The story of Grave Hollow --- all or part depending upon time frame of that lovely little valley west and southwest of Chariton that cuts down northwesterly from the great Mormon Trail ridge to White Breast Creek at the base of Highway 34's "White Breast Hill" --- is as old as Lucas County itself.
If you've not heard it, go to the interpretive panel next to the giant Mormon Trail marker at the southwest corner of the Lucas County Courhouse lawn and read it:
"West of the city of Chariton, one of the scenic roads of Lucas County passes down through an area known as Grave Hollow, a declivity between the wooded hills, gradually sloping down to the Whitebreast River. Grave Hollow came by its name by an unfortunate accident.
"A family named Gabbut was making the long trek along the Northern Trace of the Mormon Trail in October, 1846. After crossing the Chariton River, Sarah Gabbut tried to get back into her wagon but slipped and fell. Startled, the oxen bolted and the heavy wagon ran over her abdomen. She lingered for an hour and then died. The company carted her body until the end of the days' travel and buried her at their camp in Grave Hollow."
There are a couple of inaccuracies in this account. The White Breast is a creek, not a river, for example. And the party of Saints that Sarah was a part of did not cross the Chariton River --- the entire point of the Mormon Trail route through Chariton was to avoid crossing our namesake stream --- but did water their livestock in it. Finally, Sarah's surname is misspelled and that makes tracking her down a little complicated.
Sarah's death was recorded in his journal by Thomas Bullock, another member of the party, and a shortened version of that entry dated Oct. 30, 1846, also is part of the interpretive panel --- now somewhat difficult to read because the fiberglass that covers it is badly deteriorated:
"... his wife Sarah Gabbut attempting to get back into the Wagon, laid hold of a churn dasher which being cracked, gave way, and she fell against the Oxen, which so startled them, that they started off at a full run. She fell to the ground and the Wheels of the Wagon passed over her loins or kidneys. She exclaimed "Oh dear, I am dying." She lingered until 5 min. to 1 and breathed her last. We continued over hill and dale until we came to one of the tributaries of the 'White Breast'... Laid Sister Gabbut out in her robes, and part prepared a grave."
Sister "Gabbut" actually was Sarah Rigby Gabbott and she along with husband, Edward, and children were among the 157 or so people and 28 wagons that constituted the Orville M. Allen relief company, sent back to Montrose --- just across the river from Nauvoo --- by Brigham Young from Winter Quarters during the fall of 1846 to gather up and bring west before winter "poor saints," refugees from Nauvoo who did not have sufficient resources to travel on their own.
The Allen company left Montrose, headed west, on October 9 and on October 30, reached the current site of Chariton, coming in from the southeast on what we now call the Blue Grass Road.
The livestock was in need of water, so instead of following the usual route --- northwesterly through what now is Chariton, crossing near its head the small stream that now dammed forms Crystal Lake and then turning southwest again across what now is the Chariton Airport grounds --- the party turned down a draw to the river bottom. Just a guess, but the Saints could have taken the route to the bottoms currently followed by Highway 34 just north of the Chariton Cemetery.
After watering the livestock, the company made its way across the somewhat marshy bottom and was climbing the hill on the far side to the trail ridge when the fatal accident occurred.
Mrs. Gabbott's remains were placed in a wagon and carried onward that afternoon until camp was made that evening in what became known as Grave Hollow.
Exactly why the Allen Company descended into this valley just isn't known. The Mormon Trail's primary route was a short distance to the south, always on the high ground of trail ridge until it exited Lucas County west of Last Chance and entered what now is Clarke County. In that manner, nearly all hills were avoided.
As the journal entry states, that evening a grave was partially prepared and Sister Gabbott laid out in her robes. On the morning of October 31st, before continuing on their way, the grave was finished and funeral services were held.
The intimidating hill the party had to climb in order to exit the hollow was part of the collective memory of Sarah's fellow travelers. And if you want to get a little idea of what they faced, drive out west of town, first on Highway 34 and then on the county road, 480th Lane, pause in front of Lisa and Alan Umbenhower's place deep in the hollow and look up to the west. It's still an intimidating hill.
The location of Sarah's grave has long since been lost, of course, and by now most have forgotten that a place called Grave Hollow still exists. The Allen Company reached Winter Quarters safely during late November, 1846, and eventually most of those who had traveled with it through Lucas County reached Utah.
In Lucas County, we're more likely to remember the Freeman Nickerson party, another company of poor saints, who left the shores of the Mississippi River not long after the Allen Company had departed but too late to reach Winter Quarters before winter closed the trail west. The Nickersons were forced to stop at Chariton Point and spend the winter, thus entering Lucas County lore as the first non-natives to live here for any length of time.
I'll follow this up with a couple of other posts, one about the Gabbotts' long journey from England to Grave Hollow; and another about some of the permanent settlers who eventually made Grave Hollow their home.