REED AND DONNER. A party was organized in the vicinity of Springfield, Sangamon county, Ill., and started from that city, April 14, 1846, for California and the Pacific coast. It has always been spoken of by the people of Sangamon county as the "Reed and Donner emigrant party." They were not lured there on account of gold, for it had not then been discovered. Whey they left Springfield the company numbered thirty-four persons. Of the two newspapers published in Springfield at the time - the Journal and Register - each have the identical number missing that should have contained information about them. The following are the names as near as I have been able to determine, of the persons composing the company: -
James F. Reed and Mrs. Margaret W. Reed, his wife, with their four children, Virginia E. B., Martha J., James F., Jun., and Thomas K.; also Mrs. Sarah Keyes, the mother of Mrs. Reed.
George Donner and Mrs. Tamsen Donner, his wife, with their five children, Elitha C., Leanna C., Francis E., Georgiana and Eliza P.
Jacob Donner and Mrs. Elizabeth Donner, his wife, with their five children, Isaac, Lewis, Samuel, George and Mary; also William and Solomon Hook, children of Mrs. Donner by a former marriage.
There were also Milford Elliott - often mentioned as Milton Elliott - James Smith, John Denton, Eliza and Bayless Williams, Walter Herron and Hiram O. Miller. There were some others, but I have been unable to learn their names.
Leaving Springfield, their first point of destination was Independence, Missouri, where they were to make the final preparation for crossing the Plains. They were joined at various points by parties from other places, as follows: -
From Lacon, Illinois: Jay Fausdick and Mrs. Sarah Fausdick, his wife. Mr. and Mrs. Graves, with their eight children, Frank, Mary, William, Ellen, Lavina, Nancy, Jonathan and Elizabeth. Mrs. Fausdick was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Graves.
From Iowa: Patrick Brien - spelled, in some places, Brein and Breen - Margaret Brien, Margaret J., John, Edward, Patrick, Jun., Simon, James and Peter Brien, and Patrick Dolen.
From Belleville, Illinois: J. P. Eddy, Mrs. Eddy and W. H. Eddy.
From St. Louis, Missouri: William Foster, Mrs. Foster and George Foster; and from Ray county, Missouri: William McCutchen, Mrs. McCutchen and Harriet McCutchen.
From Tennessee: Lemuel Murphy, Mrs. Murphy, Lander, Mary, William and Samuel Murphy; William Pike, Cynthia Pike and N. Pike.
From Germany: Mr. and Mrs. Kiesberger, or Keysburg, B. and L. S. Keysburg. Mrs. Wolfinger, Mr. Rinehart, Mr. Spitzger and Carl Berger.
From Springfield, Ohio: Samuel Shoemaker, and
From Chicago, Illinois: C. T. Stanton.
Others are mentioned on the road, incidentally, but this sketch is only intended for those who left Sangamon county. At Independence, Mr. Reed loaded eight wagons with provisions and supplies of various kinds. The Donners made similar preparations, as also the other members of the party. They, of course, had a sufficient number of oxen to haul all their wagons. It was absolutely necessary that emigrants, at that time, should travel in large bodies as a safeguard against the Indians on the Plains. It was never safe to start until the grass had made sufficient growth to afford sustenance for the cattle. This company of eighty-one persons, thirty-four of whom were form Sangamon county, left Independence early in May, for their long, tedious and perilous journey across the Western Plains. All went well until they approached the Big Blue river, four miles above its mouth, where Manhattan, Kan., now stands. They found the stream quite full, and the whole party camped and commenced building boats and rafts for crossing. Just before reaching there, Mrs. Keyes, the mother of Mrs. Reed, showed signs of failing health under the fatigue and discomfort of travel in unpleasant weather. While in camp she grew worse, and on the morning of May 29, 1846, breathed her last. Work was suspended, and each vied with every other in rendering the last tribute of respect to her remains. A neat coffin was made of timber, split, hewn and planed, from a cottonwood tree near by. The remains were placed in it and buried on a beautiful elevation, near an upland burr oak. Religious services were conducted by a Cumberland Presbyterian minister. The grave was sodded, and the tree made to serve the purposes of a head board. On it was cut the following inscription:
At the foot a coarse white stone, resembling marble, was placed, containing the words:
Between Independence and Blue river the Reed and Donner party fell in with Col. W. H. Russell and company, who had left Independence a few days before them. Passing Blue river, they all traveled together until they reached Little Sandy river, where a separation took place, the majority of them going to Oregon, Col. Russell heading the latter. The day after the separation the Reed and Donner party elected George Donner Captain, and from that time it was known as the "Donner Company." They continued their journey up the valley of the Platte river, passing Fort Laramie and crossing the Rocky Mountains to Fort Bridger without any serious mishap. This had occupied the entire summer. They tarried at the Fort four days. Parties who had gone before, learned the dangers, and knowing the Donner party were coming, left letters, directed to Mr. Reed, with Mr. Vasques, the partner of Bridger, for whom the fort was named, advising him by no means to take what was known as the Hastings cut off, but to go by the Fort Hall route. The latter was an established route, and well known, but it required a detour to the northwest, whereas the Hastings cut off, passing through Webber canyon to the south end of the great Salt Lake, about where Salt Lake City now stands, made the route more direct, and doubtless was three hundred miles shorter, which was the inducement to take that route. Vasques being interested in having all travelers go that way, withheld the letters from Mr. Reed, and he never knew, until his arrival in California, that any such letters had been left for him, and they unfortunately took what they supposed would be the more direct road.
