Newsletter of the Utah Crossroads Chapter
Oregon-California Trails Association

Fall 1996 - Vol. 7, No. 4
[ Editions ] [ Home ]

Table of Contents
The Editor's Corner
Kristin Johnson
Rustmarks Along the Trail
George Ivory
The Roads Didn’t Get a Whole Lot Better in a Hundred Years, or,
A Visit to the Hole-in-the-Rock
Reported by Lyndia Carter
Riley Septimus Moutrey Recalls the Donner Relief
Trail Dust
Al Mulder
Baptiste Who?
Kristin Johnson
Outstanding Educator Program Awards


[ Table of Contents ] Crossroads, Fall 1996 - Vol. 7, No. 4

The Editor's Corner

Kristin Johnson

Well, after the excesses of the last issue, this one is pretty darn lean. We’re still on the Donner sesquicentennial but the next one will be the last. Starting with the Spring 1997 issue the focus will be on the Mormon pioneer 150th anniversary. This is not my area of expertise, however, and I need copy, so contributions to Crossroads will be gratefully accepted.

In addition to the Donner material in this issue we have some other items of interest. Lyndia Carter is back; she’s been very busy with her handcart research, but managed to find time to report on the Hole-in-the-Rock Gang’s adventures in the slickrock country last October, and our regular columnists George Ivory and Al Mulder are with us, too.

I’m pleased to announce that Crossroads has a new associate editor, John Eldredge, who has kindly consented to help with the many tasks involved.

Other than that, there’s not much news. I hope you enjoy the newsletter, and wish you all the best for the holiday season.

Kristin Johnson


[ Table of Contents ] Crossroads, Fall 1996 - Vol. 7, No. 4

Rustmarks Along the Trail

George Ivory

"Makes me proud to be associated with such great people."

Nineteen ninety-six, another year of learning, exploring, experiencing. Field trips—Hastings Cutoff, Hole-in-the-Rock; busloads of teachers being taught; great speakers at our membership meetings; a fun national convention in Elko; newsletters with outstanding historical information; a new monument in Grantsville; trail marking and mapping; a fantastic pioneer history activity book provided free to more that 2,000 Utah school teachers; ongoing research and book publishing by our chapter embers. Think about it—Utah Crossroads members are leading the way and, as chapter president, I want to express my thanks to my friends in the chapter who devote so many hours of their time and willingly share their knowledge and resources to further our goals of determining factual history, protecting historical sites, and educating the public. We have some fun along the way but our true satisfaction comes from the great service our members are doing to enhance western history. Kudos to all of you.

Now we approach a new year, 1997, and again our opportunities to serve will be many. This is the sesquicentennial of the Mormon pioneer migration into the West and many exciting events will take place, beginning with a proclamation by Utah’s governor on January 9. The LDS Church will open a new visitor center at the Winter Quarters Cemetery in Omaha, and another for Martin’s Cove and Devil’s Gate at the Sun Ranch in Wyoming. A combined wagon train and handcart group will make the trek from Omaha to Salt lake City and those interested may participate for a day, week, month, or whatever. Details are available by calling 1-800-552-6191. (Utah Crossroads members Eldon and Jan Fletcher are fielding those calls at the Winter Quarters Visitor Center.) A two-hour PBS documentary, Trail of Hope, is under way with help from many Utah Crossroaders. Will Bagley is working with the Arthur H. Clark Company to publish a number of new Mormon historical books. July 24, of course, will be a day of celebration but many events will lead up to that day, including the wagon train entering the Salt Lake Valley on July 22.

Our Utah Crossroads spring field trip will be in mid-June and will follow the Mormon Trail from Wyoming into Utah. We will team up again with the Deseret News to sponsor tours for Utah school teachers, including a hiking tour on June 7, National Trail Day, from Mormon Flat to Big Mountain.

In August we will deviate a bit by going to Pocatello, Idaho, for OCTA’s national convention. There will be many opportunities for our members to serve family, church, or school groups as tour guides, speakers, historical advisors, etc., and we will be involved in many of the major celebration events, such as the wagon train’s last few days of travel coming into Utah. It looks like a very busy year shaping up and Utah Crossroads members will once again be in demand as knowledgeable leaders for many historical events. Makes me proud to be associated with such great people.

