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The Murphy Family
[Donner Party Roster] [Rescuers and Others]

The Murphys, Fosters, and Pikes formed a large family group, but little has been known about them. They were not as well off as the Donners and Reeds, and unlike those families, left few records. Of the thirteen members of this group, seven reached the California settlements.

To research the Murphy family, try the Union Co., S C and Weakley Co., Tenn. GenWeb sites; for information about William M. Pikes family, see the Pike Family Association website.

Levinah W. Jackson

A widow from Tennessee traveling with her extended family.
Age: 36

Parents: Frederick Jackson (b. 11 Jun 1776, Union Co., SC; d. 6 Aug 1836, Union Co., SC) and Charlotte Vinson (b. 8 Oct 1770, d. 8 Nov 1844 Union Co., SC)

b. 15 Dec 1809 Union Co., SC
m. 19 Dec 1825 Union Co., SC to Jeremiah Burns Murphy (b. 3 Mar 1805, Union Co., SC; d. 5 Oct 1839, Weakley Co., TN)
Sarah Ann Charlotte, Harriet Frances, John Landrum, Meriam Marjory, Lemuel B., William Green, Simon Peter
d. March 1847 at the Donner Lake Camp, Nevada Co., CA

     Based on a late memoir by a grandson who had never met her, Mrs. Murphys name has sometimes been rendered "Lavinia," but this form is clearly incorrect. Documents dating from her lifetime give the name as "Levina" or "Levinah" (pronounced luh-VINE-uh). Her son William spelled the name "Levinah"; Wilford Woodruffs 1836 daybook gives the name as "Levinah W. Murphy," as does a transcription of a family Bible.
     She is often called
"old Mrs. Murphy" in the literature of the Donner Party, but Levinah Jackson Murphy was only 36 when she set out for California. She had been born to a prosperous family living in Union District (now County), South Carolina. Her father was a responsible landowner who sat on juries, administered estates, maintained public roads, and was active in the local Baptist church. Levinah is said to have acted as his private secretary.
     Four days after her sixteenth birthday she married Jeremiah Burns Murphy, son of a neighboring family and her first cousin once removed. The bride and groom were both descended from one Richard Murphy, who, according to family tradition, had been kidnapped from Ireland as a boy and sold as an indentured servant in Virginia. Jeremiah and Levinah had four children in South Carolina before they and several of their siblings moved to Weakley County, Tennessee, about 1833. The Murphys settled on a farm about 2 1/2 miles north of Dresden, the county seat. Three more children were born in Tennessee.
     In the summer of 1836 Jeremiah and Levinah frequently entertained Wilford Woodruff and Abraham O. Smoot, elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormon church. On August 6, Woodruff recorded that he had baptized "Brother and Sister Murphy" into the LDS church. These were almost certainly Jeremiah and Levinah; however, Jeremiah
s brother Emanuel Masters Murphy and his wife also became Mormons about the same time, so the notation may possibly refer to them.
     Jeremiah died October 5, 1839, leaving his 29-year-old widow with seven children to support, the youngest a toddler of 19 months. Jeremiah left a fair amount of property, and Levinah also put her skills as a tailor and weaver to good use. She was still living in Weakley County when the census-taker passed by in 1840, but by 1841 she and her children had moved to the seat of the Mormon church in Nauvoo, Illinois. There Levinah and Sarah were among the first to perform a new LDS ordinance and were baptized in the Mississippi River as proxies for the dead. The four boys attended a school taught by Henry I. Young (no relation to Brigham) from August 25 to October 28, 1842, in the home of Benjamin L. Clapp, a fellow convert from Tennessee. Late that fall the family left Nauvoo. They boarded a steamship for St. Louis at Warsaw, Illinois, but didn
t get very far: the ship became icebound on the opposite shore of the river. On December 29 the two eldest daughters, Sarah and Harriet, were married on board the ship to William M. Foster and William M. Pike by a justice of the peace.
     After the ship was freed it continued on to St. Louis, where the Pikes and Fosters took up residence. Levinah and her younger children continued on to Tennessee; the Pikes joined them there after about a year. Two years after that the family had decided to emigrate to California. The Murphys and Pikes left Tennessee in March 1846 and picked up the Fosters in St. Louis, making a total of 13 people: Levinah, her five younger children, two married daughters, two sons-in-law, and three grandchildren. They traveled to Independence, where they heard that a large caravan had recently left, and caught up with the Russell train at the Big Blue River between May 26-29 while the larger group was waiting for the swollen waters to subside.
     Little emerges from the historical record about Levinah Murphy
s personality. Whether she left the Mormon faith when she left Nauvoo is unclear, but she was a devout woman. Her son William wrote, "She was noted for her extensive erudition in scripture, and the facility with which she handled the subjects then agitating the religious community, and the skill with which she rightly divided the truth."
     In August 1847 the Mormon Battalion's services were no longer needed in California. As the veterans traveled east to Utah they stopped at Johnson
s Ranch before crossing the Sierra. Young Mrs. Johnson, the former Mary Murphy, reportedly told them that her mother

