The Sodder Children

These are the pictures that were graciously given to me by Sylvia Sodder Paxton, the youngest surviving child from the fire on December 25, 1945.

This is the billboard the family put up starting in 1952.


Maurice Sodder, 14 years old on December 25, 1945.


Martha Lee Sodder, 12 years old on December 25, 1945.

Martha Lee1.jpg

Louis Sodder, 9 years old on December 25, 1945 (his birthday was in 5 days).


Jennie Sodder, 8 years old on December 25, 1945.


Betty Sodder, 5 years old on December 25, 1945.


Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

11 thoughts on “The Sodder Children

  1. Stacy,

    Did you see the picture of the man that was supposely Louis in 1967-68? Could you post it.
    What are your thoughts on if it was truly Louis?

  2. I don’t know much about the social history of that part of the country but when I read about the burning of the Sodder house, the words “hate crime” leapt into my mind, especially in light of the account of Mrs. Sodder waking upon hearing something land on the roof during the night. Though not always well-known, the histories of many towns and cities in America are marred by shameful and horrific incidents of hatred and violence against various ethnic and religious groups (Irish, Italian, Catholic, and many others). I can’t help think that his might have been such a tragedy, and that the children indeed died in the fire that consumed the house and, given how long it burned, would have reduced anything inside that could not escape it – animate or not – to ashes. What broken-hearted parent would not continue to see the faces of other children with a close physical resemblance the faces of their own lost children?

  3. As a child, all my family being from West Virginia, many of whom live in and around Fayetteville, I clearly remember that billboard. I too, am reminded of the loss of those children, often wondering where they are, if they are still alive. My heart and prayers go out to Sylvia and her daugher, knowing where there is hope there is life. This I am certain of, God KNOWS and one day they will too!

  4. I have been doing old case files for years. A few years back I came across this case of the Sodder Family from Fayette, West Virginia. Their case has never been aired on any show and the cops in that time covered it up as if it was nothing. I am sicked by what has happened. These children were someones children and for everyone back then to act the way they did it’s not a good feeling. The mother and father passed on not having a clue as to the where about of their children and to me that is just uncalled for. Having lost a child of my own reading this brings tears to my eyes.I am not going to stop till I get answers. It has been 66 years since anyone has seen or heard from these children. Someone out there knows something and it’s about time someone step up and do the right think by these children and their family.

  5. Well, if you are able to find more answers for the family, I am sure they will be very grateful. Good luck.

  6. Hi, I work for a TV station based in New York and we are currently trying to feature Sodder Children’s disappearance case in the latest episode.
    I have been trying to reach Sylvia, the last family member to be alive now and interview her.
    Does anyone has any idea on how I can reach her?

    If you could help, I would really appreciate it.


  7. I live only miles from this place of happening. Who had all these pictures of the children, if everything were burnt up in the fire. This story is not adding up. Sound like the mother and father has something they are hiding. Something is not right about this story. This story smells from high heaven.

  8. The Board is no longer up with the children’s pictures. It has been gone for a long time now. The tall fence is still around the house, that is all that stands.

  9. Hi Stacy.

    Have you been in contact with Sylvia or her children recently? If so, do you know if they ever tried modern DNA testing (Ancestry, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, etc.)?

    If her siblings survived, maybe they had children of their own who are also on one of these sites.

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