By Virginia Reed Murphy
This tragic tale of Virginia Reed?s trip west is advised via her memoirs of the twelve-year-old lady, with supplementary debts in accordance with her father's letters and the diary of one other visitor. Given the delicate nature of elements of the adventure, younger readers will locate the history notes and explanatory reviews worthy. Maps and various reproductions incorporated.
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When the first storm ended, we prepared the best we could to try to survive the winter. The men built two double shelters, which were known as the MurphyEddy cabin and the Reed-Graves cabin. They also repaired the roof of the Murphy-Schallenberger building, where the Breens decided to live. Keseberg added a lean-to to this shelter for his family. Mrs. McCutchen and her baby stayed with the Graves family, and Stanton and the two Indians made their home with us. 35 Next, most of the cattle were slaughtered, and the meat was buried in the snow for preservation.
Then Louis Keseberg was accused of killing Tamsen Donner at the winter camp so that he could eat her. Keseberg, who insisted that Donner had died from starvation, did little to help his position when he repeatedly horrified and disgusted listeners by describing how good Tamsen tasted. While many people were greatly upset by the acts of cannibalism, most were not willing to condemn the survivors if the victim had died from natural causes. This was especially true when the survivors were parents who were struggling to stay alive so that they could try to save their children.
November 23 The expedition across the mountains returned after an unsuccessful attempt. Mules couldn't get through the snow. The trail over the Sierra Nevada from Donner Lake. It was more than sixty miles to Johnson’s ranch, and then another twenty-five 37or so to Sutter’s Fort – a long way to walk for people who were starving and freezing to death. Courtesy of Karen Zeinert. November 25 Cloudy. Looks like the eve of a storm. Our mountaineers intend trying to cross the summit tomorrow if weather permits, without mules.