By Bob Weaver

Simon Cottrell, born in 1871, was a merchant and farmer at Oka in a rural area at the head of Beech Fork known as Cottrell Town.

He built the first store at Oka, a two-story building, in the late 1800s. Contrary to normal configuration, he lived on the first floor and operated his store on the second floor. In later years the Oka post office was located in the building.

"Simon appeared to be an average family man with future plans, but in 1907 he vanished out of site. All sorts of rumors were whispered as to why," wrote his granddaughter, Ernestine Carpenter.

Carpenter said, "One story was that he owed his brother-in-law money and chose to leave rather than to pay up."

Reports surfaced saying Cottrell was seen in Oklahoma, living under an assumed named of Cantrell, raising a new family.

Another unconfirmed reported said that Calhoun highway workers excavating for a new road a mile from his residence uncovered a human skeleton.

The Oka store building burned in 1987.

"Simon Cottrell's father exhausted all clues, made trips, spent money and prayed to find his son," said Carpenter.

Carpenter said against his better judgment, Cottrell's minister father went to a necromancy.

A necromancy is a seance held to contact dead spirits.

"His wife and children have all passed on, taking with them the most disturbing mystery that could befall a family," Carpenter concluded.