—George Ivory


[ Table of Contents ] Crossroads, Fall 1996 - Vol. 7, No. 4

The Roads Didn’t Get a Whole Lot Better in a Hundred Years, or,
A Visit to the Hole-in-

reported by
Lyndia Carter

"...others set up shop at the Hole-in-the-Rock and commenced building a road to the river nearly 2000 feet down."

The Hole-in-the-Rock adventure began for Utah Crossroaders, oddly enough, at a park in Parley’s Canyon on the Saturday, September 7, 1996. That was the evening of the annual fall social and a crowd of hungry people were there— hungry for food and to learn about the colonizing mission sent to the San Juan country and the road those colonizers made across the canyon-broken wilderness of southeastern Utah.

With food, entertainment and socializing behind us, it was time for Lamont Crabtree to take over. Lamont’s grandparents were members of the Hole-in-the-Rock mission, as it came to be called. The colonists were southern Utahns "called" by John Taylor, then president of the Mormon church, to make their way across the Colorado River and through the canyonlands to San Juan County to establish settlements. Silas Smith was to be the leader of the 250 colonists. Before they were to reach their destination, six months would pass. A route had been explored, but it seemed too long and round about, so the colonists chose to make their own. That route proved to be nearly impossible, but by sheer determination and back-breaking work, they forged a trail, part of which became the object Utah Crossroads’ fall field trip.

Lamont vividly described the expedition. The slides he used to illustrate his lecture were excellent and certainly prepared us for what was coming up the following month. His story-telling style kept his audience enthralled. The colonists left their homes in October 1879 rendezvoused at Escalante, then called Potato Valley. From there they crossed the Escalante Desert, stopping at water holes about every ten miles. Since no road existed then, they made their own trail. They camped at Dance Hall Rock and sent explorers to the Colorado River gorge to investigate. These explorers crossed the river and checked out the terrain on the other side. It looked bad, real bad! The explorers recommended turning back, but snow-blocked canyons and stubbornness prevented giving up. Jens Nielsen was one of those who said they must go on, they could not fail. So on they went. The wagons had to go straight up and down difficult washes and over slick, solid sandstone before arriving at the gorge. Not all the people could camp at the gorge because of lack of water and forage, so some camped at 50 Mile Spring while others set up shop at the Hole-in-the-Rock and commenced building a road to the river nearly 2000 feet down. The Hole-in-the-Rock was a natural crevice into a canyon leading down to the river. If the crevice could be widened and a road constructed, the wagons could cross the river and be on their way. They decided to ignore the odds and build that road. It took six weeks to blast the notch wider, fill low areas, and tack a dugway onto a lower section. Uncle Ben’s Dugway, as they called it, was an ingenious engineering accomplishment. It was incredible what those builders did! Still there was the 45 foot sheer drop-off to begin with, but they would just have to shoot the chute. Platte D. Lyman measured the grade at 55%— pretty scary. Miraculously, all the wagons made it down the Hole-in-the-Rock road safely, although somewhat shaken up. The first wagons went down on January 26, 1880.

The ferry they had built took them across the river to even worse obstacles ahead. With food running low, they continued on. It was cold and miserable and the terrain demanded a heavy toll on men, wagons, and animals as they continued their agonizingly slow way to the San Juan River. Lamont’s slides took us vividly down the path they so painstakingly hacked from the rock and through the desert sand, through washes and up and down slickrock surfaces. In April of 1880 they could go no further. Stopping short of their original destination, they built the little town of Bluff.

With this background in mind, it was exciting to plan for the excursion to the Hole-in-the-Rock. Like the would-be colonists we set out from our various homes to make our various ways to Escalante. It was, appropriately, October, just as it was for those of long ago. As we made our way through central Utah on October 11, the glorious autumn weather stimulated dreams of the perfect field trip. Going through the plateau country on backroads was a beautiful experience in modern four-wheel drive vehicles. Many of us car-pooled and the companionship was as exceptionally fine as the day.

