The Donner Party Members
Brief biographies of the members of the Donner party and who survived.
Patrick Breen was a farmer from Keokuk, Iowa. He was born 1795 in Barnashaken, Co., Carlow Ireland. His parents were Edward and Mary Breen/Wilson. Patrick immigrated to Canada in 1828. He married his wife Margaret in Ontario, Canada in the year of 1830. It is certain that they knew each other in Ireland. They had two children in Canada and then moved to Springfield, Illinois in 1834. They resided there a short period before moving to Keokuk, Iowa. In 1835 they had another son. Six more children were born in Keokuk. Patrick was a farmer who acquired a half-section of land about three miles northwest of Keokuk. He is famous for the diary he kept during the time period of November 20, 1846 to March 1, 1847. This is the only day to day document we have to record the events that took place.
Margaret Breen/Bulger was born in 1806 at Rathgeran, Co., Carlow, Ireland. Her parents were Simon and Margaret Bulger. She had seven children. During their entrapment she took full lead as her husbands health became poor. All of her family survived, with which the fact is attributed to her in a lot of aspects. She later died April 13, 1874 at San Juan Bautista, CA.
Their son, John was the tender age of 14 when their family made the journey. He was born February 21, 1832 at Ontario, Canada. Later in his life he struck it rich in the Gold Rush in the year 1849. He brought back $12,000 in gold. In 1852 he married Leah Margaret Smith in San Juan Bautista, CA. Together they had ten children. John died in the year 1890.
The next son, Edward, was 13 when they left. He was born in 1833, in Canada. He married Catherine Sullivan and they had three sons. Catherine soon died due to childbirth after her last son. He remarried Mary Jane Burns and they also had three children. During his second marriage, he had an accident while riding his horse. He horse fell on him and broke his leg. The surgeon wanted to amputate the leg, but Edward refused. They set the leg and healed up perfectly. He was a rancher and farmer and had lots of land. Edward died in 1833.
Patrick, Jr. was eleven years old at the time of the trip. He was born March 12, 1837, in Keokuk, IA. In 1864 he married Amelia Anderson. They had five children together. He was a rancher in San Juan & Salinas Valleys. He raised cattle and sheep. He also grew wheat and selective fruits. Patrick died in 1899.
Simon was nine when they went on the trip. He married Marie Constance Pdeance and they had two children together. Like his brothers he was a rancher and farmer, but did not strive for material success as they did. He seemed to enjoy life. Simon had red, curly hair, a temper, and was a first rate horse rider. He was born in 1838 and died in 1899.
Peter was born July 3, 1843 and was seven years old at time of the trip. He attended Santa Clara College. At the time of his death he was engaged. He fell off a horse and died as a result in 1870.
James was five years old when they left. He was born January 21, 1899. He married Catherine McMahon and had a son who died young, and then they had two daughters. He attended Santa Clara College and became a Superior Court judge in San Benito County and later an Assemblyman. He died in 1899.
Isabella was one year old on the trip. She was born 1845 near Keokuk, IA. She has no memories of the Donner Party. She was the only one in her family to survive to adulthood and she was the last one to die from the Donner Party. In 1869 she married Thomas McMahon. She died in 1935.
The Breen family was said to have made this journey because of religion. The US made foreign born Roman Catholics very unpopular. In California, with it’s strong chain of Roman Catholic religion starting they would have a new start, with the religion they wanted. Also they had heard of the delightful climate and cheap land, an offer that would be hard to refuse.
George Donner was born March 7, 1784, at Salem, NC. His parents were George and Mary Donner. People who were close to him called him "Uncle George". He was married three times, losing his first two wives in childbirth. His third wife was Tamzene Eustis and they were married May 24, 1839. He was 62 on the trip west. He was the leader of the wagon train. It was decided that he would be the leader at Little Sandy River at Wyoming, on July 20, 1846. He is described as someone with a cheerful disposition, and was physically a large man. During the trip he was seriously injured while changing a wagon wheel. He died at Alder Creek camp on March 27, 1847.
Tameness was 45 when she left with her husband George and family west. She was born November 1, 1801, at Newbury, MA. She was previously married twice before she married George. She was made out to be a heroine after she had made the decision to pass up her chance to live to stay with her dying husband. She died March 28, 1847, at the lake cabin of Lewis Keseberg.
One of there children, Frances at age 6, went with them on the trip. She was born July 8, 1840, at Sangamon, IL. After she made it back to safety, she moved in with the James Reed family in San Jose. She married William Wilder in 1858. Frances was at that impressionable age and never quite got over the fear of having no food. It was said that she always carried candy or crackers with her. She and Wilder had five children. She died November 21, 1921, in Byron, CA.
