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“Graves” of the Unknown Emigrants

Graves were an all-to-frequent reminder of the dangers of overland travel. Most emigrant journals record death, burial, or passing graves during the day’s travel. Most burials along the trail were hasty affairs.

The official Company Journal of the Edmund Ellsworth Company of Handcart Pioneers, dated September 17, 1856, stated,

“James Birch, age 28 died this morning of diarrhea. Buried on the top of sand ridge east side of Sandy. The camp rolled at eight and traveled eleven miles. Rested … by the side of Green River.”

In the two weeks prior to Birch’s death, five other company members were buried along the trail. Birch’s gravesite has not been found.

No one is buried in the graves in front of this sign. They are here as symbols of all the emigrants who died and were buried alongside the trail, lost forever.

As you look at these simple mounds of rock and dirt, imagine what it would be like to lose a spouse, child, or friend on the trail. You would dig a shallow grave, say your goodbyes, and continue your journey West, saddened and bereft.

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This historic marker is located on a walking path loop on Highway 28 just west of Farson, stopping here you can see all these markers: