Elitha Cumi McCoon (Donner) (deceased)

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Nicknames: "Wilder"
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Bloomington, McLean Co., IL
Death: (Date and location unknown)
Managed by: Elizabeth-Gaye Jeans
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Elitha Cumi McCoon (Donner)

Survived. Just a few months after her ordeal in the mountains, fourteen-year-old Elitha Donner married Perry McCoon, who had assisted the Donner relief by ferrying men and supplies across the swollen Sacramento River.

b. 16 Oct 1832 Bloomington, McLean Co., IL m1. 01 Jun 1847 Sutter’s Fort, Sacramento, CA to Perry McCoon (b. abt 1821, d. Jan 1851)

    Ch: Elizabeth, b. abt 1849, d. abt 1850

m2. 08 Dec 1853 Benjamin R. Wilder (b. 27 Mar 1821, RI; d. 1898, Sacramento, CA)

    Ch: Susan, Mary L. Olive D., James Allen, Ulysses, George Donner, Elitha Ellen

d. 07 Jul 1923

    Just a few months after her ordeal in the mountains, fourteen-year-old Elitha Donner married Perry McCoon, who had assisted the Donner relief by ferrying men and supplies across the swollen Sacramento River. The marriage was brief and apparently not very happy. McCoon prospered at first, managing a ranch as well as a ferry, but wasted the proceeds from the sale of his holdings by drinking and gambling. By 1850 he was impoverished -- Heinrich Lienhard remarked on his decline and seedy appearance. Elitha’s feelings at finding herself tied to such a man are not known, but they can be imagined. In January 1851 McCoon was reportedly showing off his riding skills when his foot became entangled with his riata and he was dragged to death.
    Elitha’s second marriage to Benjamin Wilder, a brother of her half-sister Frances’ husband, was much happier, though life was still difficult in pioneer California. Leanna lived with Elitha and Benjamin until she married in 1852, then Frances took her place.
    When news of the impending publication of McGlashan’s history got out, Benjamin attempted to get an injunction to stop its publication but lost his case. Elitha did not correspond with McGlashan, but in later years she provided information for her half-sister Eliza’s book, The Expedition of the Donner Party.
    Elitha died in 1923 and is buried in Elk Grove, California. Her grave is California State Historic Landmark 719, and Elitha Donner Elementary School in Elk Grove, is named after her. "She is Elk Grove’s golden link to the early settlement of California and a symbol of hope for children everywhere." Elitha figures prominently in a young people’s book, Tamsen: A Story of the Donner Party, by Edna Mae Anderson (Fort Washington, Pa.: Christian Literature Crusade, 1973) and in Naida West’s novel River of Red Gold.
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Elitha Donner, Donner Party's Timeline