Georgia was four years old on the trip. She was born December 4, 1841, in Sangamon, IL. Christian and Mary Brunner took her in until the year of 1854. She then moved in with her half sister Elithia. Georgia attended St. Catherine’s Academy in Benicia. In 1863 she married W.A. Babcock. She died December 13, 1911, in Sangamon, IL.
Eliza was three years old during this journey and remained close to her sister Georgia’s side after the downfall. She was born March 8, 1843, in Sangamon, IL. She moved in with her half-sister Elitha and her husband. In 1861 she married Sherman Houghton. Together they had six children. In 1911 she published the book The Expedition of the Donner Party and it’s Tragic Fate. She died February 19, 1922, in Los Angeles, CA.
Elithia was from a previous marriage of George’s, and she was 14. She was born October 16, 1832, in Bloomington, IL. She married Perry McCoon. In 1853, after the death of her first husband, she married Benjamin Wilder. Before the death of her stepmother she was instructed by her to never repeat what happen at the camp. Later in life she very seldom talked of what happened there. She died July 7, 1923.
Another daughter from George’s previous marriage was Leanna. She was twelve at the time of the trip. She was born December 15, 1834, in Sangamon, IL. She married John App on September 26, 1852. Together they had three children. Like Elithia, she was also instructed never to tell anyone what happened concerning the cannibalism. She then died in May of 1930, in Jamestown, CA.
Jacob Donner was 65 at the time of the expedition. He was the older brother to George. Jacob was born in 1790, in Salem, NC. His parents were also George and Mary Donner. He was a farmer before he left on the journey. He married Elizabeth Blue in November 1835. His character was described as whiney and always the one with the complaints. Jacob died at the Alder Creek camp in mid-December, 1846.
Elizabeth Blue was 45 on the journey. She was born approximately in 1800. Her parents are unknown to the record. She had been married twice before she married Jacob. She was always remembered as kind and caring. Eliza died at the Alder Creek camp in early April 1847.
George Jr. was nine on the trip. He was born in 1837 at Sangamon, IL. He married Margaret J. Watson in 1862. Together they had eight children. He died in Sebastopol, CA, on February 17, 1874.
Mary was 7 at the time of the expedition. She was born the year of 1839, in Sangamon, IL. By the time she was rescued, her feet were both frostbitten and badly burned. They were able to save both of her feet though. John and Priscilla Cottrell in Santa Clara County took her in. Mary got married in 1859 to the up and coming lawyer Sherman O. Houghton. They had a daughter in 1860, but Mary died during the childbirth.
Their son Isaac was 5 years old on this trip. Very little is said about Isaac. He died during the storm at Starved Camp, about March 7, 1847. When he died he was lying between his sisters on a bed of pine boughs, and he died so quietly and peacefully that neither sister awoke.
They had another son, Samuel. He died at the age of four. When relief parties arrived they thought he was already dead. They were said to have had two people say he was still alive. He is to believed to have died at Alder Creek camp about March 12, 1847.
Lewis Donner was three years old at the time of the trip and never made it to he age of four. He was left by the second relief party and died shortly after. It is said that he died at Alder Creek camp about March 7, 1847.
Eliza’s son from a previous marriage, Solomon, was fourteen. He was born January 11, 1837, in Sangamon, IL. He married Alice Roberts in November of 1866. They had five children. Solomon worked at the Wolfskill Ranch. He died September 22, 1878, in Winters, CA. The cause of his death is stated to have been cancer.
Eliza’s second son from a previous marriage was William. He was twelve. Born in 1834, at Sangamon, IL. He died at Bear Valley on February 28, 1847. The cause was overeating.
The reason the Donners, both Jacob and George’s families, left was because of the land. They were prosperous farmers and they wanted to own as much land as possible. It was also a new place to grow and prosper. The families went together because they both thought it would be an experience they could tell their grandchildren, as they grew older as well as richer.
William Henry Eddy was a carriage-maker from Belleville, Illinois. At the time of the trip he was 28. He was born about 1841, in Providence, Rhode Island. His parents were Nathan Eddy. The name of his mother was lost in the records. He was married three times. About 1841 he married Eleanor Priscilla. Together they had two children. He is referred to as the hero for the Donner Party. A lot of his stories were fabricated when he told them, but it is to believed most of them are true. He left his wife and two children to search for help; on his return with the third rescue party, they were dead.
Eleanor Priscilla was twenty-five at the time of this trip. She was born about 1820. Her two children were her last hope towards the end of the trail. Eleanor was remember as kind and had a devotion towers her husband that stayed strong until the very end. When her husband left, she gave him the last of the bear meat they had to eat. She dies February 7, 1846, at the Murphy cabin.
James was only three years old. He did not have much chance to survive. After his mother died he was tended to by Levinah Murphy. On the second relief James was still alive, but in bad shape. He died before his father could return to help him, on March 13.
Margaret was one year old. She died on February 4, 1847. Her mother died three days later. They were buried together in a shallow snow grave.