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Teamsters and Others
[Donner Party Roster] [Rescuers and Others]

A number of individuals accompanied the wealthier families of the Donner Party as teamsters or servants, but little more than their names is known about some of them. Comprised mostly of young single men, this group had a high mortality rate.

Antonio  Burger  Denton  Dolan  Elliott  Halloran  Hardcoop  Herron  James  Luis  Miller  Reinhardt
Salvador  Shoemaker  Smith  Snyder  Spitzer  Stanton  Trudeau Williams, B  Williams, E

Antonio ——

Age: [23?]

     Very little is known about Antonio. His age has been estimated as 23 and he was from Mexico; whether Old or New is unknown. In April 1847, Lilburn W. Boggs numbered among the casualties of the Donner Party "Antonio the Spaniard that started with us," and in 1856 Eliza W. Farnham described him as "a Mexican, who had joined the emigrants at Fort Laramie." Antonio's role in the party is also unclear; historian George R. Stewart speculated that he had been hired to herd the loose cattle of the more prosperous emigrants. He was with the Donners, according to a letter by W. C. Graves,
     In December 1846 Antonio was one of the fifteen who set out on snowshoes to cross the Sierra. The little band was caught in the open by a raging blizzard and four of them died at what became known as "Camp of Death." Among them was "the poor Mexican lad who had joined them at the fort." He was cannibalized by his companions.

Charles Burger

A teamster for the Donners.
Age: [30?]

     "Dutch Charley's" age is uncertain but has been estimated at about 30. He was one of the German members of the Donner Party; probably because of this, it has been suggested that he was a teamster for Louis Keseberg. Lilburn Boggs, however, described him as "a little chunky Dutchman by the name of Charly that drove one of Geo. Donna’s wagons." For further evidence of his association with the Donners, see Dutch Charley.
     Burger set out with the Forlorn Hope, but without snowshoes he couldnt keep up and was forced to return to the lake. A few days afterwards, on December 20, Patrick Breen recorded a similar failure: "Dutch Charley started for Donnghs turned back not able to proceed." He died in Keseberg’s lean-to nine days later.

John Denton

Age: [28]

A Englishman traveling with the Donner families, perhaps as a teamster. Elitha Donner Wilder wrote many years later that Denton had helped drive her family’s wagons.

He was an intelligent and amiable young man about thirty years of age. He was a gunsmith by trade, and was a native of Sheffield, England, where he had a mother living at the time of his last hearing from home. The four years preceding his entering upon this journey, he had resided in Springfield, Illinois, where he left many warmly attached friends. (J. Quinn Thornton)

     Denton is heard of occasionally during the journey. He carved Sarah Keyes’ tombstone in May, and on June 16 Tamzene Donner wrote, "John Denton is still with us – we find him a useful man in camp." In a letter dated July 12 Charles Stanton, also traveling with the Donners, wrote about a discussion concerning sagebrush: "The sage is not like the sage of the garden. It has more the smell of lavender, and an Englishman of 'our mess' sticks to it that it is nothing else." The Englishman must have been John Denton.
     At Donner Lake Denton stayed at the Graves-Reed cabin but visited the Breen cabin occasionally. Virginia Reed Murphy wrote

During the closing days of December, 1846, gold was found in my mother’s cabin at Donner Lake by John Denton. I remember the night well. The storm fiends were shrieking in their wild mirth, we were sitting about the fire in our little dark home, busy with our thoughts. Denton with his cane kept knocking pieces off the large rocks used as fire-irons on which to place the wood. Something bright attracted his attention, and picking up pieces of the rock he examined them closely; then turning to my mother he said, "Mrs. Reed, this is gold." My mother replied that she wished it were bread. Denton knocked more chips from the rocks, and he hunted in the ashes for the shining particles until he had gathered about a teaspoonful. This he tied in a small piece of buckskin and placed in his pocket, saying, "If we ever get away from here I am coming back for more." Denton started out with the first relief party but perished on the way, and no one thought of the gold in his pocket. Denton was about thirty years of age; he was born in Sheffield, England, and was a gunsmith and gold-beater by trade.

