The Donner Party by Daniel Lewis
Names for Research


The Year of 1846
The Story: Part I
Part II: The Journey
Part III: Snowbound
Part IV: Eating of the Dead
Epilogue: Journey's End
General Roster
Names for Research
Route of the Donner Party
Forensics of the Donner Party
Forensics II
The Donner Party and Native Americans
Religion of the Donner Party
Links and Sources
Contact Me

This page is not the same as the Roster. This page is filled with important names of historians, and characters for students to reasearch.

(Names added on by marriage after the Donner Party will be noted in parenthesis.)

BREEN, PATRICK, Senior. Patrick Breen, originally an Irishman, and later a farmer in Iowa, wrote the only account of the Donner Party during the actual winter of 1846-7. Though not especially descriptive, his diary provided key dates, names, and events.

BRYANT, EDWIN, magistrate in San Francisco. Wrote a guide called "Overland in 1846." Returning east with Gen. Kearny and William Graves, he described the remnants of the cabins at Donner Lake.

CLARK, NICHOLAS. A member of the 2nd Relief, he remained at Alder Creek to help the Donners, until rescue by the Third Relief.

DENTON, JOHN. An bachelor from Sheffield, England, not far from the infamous Nottingham and Sherwood Forest of Legend. He was appearantly a talented and intelligent young man, and he is remembered for carving a tombstone for Sarah Keyes. During the winter, he "struck" gold at the Reed cabin, and promised to return for more, according to Virginia Reed. When he left with the 1st Relief, he grew snowblind, and was left behind, (out of necessity) alone, to die in the snow. When his body was found, the touching poem he wrote during the Donner Party's ordeal was discovered.

DONNER, ELIZABETH, called "Betsy." The wife of Jacob Donner. She died during rescue with the Third Relief.

DONNER(-HOUGHTON), ELIZA Daughter of George & Tamzene Donner. Though she was only 3 in 1846, she became one of the more famous Donner Party survivors. With the help of and on behalf of her sisters and cousins, she wrote much concerning the Donner Party, and always defended the honor of her parents.

DONNER, GEORGE, Senior. The captain of the Donner Party, originally a farmer. However, his wife has stolen the spotlight from the public for her devotion to George. He died from an arm infection in March at Alder Creek.

DONNER, JACOB. The brother of George Donner. Also a farmer. He died during December at Alder Creek.

DONNER, TAMZENE. The infamous wife of George Donner. When George was dying from his arm infection, Tamzene left the Third Relief Party to stay with her husband and comfort him. She may have had a diary, but it was never found. Folk legend teaches that she was killed by the sinister Prussian-emigrant Lewis Keseberg.

ELLIOT, MILFORD. A teamster of the Reeds. Around Truckee Lake, he generously kept wood chopped for the Reeds, Murphys and Eddys. He helped keep morale around the camp and with the lack of men at the cabins in the winter, "Milt" helped out with vital chores. He died on February 9, 1847.

EDDY, WILLIAM. A carraige-maker from Illinois. He is remembered for his heroism in the Donner Party, risking his life on more than one occasion. He helped the Forlorn hope survive their trek to Johnson's Ranch, and rescued others in the First and Third Reliefs, but sadly, he lost his wife and two children during the winter. He was J. Quinn Thornton's main source for the story of the Donner Party in the book "Oregon and California in 1848."

FALLON, WILLIAM. A fur trader also known as "Le Gros" or "Fallun." His middle initial was "O" leading many of the day to believe he was named "O'Fallon." According to Joseph King, a "rough mountain man," who led the fourth relief, not so much to save Lewis Keseberg, Lavinah Murphy and the Donners, but to salvage the Donners' property. O'Fallon's Bluffs along the Oregon Trail were named after him.

FOSTER, WILLIAM. The murderer of Luis & Salvadore. He was deranged during the Forlorn Hope, but organized the Third Relief with his rival, William Eddy, to save their young sons at Truckee Lake.

GLOVER, AQUILA. Led the first Relief.

GRAVES, FRANKLIN W.. The patriarch of the Graves family, who built snowshoes for the Forlorn Hope out of ox-hides. He died on Christmas Day, at the Camp of Death.

HASTINGS, LANDSFORD. Author of "The Emigrant's Guide to Oregon and California. Since he was the one who schemed up the Hasting's Cut-Off, he has been portrayed as a villian in the Donner Party, but many others took his Cut-Off and did not encounter peril.

KESEBERG, JOHANN "LEWIS." The media once referred to him as "Keseberg the Cannibal," for his unpopular viewing amoung the survivors of the Donner Party. He was accused of murdering six people, though the number was probably only one. (Mr. Wolfinger.)

KEYES, SARAH. Though she didn't even survive into the winter, dying in May, 1846, at Alcove Springs, Sarah Keyes is well-remembered in the story of the Donner Party for refusing to leave her daughter Margaret Reed when the Reeds joined the Donner Party. Suffering from tuberculosis and general poor health, Sarah Keyes nevertheless attempted to make the journey to California. She was often referred to by survivors, especially Virginia Reed.

LUIS (or LEWIS). Miwok indian employed by Johann Sutter. Assisted Charles Stanton and the Donner Party. Stayed in the company of Salvador.

REED, JAMES FRAZIER, Senior. An Irish-born businessman from Springfield, Illinois. He organized the Donner Party with the Donner brothers, and led the Second Relief Party. He also wrote many letters concerning the Donner Party.

REED(-MURPHY,) VIRGINIA BACKENSTOE Though only 13 in 1846, Virginia Reed has become one of the most prominent of Donner Party survivors. Most families in the party were very prejudice against the Reeds, James Reed being a wealthy, Irish emigrant, and Virginia Reed has contributed a great deal to what we know was more likely to have happened among the Party, through letters and the famous interview in Century Magazine.

RHOADES, DANIEL & JOHN, brothers who were a part of the first relief.

RITCHIE, P.T., kept the diary of the First Relief.

SALVADOR, a miwok indian employed under Johann Sutter. Assisted Charles Stanton and the Donner Party.

SINCLAIR, JOHN. The Alcalde of the Sacramento District. One of the members of the First Relief, who copied the diary of the First Relief, and wrote an account of the Forlorn Hope. Also wrote up legal papers assiging salvage rights to the relief expeditions.

STANTON, CHARLES. A wealthy bachelor from Pompey, New York. He retrieved rations from Sutter's Fort during the Fall of 1846, to help the Donner Party survive through winter, and he also organized the Forlorn Hope, though he was the first member of the expedition to die. He was appearantly admired and respected, and the survivors remembered him as selfless and valiant.

STEWART, GEORGE, wrote his Donner-Reed Party history "Ordeal by Hunger" in the 1930's. He relied heavily on McGlashan, Thornton and the information given by several survivors. His history was important, but is more story-like for its lack of reliable sources.

SUTTER, JOHANN "JOHN." A Swiss emigrant who built a settlement in what is now Sacramento in the 1830's. His "fort" was a place for local Indians, especially the Miwok, to trade with whites, and served as a supply station at the end of the California Trail. In 1852 he abandoned his fort.

THORNTON, JESSE "J." QUINN. Wrote "Oregon and California in 1848," which included detailed accounts of the Donner Party, mainly supplied by William Eddy. One of the original books dealing with the Donner Party, but outdated.

TUCKER, REASIN P.. Also led first Relief.

More biographical information on these people can be found in Kristin Johnson's book: "Unfortunate Emigrants"