being a widow, with several children dependent upon her for support, while residing in Nauvoo, heard of a chance of obtaining employment at Warsaw, an anti-Mormon town, thirty miles lower down the Mississippi. Thinking to better her condition, she, accordingly, removed to Warsaw, and spent the winter of 1845-46 there. In the spring of the latter year, a party about emigrating to Oregon or California, offered to furnish passage for herself and children on the condition that she would cook and do the washing for the party. Understanding California to be the final destination of the Saints, and thinking this a good opportunity to emigrate without being a burden to the Church, she accepted the proposition, but, alas! the example of Sister Murray [Murphy], although her motives were good, is an illustration of the truism, that "it is better to suffer affliction with the people of God" and trust in Him for deliverance, than to mingle with the sinful "for a season," and be lured by human prospects of a better result!

     This story, as reported, cannot be corroborated. The Murphys took a boat from Warsaw in late 1842 and returned to Tennessee, according to William G. Murphy, and Weakley County sources place the family there during the winter preceding their departure for California. There is no indication that the Murphys were closely associated with another family for whom Levinah might have cooked and washed. However, it was widely known that the Mormons were leaving Illinois, and California was rumored to be their destination. The Murphys very likely did emigrate in order to rejoin the Saints in their new home. According to her daughter Mary, Levinah was very unhappy in Tennessee. Mary also described her mother as "persecuted" and "long suffering," but the precise reasons for Levinahs unhappiness are a mystery.
     Little is known about the Murphys' experiences crossing the plains. When they finally arrived at Donner Lake, Levinah's remaining son-in-law William Foster and William Eddy built a cabin alongside a boulder, using its almost vertical eastern side as one wall. Located about 200 yards from the existing cabin which the Breens occupied, the Murphy cabin site was excavated archaeologically in the 1980s by Donald L. Hardesty of the University of Nevada-Reno. (See his article "Donner Party Archaeology" in Overland Journal 10: 3 (1992), p. 19-26
for more information.)  Here the Murphy clan and the Eddys spent the winter. (For photographs of the boulder, click here.)
     Christmas 1846 was bleak for the Donner Party. That night the Murphys had eaten their supper of boiled bones and Levinah's son William was reading her favorite psalm to her when she became seriously ill. She was blind for a time during the winter, and the Second Relief found that she had become "so reduced by famine, that she was helpless," alternately laughing and weeping. When the Third Relief arrived she was too weak to travel.
     Georgia Donner Babcock wrote to C. F. McGlashan,

Mrs. Murphy was so kind to the little children that we remember her affectionately. It was always my impression that the last [third] relief party took from the cabin Frances, Georgia and Eliza Donner, and Simon Murphy. As we were ready to start, Mrs. Murphy walked to her bed, laid down turned her face toward the wall. One of the men gave her a handful of dried meat.--She seemed to realize that we were leaving her, that her work was finished.