We reached Escalante in the late afternoon. We found our rooms and some of us met in a local restaurant for dinner together. Several chose to take walks through the charming town before retiring.

Saturday morning there were big doings at the Monk household. Keith and his wife made a wonderful breakfast, hot cakes and all the fixings, far better than the colonists would have had before setting out to the Hole-in-the-Rock. After gorging, we set out on the trail. As usual, Roy Tea had prepared an excellent trail guide. David E. Miller’s book, Hole in the Rock was the main informational source for the booklet, whose maps were also very useful in understanding what we would be seeing. As good as that material was, however, it was our charming guide, Leah Griffin, who added the sparkle to the trip. Her commentary was both fun and instructive. Sometimes CB’s would not work properly and it was frustrating to miss out on some of the commentary she provided.

That morning we drove directly to the Hole-in-the-Rock, following fairly closely the trail of the pioneers. It was a wonderfully warm, dry day and we kicked up a good amount of dust on the dirt roads. The nearer we got to the Hole-in-the-Rock the more the roads deteriorated. Some of the group had been there in earlier years, some in passengers cars, and were surprised to see how the road has worsened. It was a challenge for many of the high clearance four-wheel drive vehicles. Leah, excellent guide that she was, would sometimes get out of the lead car, driven by Roy Tea, and direct the other vehicles over the rough spots. With Leah out directing traffic, the phrase "Hey, will some one pick up Leah?" became quite commonplace. The slick rocks and some highly eroded sections made driving a challenge. Some of the school teachers seemed to be having the wildest time of all as they tackled those sections with gusto. The last five miles were truly terrible, bad enough for Roy to think twice about planning a future trip to the trail on the east side of the Colorado River, which is infinitely worse.

At last we arrived at the top of the Colorado River gorge where we ate lunch and scrambled over the slick rock and tried to imagine what it was like a hundred and sixteen years ago in the middle of winter for those intrepid pioneers. We were glad that it was neither summer nor winter, because the temperature was more than pleasant.

Many of the field trip participants set off down the Hole-in-the-Rock trail. There isn’t much of the trail left down the tiny canyon. It is more like a fun rock climb than going down a road and it was hard to picture how the road would have been and how they ever could have made it passable for covered wagons and teams. The river is no longer a little line of blue at the bottom; the azure blue of Lake Powell glistens in the canyon below. The areas the pioneers filled are all eroded away, huge rocks have fallen from the cliff face, and there is nothing left of Uncle Ben’s Dugway, but it was interesting to hike down and scramble back up. The return to Kanab was much more leisurely. We took time to have a "Tea" party, in honor of Roy Tea, at Dance Hall Rock. Leah played some music on her tape recorder and some actually danced just as the pioneers did. Others climbed around on the slickrock. Another point of interest was Carcas Wash memorial to several members of a Boy Scout group who were killed in an accident on a trip to Hole-in-the-Rock in the 1960’s. We also visited what remains of the Soda Cabin, left from early mining days, which the Griffins maintained until vandals recently burned it down. The desert country we passed through that day was fascinating in its austerity and grandeur. How formidable it would have been in 1879!

It was getting toward evening; many were anxious to get off the dirt roads before dark and hurried on to Escalante. However, those of us in Oscar Olson’s vehicle had an extra treat in store, a side-trip to the Devil’s Garden. Nature had eroded wonderfully fantastic shapes and as twilight descended it was an almost magical place to be.

Sunday morning we again made individual itineraries for the day to get ourselves home. Several vehicles traveled together over the Burr Trail. Few places in the world could be more beautiful than what we saw that morning. The colors of the canyon country in the autumn are everything the travel brochures claim. For some a side trip into one of the slot canyons was another high point of the weekend. We then wound through the wonders of Capitol Reef National Park. Several carloads rendezvoused, quite by accident, at a rest stop and had lunch together, then it was time to think seriously about getting home. Most did, but we in Oscar’s car, affectionately known as King Oscar and the Kippered Snacks, were reluctant to return to civilization and made the day last as long as we could in the canyonlands, arriving home long after dark.

