Just so this is in a record somewhere before all who know about it are dead and gone, I would like to tell of a graveyard about 4 miles south of Bayard, NE, on the Oregon Trail.

    I am the grandaughter of Marsh and Bess Bigler, who homesteaded in Bayard in 1910 on Sugar Valley Farm.  My grandfather worked for his cousin, W. H. Ferguson, of Beatrice Foods fame, managing 52 of his farms for him.  My mother, Frances (Hunt) grew up on the farm, and she and I would go back there to live every time my stepfather got sent overseas, so I lived there off and on from age two until 16, when I left for the last time.  My grandparents and my uncle Lawrence are buried in the Bayard cemetery.

    When I was a kid my girlfriend and I would ride our bikes out to Chimney Rock and go exploring.  One day we found a crude graveyard with about eight graves with very early dates.  We wondered why no one had ever spoken of it and if anyone else even knew of its existence.

    There was another small graveyard right at the base of Chimney Rock that was extremely well marked and tended (and still was in 1992).  The years passed, we both moved away, but I never forgot that little graveyard.

    In the Oregon Trail lore, one will find stories of a party of eight that died from cholera and had to be buried near Chimney Rock.  When I returned in 1992 to visit my home town, I met the man who runs the Oregon Trail Rides in Gering, near Bayard.  I told him about the graves and he said he had been looking for them ever since he started the business.  He and I looked nearly all day, but could find no trace of them.

    When I returned home to the East Coast, I hunted down my old friend from childhood days and paid her a visit.  I asked her if she remembered the little graveyard from our childhood.  She told me her parents had ended up buying that land (their name was Rystrom) and that yes, she did think it included the little plot but she had left home by then and never really explored it.  Since the markers were the very soft sandstone that is native to the area, we now think that they were just plowed under when the land was leased to farmers.  Her mother had no knowledge of the graves.

    I just wanted to record this story somewhere.

    I miss the prairie terribly, and especially my view of Chimney Rock out my bedroom window.  I would like to somehow get a Cam-Vue installed and focused on the Rock so that I can look at it any time I like, especially now that it is lit at night.

--- Marilyn "Mo" Crager Toole



Oldtime Nebraska -- submitted by Marilyn C. Toole - April, 1997