When the Fourth Relief returned a month later, they found her mutilated body.

Sarah Ann Charlotte Murphy

Daughter of Jeremiah Burns Murphy and Levinah W. Jackson; wife of William McFadden Foster.
Age: 19

b. 04 Nov 1826 Union County, SC
m. 29 Dec 1842 Clark Co., MO, to
William McFadden Foster
     Ch: Jeremiah George, Alice E., Georgiana C., William Budd, Minnesota "Minnie," Harriet "Hattie," Frances S.
d. 20 Dec 1906 San Francisco (?), CA

       Sarah Murphy Foster was one of the five young women who joined the Forlorn Hope snowshoe party, leaving her son behind. She and her husband never saw him again.
       Peter H. Burnett met Sarah two years later in Marysville and listened to her talk about the Donner Party:

Mrs. Foster was then about twenty-three years old. She had a fair education, and possessed the finest narrative powers. I never met with any one, not even excepting Robert Newell of Oregon, who could narrate events as well as she. She was not [only?] more accurate and full in her narrative, but a better talker, than Newell. For hour after hour, I would listen in silence to her sad narrative. Her husband was then in good circumstances, and they had no worldly matter to give them pain but their recollections of the past.

        After her husband’s death in 1874 Sarah stayed for a time with her brother William in Marysville but later moved to Mendocino County, where she lived for many years. She died in San Francisco and was buried at Fort Bragg. For a photo of her tombstone, click here.

William McFadden Foster

Husband of Sarah Ann Charlotte Murphy; son-in-law of Levinah W. Jackson;
Age: 30

Parents: David Foster (b. 1782; d. 11 Sep 1840, Crawford Co., PA) and Rebecca McFadden (b. 1786; d. 8 Mar 1861, Crawford Co., PA)

b. 25 Oct 1815 Meadville, Crawford Co., PA
m. 29 Dec 1842 Clark Co., MO to
Sarah Ann Charlotte Murphy
     Ch: Jeremiah George, Alice E., Georgiana C., William Budd, Minnesota "Minnie," Harriet "Hattie," Frances S.
d. 25 Feb 1874 San Francisco, CA

       Nothing is known about William Fosters youth. According to William G. Murphy, Foster was the mate on the boat the Murphy family took from Nauvoo in December 1842. The ship became icebound and two romances sprang up between the crew and the passengers. Foster and his shipmate William Pike were married to Sarah and Harriet Murphy respectively on December 29 by a justice of the peace in Clark County, Missouri, across the river from Nauvoo.
       Foster left the ship and appears to have followed the carpenter
s trade in St. Louis. He and Sarah were living there when their first child, George, was born.
       In the annals of the Donner Party William Foster is best remembered as the man who killed Sutter
s vaqueros, Luis and Salvador, for food. He does not seem to have been much blamed for this act; William Eddys account, related to J. Quinn Thornton, emphasizes that Foster was deranged at the time.
       Regarding his later personality, Peter H. Burnett wrote:

Foster was a man of excellent common sense, and his intelligence had not been affected, like those of many others. His statement was clear, consistent, and intelligible.

       After the disaster Foster worked as a carpenter in San Francisco, but later joined his brothers-in-law, Michael C. Nye and Charles Covillaud, in a ranching venture. During the gold rush he and Nye prospected for gold; Fosters Bar on the Yuba was named for him.
       Foster was a founder and prominent early settler of Marysville, but in the mid-1850s he and his growing family moved to Carver County, Minnesota. An attempt to found a community called San Francisco failed, and they returned to California about 1860.
       William Foster died of cancer in 1874 in San Francisco. A convert to Catholicism, he was buried in the cemetery of the old Mission Dolores.

