Weakley County's connection to the ill fated Donner Party of 1846-47

The MURPHY family of Weakley County part of Donner Party

by MaryCarol

The 3 Letters of 1847
May 25, 1847 the 3 Murphy sisters sent back letters to their Weakley County Kinfolk

Handwritten transcription of the 1847 letters by Thomas W. Lee
Placed in both the Martin, TN Public library and in the Marysville, CA Public Library. Photocopies sent to the Tennessee State Archives  

To: Green T. LEE, Irwins Store Post Office [ district #6], Weakley County, Tennessee

California Teritory May the 25th 1847

Letter #1

Dear Uncles Aunts and Cousins,

I take my pen in hand to say a few words to let you all....  I will give you a small sketch of our travels. After we left there we went on to St. Louis and Foster and Sarah came with us and then we came on to Independance and there we wrote to you and then we left the United States and in about six hundred miles from there to Sweetwater River and there wrote again and then crost the Rocky Mountouns and took Hasting new rout by the big Salt Lake and had to make our road which kept us behind about two or three weeks and we got out of provisions and had to kill our oxens.  There was about 85 persons in our company.  Mr. Foster was going to go ahead and come back with provisions but in loading the six shooter it went off and shot Mr. Pike in the back he died in about one half hour and in that time he suffered more than tongue can tell.  It was on the last day of October. We was then about 2 hundred miles from the settlements that evening it commenced to snowing. In three days we got to the dividing ridge of the Sierra Nevada or snowy range of the California Mountains. It was snowing so that we could not find the road and we stopped by the mountain lake.  It snowed 2 weeks. It was beyond hope almost for us to go so we killed what few cattle we had left. We made several attempts to go on foot but the snow was soft and we would almost sink to our neck. After we had been there 2 or 3 months a company of ten men and five women went over on snow shoes. Foster, Sarah, Harite [Harriett] and Lemuel was in this company. They ware thirty days coming 100 miles. They starved till they ware so weak that they could not stand up and they lived on thare friends that ware dying every day. Lemuel died among the rest. There was but 2 men got through. Foster was one that got through. All the women got through and a company went out after the rest that were in the mountains. When they got there half the company had starved to death and Landrum, George and little Catherine, Harriettes baby and my poor ill fated and persecuted Mother was all dead. William, Simon, Naomi and myself came through but as for me I have nothing to live for, a poor orphan, Motherless and almost friendless. Charlotte, you have been the companion of all my thoughts now just think of me in a strange country and to think on my poor Mother and brother that are dead, their bodies to feed the hungry bears and wolves for there was no burying them the snow was so deep.  This is a very small sketch of what we have sufard [suffered] but I hope I shall not live long for I am tired of this troublesome world and want to go to my Mother.  I know that she is in a better world. I must close these few lines. This is for all my friends and relations. I have not mind enough to word a letter. I will bid you all a long and perhaps a last farwell.

Mary A. M. Murphy


Letter #2

Dear Freinds and connections, as Mary has told all of the peticulars I will say a few words to let you know that I have not forgot you.  We are all living together heare [here] in a strange cuntry [country] with very few friends. Thare [There] is know [no] one that knows how to simpathise with me left a widow in a strange country with one poor orphant childe to take care of. I have not had the hart nor mind to word all my suffering since I saw you so I must close by giving my love to you all.  Give my love to Uncle Angus and Aunt Sarah and Cousin Deila [Delilah] and receive a portion your selves.  I remain you afectionate relative

Harriet F. Pike

Uncle Green, Aunt Harriet, Uncle Simpson, Aunt Deliliah my love to you all a long farewell


Letter #3

Dear Friends, as Mary and Hariett has told you of a few of our sufferings I will leave the --------ful subject tho I can not think of anything else.  We do not no yet where we will live. Foster is gone now to look for land he likes. This country is thinly settled. It is from ten to 15 and twenty and forty miles to any neighbors and  half of them are Spanyards and French. There is plenty of Indians the old seters [settlers] of this contry is very rich they have form 5 to 10 thousand head of cattle and the same amount of horses. The grass is green the hole year round and the stock is wild as the deer. They have Indians drive them in a field and then they throw a loop on their heads and legs and then they brand them with there oners name when they are calfs. The land is as good as it is there and anything that is planted will grow such as wheat, corn and potatoes and onions and any kind of vegitables and fruit of all kinds and the wine is plenty in some parts and will grow any where in this country but all this doze not suply the plase of poor Mother and Brothers and my poor little George and Mr. Pike and little Catherine. I think that if the road was not so long that we should go back but to think of going the same road back again. We left home the 26 of March and we got here the 19 of Febrary but if we had got throu in time it would of been in the last of  September.  If any of you --------ever come out heare you must have lite too horse wagons and 3 yoke of good oxen and be sure to leave everything but yore clothes and provision and as few cooking things as possible and no earthen ware and donít have but one thousand pounds in one wagon. If you do not follow this you will have to leave all yore wagons. We lost our wagons and everything else but what we had on our back. I must close My love to all my friends and relations fare well Aunt Tee [Lee], Uncle and Aunt Alex [Alexander]

Sarah A. C. Foster

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