Categories: Donner Party.
Eliza Poor Donner was born March 8, 1843 in Sangamon, Illinois, the daughter of George A. Donner and Tamsen (Eustis) Donner. She and her family were trapped in the Sierra Nevada Mountains during a snow storm. They were forced to resort to eating human flesh to survive. Eliza was 3 years old at the time.
Eliza is reported to be the child who could never come to grips with the report that she had survived on human flesh, suffering depression all her life. She was also the youngest survivor of the party. Eliza wrote a detailed account of the events that are as moving and gripping as any work of fiction while being true to the facts.
In May, the Fallon party arrived with horses laden with many packs of goods, but their only refugee was Lewis Keseberg, from the cabin near the lake. It was evening, and some one came to our door, spoke to Elitha and Leanna in low tones and went away. My sisters turned, put their arms about us and wept bitterly. Then, gently, compassionately, the cruel, desolating truth was told. Ah, how could we believe it? No anxious watching, no weary waiting would ever bring father and mother to us again!
Accusations soon surfaced that while George died of his wounds, Tamsen's body parts were found in a stew pot in Keesberg's cabin along with her cache of valuables. It appeared he had killed her.
Intense excitement and indignation prevailed at the Fort after Captain Fallon and other members of his party gave their account of the conditions found at the mountain camps, and of interviews had with Keseberg, whom they now called, "cannibal, robber, and murderer." The wretched man was accused by this party, not only of having needlessly partaken of human flesh, and of having appropriated coin and other property which should have come to us orphaned children, but also of having wantonly taken the life of Mrs. Murphy and of my mother.
More problems were in store for these young children:
Settlement was demanded by the rescuers, under promise that its members should have not only a per diem as rescuers, but also one half of all the property that they might bring to the settlement, and they had brought valuable packs from the camps of the Donners. Captain Fallon also had two hundred and twenty-five dollars in gold coin taken from concealment on Keseberg's person, and two hundred and seventy-five dollars additional taken from a cache that Keseberg had disclosed after the Captain had partially strangled him, and otherwise brutally treated him, to extort information of hidden treasure.
It was decided that all of the Donner possessions would be sold at auction with half the proceeds going to the rescuers while half would go to the children.
With their men at war, the women of Sutter Fort couldn't afford to support them longer. Work for good was found for the two oldest girls and they shared with the younger. They were homeless and frequently slept wherever they found themselves at nightfall. Relief finally came when Eliza married Sherman O. Houghton onOctober 10, 1861 in Sacramento, California.
Eliza died February 19, 1922 in Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States
Letter from Eliza P. Donner Houghton
Who can wonder at my indignation and grief in little girlhood, when I was told of acts of brutality, inhumanity, and cannibalism, attributed to those starved parents, who in life had shared their last morsels of food with helpless companions? read more
Have you taken a DNA test for genealogy? If so, login to add it. If not, see our friends at Ancestry DNA.
Eliza is 17 degrees from Claude Monet, 19 degrees from Gigi Tanksley and 20 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.