To the north of town is an old cemetery, out in the pasture. There is no roadway or path to it, one has to walk across the pasture to get there. One day finally arrived and I put on my boots and strolled out to have a look see. It is not a well organized layout. More of a collection of plots scattered here and there with some single graves. There are probably a bunch that had wooden crosses or were unmarked. There was one wooden cross laying in the grass and there were some markers that had crumbled in the land.
I found a local that had grown up in the area and asked him some questions about it. There were some fenced off areas with mixed stones in them and one was some distance from the others. He said they probably died from anthrax is why they were buried over there.
That gave some pause to stop and think. Anthrax is common in the area but with today’s medicine it is not the life threatening plague like it was a couple of centuries ago.
He went to say there were some pastures in the area that if cattle were grazed on them they had to be vaccinated for anthrax. There are also other grave sites around where they buried people that perished from the fungus.
It was not unusual years ago to bury people that had a plague type of disease in separate area. Sometimes the people were cremated, the fear was so great. Smallpox, measles and influenza were some of the nastiest killers that swept over the pioneers that settled on the prairie.
There was a doctor that died from smallpox. He is buried way over in another area west of town with a woman. Such were the fears of people that they would be contaminated.
It was fascinating to walk through the grave yard and wonder what happened. Then hear the story and read other stories, things kind of make sense.
Most of the head stones were in the 1880’s and the unmarked ones, probably earlier.
The town has another cemetery to the west about two miles. It sits on a ridge, make a good boot hill. Across the road is the Catholic cemetery.
It is in the old cemetery where one can find the struggles of the town to survive in the early days.
How many perished from lead poisoning is not mentioned. Yet I’m sure a few of the forgotten spots were from altercations at the saloon. There were train robberies, Indian conflicts, range disputes and a mixture of frontier people. Two different stage routes passed through, the Smoky Hill Trail was nearby and there are Indian camps by the springs in the area.
The cemetery is rough looking yet the life these people lived was rough and tumble. To survive in the 1870’s and 80’s was a feat in itself.