Thus ended another memorable Crossroads weekend. October 11, 12, and 13th were days to treasure, especially the great Hole-in-the-Rock adventure of Saturday.


[ Table of Contents ] Crossroads, Fall 1996 - Vol. 7, No. 4

Riley Septimus Moutrey Recalls the Donner Relief

"They were an awful looking sight—a white and starved looking lot, I can tell you. There were pretty glad to see us. ... Men, wimmen and children crying and prayin’.

Aong the overland emigrants who jumped off at St. Joseph in the spring of 1846 was the Fielding Lard family from Washington County, Missouri. Their journey west was marked by one notable event: on June 14, Mary Lucy, the fifteen-year-old daughter of the family, married Riley Septimus Moutrey, age 22, who had been hired to drive one of the Lard wagons.

The Lards and Moutreys crossed the Sierra Nevada safely, arriving at Sutter’s Fort in October. February saw Riley, or Sept, as he was often called, toiling once more over the mountains as a member of the first party sent out to rescue the stranded Donner Party. After his return, the Moutreys settled in Santa Clara County, where they spent the rest of their lives.

Moutrey made a living as a farmer but in later years found himself in reduced circumstances. More than once he petitioned the government for compensation for his labors in the Donner relief, but all his efforts came to naught. Moutrey died in 1910 at the age of 86; Mary died thirteen years later, aged 92.

One of results of his campaign is the following memoir told to a newspaper reporter in 1888. The account is marred the author’s uneven attempts at rendering dialect, and there are several inaccuracies. The only one of significance is Moutrey’s assertion that he had seen evidence of cannibalism at the camps; this is contradicted not only by all 1847 accounts and later memoirs by survivors, but also by the 1873 statement of Moutrey’s companion on the First Relief, Daniel Rhoads. Though a minor contribution, Moutrey’s memoir provides an interesting sidelight on the story of the Donner Party.

—Kristin Johnson

A Horror Revived
The Ghastly Tale of the Suffering of the Donner Party—Their Provisions Gone, They Had to Live on the Flesh of the Dead

The old St. Charles, a relic of the war days, located on Pennsylvania avenue, under the very shadow of the Capitol at Washington, at present shelters a man reputed to be the sole survivor of the gallant band of pioneers who, in the severe winter of 1846-47, fought their way over the snow-covered Sierras to reach the remnant of the ill-starred Donner band of emigrants.

His name is Riley Moutrey. He is a stalwart, large-framed man, through [sic] his broad shoulders are somewhat bend with age. His massive head is covered with a growth of very white hair, while the lower portion of his face is hidden by a heavy white beard which falls upon his breast. A pair of honest blue eyes light up a rugged countenance, always pleasant and at times positively beaming.

The old man is modest, and hung back diffidently when approached by the correspondent and asked for a brief sketch of that awful episode in California history. Moutrey finally thawed however, and in his own simple, homely style, told the story.

"Me and the old lady," he said, "crossed into Californy jest ahead of the Donner party. We knew they were behind us, and on getting to Sutter’s Fort told the folks there it might be best to send out provisions and a guide to see ’em safely across the divide.

"General Sutter sent out Mr. Stanton and two Indians with packmules and pervisions. This was in October of ’46.

"In February we got word at the fort of the fix in which the Donner people was on the other side of the mountains. I went down to Monterey to see Commodore Sloat. He told us to got ahead and the Government would see that we lost nothing.

"Ther was seven of us started—Aquila Glover, Daniel Rhoades, John Rhoades, Daniel Tonker [Reason P. Tucker], Joe Sill [Sels], Ned Copymier and myself. We went up Bear River valley to the Johnson place, just below the snow line.

"On the 16th of February we struck snow and stopped to make snow-shoes.

"We left our mules and loads of provisions on the mountains there, and started up into the snow with about six[ty?] pounds of provisions each. It were seventy miles over the divide inter Truckee canyon, where they told us the camp was. The snow was ’bout fifteen feet deep and soft. All made an average of ten mile a day. On the 18th of February we crossed the summit and made down the other side toward Truckee lake.

