Edward Gantt Pile, Jr.

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Edward Gantt Pile, Jr.

Also Known As: "Pyle"
Birthdate: (23)
Birthplace: Indiana, United States
Death: between May 1848 and 1849 (23-24)
Near Santa Clara, California, United States (Murdered in the wilds.)
Immediate Family:

Son of Edward Gant Pyle and Rosannah Mary Pyle
Husband of Mary Ann Clarke, Donner Party survivor
Brother of Sarah Riddle Cox; Thomas Riddle Pyle; Lucretia Gartin; Rosannah Whiteman; Elizabeth Carr and 6 others

Occupation: Teamster
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Edward Gantt Pile, Jr.

Overland emigrant of 1846. Like his father, Edward Jr. was hired to carry supplies to meet the First Relief. He was helping to escort the survivors out of the foothills when he proposed to Virginia Reed. Edward Jr. is listed as serving 27 days and earning $40.50.

In May 1847 Edward married Mary Graves of the Donner Party; a year later he disappeared. His body was not discovered until the spring of 1849. He had been dragged behind a horse, and, when that failed to kill him, had his throat cut. The murder made a lasting impression on the inhabitants of Santa Clara County and many different versions of the story were recorded long after the event. See Donner Party Bulletin No.12 for a contemporary (and more accurate) newspaper account.


Edward Pyle Murdered

The murder of Mary Graves’ first husband caused quite a stir in San Jose and was long remembered. The following contemporary account is undoubtedly the most accurate:

Astounding Disclosure.—A man named Antonio Valencia was recently arrested and taken before his honor, Judge Kimball H. Dimmick, at the Pueblo de San Jose, charged with the murder of a man named Edward Piles [sic], who has been missing since May, 1848. On examination, Valencia confessed that he had murdered Piles, by dragging him a hundred yards with a lasso, and then cutting his throat; after which, he buried him. When our informant left, a party had started in search of the remains of the murdered man. Valencia was to be tried on the 9th last.

    Since writing the above, we have learned that the bones of the murdered man have been found, and Valencia has been tried, found guilty and was executed on the 10th inst.
    The reason given by Valencia, for having murdered Piles, is because he was told to do so by one Anistacio Chobollo [Anastasio Chabolla]. This Chobollo, it appears, was present at the murder, and shot the body of the murdered man full of arrows, to lead to the impression, should the body be found, that Piles was murdered by Indians. A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Chobollo, who is said to be somewhere in the mines.
    Great praise is due to the citizens of the Pueblo de San Jose, for this second proof of their fidelity to the cause of justice and order, and too much cannot be said in favor of the decision and firmness of the first alcalde and his assistants. Large bribes are said to have been offered to the officers having the prisoner in charge, to procure his escape, but they were spurned by the intelligent and high minded men who performed that duty—an incident creditable alike to the integrity of the officers and the community for which they acted.

—Alta California (San Francisco), May 10, 1849.

"When Santa Clara County Was Young"

Much has been written about the hanging or Antonio Valencia, who in 1847 killed Edward Pyle, the uncle of the late John Pyle, former president of the Pioneers. Historians have never been quite clear as to how Valencia was revealed as Pyle's murderer.

The late Mrs. Elizabeth Pyle McCracken was a niece of Pyle and gave the only first-hand account obtained by me as to how Valencia was discovered and hanged. She said that at the time of his death, her uncle, Edward was 28. The previous year he had married Mary Ann Graves, the school teacher. He owned half of the property on the McKee road that later belonged to John Pyle.

In 1848 he went to look for some lost cattle. His way home took him to the Valencia rodeo. There was a good-natured race, which ended in Pyle's horse breaking his leg. Pyle started homeward, his saddle on his back. Fearful of being severely punished by the American, Valencia overtook Pyle and killed him.


For two years or more the murder was undiscovered. About 1850, "Grandpa" Pyle was mining in the Tuolumne River country. While there Mr. Pyle was told that a Spaniard working near him had killed an American at San Jose. Immediately "Grandpa" Pyle suspected that the American was his son. He found an interpreter, Mr. Belcher. Then he took a pistol and said to the Spaniard, "I will blow your heart out if you don't tell me about killing my son."

"Mr. Pyle, I didn't kill your boy," replied the Spaniard, "but if you will spare my life I will go with you to San Jose and lead you to the man who did."

John Pyle, son of "Grandpa" Pyle, fastened the Spaniard by a riata to the horse -- there were no handcuffs in those days -- and brought the man to San Jose.


Mrs. McCracken, Mrs. Whiteman's daughter, recalled seeing him arrive, and the dread that John Pytle's silence aroused in the family. Mrs. Mary Ann Pyle, looking at the stranger, said: "That man killed my husband."

Mrs. Whiteman, half believeing said: "Oh, no."

John Pyle said nothing. He opened the stair door, told the Spaniard to go upstairs and sent for some Americans to guard him. That night John and some of his friends went out to the Valencia ranch and found that the 19-year-old boy had escaped. They did (text missing) his officers placed him under arrest.

The Pyles and evidently the sheriff did not trust jails, for Valencia was brought to the Whiteman home and placed in a room downstairs. The Spaniard who had betrayed Valencia did not want him upstairs. Mrs. McCracken recalled how Valencia looked when he arrived. He wore a serape over his shoulders and he used the serape to conceal his face.

The Valencia boy confessed immediatey to the alcalde, the sheriff and the Pyles. He was glad to be arrested. Every night for two years he had gone to Pyle's grave. Every night he had been haunted by his memory of Edward Pyle struggling up the hill on his hands and knees, his tongue thrust out. With John Pyle, Valencia went to find the dead man. With them they took a coffin. They found some of Pyle's bones in Babb's gulch on the Mount Hamilton Road, where he had been thrown by Valencia after his death.


All the few days of life remaining to Valencia, Mrs.McCracken thought it was about two weeks, he lived with the sheriff's consent at the Whiteman residence. Valencia was found guilty before Judge Dominick and sentenced to be hanged. Mrs. McCracken said that Julio Valencia, the boy's father, several times rode past the Whiteman house, but he made no effort to enter. The last night before his death, Valencia was taken to the jail.

It was the second sentence of hanging in San Jose, and to the Spanish people it was a very horrible, more horrible than the death itself. The Valencias and their relatives came to the Pyles, Mrs. McCracken said, and begged them to shoot Antonio or burn him at the stake, anything but the horrible newly introduced American custom of hanging. "Grandpa" Pyle and the Pyle brothers had suffered terribly over the loss of their relative and said they would have no pity on his murderer.


It was the second event of the sort in San Jose.

In a wagon Antonio Valencia was taken to the plaza. A rope was put around his neck and thrown over the extemporized scaffold. The horses were driven out from under him and it was all over. A considerable crowd, including several members of the Pyle family, were present at the execution.

Mrs. McCracken said that more than Valencia, the Pyles blamed the boy's uncle, Anastasio Chaboya, who Valencia declared had advised him to do Edward Pyle to death for fear that the Americans would punish him for injuring Pyle's horse. Chaboya was confined to the county jail, but the Americans were so afraid that he would escape that two different "lynching bees" were organized to hang Chaboya, but always something went wrong. Chaboya was set free by Judge Hester, who declared that he refused to convict on dead evidence, though Valencia's testimony had been taken before he died. Shortly afterwards Anastasio Chaboya was found hanging to a tree. Mrs. McCracken said no one ever knew who lynched him.

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Edward Gantt Pile, Jr.'s Timeline

August 18, 1824
Indiana, United States
May 1848
Age 23
Near Santa Clara, California, United States