     When the First Relief left the camp in February with twenty-one refugees, the weakened Denton was among them. By the time they reached the head of the Yuba, Denton was through. Unable to continue, he urged the others to go ahead and leave him. He was last seen sitting by the fire smoking and looking so comfortable that little Jimmy Reed wanted to stay with him. The Second Relief found his body "in a sitting posture, with his body slightly leaning against a snow-bank, and with his head bowed upon his breast" and with it a journal and a poem he had written before he died:

Oh! after many roving years,
How sweet it is to come
To the dwelling-place of early youth—
Our first and dearest home.
To turn away our wearied eyes,
From proud ambition’s towers,
And wander in those summer fields,—
The scene of boyhood’s hours.
But I am changed since last I gazed
on yonder tranquil scene,
And sat beneath the old witch-elm
That shades the village green;
And watched my boat upon the brook—
As it were a regal galley,
And sighed not for a joy on earth
Beyond the happy valley.
I wish I could recall once more
That bright and blissful joy,
And summon to my weary heart
The feelings of a boy.
But I look on scenes of past delight
Without my wonted pleasures,
As a miser on the bed of death
Looks coldly on his treasures.

There is a brief article about Denton on the Denton Family Homepage.

Patrick Dolan

A bachelor farmer and friend of the Breen family.
Age: [35?]

b. 1811/1820 in Dublin, Ireland
d. 26 Dec 1846

     Nothing is known about Patrick Dolan’s youth. He had a farm near Keokuk, Iowa, which he sold in exchange for a wagon and team in order to emigrate to California with his neighbors, the Breens. He was remembered as a cheerful, funloving, goodnatured man.
     Dolan left with the Forlorn Hope in December. Having run out of provisions, the group drew lots to determine which of them should be sacrificed to supply food for the rest, and Patrick Dolan was the loser. His companions could not bring themselves to kill him, however, so they decided to go on until someone died. Two days later, Dolan died at "Camp of Death."

[A]bout 10 o’clock, a.m., of the 26th, when Patrick Dolan, becoming deranged, broke away from them, and getting out into the snow, it was with great difficulty that Mr. Eddy again got him under. They held him there by force until about 4 o’clock, p.m., when he quietly and silently sunk into the arms of death. (J. Quinn Thornton)
Like the others who died there, Dolan was cannibalized by his companions.

Milford Elliott

Teamster for the Reed family, called "Milt."
Age: [28]

Parents: Edward Elliott (b. abt 1790 in PA, d. 1829 in Warsaw, Gallatin Co., KY) and Sarah Holland (b. 1791 in MD, d. Feb 1857 near Mt. Auburn, Christian Co., IL)

b. about 1818 in Harrison Co., KY
d. 9 Feb 1847 at the Murphy cabin, Donner Lake

     Virginia Reed Murphy described Milt as a "knight of the whip." She wrote McGlashan,

My father made arrangements with Milt Elliott to come & drive our family wagon. He was a person we were well acquainted with, a good man, and careful driver. had been for years at a mill of my fathers in James Town, on the Sangamond river. We were all right if Milt would onely drive.

