First described in 1842 by explorer John C. Fremont, Warm Springs, near present Guernsey, Wyo., is one of the most famous water holes on the Oregon-California Trail. Many emigrants stopped here to rest, bathe, wash clothes and carve their names on nearby sandstone bluffs.
Out of nearly 200 people who died from murder or other homicides on the Oregon Trail in the mid-1800s, only one lies in a grave with a known location. Missourian Ephraim Brown, a leading figure on a wagon train bound for California, was killed near South Pass in 1857 in what appears to have been a bitter family dispute. Details, however—who killed him, why and how—are frustratingly sketchy.
The Sixth Crossing of the Sweetwater offered wagon-train emigrants good water again after 16 dry and dusty miles. Most camped at the crossing. Here, in 1856, 500 members of the Willie Handcart company, most of them Mormon converts from England, were found starving, freezing and dying by rescuers from Salt Lake City.
In 1862, Charlotte Dansie and her family sailed from England with hundreds of other Mormon converts, then gathered with others near Omaha to set out for Salt Lake—all while having a difficult pregnancy with her eighth child. Her descendants managed to relocate her grave in 1939 near Pacific Springs.
The main branch of the Oregon Trail crossed the Big Sandy River at present Farson, Wyo. State Highway 28 running southwest from Farson continues to parallel the route. Swales are often visible alongside the highway, sometimes to the right, sometimes to the left.
The California Gold Rush lured many men away from their families. One was Charles Hatch of Wisconsin, who appears to have died of a fever after a June snowstorm near what’s now Farson, Wyo. His grave is on a bluff by the Big Sandy River near the Oregon/California Trail.