I arrived at Ravensburg State Park after sharing information I had uncovered about the unsolved murder that had happened here with my good friend and Clinton County historian Lou. Although the unidentified woman discovered at the Big Rock camp ground on July 15, 1925 remains nameless, we have come to know her as Ravensburg Jane Doe..
Located south of Jersey Shore, the park can be easily missed by people traveling along Route 880; it is a small park located at the southern edge of the Nippenose Valley. Ravensburg gets its name from the ravens that once roosted in the large rocks near the southern end of the park. The park was created by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the dam they erected on Rauchtown Run still exists.
Arriving at the park, the first thing I did was to attempt to figure out an approximate location where Ravensburg Jane Doe was discovered. While the exact location will probably never be uncovered, the location, as far as I am able to determine, was somewhere between the present-day entrance, where the park road crosses Rauchtown Run, and the location of the dam. After parking, I followed the Raven Trail that parallels the stream, but my mind was not on the beauty of nature as I walked; instead I drifted to the past.
The Lock Haven Express had presented a number of possibilities at the time. Looking through the newspaper articles, a number of possibilities arise to the identity of the murdered girl. One particular girl stands out in my mind as to the identity of Ravensburg Jane Doe, and I’ll get to her later. First, I want to start with the people Ravensburg Jane Doe is not and the evidence to why each girl was eliminated.
The Whitmore girl: The Express lists the daughter of a family named Whitmore from Williamsport as a possibility for Ravensburg Jane Doe. The family was interviewed and the missing daughter was ruled out as a possibility. The newspaper reported that there were two reasons she was ruled out: first, she had been missing for only ten days and secondly, the description of the Whitmore girl did not resemble the murder victim. She was immediately eliminated as a possibility.
The Edwards girl: Another name that was brought up as a possible identity to Ravensburg Jane Doe was a daughter of the Edwards family from Jersey Shore. She was listed as being about twenty years old when she disappeared in June 1925. She had fled the house after allegedly kidnapping her younger sister. Authorities were convinced that the victim was from Jersey Shore and had been transported through Antes Gap to be dumped near the Big Rock campground, which may give some credence that this was the Edwards girl. The only problem with the Edwards girl being Ravensburg Jane Doe is only one body was discovered at the crime scene. Authorities did not completely eliminate her as a possibility but the focus does not stay on her as being the unidentified woman. Note: I have not been able to determine if the Edwards case was ever resolved.
Teresa Stabley: For a couple weeks in August 1925, this missing girl from Loganton area was considered to be the Ravensburg Jane Doe. Teresa matched the girl in size, had gold crowns on some of her teeth, and the same hair color, with the only difference being noted her hair had been bobbed and not shoulder length when she was last seen in January. The Stabley girl was eliminated when a postcard from her arrived with a postmark from New York City.
Other possibilities and wild rumors: 1) An unidentified Jersey Shore girl being kept at a house in the Nippenose Valley. According to the Express she was last seen being transported to the Lock Haven Hospital. 2) A young lady who had been spotted camping with two men on Locust Ridge. It was investigated and the young lady was discovered alive. 3) A girl who had been kept prisoner in a bootlegger’s shack in Sugar Valley. 4) The young lady was a victim of an automobile accident that happened nearby when the vehicle was driven into a ditch. Authorities were able to locate the owner of the wrecked vehicle and the theory was discarded.
The Lock Haven Express states that there were at least two other women who had arrived in town in an attempt to identify the Ravensburg Jane Doe thinking it was a missing relative. When they were told of the clothing the victim was wearing, the women failed to recognize it and returned home without identifying the body.
Marian Hines: The July 24 issue of the Lock Haven Express identifies a missing lady who might possibly be the Ravensburg Jane Doe. It is reported that authorities were looking into the disappearance of twenty-year-old Marian Hines of Scranton. Miss Hines had been missing for a couple weeks at the time of the discovery of Ravensburg Jane Doe. She was described as having light brown hair, standing five-foot-five, and had gold teeth. I have not been able to find any follow up on this possible identification.
While Marian may be the Ravensburg Jane Doe, the location where she was discovered creates some doubt. Ravensburg may not be as remote today with Interstate 80 just south of the park, but at that time it was a remote location. With no major roads leading to the discovery site, the possibility of Marian being transported from Scranton to southern Clinton County seems unlikely.
Grace (Martz) Herman: The Lock Haven Express leans towards this being the identity of the Ravensburg Jane Doe and in reading through all the articles she seems to be the most likely identity of the murdered woman. Everything involving Grace’s family throughout the weeks after the discovery seems odd and out of place.
On the day that the body was discovered, a nearby farmer approached wondering if it was his cousin who had been missing since April 4. His description of the missing young woman and her clothing perfectly matched the unidentified victim. Note: Even if the unnamed farmer could not identify the Ravensburg Jane Doe, the question arises how he was able to accurately describe the clothing the young lady wore. Had he possibly noticed her before July 15 but failed to notify authorities? Or did he recognize her and just choose to remain quiet?
While the Express does not connect the farmer and his cousin, I believe the farmer’s cousin was Grace Herman, the daughter of Henry Martz of Sugar Valley. Grace was immediately suspected of being the Ravensburg Jane Doe and Henry believed that this was his missing daughter. Henry viewed the body and was unable to make any identification due to decomposition, but he stated that the clothing the body wore was unfamiliar to him. Henry was not able to say it was Grace, but he did not deny the possibility that is was his missing daughter.
A couple days later the family received word from a telegram sent to Williamsport police that Grace was being detained by authorities in Newark, New Jersey, and Henry went to bring his daughter home. The July 31 issue of the Express states that Henry returned home to Sugar Valley without his daughter. He claimed he had spoken to his daughter but had not actually seen her and that he believed she was now in Syracuse, New York. A telegram sent to the Newark police asking for details revealed that they had no information regarding the case. If Newark authorities did not send the telegram to Williamsport police, then the question arises who did it and why? Was it the killer attempting to cover his or her tracks? Did Henry actually talk to his daughter or was it someone else he talked to, if he even talked to anybody at all?
With no positive identification of Ravensburg Jane Doe, there were no connections to a possible suspect having committed the murder. The Express never points at any one person being responsible and even a brief mention of the case in a 1985 article concluded it should have been solved but yet it remains a mystery.
As I left Ravensburg State Park, I still had a lot of unanswered questions and I know that many of them will never be answered due to the years that have passed. She may have been forgotten by most, but to me her case is as real as it was in 1925.
I paused at the vehicle and only had one question that really lingered in my mind: Why was this never solved?
The story of Ravensburg Jane Doe will conclude next week.