History of the Donner Party

For some years he received a small allowance from the State of
California; but after a time this appropriation expired, and was never
thereafter renewed. The later years of the pioneer’s life were passed at
Litiz, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and his time was devoted to
endeavoring to obtain from Congress an appropriation of $50,000, as
compensation for the expenditures he made for the relief of the early
settlers of California. His death occurred at Washington, D. C., on the
eighteenth day of June, 1880, and his remains were laid at rest in
Litiz, Pennsylvania. The termination of this grand, heroic life, under
circumstances of abject poverty and destitution, forms as strange and
mournful a story as can be found in the annals of the present age.

In concluding this chapter, it may not be inappropriate to quote from a
private letter written by Mrs. S. O. Houghton, nŽe Eliza P. Donner,
immediately after the General’s death. It aptly illustrates the feeling
entertained toward him by the members of the Donner Party. Writing from
San Jose, she says:

“I have been sad, oh! so sad, since tidings flashed across the continent
telling the friends of General Sutter to mourn his loss. In tender and
loving thought I have followed the remains to his home, have stood by
his bier, touched his icy brow, and brushed back his snowy locks, and
still it is hard for me to realize that he is dead; that he who in my
childhood became my ideal of all that is generous, noble, and good; he
who has ever awakened the warmest gratitude of my nature, is to be laid
away in a distant land! But I must not yield to this mood longer. God
has only harvested the ripe and golden grain. Nor has He left us
comfortless, for recollection, memory’s faithful messenger, will bring
from her treasury records of deeds so noble, that the name of General
Sutter will be stamped in the hearts of all people, so long as
California has a history. Yes, his name will be written in letters of
sunlight on Sierra’s snowy mountain sides, will be traced on the clasps
of gold which rivet the rocks of our State, and will be arched in
transparent characters over the gate which guards our western tide. All
who see this land of the sunset will read, and know, and love the name
of John A. Sutter, who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and comforted
the sorrowing children of California’s pioneer days.”

Chapter XXII.

The Death List
The Forty-two Who Perished
Names of Those Saved
Forty-eight Survivors
Traversing Snow-Belt Five Times
Burying the Dead
An Appalling Spectacle
Tamsen Donner’s Last Act of Devotion
A Remarkable Proposal
Twenty-six Present Survivors
McCutchen
Keseberg
The Graves Family
The Murphys
Naming Marysville
The Reeds
The Breens

With the arrival of the emigrants at places of safety, this history
properly closes. The members of the Donner Party were actively and
intimately associated with all the early pioneer history of the State.
The life of almost every one would furnish foundation for a most
interesting biographical sketch. Ninety names were mentioned in the
first chapter. Of these, forty-two perished. Mrs. Sarah Keyes, Halloran,
John Snyder, Hardcoop, Wolfinger and William M. Pike did not live to
reach the mountain camps. The first victim of starvation, Baylis
Williams, died in the Reed cabin. About this time Jacob Donner, Samuel
Shoemaker, Joseph Rhinehart and James Smith perished at Alder Creek. The
five deaths last mentioned occurred within one week, about the middle of
December. During the journey of the “Forlorn Hope,” the fifteen were
reduced to seven by the deaths of C. T. Stanton, F. W. Graves, Antoine,
Patrick Dolan, Lemuel Murphy, Jay Fosdick, Lewis, and Salvador.
Meantime, enrolled on the death-list at Donner Lake, were the names of
Charles Burger, Lewis Keseberg, Jr., John Landrum Murphy, Margaret Eddy,
Harriet McCutchen, Augustus Spitzer, Mrs. Eleanor Eddy, Milton Elliott,
and Catherine Pike.

During the journey of the first relief party Ada Keseberg, John Denton,
and William Hook perished, and with the second relief party died Mrs.
Elizabeth Graves, Isaac Donner, and F. W. Graves, Jr. About this time,
at the tents, died Lewis Donner, Mrs. Elizabeth Donner, and Samuel
Donner, George Foster and James Eddy. No deaths occurred in the party of
the third relief; and no names are to be added to the fatal list save
Mrs. Lavina Murphy, George Donner, and Mrs. Tamsen Donner.

Out, of the Donner Party, forty-eight survived. Walter Herron reached
California with James F. Reed, and did not return. Of the “Forlorn
Hope,” Mary A. Graves, Mrs. Sarah Fosdick, Mrs. Amanda M. McCutchen,
Mrs. Harriet F. Pike, Mrs. S. A. C. Foster, William M. Foster, and W. H.
Eddy lived. The two last mentioned returned and again braved the dangers
which encompassed the emigrants. The first relief party rescued Mrs.
Margaret W. Reed, Virginia E. Reed and James F. Reed, Jr., Elitha C.
Donner, Leanna C. Donner, George Donner, Jr., Wm. G. Murphy, Mary M.
Murphy, Naomi L. Pike, W. C. Graves, Eleanor Graves, Lovina Graves, Mrs.
Phillipine Keseberg, Edward J. Breen, Simon P. Breen, Eliza Williams,
Noah James, and Mrs. Wolfinger.

