monday to a Syracuse boy who was one week older than David.
The scholarship at Princeton university goes to Andrew M. Nigolian. The scholarship was established from contributions made toward the massive search effort when David, then 5, became last in the wilderness after a June thunderstorm had struck Winnisook lake.
Before the search was ended, the scholarship fund had been established with $2,000. Cpl. Lecakes donated his $1,000 reward to the fund. Since 1959, additional contributions and accrued interest have made the scholarship worth approximately $900 a year. It will go to Nigolian through his college career, then to another recipient. This would have been the year that David entered college.