Approaching the mouth of the Webber canyon, they found a letter sticking in the top of a sage bush. It was from Hastings, the discoverer of the new route. He was then piloting a company through, and proposed to the Donner company that, if they would send messengers for him, he would return and pilot them through a better way than the one given them. Messrs. Reed, Stanton and McCutchen, of the Donner Company, went to Mr. Hastings, and, after going back part of the way with Mr. Reed - he having procured a fresh horse - Mr. Hastings gave him directions, and leaving him about where Salt Lake city now stands, returned to the first party he was piloting. Mr. Reed returned east to the Donner Company, all hands went to work, and by digging and cutting timber, made a road passing to the south end of Salt Lake, crossing the outlet to the lake - now called the river Jordan. Passing to the northwest, around the lake, they were detained a few days by the death, from consumption, of one of the company, a Mr. Halloran. A few more days' travel brought them to the Springs where they were to provide water and grass for crossing what was called Hastings' desert, an alkaline region destitute of water or vegetation. They were led to believe that it was less than fifty miles across, but it proved to be nearer eighty. It was understood they must travel day and night, stopping only to feed and water the cattle. When about two-thirds of the way across, the stock manifested signs of being exhausted, and the company requested Mr. Reed to go forward until he found water and report. He did so, reaching it in about twenty miles, and returning, met his teamsters about 11 o'clock at night driving the cattle, having left their wagons. After directing them how to proceed, he went on to meet his family and the remainder of the company. Soon after leaving his teamsters, one of their horses sunk down in the road, and while they were endeavoring to raise it, the cattle scented the water, scattered, and nine yoke were never found, leaving one ox and a cow only; his wagons and family, with all their supplies, out on a desert, hundreds of miles from any human habitation, and winter close upon them. The mistake of his teamsters - and one he would not have permitted had he been present - was in leaving the wagons so soon.
The Donners and other members of the company drove their teams much further before leaving their wagons, and some few succeeded in taking them the entire distance.
We will return to Mr. Reed, who was seeking his family twenty miles in the desert. He reached them about daylight the next morning. Not knowing that his cattle were lost, he waited with his family all day, expecting some of his men to return and haul them to water. Not receiving any information, and their supply of water being nearly gone, he started with his family on foot, carrying the youngest child in his arms, and in the course of the night the children became exhausted. They spread a blanket on the ground; all lay down on it, and covered themselves with shawls; but a cold hurricane commenced blowing soon after, and he could only keep the children warm by having their four dogs lie down against them, outside the shawls. About daylight they moved on, and soon came to a wagon, which belonged to Jacob Donner, and contained his family. Mr. Reed left his family with Mrs. Donner. Mr. Donner returned from the water with his cattle, and took his own and Mr. Reed's families to the water, where they remained in camp about a week, hunting for their cattle. Mr. Reed never found any of his; the Indians had made sure work, and secured all except the two previously mentioned. He then divided his provisions, except what he could haul in one wagon, borrowed another yoke of oxen, and, leaving his seven wagons in the desert, moved on with the company, - all the others having found a sufficient number of their oxen to haul their wagons. After a few days' travel, the party who had loaned him the yoke of oxen needed them, when another neighbor loaned him a yoke.