Milt’s relatives, however, didn’t want him to go. According to family tradition, they offered him a wagon and team if he’d stay in Springfield.
     Milt was on familiar terms with the family and called Mrs. Reed "Ma," though she was only four years his senior.
     At Donner Lake, after Mrs. Reed and her children went to stay with the Breens, Milt was left to fend for himself. In early February he came to visit the Reeds and fell asleep, looking very unwell. Patrick Breen was afraid he would die and that his death would upset the children, so he made Milt leave. The teamster dragged himself 200 yards to the Murphy cabin, where he expired a few days later, on the evening of February 9, 1847. Virginia Reed wrote of his burial,

When Milt Elliott died,—our faithful friend, who seemed so like a brother,—my mother and I dragged him up out of the cabin and covered him with snow. Commencing at his feet, I patted the pure white snow down softly until I reached his face. Poor Milt! it was hard to cover that face from sight forever, for with his death our best friend was gone.
       On a grisly note, Milt might have been the first person cannibalized at the Donner Lake camp. On February 26, 1847, Patrick Breen recorded, "Mrs Murphy said here yesterday that [she] thought she would Commence on Milt. & eat him.   I dont [think] that she has done so yet, it is distressing"

Luke Halloran

An Irish-born shopkeeper from St. Joseph, Missouri.
Age: [25?]

Parents: Martin Halloran and ?

     A consumptive, Halloran was traveling West for his health. Eliza Donner Houghton recorded that at the Little Sandy, about July 20, 1846, Halloran approached her parents for assistance. He had become "too ill to make the journey on horseback, and the family with whom he had travelled thus far could no longer accommodate him." The Donners took him in and he rode in their wagon for two months. The company had crossed the Wasatch Mountains and were camped near the south shore of the Great Salt Lake when he died on August 25, 1846. He was reportedly given a Masonic funeral.
     There have been reports that his grave was uncovered during construction near the south shore of the Great Salt Lake, but this has never been confirmed. More likely possibilities for the site are near Grantsville, Utah.

See articles Luke Halloran and Looking for Luke in All the Wrong Places.

—— Hardcoop

An elderly Belgian emigrant; possibly a teamster for the Kesebergs.
Age: [60?]

     Mr. Hardcoop is another obscure member of the Donner Party. J. Quinn Thornton records all that is known about him:

He was from Antwerp, in Belgium—was a cutler by trade, and had a son and daughter in his native city. He had come to the United States for the purpose of seeing the country. He owned a farm near Cincinnati, Ohio, and intended, after visiting California, to go back to Ohio, sell his farm, and return to Antwerp, for the purpose of spending with his children the evening of his days.

Attempts to verify this information have been unsuccessful so far.
     Hardcoop's role in the Donner Party has been uncertain but he was traveling with the Kesebergs, who had also lived near Cincinnati, and he may have driven one of their two wagons. Certainly no one else is known to have driven for them, George R. Stewart's suggestion of Charles Burger having been debunked.
     In October 1846 the Donner Party was toiling through the Nevada desert. Their remaining draft animals were exhausted and to spare them, everyone who could, walked. Keseberg put Mr. Hardcoop out of the wagon in which he had been riding, but Hardcoop could not keep up with the company. He was last seen

sitting under a large bush of sage, or artemisia, exhausted and completely worn out. At this time his feet had swollen until they burst. Mr. Eddy, having the guard during the fore part of the night, built a large fire on the side of the hill, to guide Hardcoop to the camp, if it was possible for him to come up. Milton Elliot had the guard during the latter part of the night, and he kept up the fire for the same purpose. The night was very cold; but when morning dawned, the unhappy Hardcoop did not come up.

The emigrants who still had horses were unwilling to go back after him, and he was left behind to die.

Walter Herron

Teamster for the Reed family.
Age: [27]

Parents: —— Herron and Ann —— .

b. abt 1819 in Norfolk, VA
d. 1853 in Mexico (?)