Jeremiah George Foster

Son of William McFadden Foster and Sarah Ann Charlotte Murphy
Age: 1

b. 25 August 1844 St. Louis, MO
d. March 1847 at the Murphy Cabin, Donner Lake Camp, CA

       This child is referred to as George Foster in Donner Party sources, but Murphy family records indicate that this was actually his middle name.
       There has been some confusion about his age; McGlashan lists him among the nursing infants in the Donner Party, but his age elsewhere is given as four. He was in fact only one when the family set out from Missouri, but had turned two by the time the emigrants reached the lake.
       Sarah and William Foster left George behind with his grandmother when they departed with the Forlorn Hope in mid-December. Levinah did the best she could for him during the dreary winter, but was herself unwell. In February the Second Relief found George and little James Eddy lying in bed, filthy and crying from hunger. They washed the boys and did as much as they could for them, but the outlook was bleak.
       One night in March Louis Keseberg took George to bed with him, and in the morning the boy was dead; grief-stricken, Levinah accused Keseberg of killing him. The little body was cannibalized by the cabin’s inhabitants.

Harriet Frances Murphy

Daughter of Jeremiah Burns Murphy and Levinah W. Jackson; wife of William M. Pike.
Age: 18

b. 08 May 1828 Union Co., SC
m1. 29 Dec 1842 Clark Co., MO to
William M. Pike
     Ch: Naomi Levina, Catherine
m2. 24 Jun 1847 Sutters Fort, Sacramento Co., CA to Michael C. Nye (04 Apr 1821-1905)
     Ch: Harry, d. 21 Oct 1854, age 1 yr 10 mos.; possibly others
d. 1 Sept 1870 at The Dalles, Wasco Co., OR

       Levinah Jackson Murphys second daughter was only 14 when she married William Pike in 1842. They lived for about a year in St. Louis, then made their home in Tennessee with Levinah until the spring of 1846, when the families left to emigrate to California. Harriet lost her husband in a shooting accident along the Truckee River at the end of October 1846. On December 15 she, her brother Lemuel, sister Sarah, and brother-in-law William Foster set out with the Forlorn Hope, leaving her daughters Naomi and Catherine with their grandmother Levinah at the Murphy cabin. The First Relief rescued Naomi, but Catherine died the day after the relief arrived at the camp.
       On May 25, 1847, the Murphy girls wrote to their relatives back in Tennessee. Harriet
s brief note reads in part, "theare is know one that knows how to simpathise with mee left a widow in a strange cuntry with one por orpant childe to take care of I have not the hart nor minde to word all my suffering since I saw you..." A month later, Harriet had found someone to sympathize with her. On June 24, she married Michael C. Nye, who had come to California with the Bidwell-Bartleson Party of 1841 and was now working at Neu Mecklenburg as Theodor Corduas majordomo.
s marriage to the handsome young Nye seems to have been quite happy. In 1849 Mary Murphy wrote, "Harriet is married to Mr. Nye he is a very nice man... he loves Harriet very much." Nye prospected for gold with Foster during the gold rush, but his main interest was stockraising and dealing. He also established a livery stable in Marysville.
       The Nyes and Fosters were living in Marysville when they got to know Peter H. Burnett in 1849: "Mrs. Nye did not talk much, not being a talkative woman, and being younger than Mrs. Foster, her sister."
       Late in 1849 the Nyes and Fosters returned east for a visit via the Isthmus of Panama. There Harriet ran into an acquaintance, Heinrich Lienhard, who was escorting John Sutter
s wife and children from Switzerland to California. Lienhard happened to overhear "an attractive American woman" speaking of him and discovered that it was Mrs. Nye.
       The Nyes lived in Marysville for several years, but moved to Oregon in the 1860s. Harriet died at the relatively young age of 46 and was buried in Marysville, but her widower remained in Oregon until his death in 1905.

