Road To California’s Gold Rush Went Through Wyoming
The National Road, the first federally sponsored highway, was busy during the California Gold Rush, 1849-50. Of course, that only went to St. Louis and it was even slower going in future Wyoming.
Some of them started from the towns and villages of Wayne County, Indiana. Of about 110 graves that can be identified on the trails over the West, 53 are in Wyoming. Three are graves of Wayne County people. Two of those are in Converse County, a mere eight miles apart. That's just a bit closer than their homes had been in Indiana. There was no other connection between the two, who died in 1850, and in 1864.
If you love the history of the Cowboy State, you may already love a wonderful tool called wyohistory.org. There you can find a more detailed story behind that third grave of a former Wayne County resident - Daniel Lantz. He is buried about five miles north of present day Granger, Wyoming, near the near the west border of Sweetwater County.
Daniel Lantz had a wagon making shop attached to his two-story home on Centerville, Indiana’s Main Street (The National Road). The Lantz residence is a landmark there to this day.
By 1850 Daniel and Mary Lantz were parents of five surviving children. That spring, only father and husband Lantz joined a company of male friends from Centerville, including a diarist - James Seaton. They arrived in St. Joseph, Missouri, where they celebrated the Fourth of July.
All seemed well, until the following day when Seaton wrote: “This day D. Lantz was taken quite sick.” On July 6 three more in the company also got the “flu” or dysentery. All except Lantz improved and eventually recovered. On July 7, Lantz thought he was able to go, so they went on to the Green River.
On July 8 they made it to the Blacks Fork of the Green River. Seaton wrote, “As Lantz is getting worse it was agreed to stop until there was a change in him for better or worse.”
At Blacks Fork three days later Daniel Lantz died. Seaton wrote: “Mr. Lantz was buried near the road in a very decent manner. His grave was marked by a neat stone. ...” Someone in the company carved an inscription on the headstone: “Daniel Lantz of Centreville, Wayne County, Ind. Died July 12, 1850. Age 47 years.”
On July 13 the company rolled on toward California and Seaton wrote: “This morning we again started but with feelings of regret for having to leave a friend behind.”
It’s not known when Mary Lantz learned of her husband’s death, but on Oct. 23 a death notice appeared in the Richmond Palladium. It reads in part: “Mr Lautz was an honest, industrious man, and was acquiring at his business a competency before he left home—but ambitious for sudden wealth he concluded to try his fortune in the far West.”
Wyohistory.org finishes the story, "Like many men in the Gold Rush, Lantz gambled and lost."