Rebecca Burdick Winters

Original Gravesite with original Real Daughter marker

Current Real Daughter marker

Twenty thousand pioneers lost their lives in the effort to reach the Golden West. They had no means of marking the graves of the dead in those prairie stretches. Only one grave out of all twenty thousand, so far as we know, is marked. This is the grave of a pioneer mother near Scottsbluff, Nebraska.

Over the years Rebecca Winters' grave has served as a reminder of the hardship on the old Mormon Pioneer Trail. It would be impossible to know how many people have visited the site over the years, but her grave has had a profound effect on many.

Rebecca was part of an early Mormon expedition to the Great Salt Lake area of Utah, when she contracted cholera and died as the group passed through Nebraska's western Panhandle region.

Rebecca was born December 16, 1802 at Cayuga, New York to Gideon and Catherine Burdick. Gideon Burdick was a drummer boy in George Washington's army. She married Hiram Winters in 1824. They had five children: Oscar, Alonzo, Hiram, Rebecca and Helen.

While en route to Utah, many members of the wagon train Rebecca was traveling with contracted cholera. She helped care for them until she became afflicted and passed away on August 15.

According to the testimony of her husband, Winters was buried wrapped in blankets and placed between two levels of wood planks to protect her body.

A family friend, William Fletcher Reynolds, obtained a steel wagon wheel rim that had been found on the trail, and spent the night chiseling "Rebecca Winters - Aug 1852 - Age 50" on the rim. His young daughter, Ellis Reynolds, held a candle to give him light.

Lorenzo DeMott homesteaded the land where the grave stands. He included a provision that the grave would not be disturbed when he sold the Burlington Railroad Co. a right of way through his land, but the 1899 survey would have taken the line directly over the grave. DeMott spent a great amount of time legally fighting the railroad which was required to survey again.

In 1902, a granite headstone was placed to the west of the iron rim by family members. "She died a faithful Latter-day Saint August 15, 1852, aged 50 years, while making that memorable journey across the plains with her people to find a new home in the far distant Salt Lake Valley. She gave her life for her faith. Her reward will be according to her works," is the epitaph.

The Katahdin Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution has maintained the gravesite since forming in 1921. In 1929, the chapter placed a Real Daughter Marker at the site. The marker was stolen during WWII possibly to sell the bronze plaque. Several years later the chapter replaced the marker with the one seen today.

In 1994, Burlington Northern officials decided to relocate the grave due to its proximity to the railroad tracks. The grave was located just 6 feet from the tracks.

The new grave site, located about 900 feet east of the original grave, was rededicated on June 22, 1996. It looks identical to the old one, with the original wagon wheel iron and the two monuments. 


New Gravesite

Map to Gravesite in Scottsbluff, NE

Rebecca Winters' descendants

Granite Headstone placed in 1902




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Last Updated: November 2009