William Montgomery Pike

Husband of Harriet Frances Murphy; son-in-law of Levinah W. Jackson
Age: [32]

Parents: James Brown Pike (b. 01 May 1784, New York, d. 19 Apr 1855 Kirkville, Wapello Co., Iowa) and Mrs. Wolfries.

b. abt 1814 in Dearborn Co., Indiana
m1. 29 Dec 1842 Clark Co., MO to Harriet Frances Murphy
     Ch: Naomi Levina, Catherine
d. Late Oct 1846 along the Truckee River in Nevada

       William M. Pike, the illegitimate son of James Brown Pike and a Mrs. Wolfries, was a grandson of a Revolutionary War officer, Zebulon Pike, and a nephew of the explorer Zebulon Montgomery Pike, after whom Pike’s Peak in Colorado is named.
       In late 1842 Pike was the engineer aboard a riverboat which became icebound on the western shore of the Mississippi. One of the passengers was fourteen-year-old Harriet Murphy. The couple was married on board the ship on December 29, the same day that William Foster married Harriet’s sister Sarah. The Pikes spent about a year in St. Louis, then went to live with Harriet’s family in Weakley County, Tennessee.
       There Pike helped clear a 200-acre tract belonging to the family. His unfamiliarity with woodcutting amused the Murphy boys, who nevertheless thought him "the greatest man they ever met." According to William G. Murphy, Pike was "an extraordinary man, a real genius, a full fledged mechanic" and a "powerful ally" to Levinah Murphy.
       On the trail, Pike is recorded as going ahead with James F. Reed and Charles Stanton to overtake Hastings and get his advice about the route through the Wasatch Mountains. In 1871, however, Reed wrote that his companions were Stanton and William McCutchen. It has been suggested that Reed confused the mission to consult Hastings with the sending of Stanton and McCutchen ahead to Sutter’s Fort for supplies. Whatever the case, the earliest sources--an article which appeared in the California Star on February 13, 1847 and J. Quinn Thornton’s Oregon and California in 1848--report that it was Pike; survivors told McGlashan it was Pike; even Virginia Reed Murphy said it was Pike, contradicting her father.
       In October, while the company was traveling along the Humboldt, Pike returned from a hunting trip with William Eddy to discover that Mr. Hardcoop had been put out of Keseberg’s wagon and was now missing. When Hardcoop had not arrived at the camp the next morning, Pike, Eddy, and Milt Elliott volunteered to go on foot after him, but the company would not wait and they were forced to leave Hardcoop to his fate.
       William Pike met his own fate not long thereafter. As C. F. McGlashan told it

After the arrival of Stanton, it was still deemed necessary to take further steps for the relief of the train. The generosity of Captain Sutter, as shown to Stanton, warranted them in believing that he would send still further supplies to the needy emigrants. Accordingly, two brothers-in-law, William Foster and William Pike, both brave and daring spirits, volunteered to go on ahead, cross the summits, and return with provisions as Stanton had done. Both men had families, and both were highly esteemed in the company. At the encampment near Reno, Nevada, while they were busily preparing to start, the two men were, cleaning or loading a pistol. It was an old-fashioned "pepper-box." It happened, while they were examining it, that wood was called for to replenish the fire. One of the men offered to procure it, and in order to do so, handed the pistol to the other. Everybody knows that the "pepper-box" is a very uncertain weapon. Somehow, in the transfer, the pistol was discharged. William Pike was fatally wounded, and died in about twenty minutes. Mrs. Pike was left a widow, with two small children. The youngest, Catherine, was a babe of only a few months old, and Naomi was only three years of age. The sadness and distress occasioned by this mournful accident, cast a gloom over the entire company, and seemed an omen of the terrible fate which overshadowed the Donner Party.

