Near Blue Rapids in Marshall County, Kansas — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
The 1840s American Dream
Stranded by heavy flood waters on the bank of the Big Blue River, 100 members of the Donner and Reed Wagon Train waited for several days anticipating that the spring runoff would begin to subside. Sarah Keyes, James Reed's mother-in-law, although feeble and ill traveled with them hoping to see her only son one more time. Cadden Keyes had journeyed to Oregon several years earlier. Mrs. Keyes knew that her health was failing and that she likely would not survive the journey, but she and Cadden had arranged to meet at the Hudson's Bay Company Trading Post located at Fort Hall on the Snake River.
In the dark morning hours of May 29, 1846, fate intervened. Although Mrs. Keyes' death had been anticipated for several days, the event still cast a shadow of gloom over the whole camp. The men quickly set about making a coffin and excavating a grave. A large gray stone was fashioned into the shape of a tombstone and Mrs. Keyes' name, age, and date of death were engraved on it.
Even though she passed away without fulfilling her dream, Sarah Keyes symbolized the pioneer spirit of America's westward movement. Historians estimate that one in ten emigrants died enroute to their destination. Whatever their reason for going west, those pioneers that had gathered the courage to undertake the long, tedious, and sometimes
[Lower center inset photo caption reads]
To honor one of America's pioneer women who passed away enroute to a new life in California, a local chapter of the Daughters of the American Reveloution [sic] (D.A.R.) produced and placed this marker near Sarah Keyes' grave in March of 1950. On the far left is a photo of Mrs. Keyes taken prior to her 1840s journey to see her son.
[Lower right inset photo caption reads]
In the 1840s and 50s, hundreds of emigrant wagons passed this way on their way west. Nick Eggenhoffer illustration is courtesy of Hastings House Publishers
Emigrant Diary Notes on Graves at Alcove Springs
Edwin Bryant, What I Saw in California, May 29, 1846. - "Last night Mrs. Sarah Keyes, a lady aged 70, a member of the family of Mr. J.H. Reed of Illinois, and his mother-in-law, died. Mr. Reed with his family is emigrating to California."
The Overland Journal of Amos Piatt Josselyn, Tuesday May 15, 1849.
"Got off at 6:30 o'clock. Passed the Big Blue at 1 o'clock; drove about 20 miled this day. Water plenty and roads pretty good. At the Blue there is two graves of which is an old
Virginia Reed Murphy, Across the Plains in the Donner Party, "As soon as we stopped traveling, Grandma began to fail, and on the 29th day of May she died. It seemed hard to bury her in the wilderness and travel on. We were also afraid that the Indians would destroy her grave, but nowhere on the whole road could we have found so beautiful a resting place."
In honor of
Sarah Handley Keyes
1776 - 1846
Daughter of a
Arthur Barrett Chapter, DAR
God in his love and charity
has called in this
a pioneer mother
May 29, 1846
Erected by National Park Service, Alcove Spring Preservation Association, and Arthur Barrett Chapter D.A.R.
Marker series. This marker is included in the California Trail, and the Oregon Trail marker series.
Location. 39° 45.036′ N, 96° 40.816′ W. Marker is near Blue Rapids, Kansas, in Marshall County. Click for map.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 5 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. A Quiet and Restful Place (here, next to this marker); Alcove Spring Park (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Oregon Trail Memorial Garden (about 500 feet away); A Respite In The Wilderness (approx. 0.2 miles away); Historical Baseball Game (approx. 4.7 miles away); Blue Rapids Station Bell (approx. 4.8 miles away); Oldest Roundabout in Kansas (approx. 4.8 miles away); Blue Rapids Public Library (approx. 4.9 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Blue Rapids.
Also see . . .
1. Alcove Spring National Register Nomination (Amendment). (Submitted on November 24, 2014, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. California National Historic Trail. (Submitted on November 24, 2014, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
3. Oregon National Historic Trail. (Submitted on November 24, 2014, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
Categories. • Fraternal or Sororal Organizations • Roads & Vehicles • Settlements & Settlers •
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 174 times since then and 11 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.