"About sundown me and Mr. Glover saw the cabins and tents o’ their party. We come nigh on fifty yard to ’em before we saw ’em. Ther camp stood ’bout sixty yards from the east end of the lake that’s now called Donner. The snow was about twelve to fourteen feet deep an’ covered everything. Where the water was ther’ war a broad, clean sheet of snow.

"No one come up to greet us but when we got nearer an’ yelled, they came tumbling out of the cabins.

"They were an awful looking sight—a white and starved looking lot, I can tell you. There were pretty glad to see us. They took on awful, anyhow. Men, wimmen and children crying and prayin’.

"After we was there a bit they told us how the had suffered for months. The food all gone an’ death takin’ ’em on all sides.

"Then they showed us up into their cabins, and we saw the bodies of them who had gone. Most of the flesh was all stripped off an’ eaten. The rest was rotten It was just awful. Ten war already dead and we could see some of ther others was going. They were too weak ter eat, an’ our pervisions bein’ scant, we thought it were best to let ’em go an’ look after th’ stronger ones.

"We had ter guard the pervisions close, or they would have just swooped down and stolen ’em all. We slept there that night and gave out as much food as we could, then ther’ next day we went down Truckee canyon, ’bout eight miles, and found Donner’s Camp.

"We took twenty-one of ’em; mostly wimmen and children. The strong ones we chose, as we couldn’t get the weak ones across. They were bound to die, so we left ’em. It was pitiful to hear ’em cryin’ for us, but we had to go. It was sure death to stay there.

"We had good luck all the way over the divide. We had gone over in soft snow and our tracks had froze hard, giving us a clear trail back.

"Four of ther’ children, that were almost gone, we took turns in carryin’ on our backs. The rest walked.

"When we got over the summit, past the snow, in Bear River valley, we met Jim Reed, with fifteen men and provision, goin’ over. Then we struck Lieutenant Woodsworth, with his men. We got our crowd down safe to Sutter’s Fort and waited for news of the others.

"Reed and his men struck a snow-storm and didn’t get over for several days. When they got to the camp three more had died and their bodies was eat up. Most of the others were brought over."

"Was there any way the party could have been saved?" asked the correspondent.

"Yes," responded Moutrey,"ther’ war. If they had killed ther stock first before the heavy snows came they wouldn’t have starved, and ther’ was plenty of fuel to keep them warm, and if they had left their wagons and gone straight up the mountains they could have got over easy. A half day’s trip would have brought them all safely over the divide, and once they got below the snow-line they would have been all right, but some how or other, though, luck was against them.

"Stanton and the two Indians who knew the trails well, go over to them in October of 1846. They started back three times with small parties and never got over the Summit.

"On the 16th of December they made a last attempt. A party got over the divide, but some how or another Stanton wasn’t able to keep up. I guess he got snow blind. He fell back and was never heard of again.

"On the 21st an awful snowstorm came on and continued for several days the party went on, but everything round them was strange. The Indians confessed they were lost. Then they began to starve and freeze, one by one, and by Christmas Day four of them had gone, and the others began to eat their flesh.

"The Indians were afraid they would then be killed and left. The party followed their trail in the snow, tracing it by the blood of one of the Indians, his toes having frozen and dropped off.

"Mr. Fosditch died on the morning of the 5th of January. His wife stayed with him till the last. The others cut up his flesh, but Mrs. Fosditch would not touch a bit. On the 9th of January they found the Indians. There were out of the snow, but one was dead and the other died an hour after. That’s the short story about the whole thing," concluded the old pioneer.

Moutery has for two years been trying to get through a relief bill, but thus far has been unsuccessful. He only asks a small sum to tide him over the few remaining years of his life.

Senators Hearst and Stewart will endeavor to press the measure through.

Santa Cruz Sentinel, August 31, 1888.


[ Table of Contents ] Crossroads, Fall 1996 - Vol. 7, No. 4

Trail Dust

Al Mulder

The Utah Crossroads Chapter got some notice in the December issue of folio, the newsletter of Patrice Press. There was an article about the Grantsville historic marker we dedicated on August 11, and Greg Franzwa wrote a laudatory review of Kristin’s "Unfortunate Emigrants," which also made some flattering references to Will Bagley, Hal Schindler, Dave Bigler, and other familiar names. It’s nice to see the our members’ work receive recognition in other publications.

