History of the Donner Party

Wm. H. Eddy married Mrs. F. Alfred, at Gilroy, California, in July,
1848. They had three children: Eleanor P., James P., and Alonzo H.
Eleanor married S. B. Anderson, in 1871, and resides in San Jose. James
married in 1875, and with his wife and two children resides in San Jose.
Alonzo is a physician in Monument, Colorado. In 1854, Mr. and Mrs. Eddy
separated, and in 1856 he married Miss A. M. Pardee, of St. Louis. Mr.
Eddy died December 24, 1859, at, Petaluma, California.

Patrick Breen removed with his family from Sutter’s Fort early in 1848,
and permanently settled at the Mission of San Juan Bautista, in San
Benito County, California. Mr. Breen, lived to see all his children grow
to maturity and become happily established in life. On the twenty-first
of December, 1868, he peacefully closed his eyes to this world,
surrounded by every member of his family, all of whom he preceded to the
tomb.

All the surviving members. of the Breen family are still residing at or
near San Juan. John Breen married in 1852. His family, consisting of his
wife and ten children, are all living. His children’s names are: Lillie
M., Edward P., John J., Thomas F., Adelaide A., Kate, Isabelle,
Gertrude, Charlotte, and Ellen A. Breen. Edward J. Breen married, in
1858. His wife died in 1862; leaving the following children: Eugene T.,
Edward J., and John Roger. Patrick Breen, Jr., married in 1865; his wife
is living, and their children are Mary, William, Peter, Eugene. Simon P.
Breen married in 1867; his wife is living; their children are Geneva and
Mary. James F. Breen, the present Superior Judge of San Benito County,
married in 1870; his wife is living; their only surviving children are
Margaret and Grace. Peter Breen died, unmarried, on July 3, 1870, by
accidental death. Isabella M. Breen was married in 1869, to Thomas
McMahon, and with her husband resides at Hollister, San Benito County.
William M. Breen, whose portrait appears in the group of the Breen
family, was born in San Juan in 1848, and was not of the Donner Party.
He married in 1874, leaving a widow, and one child, Mary.

Margaret Breen, the heroic woman, devoted wife, and faithful mother, had
the satisfaction of living to see her infant family, for whose
preservation she had struggled so hard and wrought so ceaselessly, grow
to manhood and womanhood. In prosperity, as in adversity, she was ever
good, kind, courageous, and “affable to the congregation of the Lord.”
She was always, self-reliant, and equal to the most trying emergencies;
and yet, at all times, she had a deep and abiding faith in God, and
firmly relied on the mercy and goodness of Him to whom she prayed so
ardently and confidently in the heavy hours of her tribulation. The hope
of her later years was that she might not be required to witness the
death of any of her children; but it was willed differently, as two of
them preceded her to the grave. April 13, 1874, ripe in years, loved by
the poor, honored and respected by all for her virtues and her
well-spent life, she quietly and peacefully passed from the midst of her
sorrowing family to the other and better shore.

The following lines from the pen of Miss Marcella A. Fitzgerald, the
gifted poetess of Notre Dame Convent, San Jose, were published in the
San Francisco Monitor, at the time of Mrs. Breen’s death:

In Memoriam.

Mrs. Margaret Breen.

The spring’s soft light, its tender, dreamy beauty
Veils all the land around us, and the dome
Of the blue skies is ringing with the music
Of birds that come to seek their summer home.

But one whose heart this beauty often gladdened
No more shall see the fragrant flowers expand;
For her no more of earth – but fairer portion
Is hers, the beauty of the Better Land;

The beauty of that land to which with yearning
Her true heart turned in faith and trust each day
The land whose hope a glorious bow of promise
Illumed her path across life’s desert way.

A loving wife; a fond, devoted mother;
A friend who reckoned friendship not a name;
A woman who with, gentle influence brightened
The hearts of all who to her presence came.

A halo of good deeds her life surrounded;
Her crown of years was bright with deeds of love;
Hers was a gift of charity whose merits
A golden treasure waiteth her above.

Out of the wealth the Master gave unto her
She clothed the needy and the hungry fed;
The poor will mourn a true friend taken from them
Above her will the orphan’s tear be shed.

The orphan’s prayer, a prayer of power unbounded.
In grateful accents shall for her ascend,
And strength and consolation for her children
Down from the Savior’s pitying heart descend;

For over death the Christian’s faith doth triumph –
The crown of victory shines above the Cross;
Hers is the fadeless joy and ours the sorrow –
Hers is the gain and ours the bitter loss.

