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Her Coffin Was Meant To Preserve Her: 165 Years Later Coffin Found At Construction Site. Is It Her?

She died in 1857 at the age of 30 years old on an old pioneer trail. She was on her way back home and did not make it.

When unsuspecting construction crews were building a new structure, they did not expect to find what is thought to be her preserved cast iron casket. Who was she? Why was she in this construction site?

Kate Kingsbury was a pioneer of New Mexico. Even in death, she cannot catch a break. Her life was full of hardship and illness.

Who is she?

John Kingsbury was a Santa Fe businessman in the early 1850s. Soon after John and Kate Kingsbury were married in the East. John took Kate back to Santa Fe in the spring of 1854, hoping that the New Mexico dry climate could help her Consumption (aka Tuberculosis).

She arrived in Santa Fe in June 1854 and her son was born in January of the following year. George Kingsbury was born with a physical defect and didn’t live beyond his second birthday.

In letters that mention Kate, it is indicated that she suffered from having few friends and was often deeply depressed. It was apparent Kate was not getting better being in the dry New Mexico environment. So, John sent her and the baby back East in the spring of 1856. The baby died that July.

Kate’s illness worsens and she we not expected to live much longer. John was determined to bury her in Santa Fe. So, they planned a return trip in the spring of 1857. On this Santa Fe Trail journey, he packed a zinc metal coffin known as a Fisk to preserve her body.

On the evening of June 4, 1857, on the bank of the Arkansas River in Kansas on the Santa Fe Trail, Kate began suffering violent breathing fits. By dawn the next day she was died.

Was Kate’s Body Moved?

Kate’s headstone can be found in the corner of the derelict Odd Fellows Cemetery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her headstone is considered the oldest known one in Santa Fe. But there are questions if she is even buried under that headstone.

Kate and her metal coffin were first buried in another Odd Fellows Cemetery on the other side of town. The original Odd Fellows Cemetery in downtown Santa Fe is located where a parking lot, a recent construction project, and the Santa Fe Scottish Rite Temple are today.

Her Coffin Was Meant To Preserve Her: 165 Years Later Coffin Found At Construction Site. Is It Her?

Location of original Old Fellow Cemetery in the heart of town.Photo byGenerations Found YouTube

By 1884, the original old cemetery fell into disarray. A new graveyard was commissioned outside of town and bodies were moved. Sometime between 1890 and 1903, Kate’s remains were exhumed, and she was thought to have been moved to the new cemetery. Which is where her headstone is today. See below about the headstone’s fate.

But during recent construction at the original cemetery site, they found a metal coffin (Fisk) and partial remains. Experts think they might be Kate’s. See video.

It is believed that only part or none of Kate resides under the old headstone in the newer derelict Odd Fellows Cemetery. It is sad to think how hard John worked to bring her home in one piece only to have her lost to time.

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