The Boy with the Brass Buttons
young couple were delighted to purchase the old-fashioned house in the
Stuyvesant Square section of Philadelphia. They moved into their dream
home in the winter of 1889, bringing their six year old daughter with
was a lot of refurbishing to do, so the little girl tended to go up to
the attic to play while her parents were occupied with the house. It
wasn't as bad as it sounds, because the previous owners had converted
the attic into a playroom. It even had a fireplace at one point, but it
was currently boarded up.
a couple of weeks of hard work, the downstairs rooms were finished. The
mother, realizing that she had been neglecting their daughter,
attempted to try and spend more time with her now, but the little girl
seemed distracted. She kept stealing back up to the attic alone to play.
and perhaps a little hurt the the child was not being responsive to her
attentions, the mother finally asked, "What's so interesting up there
in that stuffy room?"
"It's the little boy with the shiny buttons," the child replied. "He's so much fun to play with!"
little boy?" the mother demanded, wondering if a servant child had
stowed away in the room. She went to investigate, but found the room
that her daughter was just being contrary, she urged her husband to
discipline the child. At her father's stern voice the little girl
became hysterical. She kept repeating that there was a little boy and
he wore a blue jacket with lots of shiny buttons on it. As her father
listened, he became more and more curious. Formerly a seaman, he
realized his daughter was describing a child's sailor suit, complete
with the brass buttons.
girl's father made some inquires about the Cowderlys, the family that
lived in the house before them. He learned that they had come from
England, bringing their children with them, two boys and a girl. The
youngest child, a boy, was retarded. The neighbors described him as a
sweet idiot child, and added that Mr. Cowderly was ashamed of him and
tried to prevent him from being seen outdoors.
to the boy's parents, the neighbors continued, the young boy would
often sneak out to go down to the river. The story goes on to say that
one day he fell in and drowned. His body was never recovered, but his
cap had been found floating in the river. Shortly after the
disappearance, the Cowderlys put the house up for sale and, leaving
Philadelphia, dropped out of sight.
former seaman's suspicions were now thoroughly aroused. He accompanied
his little daughter to the attic and asked her to show him where the
little boy came from. She pointed to the boarded up fireplace. Her
father called in workers to open it and then to remove the mortar that
cemented up a cavity beside the chimney.
the mortar was chipped away, the corpse of a small boy was revealed. He
was clothed in a little blue sailor jacket with four rows of brass
buttons down the front. Further examination revealed that the back of
the child's head had been crushed by a violent blow.
The little boy didn't drown. He was murdered.