James Reed's "Palace Car"
Speaking of other publications, on September 8 the Reno Gazette-Journal ran a two-page color spread on James F. Reed’s "Pioneer Palace Car." Feature writer Frank Mullen did an excellent job, using information from Kristin and some sketches I made based on William B. Ide’s 1845 letter. In addition to a full page of drawings and descriptions, a color picture of Donner Spring appeared with the feature story.

Lincoln Highway
Another Utah Crossroader in our midst has written several articles for the journal of the Lincoln Highway Association, the Lincoln Highway Forum. Jesse G. Petersen, the state director for the LHA, recently wrote an interesting article on the gap in the Lincoln Highway between Wendover and Schelbourne, Nevada, which existed between 1927 and 1930.

Lost '49ers
I’ve been following with great interest, and some envy, the trek of five Californians who are retracing the path of the "Lost ’49ers," hiking over 375 miles from Enterprise, Utah, to Death Valley National Park, California. Of the estimated 50 emigrants in 27 wagons who separated from Jefferson Hunt’s wagon train at Newcastle in November 1849, only eight survivors made it to Los Angeles. The hikers left Enterprise November 23, and should have completed the trek by the middle of December. This story should be of interest to those who took the Spanish Trail field trip in September 1992 with Spanish Trail author and guide Steve Madsen. Participants will remember visiting the Jefferson Hunt-Death Valley "Short Cut" monument six miles from Newcastle and adjacent to the Spanish Trail. The group is photographing and documenting any artifacts or inscriptions the come across. What an adventure!

Historic newspapers
If you’re into old historic newspapers, the Kansas State Historical Society is holding an auction January 17 to unload a collection of newspapers dating as far back as 1764. No single editions--you’ll have to buy them in lots.

Grant Programs
New grant programs have been announced. Proposals for next year’s cost-share program have to be submitted by early January. Our mapping, marking, and Donner Spring projects will be slowed to a near halt by winter weather. The Utah Division of State History recently announced its grant program for projects that begin July 1, 1997. A new program for small grants (up to $500) called "Quick Start" is being offered for the first time. Applications can be submitted at any time.

Four-wheel Drive
Stock up on those pioneer home remedies, the flu season is here. And watch those fingers and toes for frostbite when you’re pushing those wagons out of snowdrifts. To a ’49er, a four-wheel drive meant two men on each wheel and push like h---.

—Al Mulder


[ Table of Contents ] Crossroads, Fall 1996 - Vol. 7, No. 4

Baptiste Who?

Kristin Johnson

"Juan Baptiste Trauvico, a survivor of the famous Donner Party, and who claims to have been the only one in George Donner’s camp for many days able to keep up fires and wait on the others, is living in this city in destitute circumstances."

On November 12, 1884, Mrs. S. O. Houghton, wife of a prominent San Jose attorney, looked out and saw a poorly dressed, swarthy little man coming into her yard. She hastened to admit him into her home. Thirty-eight years earlier, Baptiste had helped save her life when they were both trapped in the Sierra Nevada as members of the Donner Party, she a child of three and he a youth of about sixteen.

A resident of Marshall in Marin County, Baptiste had come south to apply for membership in the Society of California Pioneers. In the process he met Sherman O. Houghton, who had married Eliza Donner in 1861. Houghton brought Baptiste home for a brief visit with Eliza on November 11 and they had arranged a lengthier appointment for the following afternoon. This was the last time Mrs. Houghton saw Baptiste, for he left San Jose November 14.

Baptiste’s description of long-ago events at the Donner camp stirred up a host forgotten memories and feelings. On November 12 Mrs. Houghton described the visit of "John Baptiste Truvido" in a long letter to C. F. McGlashan. Ten days later she wrote the historian again, mentioning that when Baptiste had applied for membership in the Society he signed his name "Jean Baptiste Tribodó." Recovered from the emotional turmoil evoked by the meeting, on December 7 she wrote McGlashan that she was writing out her notes "quite fully for my children’s future reading." That she did so is evidenced by a manuscript now in the Eliza (Donner) Houghton Collection at the Huntington Library, one part dated November 11, the other November 12, 1884, addressed to "My Children." She amended some details of version she had sent McGlashan, including her visitor’s name, which she gave as "John Baptiste Tribodó." This later version was published in the Summer 1995 issue of California History by Joseph A. King and Jack Steed.

