Portage to the Past: Missing child leads to suspicions of abuse - and worse

2:59 PM, Mar. 13, 2013  |  Comments
Rhonda Whetstone
Rhonda Whetstone
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Author's note: First of two parts. No two accounts or sources spelled the surname the same. Whether multiple newspaper accounts, court records, family and genealogy records, the surname varied from Voloshek to Wolochic, Valichka to Veletka and Valetca. I used the Voloshek spelling because that is probably the way it was phonetically pronounced.

Little 6-year-old Mary Voloshek was missing.

At first, little else was known, but what eventually would come to light could make the blood run cold.

Various newspaper accounts of 1892 painted a very sad picture.

Martin Voloshek, his second wife, Lena, 22, and his three children were living in a logging shanty owned by William Pitt in the town of Carson, five miles from Milladore.

Martin was engaged in peeling bark for someone, as were a number of other men who were boarding with him.

The location of the shanty was a lonely one, the county line road pushing north from Milladore not yet completed, requiring the last one-and-a-half miles to be made on foot.

On Saturday, Aug. 20, Martin finished bark peeling, headed to Junction City to pick up his pay, then returned home. On Sunday, right after noon, he went to Milladore to bring his sister-in-law to the shanty to care for the children while he and Lena went to Stevens Point on Monday to do some trading.

Upon returning that night, at about 7 p.m., Martin was met at the door by Lena who said, "Our Mary is gone." Lena said she had seen an Indian lurking around the house and had concealed herself in the woods. Upon returning, she found Mary gone. She supposed the Indian had carried off the child.

The story seemed odd at best, with a mother running for safety and not taking the children, but there was nothing to be done but search for little Mary.

On Monday, residents in and around Milladore were notified of the disappearance, and for miles around, a thorough search was made of the woods. The dress Mary had been wearing when her father left home Sunday was found on the ground next to a tree, covered in bloodstains.

Although searchers continued to go out daily, suspicions began to grow, and with those suspicions came stories of things that had been happening in the shanty - bad stories.

All said that since the stepmother had come into the home, Mary's life had been an unhappy one. Several neighbors and relatives of Mary's biological mother claimed Mary was beaten by Lena and that in the winter, she slept on a bed of loose straw.

When faced with allegations of child abuse by Lena, Martin said as far as he knew the child was not being mistreated, that he would not have allowed it.

Mary seemed to have been a relatively good child, according to Martin and others. Martin said when he took things to the children, Mary always shared with the others.

On Friday, at the urging of those who were sure Lena herself was responsible for Mary's disappearance, Sheriff Michael Griffin and District Attorney Lee visited the Voloshek home, and the Sheriff searched the shanty without success.

Griffin, Lee and a Mr. Hopper of Milladore also closely questioned Lena, but she clung to the story that an Indian must have kidnapped the girl.

It was Tuesday night, nearly 10 days later, that the truth came out.

Lena and Martin were in Milladore with J.J. Haasl, and they were drinking. Lena, who afterward said she only had one glass of beer and a glass of whiskey, made her confession. She had killed Mary, but she insisted she did not mean to.

Sheriff Griffin was notified Lena had confessed , and along with Dr. Rood, Dr. Rhoades and Justice Carpenter, he headed Milladore where a late-night coroner's jury was brought together. Those men were James Hooper, E.D. Smith, John Haasl, James Konapy, A.J. Empy and Antone Gerbert.

About midnight, all the parties left Milladore together and took teams to drive out the four miles, trekking the rest of the way on foot. Arriving at the shanty, the men followed Lena down the path she had taken while carrying Mary to her grave.

Even then, with dim lantern light in the very dark woods, it was some time before the grave was found. It was about 2 a.m. when Lena finally located the right spot in the woods, finding it through referencing an old skidway.

Lena had carried Mary about 1,300 feet from the shanty and placed her in a depression in the ground, which was caused by a juniper tree having been torn from the ground by the roots. Once in the ground, Lena covered the little girl with a few inches of moldy leaves, dirt and moss.

All agreed that the burial site never would have been found if not for Lena taking them there.

Rhonda Whetstone is a columnist for Stevens Point Journal Media, Daily Tribune Media and News-Herald Media. Rhonda's Twitter ID is TribRendezvous if you wish to follow her musings there. You also can get previews of upcoming columns by clicking "like" on Portage to the Past on Facebook. If you have story ideas of a historical nature, email her at Rhonda.Whetstone@gmail.com.

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