The Donner Party

My 4th great grandparents were Franklin and Elizabeth Graves.  In 1846, they joined the Donner Party in Utah with their nine children and son-in-law.  Their oldest son, William Cooper Graves, was my 3rd great grandfather.  He had relationships with at least two Pomo Indian women whom he also had children with.  One of his children was my 2nd great grandmother, Emily Graves-Siegel.

The story is significant because my ancestors traveled through Northern Nevada as early as 1846.  This was before Nevada became part of the union in 1864.  It is also said that they camped at a spot in Reno, known today as Donner Party Park.  They stood on ground and made history in a place where their 4th great grandson would be born and raised almost exactly 142 years later.  Potentially being the next in their family to make history on land they never imagined would be what it is today.  It is a good reminder that our actions today can set the tone for our future generations.  Are your descendants going to be proud of you or ashamed of you?  Everything gets recorded these days and your descendants will know more about you than you will ever want them to know.  Make your mark wisely.   

While I have been through a lot in life, I am reminded that I come from resilient and resourceful people.  Franklin was described as "a genuine backwoodsman and pioneer who found his most congenial associations on the frontier.  He despised the trammels of civilization, and loved the unshackled freedom of the red man.  In summer he went shoeless, hatless and coatless, his long coarse hair his only protection.  He was a man of large frame, good natured, hospitable and ever ready to do a kindness."  He was one of the most resourceful people in the party and had many of the skills necessary to help people survive.  In fact, he was the only person in the party who knew what snowshoes were and how to use them. 


Elizabeth was described as, " tall and thin, her good natured sunburnt face wreathed in smiles.  She wore a blue calico frock, an old sun-bonnet and a faded shawl, on dress occasions, and like her liege lord, went barefoot.  It was her custom to cross the river daily in fair weather, laden with honey, wild fruits or soft soap, and dispose of them to the settlers of Columbia (Lacon).  There was not a woman in the place but knew her and loved to see her kind face make its appearance.  She would cross the river in the coldest days and stormiest weather in her little canoe to convey some remedy to the sick or do a kindess." 


Reading their stories, I see a lot of myself in them.  Many who know me best would likely describe me very similarly.    


Franklin and Elizabeth died before they were able to be rescued.   All of the nine kids made it to safety, however, the three youngest died shortly after being rescued.