Virginia Reed, a young woman who traveled with the Donner Party in 1846 wrote two letters home to her cousin about her travels. The first was written very near this spot on July 12th of that year:
My dear cousin, I take the opportunity to write to you to let you know that I am well at present and hope that you are well. We have all had good health.
We came to the Blue [River] – the water was so high we had to stay there four days – in the meantime Gramma died. She became speechless the day before she died. We buried her very decent. We made a neat coffin and buried her under a tree.
We had a head stone and had her name cut on it, and the date and year very nice, and at the head of the grave was a tree we cut some letters on it. The young men sodded it all over and put flowers on it. We miss her very much every time we come in the wagon we look up at the bed for her.
We have come through several tribes of Indians. The Kaw Indians, the Sioux, the Shawnees. At the Kaw village, paw counted 250 Indians. We didn’t see no Indians from the time we left the Kaw village till we come to Fort Laramie.
The Kaw Indians are going to war with the Crows. We have to pass through their fighting grounds. The Sioux Indians are the prettiest dressed Indians there is.
Pa goes a buffalo hunting most every day and kills two or three buffalo every day. Pa shot an elk. Some of our company saw a grizzly bear.
We have the thermometer 102° – average for the last six days.
We celebrated the 4th of July on the Platte [River] at Beaver Creek. Several of the gentlemen in Springfield gave Pa a bottle of liquor and said it shouldn’t be opened till the 4th day of July, and Pa was to look to the East and drink it and they was to look to the West and drink it at 12 o’clock. Pa treated the company and we all had some leonaide.
Ma and Pa is well and sends their best love to you all. I send my best love to you all.
We have heard form Uncle Cad several times. We went to California and now is gone to Oregon. He is well.
I am going to send this letter by a man coming form Oregon by his self. He is going to take his family to Oregon.
We are all doing well and in high spirits, so I must close your letter. You are forever my affectionate cousin,
Virginia E.B. Reed.
[Virginia’s next letter to her cousin wouldn’t be sent until May the following year. It was a much longer letter, and went into the “troubles” they had getting to California, explaining that “what we had to eat I can’t hardly tell you…”]
‘Well At Present’
Camera: Kodak Brownie Hawkeye (c1949)
Film: Kodak Vericolor III (x-6/98)
Independence Rock, Wyoming