     When James F. Reed was banished in October his teamster Walter Herron accompanied him to California. After arriving at Sutter’s Fort, Reed attempted to raise a relief party to take supplies to the Donner Party, but had little success, for the Mexican War had broken out and most of the able-bodied men had enlisted. Herron joined Company B of the California Battalion and apparently had no further contact with his former traveling companions.
     In the fall of 1847 Herron assisted Jasper O’Farrell in surveying the site of Stockton and may have traveled with O’Farrell to survey other areas of Northern California for a year or two. In February 1849 Herron and O’Farrell are listed among those elected delegates from Sonoma to the provisional government, along with William McCutchen, Mariano G. Vallejo, Lilburn W. Boggs, Stephen Cooper, and other familiar names.
       Herron returned to Stockton to live and was elected San Joaquin County surveyor in 1850. He also served as the first recorder for the city of Stockton. In 1852 Herron went East. returning via the Isthmus of Panama, where he heard that there were good opportunities for civil engineers in Tehuantepec. On his return he spent only a week or so in Stockton settling up his affairs and on January 1, 1853, set off once more for Mexico. He wrote to a friend after arriving in Acapulco in February but was never heard from again; he
was declared dead in 1860.

Noah James

Teamster for the Donners.
Age: [16]

Parents: Elisha James, b. 1785 in MD, d. 14 October 1841, Rush Co., IN; m. 10 Feb 1823 to Frances Herndon (b. abt 1791 in VA, d. 29 Jan 1875, Sangamon Co., IL.)

b. abt 1830 in Delaware
d. November 1851 in Stockton, San Joaquin Co., CA (?)

       Noah’s mother Frances (known as Fanna) was a sister of Archer G. Herndon, making her the aunt, and Noah the first cousin, of William H. Herndon, Abraham Lincoln’s last law partner and biographer. After Fanna's husband Elisha died, Archer arranged for her to come to Sangamon County and set her up as a seamstress. She and her family lived near the Donners in Clear Lake Township.
       Although his age is usually given as 20, Noah was actually only about 16 when the Donners hired him as a teamster. He stayed at the Donner family camp in the Alder Creek Valley during the winter of 1846-47 and was rescued by the First Relief. He disappeared after his arrival in California, although an entry in the federal census lists an "N. James," of about the right age and place of birth, working as a miner in Calaveras County in 1850. The historical record is silent as to his fate, except for a tantalizing reference in an early diary: reportedly Noah James was the real name of James Wilson, alias "Mountain Jim," who was hanged as a horse thief near Stockton in November 1851.


Age: [?]
d. January 1847.

     With Salvador, one of the two Indian vaqueros whom Sutter detailed to assist Charles Stanton in taking supplies to the Donner Party. Nothing is known about them for certain, but they were evidently young men, perhaps only teenagers, for some sources refer to them as "the Indian boys." Luis -- called "Lewis" in most early documents -- spoke a little English and may have been the Luis mentioned as assisting a settler to drive cattle in the New Helvetia Diary entry for December 10, 1845. In mid-December 1846 he, Salvador, and Stanton set out with the Forlorn Hope; the following month, mad with hunger, William Foster shot the two Indians. They are the only individuals in the Donner Party definitely known to have been killed for food.
      Joseph A. King researched the early baptismal register of the San Jose Mission for Indian converts given the Christian name Luis. King believed that Eema, an Ochehamne Miwok who would have been about 19 in 1846, may have been Luis of the Donner Party. See "Luis and Salvador: Unsung Heroes of the Donner Party" in The Californians 13:2 (1996), 20-21. There is, unfortunately, no way to confirm King's conclusion.

Hiram Owens Miller

A teamster for the Donners.
Age: [29]

Parents: George H. Miller (b. abt 1792 in KY, d. 1839 in Sangamon Co., IL) and Polly Owens (b. 7 Dec 1796 in KY, d. 1875 in Sangamon Co., IL)