The second relief succeeded in reaching the settlements with only
Solomon Hook, Patty Reed, and Thomas K. Reed. With this party were its
Captain, James F. Reed, and William McCutchen. Those who were brought to
Starved Camp by the second relief, and saved by a portion of the third
relief, were Patrick Breen, Mrs. Margaret Breen, John Breen, Patrick
Breen, Jr., James F. Breen, Peter Breen, Isabella M. Breen, Nancy
Graves, Jonathan Graves, Elizabeth Graves, and Mary M. Donner. The
remainder of the third relief rescued Simon P. Murphy, Frances E.
Donner, Georgia A. Donner, Eliza P. Donner, and John Baptiste. W. H.
Eddy remained in the valleys after making this journey. Wm. M. Foster
traversed the snow-belt no less than five times – once with the “Forlorn
Hope,” twice with the third relief, and twice with the fourth. The
fourth relief rescued Lewis Keseberg.

General Kearney visited the cabins at Donner Lake on the twenty-second
of June, 1847. Edwin Bryant, the author of “What I Saw in California,”
was with General Kearney, and says: “A halt was ordered for the purpose
of collecting and interring the remains. Near the principal cabins I saw
two bodies entire, with the exception that the abdomens had been cut
open and the entrails extracted. Their flesh had been either wasted by
famine or evaporated by exposure to the dry atmosphere, and they
presented the appearance of mummies. Strewn around the cabins were
dislocated and broken skulls (in some instances sawed asunder with care,
for the purpose of extracting the brains), human skeletons, in short, in
every variety of mutilation. A more revolting and appalling spectacle I
never witnessed. The remains were, by an order of General Kearney,
collected and buried under the superintendence of Major Swords. They
were interred in a pit which had been dug in the center of one of the
cabins for a cache. These melancholy duties to the dead being performed,
the cabins, by order of Major Swords, were fired, and with everything
surrounding them connected with this horrid and melancholy tragedy were
consumed. The body of George Donner was found at his camp, about eight
or ten miles distant, wrapped in a sheet. He was buried by a party of
men detailed for that purpose.”

To carefully lay out her husband’s body, and tenderly enfold it in a
winding-sheet, was the last act of devotion to her husband which was
performed by Tamsen Donner.

With varying incidents and episodes, the immigrants all reached Sutter’s
Fort. One very attractive young lady received a proposal of marriage
while doing her best to manage the rebellious mule on which she was
riding. The would-be lover pleaded his case well, considering the
adverse circumstances, but the young lady gave not her consent.

Twenty-six, and possibly twenty-eight, out of the forty-eight survivors,
are living to-day. Noah James is believed to be alive, and John Baptiste
was living only a short time since, at Ukiah, Mendocino County,
California. Besides these two, there are twenty-six whose residences are
known. William McCutchen, who came from Jackson County, Missouri, is
hale and strong, and is a highly-respected resident of San Jose,
California. Mr. McCutchen is a native of Nashville, Tennessee, was about
thirty years old at the time of the disaster, and has a clear, correct
recollection of all that transpired. Lewis Keseberg’s history has been
pretty fully outlined in his statement. He resides in Brighton,
Sacramento County, California.

In May, 1847, Mary A. Graves married Edward Pile. He was murdered by a
Spaniard in 1848, and this Spaniard was the first person hanged in
California under the laws of the United States. In 1851 or 1852 Mrs.
Pile married J. T. Clarke. Their children are: Robert F., born in 1852,
who is married and living at White River, Tulare County Cal.; Mattie,
born in 1854, and now the wife of P. Bequette, Jr., of Visalia: James
Thomas, born in 1857; an infant, who died soon after birth; Belle, born
in 1860, and died in 1871; Alexander R., born in 1865, and Daniel M.,
born in 1872. Mrs. M. A. Clarke’s address is White River, Tulare County,
California.

Eleanor Graves married William McDonnell about the first of September,
1849. Their children are: Ann, born September, 1850; Charles, born in
1852; Mary, born in 1855, married to Lester Green, January 2, 1878, and
now living on the Sacramento River, about seventeen miles below the
city; Lillie, born April 14, 1857, died in February, 1873; Franklin,
born in 1860, died in March, 1873; Henry, born July, 1864; Eleanor, born
July, 1868; Leslie, born October, 1872, died March, 1873; Louisa, born
in 1878. Mrs. Eleanor McDonnell and family reside in Knights Valley,
Sonoma County. Their address is Calistoga, California.

Lovina Graves married John Cyrus June 5, 1856. Their children are: Henry
E., born April 12, 1859; James W., born February 16, 1861; Mary A., born
April 26, 1863; Sarah Grace, born December 11, 1866; and Rachel E., born
January 27, 1873. Their address is Calistoga.

Nancy Graves married Rev. R. W. Williamson in 1855. Their eldest,
George, is an artist in Virginia City; Emily is teaching school in
Knights Valley; Kate, Frederick, and Lydia Pearl are residing with their
parents at Los Gatos, Santa Clara County, Cal.

