Future Of Pioneer Grave Along Mormon Trail In Nebraska Now In Question
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – A downtown monument commemorates Brigham Young welcoming Mormon pioneers to Utah, but not all of the pioneers reached their destination.
“I am her fourth great grandson,” said Jacob Oscarson, who knows one of his ancestors never made it.
Rebecca Winters died of cholera along the trail in Nebraska, in 1852.
“A member of the wagon train carved her name into an old metal wagon tire and buried it with her,” he said.
The grave was largely forgotten, until the early 1900’s when the railroad came through. The train tracks were laid, just six feet from her resting place. In 1996, her grave was moved away from the tracks, to a safer location, about 900 feet away, but still along the original Mormon Trail.
“Her story I think is very worthy of being remembered and told and it is done so much better, right there where she died,” Oscarson added.
But in recent years, a lack of maintenance prompted local Latter-day Saints to improve the gravesite, only to learn the property was owned by Scott Bluffs county, and officials there have shown little interest in preserving the site.
“The county can’t force us to move the grave, it’s something that the family is choosing to do, just because the county does have the authority to say ‘no maintenance’ or just say ‘we’re going to fence it off,’” he said.
It is believed that Rebecca Winters likely has more than 1000 living descendants, many of them in Utah, so Oscarson is hoping to get a consensus on what they believe should happen with her grave.
Options include moving Winter’s remains to a cemetery or a nearby museum, along the Oregon Trail.
“She did not travel the Oregon Trail, she traveled the Mormon Trail, so my personal preference would be to try to work with the county and some of the local people and see if we can come up with some sort of agreement where we can keep her grave right there along the trail,” he said.
Oscarson has created a website, www.rebeccawinters.org, in hopes that other descendants of Winters will get involved and provide direction and even financial support. An effort to preserve her final resting place and more importantly, her history, for future generations.
“There are very few places where you can go and actually see a grave that’s been marked and you can say ‘we know the story of the person who’s here’ and for that reason I think it’s very important that her grave is maintained.”