b. abt 1817
d. 19 Oct 1867 in San Jose, Santa Clara Co., CA

     Although Miller is not generally included in rosters of the Donner Party, he was a member of the original Springfield group. He was a friend of James F. Reed’s, but worked for the Donners. Tamzene Donner mentions Miller in her letter of June 21, 1846, along with her other employees John Denton and Noah James.
     On May 12, 1846, the day the Donners and Reeds left Independence, Miller began making daily entries in a journal. When he left the company, the entries were kept up by Reed. This document, the Miller-Reed diary, is one of the most important sources of the Donner Party’s itinerary.
     Miller left the company on July 2 to join eight other single men who left their wagons and set out with packmules. This, the Bryant-Russell Party, was the first group to take Hastings Cutoff. Miller later helped rescue the trapped emigrants as a member of the Second and Third Reliefs.
     Shortly after the disaster, Alcalde John Sinclair appointed Miller guardian for George Donner’s daughters, a role that was later taken over by their half-sister Elitha’s husband, Benjamin Wilder. Eliza did not remember Miller with any fondness, for he had been unkind to her while on the Third Relief. When he came to see her and Georgia in 1852, Eliza recalled, many years later:

Mr. Miller’s stocky form in coarse, dark clothes, his cold gray eyes, uneven locks, stubby beard, and teeth and lips browned by tobacco chewing, were not unfamiliar; but he looked less tired, more patient, and was a kindlier spoken man than I had remembered.

     Miller settled in Santa Clara County near his friend James Reed. At the beginning of the gold rush he did a booming business: "Hiram Miller, blacksmith (you know him,) was worked down in making picks, night and day. He has made money," Reed wrote in 1848. Miller contracted smallpox in the early 1860s and lived with the Reeds as an invalid for the last five years of his life. He is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in San Jose next to the Reed-Lewis family plot.

Joseph Reinhardt

An associate of Mr. Wolfinger.
Age: [30?]

     Reinhardt is another member of the German contingent about whom little is known. He is frequently said to have been a partner of Augustus Spitzer, but this is apparently an error.
     In October 1846, at the sinks of the Humboldt, Mr. Wolfinger stopped to cache his property. Spitzer and Reinhardt stayed behind to help and caught up with the rest of the company some time later without him. They reported that Indians had swept down from the hills, killed their companion, and driven off his stock. The other emigrants were suspicious of this story, but, anxious to continue their journey, they did not investigate the matter.
     When the Donner Party was trapped in the mountains, Reinhardt stayed with the Donner families at Alder Creek. Before he died, he confessed to having killed Wolfinger. Thornton reported this in 1849, and Leanna Donner App confirmed it thirty years later:

Joseph Rhinehart was taken sick in our tent, when death was approaching and he knew there was no escape, then he made a confession in the presence of Mrs. Wolfinger that he shot her husband; what the object was I do not know.


Age: [?]
d. January 1847

     With Luis, one of the two Indian vaqueros whom Sutter detailed to assist Charles Stanton in taking supplies to the Donner Party. Nothing is known about them for certain, but they were evidently young men, perhaps only teenagers, for some sources refer to them as "the Indian boys." In mid-December 1846 he, Luis, and Stanton set out with the Forlorn Hope; the following month, mad with hunger, William Foster shot the two Indians. They are the only individuals in the Donner Party definitely known to have been killed for food.
      Joseph A. King researched the early baptismal register of the San Jose Mission for Indian converts given the Christian name Salvador. King believed that Queyuen, a Miwok of the Cosumne tribe, may have been Salvador of the Donner Party. He would have been about 28 in 1846. See "Luis and Salvador: Unsung Heroes of the Donner Party" in The Californians 13:2 (1996), 20-21. There is, unfortunately, no way to confirm King's conclusion.

Samuel Shoemaker

A teamster for the Donners.
Age: [25?]

     Little is recorded about Samuel Shoemaker, except that he was said to be from Ohio. In September, near the southern shore of the Great Salt Lake, he assisted William Eddy in repairing one of James Reed’s wagons.
     Shoemaker was one of the first victims of the entrapment. On December 20, 1846, Milt Elliott returned to the Lake Camp with the news that four men, including Shoemaker, had died at Alder Creek. In a macabre aftermath, Georgia Donner Babcock remembered her Aunt Elizabeth coming into George Donner’s tent asking them to guess what she had cooked for breakfast that morning. She answered her own question: "Shoemaker’s arm."

