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November 24, 2013
Sue Eckhoff - Grundy County Heritage Museum , Reinbeck Courier

There are literally thousands of graves along the route of the Oregon Trail. Many were left unmarked, and those that were have certainly disappeared over the years. These are several that still remain, even partially, and their stories.

The headstone on the Daniel Lantz grave three and a half miles northwest of Granger, Wyoming is now in pieces, but thanks to notations made by early trail historians, the story of his grave was discovered.

Daniel Lantz left his Centerville, Indiana home on April 2, 1850, with a California bound company of gold seekers. At the time Lantz was 45, married, with five children and a well established wagon maker. His attempted trek to California without his family, testifies to the lure of the gold fields.

The company reached Black's Fork on July 9. Lantz had been sick for several days, but on the 10th his condition worsened considerably. The company agreed to stop "until there was a change in him for better or worse." Lantz was attended by a doctor traveling with the company, but there was nothing more to be done, and on July 12, 1850, James Seaton wrote, "Mr. Lantz is still alive but insensible." He lived until 9:30 a.m. When he was no more, he was buried at sunset near the road in a very decent manner. His grave was marked by stones. His disease was the bloody flux, and there were ten more to get the same disease, but none serious.

One of the oldest graves on the Oregon-California Trail is that of Frederick Richard Fulkerson, who died July 1, 1847. The Fulkerson grave is located at Rattlesnake Pass, five miles west of Independence Rock, and near Devils Gate. Fulkerson was a member of an Oregon bound emigrant company led by Reverend Richard Miller that called itself the Plains Baptist Church. Most of the company had been members of the Florence Baptist Church near Jefferson City, Missouri. Frederick was 17.

One account of his death was that when crossing the Platte River he swam the river below the crossing to ford the stock over, and he became so chilled and exhausted that he died. Another and perhaps more accurate account came from his sister, who wrote her brother took the fever, and Mr. Fulkerson, with two other families remained while the others went on. After nine days the young man died near Devils Gate.

On July 14, 1847, Frederick's mother (Mary Fulkerson) died and was buried on the trail near Names Hill near the Green River Crossing. Though the general area of her grave is known, the exact location has been lost.

Elizabeth Mortimore Paul headed west with her family from Fremont, Iowa in 1861. Mrs. Paul was pregnant and had a difficult journey. She died in a remote area of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, a beautiful mountain setting, on July 27, 1862 while giving birth to a daughter. She was 32 at the time of her death. The child, also named Elizabeth, lived for only a week. A traveling companion wrote that they buried Elizabeth under a large pine tree, and put a post and paling fence around her grave. Beautiful old lodge pole pines continue to mark her grave. Two years after her death, a remark in a journal written by Julius Merrill read, "Passed a grave enclosed by a picket fence, painted white. A lovelier spot I never saw. There was an opening of perhaps half an acre, with one large shady pine near the center. Under this lone tree was the grave. The beauty of the place and the care bestowed upon the remains of the woman caused us all to look at it."



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