History of California
History of San Francisco
and Mission Days in Alta California, by Guadalupe Vallejo
in California Before the Gold Discovery, by John Bidwell
T. Sherman and Early Calif. History
T. Sherman and the Gold Rush
Gold Rush Chronology 1846 - 1849
Gold Rush Chronology 1850 - 1851
Gold Rush Chronology 1852 - 1854
Gold Rush Chronology 1855 - 1856
Gold Rush Chronology 1857 - 1861
Gold Rush Chronology 1862 - 1865
Eyewitness to the Gold Discovery
Governor Masons Report on the Discovery of Gold
Rush to the Gold Washings From the California Star
Discovery as Viewed in New York and London
Day in the 1850s
Brannan Opens New Bank - 1857
by Capt. J.A. Sutters launch
which arrived here a few days since from Fort Sacramento we received
a letter from a friend at that place, containing a most distressing account
of the situation of the emigrants in the mountains, who were prevented
from crossing them by the snow, and of a party of eleven who attempted
to come into the valley on foot. The writer, who is well qualified to judge,
is of the opinion that the whole party might have reached the California
valley before the first fall of snow, if the men had exerted themselves
as they should have done. Nothing but a contrary and contentious disposition
on the part of some of the men belonging to the party prevented them from
getting in as soon as any of the first companies.
The follow particulars we
extracted from the letter:
The company is composed
of twenty three waggons, and is a part of Col. Russells company, that
left the rendezvous on Indian Creek near the Missouri line on the 13th
day of May last. They arrived at Fort Bridger in good time, some two weeks
earlier than the last company on the road. From that point they took the
new road by the south end of the Great Salt Lake, which was then being
marked out by some seventy five waggons with Messrs. Hastings and Headspath
They followed on in the
train until they were near the Weber River canion, and within
some 4 or 5 days travel of the leading waggons, when they stopped and sent
on three men, (Messrs. Reed, Stanton and Pike) to the first company, (with
which I was then travelling in company,) to request Mr. Hastings to go
back and show them the pack trail from the Red Fork of Weber River to the
Lake. Mr. H. went back and showed them the trail, and then returned to
our company, all of which time we remained in camp, waiting for Mr. Hastings
to show us the rout.
They then commenced making
the new road over the Lake on the pack trail, so as to avoid the Weber
river canion, and Mr. Reed and others, who left the company, and came in
for assistance, informed me that they were sixteen days making the road,
as the men would not work one quarter of their time. Had they gone on the
road that we had made for them, they would have easily overtaken us before
we reached the old road on Marys river. They were then but some 4 of 5
days travel behind the first waggons, which were travelling slow, on account
of being obliged to make an entire new rout for several hundred miles through
heavy sage and over mountains, and delayed four days by the guides hunting
out passes in the mountains, and these waggons arrived at the settlement
about the first of October. Had they gone around the old road, the north
end of the great Salt Lake, they would have been in the first of September.
After crossing the long
drive of 75 miles without water or grass, and suffering much from loss
of oxen, they sent on two men (Messrs. Stanton and McCutcher.) They left
the company recruiting on the second long drive of 35 miles, and came in
to Capt. J. A. Sutters Fort, and asked for assistance. Capt. Sutter in
his usual prompt and generous manner, furnished them with 7 of his best
mules and two of his favorite Indian vaqueros, and all of the flour and
beef that they wanted. Mr. C.S. Stanton, a young gentlemen from Syracuse,
New York, although he had no interest in the company, took charge of the
vaqueros and provisions, and returned to the company. Afterwards, Mr. Reed
came in almost exhausted from starvation; he was supplied with a still
larger number of horses and mules and all the provisions he could take.
He returned as far as the Bear river valley, and found snow so deep, that
he could not get to the company. He cached the provisions at that place
Since that time (the middle
of November,) we heard nothing of the company, until last week, when a
messenger was sent down from Capt. Wm. Johnsons settlement, with the astounding
information that five women and two men had arrived at that point entirely
naked, their feet frost bitten and informed them that the company
arrived within three miles of the small log cabin near Truckys Lake on
the east side of the mountains, and found the snow so deep that they could
not travel, and fearing starvation, sixteen of the strongest, (11 males
and 5 females) agreed to start for the settlement on foot. Scantily clothed
and provided with provisions they commenced that horrid journey over the
mountains that Napoleons fete on the Alps was childs play compared with.
