The LeBeau gravesite is a stark and sobering reminder that the journey west was harsh and unforgiving. I once read that the famous Oregon Trail is really one long cemetary, lined with unmarked and forgotten graves...On average, one grave for every 100 yards over the 2000 mile long trail and its branches. At first, I thought that the figure was absurdly high until I learned that in the bad years, a wagon train would see 2/3 of those who began the journey perish on the trail.
A couple of miles west of Sand Mountain is a poignant reminder that not all made it to the end of the trail and the start of a new life. In 1864, three LeBeau sisters died not far from here as their wagon train headed west. Diphtheria, according to sources, claimed the girls and three year old Wilson Turner. The girls, Jennie age nine, Louise who was six, and Emma the three year old were buried along with Wilson Turner about a quarter of a mile west of the present day gravesite. In 1940, heavy rains washed the skeletal remains of Jennie and Louise from the original grave to the current site. They were reburied here by William Manley and Sam Taylor shortly after their discovery. Since then, others have taken it upon themselves to maintain the memorial, notably John A. and John R. Johnson, a father and son honoring the past during the 1980's.
Today, many travelers stop and walk the fifty yards north of US50 to pay their respects at the gravesite. Some leave stuffed animals, others leave small shoes, while still others leave coins on the white picket fence. Green circles dot the crossbeams as the coins left develop a greenish patina due to the desert's high alkalinity.
There are some who do not believe that the remains which were reburied
were Jennie and Louise LeBeau. Irrespective of who lies beneath this lonely
patch of desert, it remains a testament to the unstoppable quality found
in humanity. Though many never saw the end of the trail, humanity
did and prospered.