And while the hearts of kindred ache in sadness,
And gloom rests on her once fair home to-day,
As a true friend who mourns a loved one taken,
This simple wreath upon her grave I lay.

Chapter XXIII.

The Orphan Children of George and Tamsen Donner
Sutter, the Philanthropist
“If Mother would Only Come!”
Christian and Mary Brunner
An Enchanting Home
“Can’t You Keep Both of Us?”
Eliza Donner Crossing the Torrent
Earning a Silver Dollar
The Gold Excitement
Getting an Education
Elitha C. Donner, Leanna C. Donner, Frances E. Donner, Georgia A.
Donner, Eliza P. Donner.

Unusual interest attaches to the three little orphan children mentioned
in a preceding chapter. Frances, Georgia, and Eliza Donner reached
Sutter’s Fort in April, 1847. Here they met their two elder sisters,
who, in charge of the first relief party, had arrived at the Fort a few
weeks earlier. The three little girls were pitiable-looking objects as
they gathered around the blazing fire, answering and asking questions
respecting what had taken place since they parted with their sisters at
their mountain cabins.

Among the first to stretch forth a helping hand to clothe the needy
children was that noble philanthropist, Capt. John A. Sutter. Other
newly-found friends gave food from their scanty supplies, and the
children would have been comfortable for a time, had not some pilfering
hand taken all that had been given them. They were again obliged to ask
for food of those whom they thought would give. As the weather became
warmer it had a cheering influence over them. They forgot their wish for
heavier clothing; but oftener repeated the more heartfelt one – ” If
mother would only come!”

Those who have suffered bereavement under similar circumstances can
understand how fully these little girls realized their situation when
they were told that their mother was dead.

Not long after it became known that their parents were dead, Georgia and
Eliza enlisted the sympathies of a kindhearted Swiss couple, Christian
and Mary Brunner, who lived a short distance from the Fort. Mrs. Brunner
brought them bread, butter, eggs, and cheese, with the kind remark to
those in whose hands she placed the articles: “These are for the little
girls who called me grandma; but don’t give them too much at a time.” A
few days later, upon inquiring of them how they liked what she brought,
grandma was told they had not had anything, and was so surprised that
she decided to take Georgia home with her for a week. Georgia was more
delicate than her younger sister. Eliza was promised that she should be
treated as kindly upon Georgia’s return. The week passed, and Georgia
returned, looking stronger. She told such wonderful stories about the
many cows! lots of chickens! two sheep that would not let her pass
unless she carried a big stick in sight! about the kindness grandma,
grandpa, and Jacob, his brother, had shown to her, that it seemed to
Eliza the time would never come when she and grandma were to start to
that enchanting home! Such a week of pleasure! Who but that little girl
could describe it! Grandma’s bread and milk gave strength to her limbs
and color to her cheeks. She chased the chickens, and drove the cows;
she brought chips for grandma, rode the horse for Jacob, and sat upon
grandpa’s knee so cheerfully, that they began to feel as if she belonged
to them. But her week had come to an end! Grandma, all dressed for a
walk to the Fort, sought the little girl, who was busy at play, and
said: “Come, Eliza, I hear that Georgia is sick, and I am going to take
you back, and bring her in your place.” The sweet little girl looked
very grave for a moment, then glancing up with her large black eyes into
that dear old face, she took courage, and asked, with the earnestness of
an anxious child: “Grandma, can’t you keep both of us?”

This simple question provided a home for both until after Hiram Miller
was appointed their guardian. He was intrusted with their money,
obtained from Keseberg and from other sources. The little sisters were
then again separated. Frances had found a home in Mrs. Reed’s family.
Georgia was to go with grandpa, who was about to remove to Sonoma. Eliza
went to her eldest sister, who was now married and living on the
Cosumnes River. Here she remained until winter. Then, hearing that Mr.
Brunner’s family and Georgia desired her return, she became so homesick
that her sister consented to her going to them. Fortunately, they heard
of two families who were to move to Sonoma in a very short time, and
Eliza was placed in their charge. This journey was marked with many
incidents which seemed marvelous to her child-mind. The one which
impressed itself most forcibly occurred upon their arrival at the bank
of the Sonoma River. She was told that Jacob would meet her here and
take her to grandma’s, and was delighted that her journey was so nearly
over. Imagine her disappointment at finding the recent rains had raised
the river until a torrent flowed between her and her anxious friends.
For days Jacob sought the slowly-decreasing flood and called across the
rushing stream to cheer the eager child. Finally, an Indian, who
understood Jacob’s wish, offered to carry her safely over for a silver
dollar. Never did silver look brighter than that which Jacob held
between his fingers, above his head, that sunny morning, to satisfy the
Indian that his price would be paid when he and his charge reached the
other bank.