James Smith

Teamster for the Reed family.
Age: [25?]

     Like Shoemaker, little is known about Smith; the age usually given for him, 25, is merely a guess. He was apparently from Springfield, Illinois. There are several families of Smiths listed in the 1840 census of Sangamon County and it is impossible to determine which one, if any, he belonged to. Although he worked for the Reeds, Smith wound up at Alder Creek with the Donners. In the back of the Miller-Reed diary is a note dated November 20, 1846, which records purchases made from George and Jacob Donner. Among other items it lists "1 pair of brogans for Jim Smith." The unfortunate young man did not use the shoes very long-- a month later he was dead.

John Snyder

Teamster for the Graves family.
Age: [25?]

     William C. Graves wrote McGlashan, "The first we saw of Snider was in the winter before we started. He and a brother moved from Ohio into our neighbor-hood and on hearing that we were going to California he wanted to come along so father told him he wuld bord him for his work so they made a bargain to that effect." Whatever his skills as a teamster, Snyder was illiterate, according to Mary Graves.
     On October 5, 1846, as the company traveled along the Humboldt River, Snyder and James Reeds teamster Milt Elliott became involved in a dispute while driving up a difficult hill. Reed intervened, the fight escalated, and Snyder died of a stab wound to the chest. Thirty years later Snyder’s death was still an issue of controversy among survivors of the Donner Party. Reed’s family claimed self-defense, but the Graveses blamed Reed.
     Snyder, described as a popular, handsome young man, was said to have been engaged to Mary Graves, but she denied the story, calling it "false trash."

Augustus Spitzer

Probably a driver for the Donners
Age: [30?]

     Although Spitzer is often said to have been Joseph Reinhardt’s partner, Eliza Farnham described him as "a hired driver," and in an 1879 letter to C. F. McGlashan W. C. Graves wrote that Spitzer "belonged with the Donners."
     Nothing certain is known about Spitzer’s past, but he may have been a Jew from Deinzendorf, Austria. Alternatively, he may have been 41-year-old Moses Augustus "Gus" Spitzer, a German-American gunsmith from Virginia whose nephew identified him as the Donner Party member years ago. (For more about these candidates see Augustus Spitzer in Donner Party Bulletin No. 11.) Or he may have been neither of these individuals but a third, still unknown person.
     Whoever he was, on December 9, 1846, Spitzer "came down the snow-steps of Mrs. Breen’s cabin, and fell at full length within the doorway." He was so weak he could not rise without assistance. He lingered for two months. As Patty Reed recalled, "Spitzer died... imploring Mrs. Breen to just put a little meat in his mouth so he could just know it was there and he could die easy and in peace. I do not think the meat was given him, but he gave up the ghost and was no more." He died February 8, 1847.

Charles Tyler Stanton

A bachelor traveling with the Donners.
Age: 35

Parents: Isaac Stanton (b. 8 Jan 1770 in Stockbridge, Berkshire Co., Massachusetts, d.28 Aug 1832 in Syracuse, Onondaga Co., NY) m. 23 Jun 1795 to Elizabeth Smith (b. 23 Apr 1775 in Warinick, Orange Co., NY, d. 17 Mar 1835 in Syracuse, Onondaga Co., NY)

b. 1 Mar 1811 in Pompey, Onondaga Co., NY
d. abt 23 Dec 1847, Sierra Nevada, California

