Geophysical Investigations of Four Suspected Pioneer Grave Locations Along the Oregon and California National Historic Trails, Marshall and Pottawatomie Counties, Kansas

Author(s): Steven L. De Vore; Robert K. Nickel

Year: 2003


The November 2000 and August 2001 archeological and geophysical investigations of grave sites along the Oregon and California National Historic Trails in northeastern Kansas was initiated by the National Park Service in response to a request from the KANZA Chapter of the Oregon and California Trails Association. A meeting and site tour were held with the members of KANZA Chapter and the Midwest Archeological Center Archeological Assistance and Partnership Program archeologist between May 8 and May 10, 2000. This visit was to assess the feasibility of the application of geophysical techniques to the search for historic graves along the trails in northeastern Kansas. Five possible grave locations were visited: three in Marshall County (14MH322, 14MH323, and 14MH324—the Alcove Spring site) and two in Pottawatomie County (14PO312—the Cholera Cemetery site, and 14PO406). The KANZA Chapter members felt that these locations contained graves associated with travel along the Oregon and California Trails. Geophysical investigations, including magnetic gradient, resistance, conductivity, and ground penetrating radar surveys, were conducted at four of the five sites identified by the KANZA Chapter members. During the investigations, 1,100 m² were surveyed with a Geoscan Research FM36 fluxgate gradiometer and with a Sensors and Software Noggin 250 Smart Cart ground-penetrating radar system (Nickel 2001). Eight hundred square meters were covered with a Geoscan Research RM15 resistance meter and PA5 multiprobe array, and 300 m² were covered with a Geonics EM38 ground conductivity meter. The surveys resulted in the identification of subsurface magnetic gradient anomalies at Sites 14MH322, 14MH323, 14PO312, and 14PO406. Some of the anomalies at Sites 14MH323 and 14PO312 might be associated with unmarked graves. None of the ground-penetrating radar grid surveys yielded patterns that compare with the model that was constructed from data that associate with the Prather headstone at Site 14PO312. The multiplexer resistance surveys at Sites 14MH323 and 14PO312 appear to offer some information about grave locations. Conductivity surveys at Sites 14MH322 and 14PO406 yielded inconclusive results concerning the nature of the cairns at Site 14MH322 and the upright stone at Site 14PO406.

This report provides an analysis of the geophysical data collected during four days at the sites. Since Sites 14MH323 and 14PO312 are associated with known and marked graves, it is not recommended that any additional archeological investigations in the form of excavations be conducted at these sites at the present time. Should there be any development on or near these sites, then a research design needs to be developed for the implementation of archeological excavations to determine the nature and extent of these two cemeteries along the Oregon Trail. At Sites 14MH322 and 14PO406, limited excavations around the rock features should be conducted to determine the nature of these features. A research design for the testing of the two sites needs to be developed in coordination with the Kansas State Historic Preservation Office and State Archaeologist Office staff.

Cite this Record

Geophysical Investigations of Four Suspected Pioneer Grave Locations Along the Oregon and California National Historic Trails, Marshall and Pottawatomie Counties, Kansas. Steven L. De Vore, Robert K. Nickel. Midwest Archeological Center Technical Report ,90. Lincoln, Nebraska: national park service. 2003 ( tDAR id: 371793) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8GB227S

Spatial Coverage

min long: -98.262; min lat: 38.411 ; max long: -94.834; max lat: 40.313 ;

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