Franklin Ward Graves (c.1789 - c.1846)

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Birthdate:
Birthplace: Wells, Rutland Co., VT
Death: Died in Camp of Death, Nevada Co., CA
Managed by: Elizabeth-Gaye Jeans
Last Updated:

About Franklin Ward Graves

The Graves family from Illinois has not been as well represented in the history of the Donner Party as have the Donners and the Reeds. Both parents, a son-in-law, and a son died in the disaster; two more children died after being rescued. The six surviving Graves children were left almost entirely destitute and had to struggle to make lives for themselves in pioneer California.

http://user.xmission.com/~octa/DonnerParty/Graves.htm

According to Spencer Ellsworth, Franklin Ward Graves

   was a genuine backwoodsman and pioneer, who found his most congenial associations on the frontier. He despised the trammels of civilization, and loved the unshackled freedom of the red man. In summer he went shoeless, hatless and coatless, his long coarse hair his only protection. He was a man of large frame, good natured, hospitable and ever ready to do a kindness.
    Graves, "more hunter than farmer," had moved several times before he arrived in Marshall County, Illinois, about 1830. His large farm in the bottoms of the Illinois River was in the "military tract," an area the federal government had set aside for veterans of the War of 1812, though his participation in that war has not yet been established.
    It is not certain why Graves decided to emigrate to California, but an itchy foot and Illinois’ unhealthy climate were said to be factors. In 1867, L. P. Bates remembered that "Mr. Graves and family lived here 15 years, and then started for California, because, as he believed, that was the best wheat country." With the family went a teamster, John Snyder. They traveled with the Smith Company, which left St. Joseph about May 25, 1846. In August the Graveses overtook the Donner Party in what is now Utah. As the traveled along the Humboldt River, the Graves family lost animals and other property to the Indians, and Snyder died in a knife fight with James F. Reed.
    When the party realized they would have to spend the winter in the mountains, Graves built his cabin about half a mile from the Breens and Murphys. It was a double structure, with his family living in one end, the Reeds in the other, and a "well-chinked" partition between.
    Born near Vermont’s Green Mountains, Franklin Ward Graves was the only member of the Donner Party who was familiar with snowshoes. He and Charles Stanton contrived several pairs from oxbows and rawhide, which enabled the members of the Forlorn Hope to leave the camps and seek help from the California settlements. With the group were Graves, his daughters Mary Ann and Sarah, and Sarah’s husband Jay Fosdick. After ten days, the snowshoers were out of provisions; then a blizzard struck, creating untold misery for the starving travelers. Graves, knowing he was dying, urged his daughters to use his body for food. 
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Frank Graves, Donner Party's Timeline

1789
1789
Wells, Rutland Co., VT
1820
1820
Age 31
Dearborn Co., IN
1825
1825
Age 36
Dearborn Co., IN
1825
Age 36
1826
1826
Age 37
Dearborn Co., IN
1829
1829
Age 40
Vicksburg, Warren Co., MS
1832
1832
Age 43
Marshall Co., IL
1834
1834
Age 45
Marshall Co., IL
1838
1838
Age 49
1840
1840
Age 51