ABOUT The Relocation
What’s wrong with the current site?
The current gravesite is located on land owned by Scotts Bluff County. The site is not maintained and the county’s Board of Commissioners have stated they lack the resources for any future improvements or maintenance. They have also expressed safety concerns given the site’s proximity to major highways and a railroad line. Because of these issues, it has been suggested by some members of the board that the site may be closed.
During recent visits to the grave, family members have noted that since Rebecca’s reburial in the mid-1990s, the site has been encroached on by an expanded Highway 26 (the main route through the North Platte Valley) and the South Beltline Highway. Coal train traffic on the nearby railroad is now nearly constant, and the area immediately surrounding the gravesite is seeing a rise in industrial and commercial activities. Besides a lack of general maintenance, there has also been minor vandalism at the site.
What are the options?
Rebecca’s oldest living next of kin have been contacted and permission has been given to relocate the grave to a maintained area which is safer for visitors. Some of these options include:
A site at Legacy of the Plains Museum in nearby Gering, Nebraska.
Moving the grave to Fairview Cemetery in Scottsbluff, Nebraska.
Moving the grave to an undetermined cemetery in Utah.
There are a number of pros and cons associated with each option.
The Legacy of the Plains Museum is located near Scotts Bluff National Monument and offers high visitor traffic. The museum also has the equipment and resources available to maintain the gravesite, which would include most historical elements (such as the section of railroad track and water pump) found at the current site. But, moving Rebecca’s grave to the museum would remove it from its historical context along the Mormon Trail and place it along the separate Oregon Trail. (The museum is about 4 miles away from the current gravesite, and the drive is just over 10 minutes.) Long-term preservation of the grave at the museum is not guaranteed as the site and its maintenance will be subject to the museum board’s control, budget and volunteer workforce.
Relocating the grave to a cemetery would provide a long-term resting place for Rebecca. Scottsbluff’s Fairview Cemetery is about a five-minute drive from the current gravesite and is meticulously maintained. But again, the grave is removed from its historical context along the trailside. Furthermore, the historical elements (such as the section of railroad track and water pump) could not be included in a cemetery reburial. A relocation to a cemetery in Utah would likely incur the highest cost of all the choices presented here.
Options for the grave are not limited to the choices above, although those presented here are considered the most likely to meet the goals of maintenance and preservation.
Will the Historical Marker be moved as well?
History Nebraska, a state agency, has indicated the Rebecca Winters Historical Marker will remain alongside the Mormon Trail and will only be relocated slightly if the current site is closed. It will not follow the grave to a new location.
Is keeping her buried at the current site an option?
Yes, as far as the family understands Rebecca’s grave can continue to remain at its current location alongside the Mormon Trail. Keep in mind we have been told there will be no county maintenance and the site may be closed off.
Latter-day Saint wards in the area have offered to help with occasional maintenance, although permission from and cooperation with the county would still be required. A working relationship between county leadership, local Latter-day Saints, and Rebecca’s descendants must be developed to ensure the site is maintained and not closed off (which so far has been unattainable).
I am a descendant of Rebecca; can I comment on the options?
In order to afford descendants of Rebecca Winters the opportunity to comment on the relocation, this website—with an accompanying survey—was created. The survey could only be open for a limited time and that period has now passed. We did our best to get the word out about the survey, including involving the local media in Utah. (As an example, see KSL's story: Future Of Pioneer Grave Along Mormon Trail In Nebraska Now In Question)
Did you miss out on the chance to comment? Stay tuned for updates and other possible opportunities to help!