Some days further on it was found that provisions were running short. An estimate was made of the quantity it would take for each family. Mr. Reed then proposed that if two men would go forward to Captain Sutter's in California, he, Reed, would write him a letter, asking for the whole amount, and would become personally responsible for the pay. Mr. William McCutchen, of Missouri, and Mr. Stanton, of Chicago, volunteered to go. The progress was slow, and weeks passed without any tidings from McCutchen and Stanton.
It was suggested that Mr. Reed go in advance to see what had become of them, and hurry up supplies. In all cases of that kind those remaining were to take care of the families of those detached for the good of all. The two Donner families were in advance of the main body. Walter Herron was with George Donner, and when Mr. Reed overtook them, Herron volunteered to go with him. Having but one horse, they rode by turns. Their provisions gave out, and they traveled for days without food, except wild geese and other game which they occasionally killed on Truckee river. Whey they reached the Sierra Nevada mountains, Herron wanted to kill the horse, and Mr. Reed persuaded him from it by agreeing to kill him rather than perish with hunger. That afternoon Herron became delirious for want of food. They found five beans. Herron ate three of them, and Reed the other two. The next morning they came upon some abandoned wagons, which they ransacked, but failed to find any food. Taking the tar-bucket from one of the wagons, and scraping the tar from the bottom, Mr. Reed discovered a streak of rancid tallow in the bottom, which he made known to Herron, who swallowed a piece about the size of a walnut without giving it a smell. He swallowed a second piece, and wanted more, which Mr. Reed refused to give him, having himself eaten some which made him deathly sick. They soon after descended into Bear river valley, where they found some emigrants in wagons, who gave them food and relieved their sufferings. They there met Mr. Stanton, and two Indians sent by Mr. Sutter to aid in carrying provisions. Mr. Reed was so emaciated that Mr. Stanton did not recognize him until they had conversed with each other several minutes. The next morning, Oct. 23, 1846, each party continued their journey. Mr. Reed went on to Captain Sutter's, where he secured thirty horses, one mule and two Indians to aid him in bringing out the sufferers. He was joined by Mr. McCutchen, who had been separated from Mr. Stanton by sickness. With some flour and beef they started to meet the suffering emigrants in the mountains. After weeks spent in unavailing efforts, they had to return, as men and horses sank out of sight in the snow. It was evident that nothing could be done until spring, the mountaineers all being absent fighting Mexicans, the war with Mexico having commenced the year before, and the natives of Spanish and Indian blood having expressed a determination to exterminate the Americans.
Snow commenced falling the latter part of October, and caught the whole party, not in a body, but scattered along some distance, the extremes being probably a day's journey apart. The following journal kept by one of the sufferers, includes the time from Oct. 31, 1846, to Mar. 1, 1846. This is taken from a copy of the Illinois State Journal of Sept. 16, 1847, and is dated:
Truckey's Lake, Nov. 20, 1846.
Came to this place on the 31st of last month; went into the Pass, the snow so deep we were unable to find the road, and when within three miles from the summit, turned back to this shanty, on Truckey's Lake. Stanton came up one day after we arrived here; we again took our teams and wagons and made another unsuccessful attempt to cross the mountains, as it continued to snow all the time. We now have killed most part of our cattle, and live on lean meat, without bread or salt. It snowed during the space of eight days, with little intermission, and after our arrival, though now clear and pleasant, freezing at night; the snow nearly gone from the valleys.
Nov. 21 - Fine morning, wind northwest; twenty-two of our company about starting to cross the mountains this day, including Stanton and his Indians.
Nov. 22 - Froze hard last night; fine and clear today; no account from those on the mountains.
Nov. 23 - Same weather, wind west; the expedition across the mountains returned after an unsuccessful attempt.
Nov. 25 - Cloudy; looks like the eve of a snow storm; our mountaineers are to make another trial tomorrow, if fair; froze hard last night.
Nov. 26 - Began to snow last evening; now rains or sleets; the party do not start today.
Nov. 29 - Still snowing; now about three feet deep; wind west; killed by last oxen today; gave another yoke to Foster; wood hard to be got.
Nov. 30 - Snowing fast; looks as likely to continue as when it commenced; no living thing without wings can get about.
Dec. 1 - Still snowing; wind west; snow about six or six and one-half feet deep; very difficult to get wood, and we are completely housed up; our cattle all killed but two or three, and these, with the horses and Stanton's mules, all supposed to be lost in the snow; no hopes of finding them alive.
