Relief effort forced to turn back due to soft snow
During the Donner Party sesquicentennial (1846-47 to 1996-97), the Sierra Sun is following the emigrants’ historic journey with the help of Gayle Green, historian and park aide at Donner Memorial State Park’s Emigrant Trail Museum.
March 20 to March 26, 1847
Mrs. Lavina Murphy could not struggle any longer to hold on to her life. She died sometime between March 19 and 20. Before her death, Mrs. Murphy had lost two sons, one son-in-law and two grandchildren. A little over half of the Murphy clan survived. Both of Mrs. Murphy’s married daughters, and one son-in-law, lived through this ordeal, along with one grandchild, two of her sons and her teenage daughter. The only survivors now left were Lewis Keseberg at the Murphy cabin and Tamsen Donner at Alder Creek.
It was March 23 when another rescue effort was started at Johnson’s ranch to bring out whoever was left at the encampments. Six men volunteered to go on this relief effort but soon had to turn back because they could not proceed due to the soft condition of the snow pack. Five men had already risked their lives on previous rescue parties and were willing to go back again to save whoever was left alive. Another effort would be attempted in mid-April when circumstances would hopefully be better for travel over the mountains.
The remaining members of the second rescue party as well as those of the third finally made it to Sacramento. They were scattered between various ranches around Sutter’s Fort. The Donner children were to become orphans, but at this time they did not know the fate of their parents, and were unaware that their father had died and their mother would soon follow him…
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