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- History of the Donner Party - 20/40 -


ate of the rancid tallow which was found in a tar bucket under an old wagon.

Mr. Reed has told the rest in an article contributed by him to the Rural Press. It explains so well the difficulties of getting relief to the emigrants, that it is copied:

"When I arrived at Captain Sutter's, making known my situation to him, asking if he would furnish me horses and saddles to bring the women and children out of the mountains (I expected to meet them at the head of Bear Valley by the time I could return there), he at once complied with the request, also saying that he would do everything possible for me and the company. On the evening of my arrival at the Captain's, I found Messrs. Bryant, Lippencott, Grayson, and Jacobs, some of the early voyagers in the Russel Company, they having left that company at Fort Laramie, most of them coming on horseback.

"During the evening a meeting was held, in which I participated, adopting a memorial to the commander of Sutter's Fort, to raise one or more companies of volunteers, to proceed to Los Angeles, we being at war with Mexico at this time. The companies were to be officered by the petitioners. Being requested to take command of one of the companies, I declined, stating that it would be necessary for the captain to stay with the company; also that I had to return to the mountains for the emigrants, but that I would take a lieutenancy. This was agreed to, and I was on my return to the emigrants to enlist all the men I could between there and Bear Valley. On my way up I enlisted twelve or thirteen.

"The second night after my arrival at Captain Sutter's, we had a light rain; next morning we could see snow on the mountains. The Captain stated that it was low down and heavy for the first fall of the season. The next day I started on my return with what horses and saddles Captain Sutter had to spare. He furnished us all the flour needed, and a hind quarter of beef, giving us an order for more horses and saddles at Mr. Cordway's, near where Marysville is located. In the mean time, Mr. McCutchen joined us, he being prevented from returning with Mr. Stanton on account of sickness. After leaving Mr. Johnson's ranch we had thirty horses, one mule, and two Indians to help drive.

"Nothing happened until the evening before reaching the head of Bear Valley, when there commenced a heavy rain and sleet, continuing all night. We drove on until a late hour before halting. We secured the flour and horses, the rain preventing us from kindling a fire. Next morning, proceeding up the valley to where we were to take the mountain, we found a tent containing a Mr. Curtis and wife. They hailed us as angels sent for their delivery, stating that they would have perished had it not been for our arrival. Mrs. Curtis stated that they had killed their dog, and at the time of our arrival had the last piece in the Dutch oven baking. We told them not to be alarmed about anything to eat, for we had plenty, both of flour and beef, and that they were welcome to all they needed. Our appetites were rather keen, not having eaten anything from the morning previous. Mr. Curtis remarked that in the oven was a piece of the dog and we could have it. Raising the lid of the oven, we found the dog well baked, and having a fine savory smell. I cut out a rib, smelling and tasting, found it to be good, and handed it over to McCutchen, who, after smelling it some time, tasted it and pronounced it very good dog. We partook of Curtis' dog. Mrs. Curtis immediately commenced making bread, and in a short time had supper for all.

"At the lower end of the valley, where we entered, the snow was eighteen inches in depth, and when we arrived at the tent, it was two feet. Curtis stated that his oxen had taken the back track, and that he had followed them by the trail through the snow. In the morning, before leaving, Mrs. Curtis got us to promise to take them into the settlement when on our return with the women and children. Before leaving, we gave them flour and beef sufficient to keep them until our return, expecting to do so in a few days."

"We started, following the trail made by the oxen, and camped a number of miles up the mountain. In the night, hearing some of the horses going down the trail, we went to where the Indians had lain down, and found them gone. McCutchen mounted his horse and rode down to Curtis' camp, and found that the Indians had been there, stopped and warmed themselves, and then started down the valley. He returned to camp about the middle of the night.

"Next morning we started, still on the trail of the oxen, but unfortunately, the trail turned off to the left from our direction. We proceeded on, the snow deepening rapidly, our horses struggling to get through; we pushed them on until they would rear upon their hind feet to breast the snow, and when they would alight they would sink in it until nothing was seen of them but the nose and a portion of the head. Here we found that it was utterly impossible to proceed further with the horses. Leaving them, we proceeded further on foot, thinking that we could get in to the people, but found that impossible, the snow being soft and deep."

"I may here state that neither of us knew anything about snow-shoes, having always lived in a country where they never were used."

"With sorrowful hearts, we arrived that night at the camp of Mr. Curtis, telling them to make their arrangements for leaving with us in the morning. Securing our flour in the wagon of Mr. Curtis, so that we could get it on our return, we packed one horse with articles belonging to Mr. and Mrs. Curtis, and started down the valley to where the snow was light, and where there was considerable underbrush, so that our famished animals could browse, they not having eaten anything for several days."