Dec. 3 - Ceases snowing; cloudy all day; warm enough to thaw.
Dec. 4 - Beautiful sunshine, thawing a little; looks delightful after the long storm; snow seven or eight feet deep.
Dec. 5 - The morning fine and clear; Stanton and Graves manufacturing snow shoes for another mountain scrabble; no account of mules.
Dec. 8 - Fine weather; froze hard last night; wind southwest; hard work to find wood sufficient to keep us warm, or cook our beef.
Dec. 9 - Commenced snowing about eleven o'clock; wind northwest; took in Spitzer yesterday, so weak that he cannot rise without help, caused by starvation. Some have a scant supply of beef; Stanton trying to get some for himself and Indians; not likely to get much.
Dec. 10 - Snowed fast all night, with heavy squalls of wind; continues to snow; now about seven feet in depth.
Dec. 14 - Snow faster than any previous day; Stanton and Graves, with several others, making preparations to cross the mountains on snow shoes; snow eight feet on a level.
Dec. 16 - Fair and pleasant; froze hard last night; the company started on snow shoes to cross the mountains; wind southeast.
Dec. 17 - Pleasant; Wm. Murphy returned from the mountain party last evening: Bayless Williams died night before last; Milton and Noah started for Donner's eight days ago, not returned yet; think they are lost in the snow.
Dec. 19 - Snowed last night, thawing today; wind northwest, a little singular for a thaw.
Dec. 20 - Clear and pleasant; Mrs. Reed here; no account from Milton yet; Charles Berger set out for Donner's; turned back unable to proceed; tough times, but not discouraged; our hopes are in God; Amen.
Dec. 21 - Milton got back last night from Donner's camp; sad news; Jacob Donner, Samuel Shoemaker, Rhinehart and Smith are dead; the rest of them in a low situation; snowed all night, with a strong southwest wind.
Dec. 23 - Clear today; Milton took some of his meat away; all well at their camp. Began this day to read the "Thirty days' Prayers;" Almighty God grant the requests of unworthy sinners!
Dec. 24 - Rained all night and still continues; poor prospect for any kind of comfort, spiritual or temporal.
Dec. 25 - Began to snow yesterday, snowed all night and snows yet, rapidly; extremely difficult to find wood, offered our prayers to God this, Christmas, morning; the prospect is appalling, but we trust in Him.
Dec. 27 - Cleared off yesterday; continues clear; snow nine feet deep; wood growing scarcer; a tree, when felled, sinks into the snow, and is hard to be got at.
Dec. 30 - Fine, clear morning, froze hard last night; Charles Berger died last evening about ten o'clock.
Dec. 31 - Last of the year; may we, with the help of God, spend the coming year better than we have the past, which we propose to do if it be the will of the Almighty to deliver us from our present dreadful situation; Amen. Morning fair, but cloudy; wind east-by-south; looks like another snow storm; snow storms are dreadful to us; the snow at present is very deep.
Jan. 1, 1847 - We pray the God of mercy to deliver us from our present calamity, if it be His holy will. Commenced snowing last night, and snows little yet; provisions getting scant; dug up a hide from under the snow yesterday; have not commenced on it yet.
Jan. 3 - Fair during the day; freezing at night; Mrs. Reed talks of crossing the mountains with her children.
Jan. 4 - Fine morning, looks like spring; Mrs. Reed and Virginia,, Milton Elliot Eliza Williams started a short time ago, with the hope of crossing the mountain, left the children here; it was difficult for Mrs. Reed to part with them.
Jan. 6 - Eliza came back from the mountains yesterday evening, not able to proceed; the others kept ahead.
Jan. 8 - Very cold this morning; Mrs. Reed and others came back, could not find their way, on the other side of the mountains; they have nothing but hides to live on.
Jan. 10 - Began to snow last night; still continues; wind west-north-west.
Jan. 13 - Snowing fast; snow higher than the shanty; it must be thirteen feet deep; cannot get wood this morning; it is a dreadful sight for us to look upon.
Jan. 14 - Cleared off yesterday; the sun shining brilliantly renovates our spirits; praise be to the God of Heaven.
Jan. 15 - Clear day again, wind northwest; Mrs. Murphy blind; Lanthron not able to get wood; has but one axe between him and Kiesburg; it looks like another storm; expecting some account from Sutter's soon.
Jan. 17 - Lanthron became crazy last night; provisions scarce; hides our main subsistence; may the Almighty send us help.
