Ned and Esther Buchanan were already in their 50s when they decided to begin new life in San Francisco. Leaving New Haven, Connecticut by covered wagon, they joined the caravan in Independence, Missouri. But disaster struck when Esther died of snakebite in Wyoming. That left Ned with a terrible dilemma. He couldn’t go back. He had no life in New Haven without his beloved Esther. But he couldn’t move forward. To make a new life in San Francisco without her was unthinkable.
He buried her where she died, then used her grave as the site to build a cabin. Her grave lay in the backyard, with a wooden grave marker. Everyday he spoke to her.
There was a creek nearby. He planted a vegetable garden, and tried to feed himself by hunting, fishing, and trapping.
As caravans moved through, he traded in the pioneers. They were a source of news. Some of them were sick. He prayed over a boy dying of scarlet fever and a girl dying of typhoid.
One mother was penniless. He hadn’t money enough to spare. He had barely enough to tide himself over for the fearsome winter. He couldn’t afford to share what little he had. But his heart went out to her, and having nothing more to live for, he gave her all he had.
Late fall, when the next caravan came through, after a snowstorm, they found the cabin empty. In the backyard they found the frozen body of Ned, seated on the ground, with his back propped up against the grave marker, clutching a Bible in his icy hands. He and Esther made the journey after all, just by a different route.