"After packing Mr. Curtis' horse for him the next morning, we started; in a short time, Mr. and Mrs. Curtis proceeded ahead, leaving the pack-horse behind for us to drive, instead of his leading him; we having our hands full in driving the loose ones, they scattering in all directions. The pack turned on the horse. Mr. Curtis was requested to return and help repack and lead his horse, but he paid no attention to us. We stood this for some time; finally, McCutchen became angry, started after him, determined to bring him back; when he got with him he paid no attention to McCutchen's request to return; Mac becoming more exasperated, hit him several times over the shoulders with his riatta. This brought him to his senses. He said that if Mac would not kill him, he would come back and take care of the pack animal, and he did."

"As soon as we arrived at Captain Sutter's, I made a statement of all the circumstances attending our attempt to get into the mountains. He was no way surprised at our defeat. I also gave the Captain the number of head of cattle the company had when I left them. He made an estimate, and stated that if the emigrants would kill the cattle, and place the meat in the snow for preservation, there was no fear of starvation until relief could reach them. He further stated that there were no able-bodied men in that vicinity, all having gone down the country with and after Fremont to fight the Mexicans. He advised me to proceed to Yerba Buena, now San Francisco, and make my case known to the naval officer in command."

"I left Captain Sutter's, by the way of San Jose, for San Francisco, being unable to come by water. When I arrived at San Jose, I found the San Francisco side of the bay was occupied by the Mexicans. Here I remained, and was attached to a company of volunteers, commanded by Captain Webber, until after the fight at Santa Clara."

"The road now being clear, I proceeded to San Francisco with a petition from some of the prominent citizens of San Jose, asking the commander of the navy to grant aid to enable me to return to the mountains."

It is proper, perhaps, to interrupt the narrative in the Rural Press for the purpose of introducing the memorial referred to by Mr. Reed. The copy of the original document was recently found among his papers by his daughter, Patty Reed.

"To his Excellency, R. F. Stockton, Governor and Commander-in-Chief, by sea and land, of the United States Territory of California: We, the undersigned citizens and residents of the Territory of California, beg leave respectfully to present to your Excellency the following memorial, viz.: That, whereas, the last detachment of emigrants from the United States to California have been unable, from unavoidable causes, to reach the frontier settlements, and are now in the California mountains, seventy-five or one hundred miles east from the Sacramento Valley, surrounded by snow, most probably twenty feet deep, and being about eighty souls in number, a large proportion of whom are women and children, who must shortly be in a famishing condition from scarcity of provisions, therefore, the undersigned most earnestly beseech your Excellency to take into consideration the propriety of fitting out an expedition to proceed on snowshoes immediately to the relief of the sufferers. Your memorialists beg leave to subscribe themselves, very respectfully, yours, etc."

"January, 1847."

The article in the Rural Press continues: "Arriving at San Francisco, I presented my petition to Commodore Hull, also making a statement of the condition of the people in the mountains as far as I knew, the number of them, and what would be needed in provisions and help to get them out. He made an estimate of the expense, and said that he would do anything within reason to further the object, but was afraid that the department at Washington would not sustain him if he made the general outfit. His sympathy was that of a man and a gentleman.

"I also conferred with several of the citizens of Yerba Buena; their advice was not to trouble the Commodore further; that they would call a meeting of the citizens and see what could be done. At the meeting, the situation of the people was made known, and committees were appointed to collect money. Over a thousand dollars was raised in the town, and the sailors of the fleet gave over three hundred dollars. At the meeting, Midshipman Woodworth volunteered to go into the mountains. Commodore Hull gave me authority to raise as many men, with horses, as would be required. The citizens purchased all the supplies necessary for the outfit, and placed them on board the schooner, for Hardy's Ranch, mouth of Feather River. Midshipman Woodworth took charge of the schooner, and was the financial agent of the government."

"I left in a boat for Napa by way of Sonoma, to procure men and horses, and when I arrived at Mr. Gordon's, on Cache Creek, I had all the men and horses needed. From here I proceeded to the mouth of Feather River for the purpose of meeting Mr. Woodworth with the provisions. When we reached the river the boat had not arrived. The water was very high in the river, the tule lands being overflowed. From here I sent a man to a point on the Sacramento River opposite Sutter's Fort, to obtain information of the boat with our provisions; he returned and reported the arrival of the boat at the Fort."

"Before leaving Yerba Buena, news came of a party of fifteen persons having started from the emigrant encampment, and only seven getting to Johnson's. I was here placed in a quandary - no boat to take us across the river, and no provisions for our party to take into the mountains. We camped a short distance back from the river, where we killed a number of elk for the purpose of using the skins in covering a skeleton boat. Early next morning we started for the river, and to our delight saw a small schooner, belonging to Perry McCan, which had arrived during the night. We immediately crossed, McCutchen and myself, to the opposite bank of the river. I directed the men to cross and follow us to


History of the Donner Party - 20/40

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