On a beautiful, hot Friday in late May, Angie Black of Crescent Valley and her four children, Maddie, Blair, Jorden and Hunter worked restoring the historic Maiden’s Grave cemetery. The Maiden’s Grave cemetery rests on a bluff overlooking the Humboldt River to the north, about 2 miles South East of Beowawe, some 6 miles from the Beowawe exit, # 261, off Interstate 80 and some twelve miles to the North of Crescent Valley.
Black became inspired to donate her time to repairing the graveyard after she and her husband, Troy, and children went back East. “When we were on our vacation,” Black said, “the graveyards back there were just beautiful. They were all well taken care of. That’s what we did a lot of the time was go drive around and go check out the graveyards because they were so neat. There was so much history there. Then we came home and this was overgrown. Nobody cares.” Black and her children started Saturday, May 24, and by that Friday were on their fourth trip. With weeds overgrown on the graves, Black and children had to find burial spots and cleared the brush from numerous sites. “That row over there we’ve got them found and we’ve got crosses on them, and Jorden has some that we found over there that we’re marking with the bricks and then we’ll put gravel on them.”
Black and children have no family buried at Maiden’s Grave, but “we have tons of friends here,” eleven year old Hunter Rosecrantz said, including Archie Kincade of Crescent Valley. Hunter thinks it’s important and said, “We’re learning a lot of history and seeing how many people died in Cortez.”
SNC donated gravel and the County hauled it up, and George Fennemore of Barrick Gold is procuring paint “so we can paint all the fences so they’ll be silver again; and there’s a couple of headstones that my aunt’s going to make new headstones for; and then she’s making letters so when we repaint the cross it’ll have cedar letters that will be painted black so they’ll stick up; so later on when it needs painted again you can just take the letters off and repaint them and put them back up.” Black and the children stood in front of the towering white cross that had the faded name ‘Lucinda Duncan’ painted on it.
Lucinda Duncan was the ‘maiden’ for whom the graveyard was named. “One story said that she was a young girl but then the other story said that she was a grandmother.” Black noted that originally the graveyard was down by the railroad tracks some distance away. “They are the ones that moved it up here and they are the ones that put the cross in.” Black discovered that from Randy Brown of the Oregon Trail who oversees all the graveyards along the California/Oregon Trails. Eureka County owns the graveyard and the Crescent Valley Historical Society is in the books to maintain it.
Black will meet with Fennemore next week to go over what the cemetery needs. Eureka County Public Works Director, Ron Damele got Black land sterilizer “so after we do get the weeds cleaned off we can put the weed killer in so hopefully it’ll stay for a couple of years. So, that helps.”
“There’s a lot of kids in here. I’m really surprised how many kids that are in here from babies, to four year olds and six year olds. There’s a lot of kids in here. They go back clear to the 1800s.” Black said one grave doesn’t say Beowawe/Crescent Valley. “It says ‘Cortez, Nevada,’ and there’s a lot of Ireland, Germans, a lot of foreigners.”
Black said she and the children found the Indian graveyard while driving back the other night. “It’s beautiful. It’s well kept. I’d heard about it but never seen it until the other night when we were leaving.” Black said, “They were in there putting new flowers on it when we went through the other night and there’s the Chinese graveyard up by Cortez and then there’s another graveyard back there.”
Black’s trying to find the funding “so we can go in and have headstones made for all the unmarked ones” once she figures out how many there are as graves are uncovered as they clear debris. Black likes doing the volunteer work. “It’s kind of my and the kids’ family project. It’s quiet up here. I like it up here. It’s peaceful. I look at it this way. You have to do something good once a year. This is our good deed. Every good dead, you get something in return.”
Little Maddie Black agreed with her mother and brothers that putting time into caring for the graveyard is a good thing.
A Senate Report of 2005 related to the title transfer of Maiden’s Grave to Eureka County by the Secretary of the Interior notes, “’The Maiden’s Grave’ is the final resting place of Lucinda Duncan who on August 15, 1863, died on her way to the gold and silver fields of Nevada. Mrs. Duncan at 71 was ‘the mother of the wagon train’ which consisted largely of her seven surviving children, their spouses and a multitude of grandchildren. Following her death, the wagon train held a ceremony and their leaving was memorialized by a member of the party: ‘…we paid our last debt & respect to the remains of the departed mother. There upon that wild & lonely spot, we left her, until Gabriel shall sound his trumpet in the last day. The scene was truly a sad one to leave a beloved mother on the wild and desolate plains. A board with the name of the deceased was put up at the head & boulder was laid over the grave to keep wolves from scratching in it. After this the train moved on.’”
The Senate Report noted, “Today, the site continues to receive occasional burials.
Therefore, it is considered a ‘modern cemetery’ and does not qualify for the National Register of Historic Places. The BLM, through its planning process, has identified the cemetery as suitable for disposal and the county has indicated a strong interest in taking responsibility for this parcel.”
“While we would typically expect to receive market value for such a transfer, we understand the unique circumstances in this case, and the unique needs of Eureka County. Under other circumstances, we might have considered a Recreation and Public Purposes (R&PP) Act conveyance to lower the cost to the county, but the need for permanency in this transfer prevents this from being a viable option, thus the need for legislative intervention. We appreciate this opportunity to work cooperatively with local interests to the betterment of the community.”
To reach Maiden’s Grave, where one can see on occasion Angie Black and her children working in the sun and heat restoring the beauty of the cemetery, and help weed if you so choose, or help in any other way, take the Beowawe/Crescent Valley exit off of I-80 and head South towards Beowawe; as you’re heading south on Hwy. 306, cross the railroad tracks and turn left on the gravel road. Drive along the gravel road a few miles and you’ll see a dirt road on the right that curves up the hillside and you’ll find yourself at the Maiden’s Grave which has a beautiful unspoiled view of the Humboldt River and there you can revel in the history of the California Trail.