What a picture this scene presents to the mind! There is the Indian
leading his gray pony to the river’s side! He examines him carefully,
and puts the blanket on more securely! He waits for the approaching
child. How small she is – not five years old! How she trembles with
dread as the swift current meets her eye! Yet she is anxious to go. One
pleading look in the Indian’s face, and she is ready. He mounts; she is
placed behind him; her little arms are stretched tightly around his
dusky form! He presses his elbows to his sides to made her more secure,
and, by signs, warns her against loosening her grasp, or she, like the
passing branches, will be the water’s prey! They enter the stream. Oh
how cold the water is! They reach the middle; her grasp is tighter, and
she holds her breath with fear, for they are drifting with the current
past where Jacob stands! But joy comes at last. They have crossed the
river. There stands the pony, shaking the water from his sides. The
Indian takes his dollar with a grunt of satisfaction, and Jacob catches
up the little girl, mounts his horse, and hurries off to grandpa’s,
where grandma, Leanna, and Georgia are waiting to give her a warm
welcome.

Months passed pleasantly, but gradually changes occurred. The war with
Mexico ended, and gold was discovered. All the men who were able to go,
hurried off to the mines to make a fortune. The little girls gave up
their plays, for grandma was not able to do all the work, and grandpa
and Jacob were away. They spent seven years with Mr. and Mrs. Brunner,
They were kindly treated, but their education was neglected. In 1854,
their eldest sister, Elitha, and her husband, came to Sonoma, and
offered them a home and an opportunity of attending school. This kind
offer was accepted. For six years Eliza remained in Sacramento, in the
family of her sister, Elitha. To her she was indebted for the
opportunity she enjoyed of attending, for one year, with her sister
Frances and afterwards Georgia, St. Catherine’s Academy, at Benicia, and
the public schools of Sacramento.

Elitha C. Donner married Perry McCoon, who was subsequently killed by a
runaway horse. On the eighth of December, 1853, Mrs. McCoon was married
to Benj. W. Wilder. They reside on the Cosumnes River, a few miles from
Elk Grove, Sacramento County, Cal., and have six children. Leanna C.
Donner was married September 26, 1852, to John App. They now reside in
Jamestown, Tuolumne County, Cal., and their family consists of Rebecca
E., born February 9, 1854; John Q., born January 19, 1864; and Lucy E.,
born August 12, 1868, who reside with their parents.

Frances E. Donner was married November 24, 1858, to William R. Wilder,
and now resides at Point of Timber, Contra Costa County, Cal. Their
children are: Harriet, born August 24, 1859; James William, born May 30,
1863; Frances Lillian, born July 17, 1867; Asaph, born May 7, 1870; and
Susan Tamsen, born September 3, 1878. Georgia A. Donner was married
November 4, 1863, to W. A. Babcock. Their family consists of Henry A.,
born August 23, 1864; Frank B., born June 29, 1866; and Edith M., born
August 24, 1868. Their address is Mountain View, Santa Clara County,
Cal.

Eliza P. Donner, on the tenth of October, 1861, was married to Sherman
O. Houghton. Mr. Houghton was born in New York City, April 10, 1828,
served in the Mexican war, was Mayor of San Jose in 1855 and 1856,
represented California in the Forty-second and Forty-third Congress, and
is at present a prominent member of the San Jose bar. Mr. and Mrs.
Houghton have six children. The youngest living was born in Washington,
D. C., at which city his family resided during the four years he served
as member of Congress. Their children are: Eliza P., Sherman O., Clara
H., Charles D., Francis J., and Stanley W. Their youngest born, Herbert
S., died March 18, 1878, aged twenty months. Mary M. Donner, daughter of
Jacob Donner, was adopted into the family of Mr. James F. Reed, in 1848.
She continued a member of this family until her marriage with Hon. S. O.
Houghton, of San Jose, August 23, 1859. June 21, 1860, Mrs. Mary M.
Houghton died, leaving an infant daughter, Mary M., who is now a young
lady, and a member of the family of Mr. and Mrs. Houghton.

George Donner, Jr., son of Jacob Donner, married Miss Margaret J.
Watson, June 8, 1862. Their children now living are: Mary E., Corn J.,
George W., John C., Betty L., and Frank M. Albert, their eldest, died in
1869, and an infant son died in 1875. George Donner, Jr., died at
Sebastopol, February 17, 1874. Mrs. Donner now lives with her children
on their farm near Sebastopol, Sonoma County, California.

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