Finding Elva’s Grave…

Alice and I enjoy exploring American History…and our retired traveling lifestyle fits well with this hobby.   Recently, we made a weekend visit to a very historical segment of the Oregon Trail  located in Southeast Wyoming… a 12-mile stretch between Fort Laramie  and Register Cliffs (Guernsey), about a day’s travel for the Emigrants.   This short blog update comes as a result of an interesting side trip that we made while on that visit, one that unexpectedly grabbed our emotions… and prompted this brief post.   It serves as a lasting visible reminder of the hardships that the early Emigrants faced while traveling the Oregon Trail… and what strong people they, and therefor we, Americans must have been.

While researching our trip before leaving, we had read mentions of a gravesite close to the “Child’s Cutoff” path of the trail.   The grave was that of 4½ year old Elva Ingram, who had died on the trail on June 23rd, 1852, and was buried there.   She most likely died of Cholera, that killed an estimated 5,000 Emigrants that year.   Indeed, in the Richey-Ingram-Aiken Wagon Train that year of 40 Emigrants, 8 people died including Elva – This   is in line with what Historians tell us, that about 10% – 15% of the Emigrants died on the trail, and that there are roughly 10 graves for each mile… with only a few known locations.    

We decided to find Elva’s grave, so we googled information, found directions… and went looking.

The below Map of the 1840’s – 1860’s West, courtesy of the National Park’s National Trails Systems, shows the main trails for Emigrants traveling west. Our search for Elva’s grave began in the middle circle …Fort Laramie, WY.


Map of the Oregon, California, Mormon, and Pony Express Trails.   Click on Map to expand for a larger, much more clear view. If your browser supports, and if you show a “magnifying glass”… click again for an even sharper view.

Our directions… courtesy of the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office:

Directions for Finding Elva's Grave
From Hartville, Wyoming, take the Manville Highway north for about one mile. Turn left and follow the road downhill for ¾ mile to the foot of Emigrant Hill. Continue straight ahead up the winding road. After reaching the top of Emigrant Hill, turn left in ¼ mile. The Ingram grave is in the pasture to the left, ¼ mile after turning.

So, starting from the above map’s center circle Fort Laramie, WY, we traveled West for a few miles along the North Platte River (US Hwy 26) to Guernsey, and then North on WY 270 to Hartville, WY. The map below provides a detailed geography of our travel. The green line shows the “Child’s Cutoff” of the Oregon Trail… a shorter, safer path for those Emigrants that had started their journey from the Council Bluffs or Winter Quarters trailheads in Iowa and Nebraska..    To visually see the grave site, in the map below, click on ‘+’ (lower right) to the highest resolution, then click on ‘satellite’ (upper left).     


When we reached Hartville, traveling North, we passed the local museum below, and learned about the local copper mining background in the adjacent town of Sunrise, WY.


Child’s cutoff ran right in front of the ‘Historic Hartville School / Community Center & Museum’ in Hartville. The Director, Kathy Troupe, gave us a tour… quite a history here!

“From Hartville, Wyoming, take the Manville Highway north for about one mile. Turn left and follow the road downhill for ¾ mile to the foot of Emigrant Hill….”


Here we are, at the foot of Emigrant Hill – the Oregon Trail (Child’s Cutoff) is the dirt road going up the hill.


The Oregon Trail, Child’s CutoffEmigrant Hill. This is a switchback road going up the hill, quite steep in parts… about a 20% grade. Little Elva’s grave is located at the top of this hill, and then about a quarter mile to the left.   This site is adjacent to Camp Guernsey, Wyoming National Guard, hence, the military signs.


At the top of Emigrant Hill… the road turning to the left is the road to Elva’s grave.   The road going straight leads into a restricted area of the Wyoming National Guard.



“Continue straight ahead up the winding road…”

We are at the top of Emigrant Hill, and will be turning Left.


This is the “road going left”… over the hill is a private home that allows access to Elva’s grave site thru this road.




“After reaching the top of Emigrant Hill, turn left in ¼ mile. The Ingram grave is in the pasture to the left, ¼ mile after turning.”

We turned left here, traveled over the rise ¼ mile, and drove thru a short stretch of private land, past the Private Residence… 



And here we saw Elva’s Grave.   We parked our car, and walked back to her fenced grave, faintly seen in the distance, on the right… 


We’ve driven about a quarter mile now, “over the hill”, and past the private home as seen on the right. We parked the car and started walking back to the grave site as faintly seen on the distant right.

We are on public land, now, and walked up close to Elva’s grave.


We have arrived at our goal… Elva Ingram’s grave site.

This is the original Tombstone, carved out of local rock.   Note the rocks on top the grave.


The grave, about 4 feet in length, covered with stones… and the original hand-carved gravestone from June of 1852.

Grave Marker up close.   It has been here since placed on June 23, 1852.


Up close, the original hand carved gravestone.

This plaque below shows that the Ingram family must have made it to Oregon… and while little Elva Ingram may have perished here… and was buried and left behind here, she was not forgotten. 135 years later, she is still remembered by her family… Dr. Jack Ingram and Family, of Medford, OR.   What a great story… of an obviously great family… that helped to build a Great Nation.


A plaque placed here in 1987 by the Oregon-California Trails Association, funded by Dr. Jack Ingram and Family, Medford, Oregon. They made it…


As the Richey-Ingram-Aiken Wagon Train moved on West to Oregon… below is what they saw.   It may have been rainey & cloudy that day… still grieving at their loss… but they did not stop.   They made it. 


As we depart Little Elva’s grave, looking to the West… where the Emigrants continued on to…

Alice and I hope you enjoyed this short post.   The country here in SE Wyoming is beautiful… prairies punctuated with low mountains and canyons… a river here and there… and memories & history around every corner. Please feel free to comment? Maybe your family has stories… 

Jim & Alice 


12 thoughts on “Finding Elva’s Grave…

  1. Hi Uncle Jim & Aunt Alice,

    Just found a morning where I could sit back and read your blog post with a cup of coffee. Very much enjoy reading your explorations and experiences. Thanks for sharing!

    Love Robin

  2. Hey Jim,
    It was very reminisent to read your post thinking about the past explorations we’ve had with you & Alice. Maybe one day we’ll get to join you & check out some of that region. We always enjoying reading the posts & look forward to the day you compile them all into a novel of sorts. Miss you guys!
    Barbie & Al

  3. Jim,
    This was very timely as Paula was working with school kids on Oregon Trail and love s the stories that go with it. Really interesting.

    • Yea, Bob, I get goosebumps when I walk some of this historical sites. This particular trip kind of got to me… hard to imagine a 4 year old girl making a trip like this. I am looking to do a post on the rest of this trip – the Trail stretch between Fort Laramie and Guernsey, where the trail is still very visible. Say hello to Paula for us.

    • Hi Joel!

      You bet, this history stuff is fun! Look for us to keep things coming… this is BIG country out here, with a lot of stories. Its nice now that we have the time to go visit places… and see the places that we have read about. Don’t forget to plan ahead for retirement… Your time is coming!

      Take care,

    • Hi Betty. So good to hear from you folks! Hope all is well with you and Jack. Glad you enjoyed the pictures… the country is beautiful and we enjoy our road trips. More to come. Still hope to see you again sometime soon. Alice says hello, too.

      Take care,

    • Thanks, Gary. I have quite a number of pictures from the weekend we spent in the area. There is a LOT of history around Fort Laramie, including the Name & Date carvings and Wagon Ruts at Guernsey. This area of Wyoming and South Dakota is just beautiful.

      Hope all is going well for you and family!

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