Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah
image The new concrete marker that was emplaced during the rededication of the Old Faust Ranch Cemetery by Elder James E. Faust whose relatives settled this area.

December 6, 2022
Desert Odyssey: Nora and Eva

“Made up my mind, to make a new start, going to California with an aching, in my heart”

Led Zeppelin

I spent some time out at the Old Faust Ranch Cemetery back in August of 2021. Last week I gave a description of this old cemetery that would likely be completely forgotten if it weren’t for the writing of a great story teller and local historian who lived in the Vernon area and loved the lore and history of the pioneering of the Old West. 

This man’s name was James P. Sharp. 

You would never know it by looking at the place but it was near here at Faust / Meadow Creek Station, where Porter Rockwell and Lot Huntington had a shootout on Jan. 18, 1862. Porter killed the outlaw as he was trying to escape. Just south of here, Black Crook Peak, the highest point in the Sheeprock Mountains looms large over the south end of Rush Valley and the town of Vernon in particular. 

It is possible that it is named after an old outlaw named Bill Black that James Sharp mentioned in some of his writings. Speaking of Sharp, he stated that he remembered when they put up headboards and painted them and wrote the names of those who were buried there on them. That was over 100 years ago. I wonder if those two weathered headboards are the last remnants of that endeavor. 

As I was sitting in the Utah State Historical Society reading room in the old Rio Grande Railroad station in Salt Lake City, I came across an interesting article by James Sharp that appeared in the Sons of Utah Pioneers News magazine in 1957 entitled “Cowards never started — The weak died along the way.” This article told some very sad stories about emigrant families heading west to California that suffered terrible loss and heartbreak along the trail. 

The story he told happened in late summer of 1861 in what the station men in Rush Valley called the “Haying Time” because that is when they would cut the tall grass in the meadow near Faust or Meadow Creek Station as it was sometimes referred to back in that time, and then transport it out to the more remote desert stations like Riverbed, Dugway and Black Rock so that the horses there would have feed during the winter. 

Henry Jacob “Doc” Faust was station keeper at that time. He had hired a woman named Betsy Cook, the wife of Dave Cook, a Pony Express Rider, to cook meals for the station men, riders and Overland Stage passengers when the stage stopped there. One afternoon, two emigrant wagons camped near the station. This was not unusual as hundreds, maybe thousands of people traveled this route west to California during the late 1850s and throughout the 1860s looking for a better life. Meadow Creek and Faust’s Station were the last good grass and plentiful water that emigrants could take advantage of before topping Lookout Pass and heading out onto the desert. 

The next morning the sun was just coming up when Betsy rang the bell for breakfast. Doc Faust and the station men answered the call and were sitting around the table eating when a knock came at the door. Betsy stated that the most forlorn looking man she had ever seen was at the door and that he asked where the boss was. Doc Faust went to the door and the man told him that two girls had died during the night and that they needed some help to bury them. 

Betsy recounts the following episode: “Doc and I went with this man to their camp. Some of the people there were eating breakfast, but most seemed bewildered and just sat there. There were two little bodies about 8 or 9 years of age there. I had studied medicine a bit and decided they had died with black diphtheria and knew we had better bury them as soon as possible because it was catching. They had a campfire burning so I told one lady to put some water on and I would come back and wash the girls and dress them.” 

In the meantime, Doc Faust instructed some of the men to take some wide boards off a few of the buildings and make some boxes or small coffins to bury the girls in. Then the men dug a grave while Betsy went back to wash the girls. Betsy said: “One woman stayed with me, but it was hard to get her to talk. However, she told me that they had come from the Missouri the year before and that they had become dissatisfied and decided to go on to California. They had two wagons and in each there was a man, his wife, and six children from a few months in age to 12 years old. She said that the day before, three of the youngest, mere infants had died and they had buried them about halfway between here and the sand knolls. By that time, I had dressed one of the girls so I asked what their names were. She said, “The one you just finished is Nora, my sister’s girl. This one, Eva, is mine.”

After the little bodies were dressed, the station men came over with the makeshift coffins and put the bodies in them. The men then put the lids on and nailed them shut and carried them to the grave they had prepared as the grief-stricken parents followed behind. Doc Faust and his men put the coffins down in the grave side by side and then Doc said, “Looks like the Lord will have to take the will for the deed for we have no preachers present.”

Betsy then spoke up and said, “Not while I am here he wont!” 

She then proceeded to sing a song and said a short prayer and then the men filled in the grave. Betsy recalled that as she, Doc and the station men turned to go to the house, they discovered that the four adults had left before they had and were just driving away. 

“We didn’t even know their name,” she recalled sadly.

While thinking about this story from long ago, the sun had set and there was a strange pinkish gray hue over the Onaqui. I tried to imagine the soul shattering heartbreak that the families of these little girls felt. The guilt that must have burned the heart right out of the parents who took their little angels out along this trail to die. How could they even go on? 

It is something awful to ponder. I wonder if the deep sorrow of such an event leaves an imprint on a place. I just put bug spray all over me because the mosquitos are coming out. I can’t imagine what the pioneers went through at places such as this back in the day as the mosquitos must have eaten ‘em alive. As I crop dust myself with repellent, I wonder what is gonna kill me first….mosquitos or bug spray. I am determined to stick it out and do my writing though….mosquitos be damned….because I want to experience even a fraction of what the pioneers and pony express riders did. 

While I finished writing some of my observations, I was jamming the song “Going Mobile” by The Who.

“Well I’m gonna find a home on wheels, see how it feels Goin’ mobile, keep me moving.” 

I think everything, every experience, is better with music. 

The lights from the strange boat community that sprung up just west of here perpetually bathes the cemetery in reflected light all night every night. At first I was angry but then I considered that it may be a night light for the poor babes buried here. Hopefully it soothes their souls and they are in a better place.

I think it is important to remember those who pioneered, bled, sweated and died along the way west as they carved out a country from the wilderness. They made possible everything that we enjoy today. 

I also think it is important to learn the stories behind the nameless mounds behind a rusted cemetery fence. Names like Nora and Eva, who are likely the “Unknown Emigrant Children,” who are referenced on the large slab marker in the Faust Ranch Cemetery and realize that they had hopes and dreams, just like we do, but their dreams were all lost along the trail and left here in the bottom of Rush Valley at Faust Station. 

In next week’s article we will take a look at another tiny burial plot and the interesting and tragic stories that lay behind it out at the site of the old Lookout Station in Aunt Libby’s Pet Cemetery.

Jaromy Jessop has been a frequent contributing writer to the Transcript Bulletin. He enjoys sharing his enthusiasm for the West Desert with our readers. Jessop grew up exploring the mountains and deserts of Utah and has traveled to all 50 states, U.S. Territories and a dozen foreign countries. He can be followed on Facebook at “JD Jessop” and on his Facebook group “American Tales & Trails.” Jessop retains the rights to his writing and photographs. His permission is required for any republication.

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