A family who searched two years for the lost pioneer grave of an ancestor finally placed a marker near the Wyoming site on Saturday - the 138th anniversary of the woman's death.
Both American and Welsh descendants of Catherine Jones Bennett were involved in researching and contributing money and historical photographs in the search. The aged Bennett, of North Wales, died Sept. 26, 1860, while crossing the plains with a group of Mormon settlers on their way to Utah."It was fantastic. There were over 200 people there, all descendants from Texas, California, Nevada, Idaho and Colorado (and Utah)," descendant Mabel Bennett Williams, Spanish Fork, said Monday.
"This was a very spiritual experience as well. We felt the spiritual presence of those from the other side."
The death of her great-great-grandmother is mentioned in the pioneer journal of Joel Hills Johnson, who wrote the Mormon hymn, "High on a Mountain Top." Bennett's death is also mentioned on the gravestone of her husband, Benjamin, in Holden, Millard County. Prior to discovering the gravestone, family members weren't aware that an ancestor died crossing the plains.
Johnson's entry said Bennett was buried near a Pony Express station on the Muddy, a creek in Wyoming about a 100 miles northeast of Salt Lake City. The station is no longer standing, but the foundation is still there amid some timbers, said descendant Dale Boman of Salem.
The Sept. 27, 1860, entry reads, "Started before breakfast, traveld about 8 or 9 miles to the Station on the Muddy near some Springs where we campt for the balance of the day and night, at this place we buried Sister Bennett an aged saint from England who died the day before."
It was at a family reunion in Holden two years ago that Boman first became aware that he had an ancestor buried on the plains. Wanting to find out more about it, he searched records at the LDS Church Historical Department in Salt Lake City, where he found Johnson's entry.
He then went to the Internet for information on Muddy Creek and the nearby ghost town of Piedmont, then the closest settled area to the Pony Express station between Evanston and Fort Bridger. After making numerous phone calls from information he found on the Internet, he located descendants of the people who ran the station still living in the area.
The Pony Express station, like others across the West, was in operation only a year, from 1860 to 1861. The station's descendants helped him locate the site, he said.
Meanwhile, Williams had made contact with relatives in Wales. They came to the United States to visit and were with Boman and Williams during the initial discovery of the old Pony Express station and the general area of the unmarked gravesite of their common ancestor.
Saturday, relatives in Wales participated in the ceremony via cell phone. "This was hands across the water, so to speak," Williams said.
About three years after Catherine Jones Bennett died, her pioneer son and his family passed by her grave, not knowing she was buried there, records indicate. The family didn't learn of her death until they reached Salt Lake City. Other members of her family also emigrated from Wales.
A large, single rock, similar to rocks some distance away, marks what may be her grave, Williams said, and that's where the marker was placed Saturday by both Welsh and American family members.