Naomi Levina Pike

Daughter of William M. Pike and Harriet Frances Murphy
Age: 2

b. 13 Nov 1843 in St. Louis, MO
m1. 8 Sep 1864 in Marysville, Yuba Co., CA to Benjamin W. Mitchell
m2. abt 1877 to John L. Schenck
d. 3 Apr 1934 in The Dalles, Wasco Co., OR

       John Rhoads of the First Relief met Harriet Pike at Johnson’s Ranch, and, moved by her plight, determined to rescue her children. He may have been influenced by the fact that he, like Harriet, was or had been a Mormon. Catherine died the day after the relief arrived, but Naomi was still alive. Rhoads carried her slung on his back in a blanket to her mother. Decades later, Naomi wrote of him with gratitude.
       Harriet’s marriage to Michael C. Nye gave Naomi a kind stepfather. Mary Murphy wrote, "he loves Naomi as well as if she war his own child." She was often called "Naomi Nye."
       Naomi married Benjamin Mitchell, a physician, in Marysville and moved to Oregon; the Nyes later moved there as well. After Mitchell’s death she married John L. Schenck, an agent for a steamship company who later went into banking. When he died in 1913 he left Naomi a wealthy widow, but she was impoverished by the stock market crash of 1929. She had no children by either of her husbands.
       When Naomi died in 1934, the passing of the next to the last survivor of the Donner Party was widely reported in the press.

Catherine Pike

Daughter of William M. Pike and Harriet Frances Murphy
Age: [1]

       Catherine Pike was evidently named after her father’s sister, who had died in 1843 at the age of 22. Catherine’s exact age is unknown; her sister Naomi Pike Schenck wrote Kansas historian John Ellenbecker that Catherine was only "nine months old," but was that Catherine’s age when she died or when the family left Missouri for California?
       In mid-December Harriet Pike left her two small daughters behind in a desperate attempt to seek assistance:

Dear Mrs. Murphy had the most sacred and pitiful charge. It was the wee nursing babe, Catherine Pike, whose mother had gone with the "Forlorn Hope," to try, if possible, to procure relief. All there was to give the tiny sufferer, was a little gruel made from snow water, containing a slight sprinkling of coarse flour. This flour was simply ground wheat, unbolted. Day after day the sweet little darling would lie helplessly upon its grandmother’s lap, and seem with its large, sad eyes to be pleading for nourishment. Mrs. Murphy carefully kept the little handful of flour concealed--there was only a handful at the very beginning--lest some of the starving children might get possession of the treasure. Each day she gave Catherine a few teaspoonfuls of the gruel. Strangely enough, this poor little martyr did not often cry with hunger, but with tremulous, quivering mouth, and a low, subdued sob or moan, would appear to be begging for something to eat. The poor, dumb lips, if gifted with speech, could not have uttered a prayer half so eloquent, so touching. Could the mother, Mrs. Pike, have been present, it would have broken her heart to see her patient babe dying slowly, little by little. Starvation had dried the maternal breasts long before Mrs. Pike went away, so that no one can censure her for leaving her baby. She could only have done as Mrs. Murphy did, give it the plain, coarse gruel, and watch it die, day by day, upon her lap.

On February 22, 1847, Patrick Breen recorded, "I burried pikes child this moring in the snow it died 2 days ago."

John Landrum Murphy

Son of Jeremiah Burns Murphy and Levinah W. Jackson
Age: 16

b. 16 Nov 1829 Union Co., SC
d. 31 Jan 1847 at the Murphy cabin, Donner Lake Camp, Nevada Co., CA

       When Foster and Eddy left with the Forlorn Hope in mid-December, Landrum became the oldest male living at the Murphy cabin. On him no doubt fell the brunt of cutting firewood and shoveling snow, chores which became increasingly arduous as he weakened from starvation.
       Patrick Breen
s diary records his decline: on January 17, "Lanthrom crazy last night"; January 19: "Lanthrom very low in danger if relief dont come soon"; January 27: "Lanthrom lying in bed the whole of his time"; January 31: "Lantron Murphy died last night about one Oclock."
       As C.F. McGlashan described it,

Landrum Murphy was a large and somewhat overgrown young man. The hides and burnt bones did not contain sufficient nourishment to keep him alive. For some hours before he died, he lay in a semi-delirious state, breathing heavily and seemingly in little or no pain. Mrs. Murphy went to the Breen camp, and asked Mrs. Breen for a piece of meat to save her starving boy. Mrs. Breen gave her the meat, but it was too late, Landrum could not eat. Finally he sank into a gentle slumber. His breathing grew less and less distinct, and ere they were fairly aware of it life was extinct.