Jan. 21 - Fine morning; John Battise and Mr. Denton came this morning with Eliza. She will not eat hides; Mrs. _______ sent her back to live or die on them.
Jan. 22 - Began to snow after sunrise; likely to continue; wind north.
Jan. 23 - Blew hard and snowed all night; the most severe storm we have experienced this winter; wind north.
Jan. 26 - Cleared up yesterday; today fine and pleasant, wind south; in hopes we are done with snow storms; those who went to Sutter's not yet returned; provisions getting scant; people growing weak; living on small allowance of hides.
Jan. 28 - Commenced snowing yesterday - still continues today. Lewis (Sutter's Indian), died three day's ago; food growing scarcer; don't have fire enough to cook our hides.
Jan. 30 - Fair and pleasant; wind west; thawing in the sun; John and Edward Breen went to Graves' this morning; the _____ seized on Mrs. ____ goods until they would be paid; they also took the hides which herself and family subsisted upon; she regained two pieces only, the balance they have taken. You may judge from this what our fare is in camp; there is nothing to be had by hunting yet, perhaps there soon will be.
Jan. 31 - The sun does not shine out brilliant this morning; froze hard last night; wind northwest. Lanthron Murphy died last night about one o'clock; Mrs. Reed went to Graves' this morning to look after goods.
Feb. 5 - Snowed hard until 12 o'clock last night; many uneasy for fear we shall all perish with hunger; we have but little meat left, and only three hides; Mrs. Reed has nothing but one hide, and that is on Graves' house; Milton lives there, and likely will keep that; Eddy's child died last night.
Feb. 6 - It snowed faster last night and today than it has done this winter before; still continues without intermission; wind southwest; Murphy's folks and Kiesburg say they cannot eat hides; I wish we had enough of them; Mrs. Eddy is very weak.
Feb. 7 - Ceased to snow at last; today it is quite pleasant; McCutcheon's child died on the second of this month.
Feb. 8 - Fine, clear morning; Spitzer died last night; we will bury him in the snow. Mrs. Eddy died on the night of the seventh.
Feb. 9 - Mr. Pike's child all but dead; Milton is at Murphy's, not able to get out of bed; Kiesburg ____ gets up; he says he is not able; Mrs. Eddy and child were buried today; wind southeast.
Feb. 10 - Beautiful morning; thawing in the sun; Milton Elliot died last night at Murphy's shanty; Mrs. Reed went there this morning to see after his effects; J. Denton trying to borrow meat for Graves; had none to give; they had nothing but hides; all are entirely out of meat; but a little we have; our hides are nearly all eat up; with God's help spring will soon smile upon us.
Feb. 12 - Warm, thawy morning.
Feb. 14 - Fine morning, but cold; buried Milton in the snow. John Denton not well.
Feb. 15 - Morning cloudy until nine o'clock, then cleared off warm. Mrs. ____ refused to give Mrs. ____ any hides. Put Sutter's pack hides on her shanty and would not let her have them.
Feb. 16 - Commenced to rain last evening, and turned to snow during the night, and continued until morning; weather changeable, sunshine, then light showers of hail, and wind at times. We all feel very unwell; the snow is not getting much less at present.
Feb. 19 - Froze hard last night. Seven men arrived from California yesterday evening with provisions, but left the greater part on the way. Today it is clear and warm for this region; some of the men have gone to Donner's camp; they will start back on Monday.
Feb. 22 - The Californians started this morning, twenty-four in number, some in a very weak state; Mrs. Kiesburg started with them, and left Kiesburg here, unable to go; buried Pike's child this morning in the snow; it died two days ago.
Feb. 23 - Froze hard last night; today pleasant and thawy - has the appearance of spring, all but the deep snow; wind south-south-east; shot a dog today, and dressed his flesh.
Feb. 25 - Today Mrs. Murphy says the wolves are about to dig up the dead bodies around her shanty, and the nights are too cold to watch them, but we hear them howl.
Feb. 26 - Hungry times in camp; plenty of hides, but the folks wont eat them; we eat them with tolerable appetite, thanks be to the Almighty God. Mrs. Murphy said here yesterday, that she thought she would commence on Milton and eat him; I do not think she has done so yet; it is distressing. The Donner's told the California folks, four days ago, that they would commence on the dead people, if they did not succeed that day or the next in finding their cattle, then ten or twelve feet under the snow, and did not know the spot or any where near it; they have dine it ere this.