     Stanton's family were among the earliest settlers of the Syracuse, New York, area. His father, Isaac, was a stonecutter; he had ten children, of whom Charles was the sixth. Although he was small -- only five feet five inches -- Stanton was strong and had a constitution to match, according to his brother. He had brown eyes and hair, and, at the time of the Donner Party, wore a full beard.
     In his early years Stanton worked as a clerk in a store. Despite his limited formal schooling, he read diligently to improve his mind and acquired a considerable knowledge of botany and geology.
     A devoted son, he took care of his widowed mother until her death in 1835, after which he moved to Chicago where he engaged in the commission business. He did well at first, but his business failed a few years before he left for California. Hastings’ glowing description of that region in his Emigrants Guide induced Stanton to leave his "dull and monotonous life."
      Between Independence and the Bear River Stanton sent home lengthy letters which were published in the New York Herald under the initials "S.T.C." These letters, which provide the only detailed contemporary description of the Donner Party’s journey, are reprinted in Dale Morgan’s Overland in 1846. Unfortunately Stantons letters do not describe how he came to join the Donner Party. On May 12, 1846, he wrote from Independence, Missouri, "I am going to start for California tomorrow I met with a good opportunity ... When I left C[hicago] – I had not this design in view." The "good opportunity" must have been the chance to travel with the Donners, though in what capacity is unclear. Many years later Elitha Donner Wilder remembered that he helped drive her familys wagons, but his letters reveal that he spent a good deal of his time away from the emigrant train exploring and enjoying the scenery.
     Stanton is remembered as a hero of the Donner Party. He and William McCutchen left the emigrants at Donner Spring on the Utah-Nevada border and rode ahead to Sutter’s Fort for supplies. Although he had no personal obligation toward anyone in the Donner Party, it was the bachelor Stanton, accompanied by Luis and Salvador, who returned with seven mules loaded with provisions that helped keep many of the emigrants alive.
      After being trapped at the lake, the three men stayed with the Reeds until in mid-December when, as the only emigrant familiar with the route to the settlements, Stanton attempted to lead a party over the mountains on snowshoes. After several days, however, he became snowblind and exhausted, and could hardly keep up with the others. One morning he remained seated at the previous nights camp while the rest continued. He never rejoined them. His corpse was discovered by members of the rescue parties and identified by his clothing and pistol. Some of his personal effects were recovered and sent to his family in New York.

Jean Baptiste Trudeau

Hired by the Donners en route.
Age: [16]

b. abt 1830 in Utah Territory
m. abt 1855 to Lupe De Massano
     Ch: Baptiste, Milesia, Rosendo, John F., Sabas, Domingo
d. 9 Oct 1910 Marshall, Marin Co., CA

     Generally called "John Baptiste" or simply "Baptiste," he was the son of a French trapper who had been killed in an Indian skirmish when Baptiste was just a child. What became of him during the intervening years is unknown, but when the Donner Party left Fort Bridger on July 31, 1846, the teenaged Baptiste accompanied them. He had been taken on by the Donner brothers, though in what capacity is uncertain; it may have been to replace Hiram Miller, who had left the company a few weeks before. Although Baptiste claimed familiarity with the country and with local Indian tribes and languages, it seems unlikely that his knowledge extended across Nevada.
     When the First Relief arrived in February 1847, Baptiste and Noah James, both about 16, were the only "men" left alive at the Alder Creek camp, except for the injured George Donner. Noah left with the relief on February 20, leaving Baptiste the sole able-bodied male at the camp. He cut firewood, amused the children, and probed for the carcasses of cattle lost beneath the snow. His labors undoubtedly helped keep the Donners and their children alive.
     Baptiste’s reputation has been the subject of considerable discussion of late. Although George R. Stewart’s characterization of him may have been biased, Baptiste was not the admirable character that some would paint him. For instance, much has been made of his alleged "heroism" in staying behind with George and Tamzene Donner. True, he did stay, but he complained about it and abandoned them when he had a chance. These actions are justifiable, given the desperate circumstances, but they are not heroic and Baptiste himself felt guilty for leaving. At the camp he whined about being a poor orphan and stole food intended for the Donner children; later he cadged money off Elitha Donner, who could ill afford it (and who warned her sister Eliza not to believe him); he boasted of his cannibalism in 1847, then tearfully denied it in 1884. This not the behavior of a hero. Is it human? Yes. Understandable? Yes. Forgivable? Yes. Heroic? No.
     Baptiste spent most of his life in the North Bay area, making his living as a fisherman on Tomales Bay in Marin County and also picking hops in neighboring Sonoma County during the harvest. In November 1884 he had an emotional reunion with Eliza Donner Houghton in San Jose and fascinated her with his account of life at the Alder Creek camp 38 years previously.
     In his old age Baptiste was featured several times in newspaper articles. He described himself as the Donner Party’s guide and emphasized his heroism. In September 1900 he participated in a parade celebrating the 50th anniversary of California's statehood and a sketch of "the sole survivor of the famous Donner Party" appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle. He died aged about 80 in 1910, one of the last surviving males of the Donner Party.