In her Expedition of the Donner Party (1911), Eliza Donner Houghton called her guest "John Baptiste Trubode," but this name by which he has become generally known is obviously an error: it does not occur in any other source. But what was the man’s name?

Records of the Donner Party dating from 1846-47 and survivors’ memoirs refer to him as "John Baptiste" or simply "Baptiste," with one exception: a document in the Reed Papers held by Sutter’s Fort, dated November 1846. On one side is a note from Jacob Donner listing supplies and authorizing Milt Elliott to purchase them, on the other a partially effaced message signed "John Trudeau." This note has been cited as evidence of Baptiste’s early literacy and as proof of his "real" name, but both contentions are based on the assumption that Baptiste himself wrote the note. This is not the case.

Though he may or may not have been able to write in 1846, there is no doubt that he could in his later years. In December 1884 he sent Mrs. Houghton a photograph of himself and a note listing his sons’ names, with the surname given as "Truvido." Though clearly written, the note demonstrates the author’s imperfect command of English. Comparing it to the 1846 note signed "Trudeau," it is readily apparent even to an untrained eye that the two documents were not written by the same person: not only is the handwriting different, but the 1846 document contains no errors of grammar or spelling, unlike the one from 1884. The identity of the person who actually penned the 1846 note remains unknown, but the hand somewhat resembles that of Jacob Donner, whose own note appears on the opposite side of the paper.

In their 1995 article, King and Steed refer to Baptiste as "John Baptiste Trudeau III," "almost certainly" the grandson of a pioneer of St. Louis whose name is given as "Jean Baptiste Trudeau"; a "Juan Bautista Trudeau" of Taos, apparently the latter’s son and father of the Donner Party member, applied for Mexican citizenship in 1830. The genealogical evidence the authors present is certainly plausible.

Baptiste of the Donner Party used several versions of his name in California, and no one knew how to spell any of them. The 1852 California state census of Sonoma County lists him as "John B. Truodue" and the 1870 Marin County federal census as "Jean B. Trudo." In the 1890s newspaper reporters call him "Juan Baptiste Truvido," "Juan Baptiste Trauvico," and "Baptiste Trauveio." In Marin County, the Great Register of 1890 has "John B. Truvido," the Coroner’s Book lists him as "John B. Truviteo," and cemetery records as "Truveido."

Joseph A. King stated that he was the first to identify "John Baptiste Trudeau" by his "proper surname" (Winter of Entrapment, 1994 ed., 229). Not only is this claim untrue—the name "Trudeau" appeared in Donner Miscellany (1947), West from Fort Bridger (1951), and Overland in 1846 (1963)— but given all the variations which appeared during Baptiste’s lifetime, it is difficult to justify being dogmatic about his "real" name.

What, then, should we call him? He was of French and Mexican ancestry. "Jean Baptiste Trudeau" represents his father’s side of the family, "Juan Bautista Truvido" his mother’s. "John Baptiste Truvido," a combination of English, French, and Spanish elements, incorporates the most commonly used forms of his name. Given the importance of the father’s name in Western society, however, his birth name probably would have been the French version. But it’s easier just to call him Baptiste.

A Donner Party Survivor
Now Living at Santa Rosa in Destitute Circumstances

Santa Rosa, Jan 11—Juan Baptiste Trauvico, a survivor of the famous Donner Party, and who claims to have been the only one in George Donner’s camp for many days able to keep up fires and wait on the others, is living in this city in destitute circumstances. Trauvico was able to earn a poor living until a few weeks ago, when he fell out of a bunk on a ranch and injured himself so that he has been disabled ever since. A bill for his relief will be introduced into the Legislature at the present session.