Feb. 28 - One solitary Indian passed by yesterday; came from the lake; had a heavy pack on his back; gave me five or six roots, resembling onions in shape; tasted some like a sweet potato, full of tough little fibres.
Feb. 29 - Ten men arrived this morning from Bear Valley, with provisions. We all leave in two or three days, and cache our goods here. They say the snow will remain until June.
The above mentioned ten men started for the Valley with seventeen of the sufferers; they traveled fifteen miles and a severe snow storm came on; they left fourteen of the emigrants, the writer of the above journal and his family, and succeeded in getting in but three children. Lieut. Woodworth immediately went to their assistance, but before he reached them they had eaten three of their number, who had died form hunger and fatigue; the remainder Lieut. Woodworth's party brought in. April, 1847, the last member of the party was brought to Cap't Sutter's Fort. It is utterly impossible to give any description of the sufferings of this company. Your readers can form some idea of them by perusing the above diary.
George McKinstry, Jr.
Fort Sacramento, April 27, 1847
The emigrants thus caught in the mountains died, one by one, until thirty-six of the eighty-one who left Independence in the spring with such high hopes, literally starved to death. To make it more intelligible than the journal would indicate, I give the names of those from Sangamon County: -
George Donner and his wife, Mrs. Tamsen Donner; Jacob Donner and his wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Donner; her son, William Hook, sometimes called William Donner; the three sons of Jacob Donner and wife, Isaac Lewis and Samuel; four unmarried men, Bayless Williams, Milford Elliott, James Smith and John Denton, making a total of twelve from Sangamon county who perished from exposure and want of food. For Mr. Elliott's family history, see page 285. For the Donner family history, see page 257.
I do not think it will be agreeable to the surviving members of the bereaved families, neither is it congenial to my feelings, to dwell on the horrors of that dreary winter among the inhospitable mountains. Those who could have given most in detail, were always reticent on that subject. They doubtless would have regarded it as the greatest boon that could have been conferred upon themselves if every recollection of it could have been erased from their memories. With the exception of the glimpse into the abyss of woe given in the preceding journal, I think it best, now, in this centennial year, after the lapse of the lifetime of one generation, to draw a veil over the horrors of the scene, and only extract such lessons from it as will tend to elevate our common humanity.
Jacob Donner died among the first, if not the first. He was a tender-hearted, conscientious man, and it is attested that his death was caused more by grief at the present and prospective sufferings of his family, than from disease or want of food. George and Jacob Donner were members of the German Prairie Christian Church. See what Isaac Taylor says about it. The five surviving children of George Donner, and the three surviving children of Jacob Donner and wife, with their descendants, are among the most respected citizens of California. A few words more with reference to Mrs. George Donner. She was a native of New England - Maine, I believe - and was a lady in the highest sense of the word. Some of the citizens of Sangamon county remember her especially on account of her perfect self-control and power to govern. She taught school in the vicinity of Auburn when it was more unusual for a lady to teach than it is now. Some almost full grown, rough, uncouth young men were in her school, and yet she would govern them as thoroughly as though they were children. This self-control seems never to have left her. According to the testimony of Mr. Reed, who, after his own family had been rescued, visited the two camps of the Donners, to find Mrs. Jacob Donner and Mr. George Donner helpless, and no means of removing them. They were prepared to leave provisions, and a man at each camp to care for the sick, and used every argument to induce Mrs. George Donner to go with them, but with the full knowledge of the probabilities that she would lose her own life, she utterly refused, preferring to meet death in the discharge of her duty to her husband rather than save her own life by seeming to abandon him in his hour of peril; and so she died, as truly a martyr as though she had been burned at the stake.
Other acts of heroism are too numerous to mention all, but we will notice some of them. Hiram O. Miller proved to be courageous and efficient through all. Milford Elliott could have saved his own life, and having neither wife, children, or any other blood relative among the sufferers, no blame could have been laid to his charge if he had saved himself by pushing through, but he would not abandon helpless women and children, and his life paid the forfeit. The Eddy family, of Belleville, Illinois, was totally obliterated.