Meriam Marjory Murphy

Daughter of Jeremiah Burns Murphy and Levinah W. Jackson
Age: 14

b. 15 Nov 1831 Union Co., SC
m1. 24 Jun 1847 Sutter
s Fort, Sacramento Co., CA to William Johnson; divorced
m2. 25 Dec 1848 Sutter
s Fort, Sacramento Co., CA to Charles Julian Covillaud (b. 21 Nov 1816 in Cognac, France; d. 05 Feb 1867 Marysville, Yuba Co., CA)
     Ch: Mary Ellen, Charles Julian, William Pierre, Francis Theodore, Naomi Sabine
d. 27 Sep 1867 Marysville, Yuba Co., CA

       Although she is usually known as Mary, church and family records give her name as Meriam, a form that occurs several times in the Jackson and Murphy families. The middle name Marjory is from a transcription of a family Bible.
       Mary was rescued from the Donner Lake camp by the First Relief in February 1847. She was haunted by the tragedy. In May 1847 she wrote, "i hope i shall not live long for i am tired of this troublesome world and i want to go to my mother." A brief and troubled marriage to William Johnson, the proprietor of Johnson
s Ranch, was followed by a much happier union with Charles Covillaud. Yet in 1849, despite her greatly improved circumstances, Mary was still sad: "I shall always wish that it had been gods will for me to die with my Mother."
       During the gold rush a thriving town sprang up on the Yuba river at what had been known as Nye
s Ranch. The town was named Marysville after the wife of a prominent citizen, Mrs. Charles Covillaud--the former Mary Murphy.
       As a surviving photograph shows, Mary was a lovely young woman; Heinrich Lienhard remembered the first time that he saw "the beautiful Mary." Bostonian Franklin A. Buck met Mary Covillaud and her sister Sarah Foster in 1850. He acknowledged her looks but was otherwise unimpressed:
Mrs. C. and Mrs. F. are two of the party who came over the mountains in 1846 and came so near starving. You recollect the horrid sufferings they endured, even to eating each other. They are the elite of the place, of course. Mrs. Covilland is quite young and pretty but there is not the least refinement or taste about them. The fact is that there is no woman who can come to this country at present and have any refinement. Their finer feelings, if they have any, will soon get blunted with the life they must live here.

Although she did not meet Bucks standard of refinement, Mary was remembered as a kind and generous woman who enjoyed flowers. She seems to have lived happily in the town that bore her name. Charles Covillaud died in February 1867 and his widow followed him only seven months later, dying at the age of 35. She is buried in the Catholic cemetery at Marysville.

Lemuel B. Murphy

Son of Jeremiah Burns Murphy and Levinah W. Jackson
Age: 12

b. 17 Oct 1833 Weakley Co., TN.
d. 27 Dec 1846 at Camp of Death, Nevada Co., CA.

         The birthplace of Lemuel Murphy, Levinah's second son, is uncertain but was it probably Tennessee.
         Lemuel set out with the Forlorn Hope in mid-December:

A boy about thirteen years old, Lemuel was dearly loved by his sisters, and, full of courage, had endeavored to accompany them on the fearful journey. He was feeble when he started from the cabins, and the overwhelming sufferings of the fatal trip had destroyed his remaining strength.... (C. F. McGlashan)

       At Camp of Death Sarah Foster sat holding Lemuel and trying to comfort him in his delirium. The sun set, the moon rose, and about two o’clock in the morning Lemuel died. Ever afterwards, Sarah told McGlashan, she could never "behold a bright moonlight without recurring with a shudder to this night on the Sierra."

