Tuesday, January 24, 2023

It all Began with a Headstone: Who was Jane Kirkham?

Post by Doris McCraw aka Angela Raines 

Photo property of the author

Jane Kirkham - It all began with a headstone. 

Image from the Loveland Reporter-Herald

Along Highway 24 near the junction of Highway 82 on the east side of the Arkansas River, you will find a lone headstone. This area is near the old stage road between Buena Vista and Leadville. Should you get out of your car and walk to this small white grave marker you would read the following:

My wife — Jane Kirkham, Died March 7, 1879, Aged 38 years, 3 months, 7 days.

But who was Jane Kirkham? No one seems to know for sure. Therein is where myths, legends, and stories begin. This post hopes to look at some of the more prevalent stories and a couple of possibilities.

Searches so far the exact date the stories began has not been found. What has been found are various stories about who she was and why the headstone is located where it is.

In John Halfor's book "Strange but True, Colorado: Weird Tales of the Wild West" he tells the tales of a gold shipment being held up in a spot where there were other hold-ups. The guards shot the robber and when they pulled the mask off the robber they saw it was a woman. She also was the wife of one of the guards who was so ashamed he buried where she fell. 

Most of the stories follow this story with the 'husband' being the sheriff, or some other authority figure who kills his 'wife'. 

It's the book "Forgotten Tales of Colorado" by Stephanie Waters that has the sheriff pursuing the bandit and bullets ricocheting off rocks like lightning that really makes it 'come alive'. She ends her story with the line, "...but at least he had the decency to erect the lonesome tombstone..."

Lest you think the story ends there, Jane Kirkham's name shows up in a court case in the town of Rosita in Custer County as having property in that town. 

There are also those who have tried to find out more about the person whose name appears on that stone. There are no newspaper reports about the stories mentioned earlier in the post, nor does her name appear in any census records in that area. 

There is also a story that she was a woman who was riding the stage and died in childbirth and they buried her there.

One person suggests, after doing ancestor research, her name was Eliza Jane Harris, born in 1840 in Iowa. Here is the link to that story: https://www.tamatoledonews.com/opinion/editorials/2022/10/21/a-history-mystery/

A YouTube video from 2018: https://youtu.be/FQmzW7E2OnY

I leave it to you and your research or imagination to answer the question - Who is Jane Kirkham?

Until next time: stay safe, stay happy, and stay healthy.



  1. My father's grandmother died at age 39. I said, "Oh, she died so young." And he replied that no, back then, at 39, she was already considered an "old woman." The robber story is exciting, but I imagine the woman dying of childbirth is more likely the case.

    1. I agree with you. There are some who think not one is buried there. It does make for some fun research. Doris

  2. That is an intriguing story. There's story fodder there... ha

  3. Replies
    1. When I started on the research journey I had no idea it would be this 'convoluted'. History and music offer so many ways to get creative with the storytelling. Thanks for stopping by. Doris