Sacramento Record-Union, January 12, 1893.

One of the Donner Party

Santa Rosa, August 31.—Among the hop-pickers who came last week to work in James W. Hall’s big field was Baptiste Trauvieo, the little dried-up old chap who has the distinction of being a survivor of the famous Donner party that was penned up in the Sierra Nevada in the terrible winter of 1845-46.

Baptiste, as everybody calls him, is about 66 years old, but he hardly looks it, for his eyes are as keen and his movements as brisk as many men twenty years younger. Every year he comes here to help gather the sweet-smelling blossoms, and he would rather work in Mr. Hall’s hop yard than elsewhere, because Mr. Hall always treats him kindly and never gets tired of listening to his tales of the experiences of the Donner party. Baptiste was only about 20 years of age when he joined the Donner party at Fort Bridger in the fall of 1845. He was a good frontiersman and George Donner engaged him to drive the stock and to act as a guide when the Donners became separated from the Murphys, Breens and other members of the party, who pushed on farther. Baptiste became a very important personage, for upon him, for many days of the long dreary winter days and nights devolved the hard task of not only keeping up the fires but of cooking, attending to the sick and, in fact, keeping the little spark of life that was left from being extinguished in their prison of snow. Baptiste’s memory is good and he relates many reminiscences of the awful experiences his party had in the mountains that winter without hesitation. That the old man is very proud of the part he played in that great tragedy is plain, for he says that for a long time he was the only one who was able to be up and about. Tears come into the old man’s eyes when he tells about he heroism of Mrs. Donner, who preferred to die with her husband rather than to desert him for a moment. Baptiste, after their miserable camp was finally found by the rescuing expedition, was sent with some of the children to Sutter’s Fort. He makes his home at Tomales. He will be here when the Native Sons celebrate Admission day and will have an honorable post in the procession. He was an old friend of General Vallejo and will be one of those who will ride in the General’s old carriage in the pageant September 9th.

San Francisco Chronicle, September 5, 1897.


[ Table of Contents ] Crossroads, Fall 1996 - Vol. 7, No. 4

Outstanding Educator Program Awards
The Oregon-California Trails Association announces its annual award program to recognize outstanding achievement in education students of all ages about westward migration. The award will be presented at OCTA’s annual convention which will be held in August of 1997 in Pocatello, Idaho.

Nomination for the Outstanding Educator Award is open to any individual who contributes significantly to students’ education about the 19th century westward overland migrations in the United States. The work may reflect a whole unit or special project within the unit or course on westward migration. The program will be considered for its appropriateness for the students’ level and range of abilities, the accuracy of its historical presentation, the rang of student participation, and its effectiveness in presenting the topic to the students. The work that the recipients will be honored for must have been used during either the 1995-96 or 1996-97 school year.

There are four category levels for this award:

1) Elementary-primary/intermediate grades
2) Middle school/Junior high
3) High school
4) Post secondary-college/adult education

The recipients will be recognized and receive a framed certificate at the annual OCTA convention. In addition, they will receive their convention registration and room and board for the day of the awards banquet.

For forms and additional information about this award and the nomination please contact:

Outstanding Educator Program Awards
Oregon-California Trails Association
P.O. Box 1019 / 524 South Osage Street
Independence, MO 64051-0519
(816) 252-2276


William E. Hill
OCTA-Education Award
91 Wood Road
Centereach, NY 11720-1619
(516) 585-2592

[ Table of Contents ]


HOME Activities Contact Us Forum Speeches Join Us
Links Members News Newsletter Picture Gallery Publications
Trails Trail Marking Members' Pages Search

Home | Activities | Contact Us | Forum | Lectures | Join Us | Links | Members | News | Newsletter
Picture Gallery | Publications | Trails | Trail Marking | Members' Pages | Search | OCTA Chapters | OCTA

Original content copyright © 1997-2007 by
Utah Crossroads Chapter, Oregon-California Trails Association. All rights reserved.
Trademarks, Service Marks and Logos are property of their respective owners.
Site design by Steve. Berlin
E-mail regarding this site: Utah Crossroads Webmaster
Revised: 12 Apr 2007