Mrs. Foster spoke of this young hero with the greatest feeling. His patience and resignation were of the martyr type. When they were reduced to half a biscuit each, he insisted that she should eat his portion as well as her own; but this she refused. (Peter H. Burnett)

William Green Murphy

Son of Jeremiah Burns Murphy and Levinah W. Jackson
Age: 10

b. 15 Jan 1836 Weakley Co., TN
m. 03 Dec 1861 Weakley Co., TN to Damaris Kathleen Cochran
     Ch: Tullulah "Lulie" T., Kate Nye, William Green, Jr., Charles Mitchell, Ernest H., Harriet F., Leander B.
d. 04 Feb 1904 Marysville, Yuba Co., CA

       Young William set out with the Forlorn Hope with other members of his family, but had no snowshoes and had to turn back. Had he not done so, he almost certainly would have met the same fate as his brother Lemuel. Two months later, on his way out of the mountains with the First Relief, William’s feet became so badly frostbitten that he couldn’t continue, but it came to a choice of walk or die. He walked.
       After their rescue and recuperation, the two surviving Murphy boys flourished in California. In 1849 their sister Mary Covillaud wrote, "William and Simon are large helthy boys and as like the other boyes was William can ride wild horses like a spaniard they can talk spanish and indian to[o]." William acted as an Indian interpreter at Bidwell’s Bar in 1848-49.
In December 1849 William and Simon Murphy accompanied their sister Harriet and brother-in-law Michael Nye east via the Isthmus of Panama. At Gorgona they met John Sutter’s family, who were on their way to Sacramento escorted by Heinrich Lienhard. After arriving at New Orleans, William and his companions traveled on to Dresden, Tennessee, where the family still owned property.
       The Nyes returned to California but the boys stayed on, living with a local family. Evidently William, as the eldest surviving son, was expected to continue his education. His schooling had been scanty, however, so he had to be tutored until he was ready to enter the University of Missouri at Columbia for the school year 1852-53. In 1854 he returned to California, helping to drive a large herd of cattle back to Marysville, but after a few years went back to Missouri and completed his education, graduating in 1861.
       William returned to Marysville, where he was admitted to the bar in January 1863. In August of that year he was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of Nevada and practiced law in Virginia City for three years, but in 1866 went back to Marysville for good. His law practice was very successful. He served as court commissioner for twenty-seven years and also as district attorney of Yuba County.
       Murphy stood more than six feet tall, loved children, was a noted orator, a staunch prohibitionist, and a founder of Marysville’s Christian  Church (Disciples of Christ). His passing in 1904 was sincerely mourned by his fellow citizens.

Simon Peter Murphy

Son of Jeremiah Burns Murphy and Levinah W. Jackson
Age: 8

b. 14 Mar 1838 Weakley Co., TN
m. 21 Sep 1859 Weakley Co., TN to M. C. Foster
Ch: John Robert, Naomi, Geneva, Emanuel Byrd
d. 31 Mar 1873 Weakley Co., TN

       Simon was rescued with the three little Donner girls by the Third Relief. Georgia Donner Babcock referred to him as "Simon Murphy, whom I remember so kindly."
       Simon and William Murphy returned to Weakley County, Tennessee in 1849. Simon remained there, but William returned West after graduating from college.
       When the Civil War broke out, Simon served as a private in Company L, Sixth Cavalry, USA, also called the West Tennessee Cavalry Regiment. His unit was described on May 6, 1864 as "a raw, undisciplined detachment" and for many months was reported as "dismounted and unassigned."
       Simon stayed in contact with his family in California -- his death was reported in a Sacramento newspaper -- but little known about his children. At least some of them had children of their own: In January 1952, when the passenger train City of San Francisco was trapped by snow for three days in the Sierra, the analogy to the Donner Party did not escape the notice of the media. A Tennessee newspaper article reporting the incident published information given by a descendant of Simon P. Murphy.


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