Fagan's Grave on the Cherokee Trail

Even before the 1859 Pikes Peak gold rush there were reports of a fresh grave high on the Platte-Arkansas divide. The grave lay beside the Cherokee Trail in what is now central Colorado. It contained the body of a man named Fagan. He was a scout or soldier of some kind, it was said, perhaps one of Captain Marcy's men. He died during a snowstorm. Froze to death he did, back in 1858. His grave was covered with light-colored rocks that gleamed in the moonlight and flashed a warning to all who traveled the old trail.

Fagan's Grave

There were those among the mountain men who claimed that Fagan had been buried alive. His ghost, they said, would often appear in full army dress to stand sentinel over the grave. Woe to the mountaineer or trader foolish enough to camp for the night near the old grave. Fagan's ghost he would surely see.

When the gold seekers came they too noticed the grave. They camped near it by the tens of thousands. Those who kept diaries gave descriptions of the rock-covered mound and of the marker at its head. "Michael Fagan," it read, "May 2, 1858."

Others came over the years: trappers, hunters, settlers, farmers, ranchers. All in turn saw the grave and wondered who lay buried there. Stories were told. Investigations were made. But never once were the remains of the dead man disturbed.

For over 140 years Fagan's grave has lain unmolested in a peaceful valley of Black Forest, at a place where the majestic pines give way to the grasses of the high Colorado prairie. A rivulet called West Kiowa Creek waters this prairie and meanders ever so slowly past the lonely grave. To one side rises a perpendicular hill of pine and rock known as "La Ceja" (The Eyebrow) to the early Spanish traders, as "Point of Rocks" to the gold seekers of 1859, and as "Wheeler's Bluff" to the later ranchers.

The grave itself remains covered with a dozen large and small rocks. These rocks are all white in color, except for a headstone of distinctive brown. Just to the west of the grave is the gentle depression of the old Cherokee Trail. The swale of this old trail can still be readily traced from its crossing of West Kiowa Creek, past the gravesite, to where it fades into the distant northern hillsides.

The man who is buried here beside the old trail has been given many names over the years: O'Falley, Fayn, Michael Fagan, Charles Michael Fagan. The date of his death has been listed from as early as 10 May 1857 to as late as 6 May 1858. The two facts commonly agreed upon by early visitors were that the dead man had been a member of the Marcy-Loring military expedition and that he had frozen to death during a great blizzard in the late 1850's.

Many of the secrets surroundng Fagan's grave may never be known. Who he was; where he was born; what type of person he became: these are facts yet shrouded in the mists of time and buried with him in the long ago. Perhaps this is as it should be.

But the events surrounding Fagan's death - the military expedition, the storm, the burial, the comments of the early graveside visitors - are all matters of historical record. From the journals of the Marcy-Loring Expedition, from the diaries of the gold seekers and the stories of the early pioneers, it is possible to blend together a composite picture that shows the significance of this old grave and of the man buried within it.

Next Page

/pictures/whiteball.gif The Marcy-Loring Expedition

/pictures/whiteball.gif The Trip North

/pictures/whiteball.gif The Snow Storm

Coming of the Gold Seekers

/pictures/whiteball.gif The Fifty-Niners

/pictures/whiteball.gif Rumors of Whiskey and Ghosts

The Hunters

/pictures/whiteball.gif The Settlers

/pictures/whiteball.gif Fagan's Grave Today

/pictures/whiteball.gif Related Links

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