|Home -> A. Carlisle & Co. -> History of the Donner Party -> Chapter 22|
The Death List
The Forty-two Who Perished
Names of Those Saved
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
The Graves Family
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.
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:
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.