I now think that Nellie was still in the hospital as of the 1900 U.S. Census. This record lists her birthday as September of 1858, which would have made her 27 years old when she was “adjudged insane” in 1886, which matches the newspaper report. It also lists her as “Ellen,” which matches the tombstone. This record also indicates she is the mother of 3, with 2 surviving children (which would account for John’s death at 6 months). So, I think the date of birth in the cemetery is wrong, but that it is her grave, and this is she, in 1900.
There are definitely many remaining questions. A closer look reveals she reports she is married in 1900, but the Family Search HTML record shows she is married for one year. My understanding is that her husband, Edward, left Kansas and remarried. Perhaps they divorced and Nellie remarried, too. But on closer inspection, I’m not so sure the “1” interpreted by FamilySearch (either an indexer or an automatic OCR system) is correct.
It sure looks like a “1,” (circled in red on the black line) but it has tails on either side, and the vast majority of the “1s” in the document do not, such as that just to its upper-right, also circled in red. It’s also interesting that at least 7 of these people have this two-tailed “1” listed as their “number of years married.” So, there was either something in the hospital water in 1899, or this character is not a “1,” but something else. Perhaps shorthand for “person doesn’t know how long they’ve been married,” or something like that…??
I feel I now know where she is buried, that she was in the hospital until her death. But what really led to her being “adjudged insane?” I’m contacting the Kansas State Historical Society to see what parts of her records I can view, and I’ll track down her husband and kids (one of them being my great-grandmother Mabel), but I’ve a feeling Nellie will remain largely a mystery to me.
Great fodder for writing. But sad.