All that is known of C. T. Stanton is that he was from Chicago, Illinois. In my opinion, history does not record the name of a greater hero. It does not appear that he was in any way related, or even acquainted, with one of the sufferers previous to their departure from the States. He aided many of them on their way, and after their calamities came upon them, pushed his way through the mountains and reached Sutter's fort, where he was absolutely safe; but he knew there were men, women and children perishing with cold and hunger, and knowing this, there was no rest for him. He secured supplies of food and mules, enlisted the sympathies of two of the unlettered children of the forest, and all storms and snow-drifts, until even the two savages, prompted by him, fell a sacrifice in the cause of humanity. Savages, did I say? I reverently withdraw the word. Their conduct would put to shame thousands who have been reared under the best of Christian influences. There can be no more exalted evidence of humanity than to give one life with the hope of rescuing others from impending death. Mr. Stanton was one of the party of fifteen who attempted to pass out of the mountains, starting Dec. 16, 1846. He was weak and emaciated, as all were, and on the twenty-first of December became snow blind, and that night failed to reach the camp. The whole party lay in camp the next day waiting for him, but he never came. A party of men who went in the mountains the next summer to bring out the goods belonging to the Donner and Graves children, found his bones at the very tree where they left him on the twenty-first of December. They were chewed and broken in small pieces. The only way they could recognize them to be Stanton's was by a letter form his sister in one of his pockets, with some tobacco, the latter having prevented the wild beasts from destroying every evidence of identity. There was also a pistol that had been loaned to Mr. Stanton by Mr. Fallen, the man who found his remains. No one of those who perished was more sincerely mourned by the survivors than Mr. Stanton. Mr. Reed left this testimony to his worth: "Poor Stanton, who had no relative in the caravan to draw him back, but from the noble disposition he had, and the kind feelings he entertained for myself and family, and another person who had befriended him, induced him to return with provisions, and he lost his life as a noble PHILANTHROPIST. *** His kindness saved my little ones from starvation."
When we last mentioned James F. Reed, he had been baffled in his attempt to reach the camp of the suffering emigrants, and had returned to Captain Sutter's, where he became satisfied that it would be utterly impossible to do anything more for them until spring. He was advised by Captain Sutter to proceed to Yerba Bueno - now San Francisco - and make his case known to the naval officer in command. Arriving at San Jose, he found the San Francisco side of the bay occupied by Mexicans. Here he joined a company of volunteers, and took part in the battle of Santa Clara; that opened the way to San Francisco. There he was enabled to raise, by voluntary contributions, $1,000 in the town and $300 from the sailors in port, with which he purchased supplies, which were placed on board a schooner, in command of midshipman Woodworth, who took all to the mouth of Feather river, where men and horses were procured for carrying relief to the emigrants. On their way to the camp they met a party coming out with women and children, among them Mr. Reed's wife and two children, his other two children, Martha and Thomas K., having been left in camp in charge of a Mr. Glover of the rescuing party, who volunteered to stay with and care for them, assuring Mrs. Reed that he was a Free Mason and knew her husband to be such, and that he would rescue her children or die in the attempt. He was as good as his word, protected and cared for the children until they were rescued by their father, and soon all the members of the family were re-united and rejoicing over their great deliverance. Mr. Reed's was the only entire family who left Sangamon county, all the members of which lived to reach their destination, and they did it without any one of them being driven to the necessity of eating human flesh. It seems the more wonderful that they should all have lived through, when their natural protector was separated from them so much of the time. Having in my possession sufficient material to make a more thrilling narrative of facts, than anything that could be drawn from the imagination, I feel how utterly futile this attempt to convey an idea of the sufferings of that company of emigrants has been, but want of space forbids that I should say more, and I am compelled to close.
The scene of great suffering just described began west of the Great Salt Lake, in a salt desert, and extended hundreds of miles westward, over a succession of mountain ranges, running principally north and south, known as the Sierra Nevada mountains. Localities could not then be described, except by natural boundaries, such as mountains and valleys. The territory then belonged to Mexico, and the suffering and destitution that met the emigrants seemed only a realization of what might reasonably be expected in leaving the land of the Stars and Stripes to come under the sway of the benighted Mexican flag. But the old adage that "the darkest hour is just before the break of day," has been fully realized in this case to those who survived. The war they found in the Sacramento valley, waged by Mexico for the avowed purpose of exterminating the few scattered Americans on the Pacific coast, terminated in that whole region of the country being ceded to our government. Then followed the discovery of gold, the
influx of Americans, and the organization of the States of California and Oregon, and, a few years later, Nevada. The locality of the closing scene, the camp where the Donners died, is marked by a small body of water among the mountains, now known as Lake Donner, in the western part of the State of Nevada.