William C. Graves is a blacksmith, living at Calistoga. He visited
Truckee this spring, examined the sites of the different cabins, and has
rendered most valuable assistance in the preparation of this history.

The Murphys have always been well and favorably known in the best
society of California. Mrs. Harriet F. Pike was married at Sutter’s
Fort, in 1847, by Alcalde Sinclair, to M. C. Nye. Prior to the discovery
of gold, they lived about three miles above Marysville, which, at this
time, bore the name of Nye’s Ranch. Mrs. Nye died in 1872, at Dalles,
Oregon, and her remains were brought to Marysville and laid in the city
cemetery. Naomi L. Pike was married, in 1865, to Dr. Mitchell, of
Marysville, moved to Oregon, became a widow, and is now the wife of John
L. Schenck. Her address is, The Dalles, Wasco County, Oregon.

Mary M. Murphy was married, in 1848, to C. Covillaud, then of Nye’s
Ranch, Cal. In 185o the city of Marysville was laid out, and was named
in honor of Mrs. Mary Covillaud. After lives of distinguished honor, Mr.
and Mrs. Covillaud died, but there are now living five of their
children. Mary Ellen is married to a prominent stock dealer, of Dalles,
Oregon; Charles J., a very bright and promising young man, is in the law
office of his uncle, William G. Murphy; William P., Frank M., and Naomi
S., are all living at Dalles, Oregon. William G. Murphy resided at
Marysville until 1849, when he went east to receive an education. He
graduated with high honors at the State University of Missouri. He was
married in Tennessee, returned to the Pacific Coast in 1858, and in 1863
was duly admitted a member of the bar of the Supreme Court of Nevada. He
resided and practiced his profession at Virginia City until in the fall
of 1866, when he returned to Marysville, Cal. He now holds the position
of City Attorney, and has an excellent and remunerative practice. He has
a beautiful and charming home, and his family consists of himself, his
wife, and seven children. His eldest, Lulie T., was born in the
Territory of Nevada, and his second child, Kate Nye, was born in Nevada
subsequent to its admission as a State. William G., Jr., Charles
Mitchell, Ernest, Harriet F., and Leander B. were born in Marysville.

Simon P. Murphy went back to Tennessee, and married at his old home. He
served in the Union army. He died in 1873, leaving a wife and five
children.

William M. Foster gave his name to Foster’s Bar, on the Yuba River. He
died in 1874, of cancer. Of the children of Mr. and Mrs. Foster, there
are now living, Alice, born in 1848; Georgia, born in 1850; Will, born
in 1852; Minnie, born in 1855; and Hattie, born in 1858. Mrs. S. A. C.
Foster has been residing in San Francisco, but her present address is,
care of her brother, Wm. G. Murphy, Marysville.

Mr. and Mrs. Reed settled with their family in San Jose, California.
Mrs. Margaret Reed died on the twenty-fifth of November, 1861, and her
husband, James F. Reed, on the twenty-fourth of July, 1874. They are
buried side by side, their coffins touching. Mrs. Reed died with her
entire family gathered about her bedside, and few death-bed scenes ever
recorded were more peaceful. As she entered the dark waters, all about
her seemed suddenly bright. She spoke of the light, and asked that the
windows be darkened. The curtains were arranged by those about her, but
a moment afterward she said, “Never mind; I see you can not shut out the
bright light which I see.” Looking up at the faces of her husband and
children, she said very slowly, “I expect, when I die, I will die this
way, just as if I was going to sleep. Wouldn’t it be a blessing if I
did?” The last words were uttered just as the soul took its flight.
Thomas K. Reed and James F. Reed, Jr., reside in San Jose, Cal. The
latter was married March 16, 1879, to Sarah Adams. Virginia E. Reed was
married on the twenty-sixth of January, 1850, to J. M. Murphy. Their
children’s names are, Mary M., Lloyd M., Mattie H., John M., Virginia
B., J. Ada, Dan James, Annie Mabel, and T. Stanley. Lloyd, Mattie, and
Mabel are sleeping in Oak Hill Cemetery, at San Jose, Cal. Mary was
married to P. McAran, June 28, 1869. Mr. McAran is one of the directors
of the Hibernia Bank, and resides in San Francisco. John M. Murphy, Jr.,
was married April 1, 1880, to Miss Hattie E. Watkins. Martha J. (Patty)
Reed was married at Santa Cruz, Cal., December 25, 1856, to Mr. Frank
Lewis. They had eight children: Kate, born October 6, 1857; Margaret B.,
born June 6, 1860; Frank, born March 22, 1862; Mattie J., born April 6,
1864; James Frazier, born August 31, 1866; a babe, born May 30, 1868,
who died in infancy; Carrie E., born September 15, 1870; and Susan A.,
born December 31, 1873. Mr. Lewis died June 18, 1876. Mrs. Lewis and her
children reside at San Jose.

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