After wandering about a
number of days bewildered in the snow, their provisions gave out, and long
hunger made it necessary to resort to that horrid recourse casting lots
to see who should give up life, that their bodies might be used for food
for the remainder. But at this time the weaker began to die which rendered
it unnecessary to take life, and as they died the company went into camp
and made meat of the dead bodies of their companions. After travelling
thirty days, 7 out of the 16 arrived within 15 miles of Capt. Johnsons,
the first house of the California settlements; and most singular to relate,
all the females that started, 5 women came in safe, and but two of the
men, and one of them was brought in on the back of an Indian.
Nine of the men died and
seven of them were eaten by their companions The first person
that died was Mr. C.S. Stanton, the young man who so generously returned
to the company with Capt. Sutters two Indian vaqueros and provisions;
his body was left on the snow. The last two that died was Capt. Sutters
two Indian vaqueros and their bodies were used as food by the seven that
came in. The company left behind, numbers sixty odd souls; ten men, the
balance women and children. They are in camp about 100 miles from Johnsons,
the first house after leaving the mountains, or 150 from fort Sacramento.
Those who have come in say that Capt. Sutters seven mules were stolen
by the Indians a few days after they reached the company, and that when
they had left, the company had provisions sufficient to last them until
the middle of February.
The party that came in,
were at one time 36 hours in a snow storm without fire; they had but three
quilts in the company. I could state several most horrid circumstances
connected with this affair: such as one of the women being obliged to eat
part of the body of her father and brother, another saw her husbands heart
cooked &c; which would be more suitable for a hangmans journal than
the columns of a family newspaper. I have not had the satisfaction of seeing
any one of the party that has arrived; but when I do, I will get more of
the particulars and sent them to you.
As soon as we received the
information we drew up the appeal of which I enclose you a copy, calling
a meeting in the armory of the Fort, explained the object of the meeting
and solicited the names of all that would go. We were only able to raise
seven here, they started this morning for Johnsons to join
the party raised there. Capt. J.A. Sutter in his usual generous manner
ordered his overseer to give this brave band of men, all the provisions
they could carry. They took as much beef, bread, and sugar, as they thought
they could carry and started in good spirits on their long and perilous
trip. Capt. Kern the commander of the Sacramento District, will go up as
far as Johnsons to-morrow to assist in starting the party, and may go
as far as the Bear River Valley.
February 13, 1847
A minor footnote to the Donner Party disaster occurred
73 years after those hapless emigrants began their trek over the Sierra.
The February 1919 Grizzly Bear, magazine of the Native Sons of the
Golden West, contained this obscure Donnerania buried on page 16, in columns
devoted to Parlor happenings around the state:
to the top of the page.
June of last year, when the Grand Parlor dedicated the Donner Monument,
one of the honored guests of the occasion was Mrs. Frank Lewis of Santa
Cruz, one of the survivors of the party which suffered such hardships at
the monument site during the winter of 1846-47. Recently she sent this
letter of greeting to President F. A. Wilson of Donner 162:
November 23, 1918
Mrs. F. A. Wilson,
President, Donner Parlor, Truckee
Dear Native Son of Our
I Love California.
In June, 1918, three of
my children accompanied me to witness the unveiling and dedication of the
grand monument, erected upon the spot of ground where my own little feet
tried to make prints onward and out of the deep, deep, snow, to California,
a land of Plenty of Beef and Wheat.
Yes, but this is a note
of most grateful thanks to all of the Native Sons and Daughters of California.
Mr. McGlashan, and all faithful workers, to gain a monument to the Pioneers
memory. The monument is magnificent, the pride of our State of California.
I desire to send greetings
to you, and each member of your Parlor; yes, glad!
Hip Hip Hurrah! The war
[World War I] is over. Peace! Joy, gladness, come to every one of our
noble Native Sons. God has been our guide; not through snows and THE starvation,
but through the bloodshed of war.
Greetings with all kindest
wishes to you and each member of the Donner Parlor of Truckee. I trust
we shall meet again, clasp the hands of friendship, and be glad.
I am your old Pioneer friend.
MRS. FRANK LEWIS
Little Patty Reed, 1846, of the Reed-Donner Party.