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Relatives of Mormon pioneer ask to relocate Nebraska grave

November 15, 2018

This Nov. 14, 2018 photo shows the grave of Mormon Trail pioneer Rebecca Winters in east of Scottsbluff, Neb. The Scotts Bluff County Board of Commissioners is forming a committee to look into the request to move Rebecca Winters' burial site near Scottsbluff. The National Park Service says Winters was among thousands of Mormon pioneers in the 1800s to die from disease while migrating west in search of religious freedom. (Irene North/The Star-Herald via AP)

SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. (AP) — Descendants of a Mormon pioneer are asking county officials to move the woman’s grave and historical markers to another location in the Nebraska Panhandle.

The Scotts Bluff County Board of Commissioners is forming a committee to look into the request to move Rebecca Winters’ burial site near Scottsbluff.

Winters was among thousands of Mormon pioneers in the 1800s to die from disease while migrating west in search of religious freedom, according to the National Park Service. She died of cholera in 1852.

Two of Winters’ oldest living relatives, Robert Cottom and Jay Hardy, said the site has drastically changed in the last decade due to a four-lane highway, increased train activity, more industrial development and a lack of maintenance.

“The family wonders what the area will look like in another 20 years,” they wrote in a letter to the commissioners. “We are looking to relocate the site because the area looks very unsafe and has poor visibility.”

Cottom and Hardy have requested to relocate Winters to the Legacy of the Plains Museum in Gering.

They noted that $3,000 in local gambling proceeds had already been designated to improve the current burial site.

Museum representative Rick Myers said there was some initial resistance to moving the grave from the north side of the North Platte River, the traditional Mormon Trail route, to the south side. But historians agreed that Winters’ grave is more emblematic of the entire westward migration in the 1800s, Myers said.

The museum supports the relocation but doesn’t have funding to assist, he said.

The museum has on display a mural depicting Winters and a replica of a quilt that she was buried in.

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