Death on the Trail

by Stephenie Flora

 Deaths on the trail are noted in almost every journal.  The causes of these deaths were usually related to drowning, accident and disease.  John Unruh Jr. in his book, The Plains Across, noted that in the years from 1840 though 1850 there were only 362 documented emigrant deaths due to Indian attack.  During that same time period there were 426 Indians killed by emigrants.

During river crossings many men drowned while attempting to get their wagons and cattle across.  Children were often injured or killed while attempting to climb in and out of moving wagons.  When they slipped and fell they were often run over by the wheels of the wagon.  Men were shot when their gun or one of another emigrant was accidentally discharged.  Women died in childbirth.  And many of the emigrants succumbed to cholera and mountain fever.  In 1852 there was hardly a family that emigrated that year that did not lose at lease one of their family to cholera.

The dead were buried along the trail and wagons ran over the grave to hid the actual location from Indians and wolves that might disturb the grave.  Sometimes a marker was placed several feet away to note their passing.


My name is Stephenie Flora. Thanks for stopping by. Return to [ Home Page ] All [ Comments and Inquiries ] are welcome.