See article Baptiste Who?

Baylis Williams

The Reed family’s hired hand.
Age: [25?]

     Very little is known about Baylis. Lilburn Boggs referred to him as "the foolish fellow who was with Reed" and years later Patty Reed Lewis described him as an albino who slept in a wagon during the day and did odd jobs around the campfire at night. He and his sister Eliza had been with the Reed family for some years before the trip to California. Williams was the first to die at the Lake Camp, on December 14, 1846.

Eliza Williams

The Reed family’s "hired girl."
Age: [31]

b. 1814/1815
m. 15 Sep 1847 to Thomas Follmer at Mission San Jose
     Ch: Mary L., Virginia E., John
d. 26 Mar 1875 in San Jose, Santa Clara Co., CA

       Baylis's sister or half-sister, universally referred to as Eliza by the Reed family, appears as "Elizabeth" in a few records. She was very hard of hearing.
       Eliza worked for the Reeds in Springfield for years. Much later Patty Reed Lewis said that the Reeds hadn't intended to take Eliza to California, but when the family left town, she followed the wagons, crying. They couldn't convince her to stay behind and so had to take her along.
       Virginia Reed Murphy described Eliza as a "first class cook." Although she didn't have much to work with while crossing the plains and found it a challenge to cook over a campfire instead of a stove or range, the Reeds always had a nice lunch "during the first part of the journey" to share with Eliza and the hired men.
       At Donner Lake Eliza lived with the Reeds in their half of the double cabin they shared with the Graves family. After the Reeds had nothing left to eat but the hides that roofed their side of the cabin, Margret Reed left her smaller children with others while she, Virginia, Milt, and Eliza made a desperate attempt to cross the mountains. They left on January 4, 1847; two days later Eliza was back. She stopped at the Breen cabin, then went on to the Graveses. On January 8 the others also returned. Since their own cabin was uninhabitable, they had to make arrangements for shelter. The Breens took in Margret and her four children, but drew the line at Milt and Eliza. After some shuffling around, they wound up at the Graveses', although Eliza came to the Breens' a time or two looking for food. On January 21, Patrick Breen wrote, " John Battice & Denton came this morning with Eliza   she wont eat hides   Mrs Reid sent her back to live or die on them." Eliza somehow managed to "worry through" until February 22, when she and the Reeds left the camp with the First Relief.
       Eliza had been considered an old maid in Springfield but in pioneer California she soon found a suitor. On May 16, 1847, while they were all staying at George Yount's ranch in the Napa Valley, Virginia wrote, "Eliza is a going to marrie a spanyard by the name of Armeho [Armijo]" and later, that Eliza tried to learn Spanish so she could converse with her beau. That relationship fell through, but four months later, on September 20, James Reed wrote his brother-in-law, "Eliza Williams was married 5 days ago to a German. A fine fellow." They were married at the San Jose mission.
       Eliza and Thomas Follmer (whose name is spelled in a variety of ways) lived in Sonoma for a while in 1847 but soon moved back to Santa Clara County. Eliza lived near the Reeds for the rest of her life.

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