It’s Never Too Late: Epitaphs at Devil’s Gate

This little gem is just too wonderful not to share.

The original note from the Coutant Collection  (WSA H74-9, folder 77)

The original note from the Coutant Collection, ca 1889
(WSA H74-9, folder 77)

During the summer of 1852, the cholera prevailed at the Devil’s Gate on the Sweetwater and along the Overland Trail. Among the victims of this terrible disease was a young girl from Tennessee who died of the plague and was buried near the Big Rock. At the head of the grave a board was placed and on it was written:

Isabella Reemer
Born July 4, 1832
Gone to her Redeemer
August 13, 1852

Several years after someone [supposedly] a solider  wrote under the epitaph:

Which shows that redemption is never too late,
She went to her Redeemer from the Devil’s Gate.

__________

But wait… the Pioneer Cemetery and Grave Inventory Project (1980s) lists two burials near Devil’s Gate with similar epitaphs. Isabella Reemer is one, and Carline Todd is the other.

Devil's Gate was a prominent landmark for travelers on the Oregon, Mormon and California Trails. Entrepreneurial settler Tom Sun established his ranch at the base of the cleft and catered to travelers in the later part of the 19th century. (WSA DG02, photo by HJ Rogner)

Devil’s Gate was a prominent landmark for travelers on the Oregon, Mormon and California Trails. Entrepreneurial settler Tom Sun established his ranch at the base of the cleft and catered to travelers in the later part of the 19th century.
(WSA DG02, photo by HJ Rogner)

According to their notes, Frank Mockler wrote in his History of Natrona County:

Alvin G. Cone of Waynetown, Indiana, who visited with his two daughters in Casper during the summer of 1921, passed over the Trail in June 1863. “We camped at Devil’s Gate,” says Mr. Cone, “and four of us started to climb the north wall, and when about half way up there was a loud roaring coming out of a large hole between two huge boulders, which we took to be the roar of a lion. We were not long in getting down, and as we reached the base we noticed a grave with a wooden slab at the head, with this inscription:

Here lie the bones of Caroline Todd,
Whose soul has lately gone to God;
‘Ere redemption was too late,
She was redeemed at Devil’s Gate.

“The girl at the time of her death was eighteen years of age. She, with four women, had climbed to the top of the ridge, and the girl told her companions that she was going to look over. They warned her not to try it, for she would fall if she did, but she went to the edge of the chasm, became dizzy and fell to the bottom. A company of soldiers was stationed near there at the time, and they cared for the grave as long as they remained.”

The inventory notes are a bit confusing but Todd’s marker may still have been legible in 1983. Reemer’s marker was not found, and they cited Coutant’s notes for its existence. It could be that the facts were garbled through the years and both stories refer to the same grave site. Or it could be that two women met their fate here and the poetic possibilities were just too irresistible.

_________

Or…. Could it be that BOTH stories have it slightly wrong? Take a look at the excerpt from Levi Savage’s 1856 trail diary. He mentions that a Caroline Reeder, age 17, died and was buried near Devil’s Gate. Unfortunately, Savage does not mention a catchy epitaph being composed for Ms. Reeder.

Could it be that all of these stories are about the same young woman who met her untimely end at the landmark?

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