Eliza Williams, Donner Party

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Eliza Williams, Donner Party's Geni Profile

Records for Eliza Follmer

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Eliza Follmer (Williams)

Death: Died in San Jose, Santa Clara Co., CA
Immediate Family:

Wife of Thomas Follmer

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Immediate Family

About Eliza Williams, Donner Party

The Reed family’s "hired girl." Age: [31] Survived.


Baylis's sister or half-sister, universally referred to as Eliza by the Reed family, appears as "Elizabeth" in a few records. She was very hard of hearing.
      Eliza worked for the Reeds in Springfield for years. Much later Patty Reed Lewis said that the Reeds hadn't intended to take Eliza to California, but when the family left town, she followed the wagons, crying. They couldn't convince her to stay behind and so had to take her along.
      Virginia Reed Murphy described Eliza as a "first class cook." Although she didn't have much to work with while crossing the plains and found it a challenge to cook over a campfire instead of a stove or range, the Reeds always had a nice lunch "during the first part of the journey" to share with Eliza and the hired men.
      At Donner Lake Eliza lived with the Reeds in their half of the double cabin they shared with the Graves family. After the Reeds had nothing left to eat but the hides that roofed their side of the cabin, Margret Reed left her smaller children with others while she, Virginia, Milt, and Eliza made a desperate attempt to cross the mountains. They left on January 4, 1847; two days later Eliza was back. She stopped at the Breen cabin, then went on to the Graveses. On January 8 the others also returned. Since their own cabin was uninhabitable, they had to make arrangements for shelter. The Breens took in Margret and her four children, but drew the line at Milt and Eliza. After some shuffling around, they wound up at the Graveses', although Eliza came to the Breens' a time or two looking for food. On January 21, Patrick Breen wrote, " John Battice & Denton came this morning with Eliza   she wont eat hides   Mrs Reid sent her back to live or die on them." Eliza somehow managed to "worry through" until February 22, when she and the Reeds left the camp with the First Relief.
      Eliza had been considered an old maid in Springfield but in pioneer California she soon found a suitor. On May 16, 1847, while they were all staying at George Yount's ranch in the Napa Valley, Virginia wrote, "Eliza is a going to marrie a spanyard by the name of Armeho [Armijo]" and later, that Eliza tried to learn Spanish so she could converse with her beau. That relationship fell through, but four months later, on September 20, James Reed wrote his brother-in-law, "Eliza Williams was married 5 days ago to a German. A fine fellow." They were married at the San Jose mission.
      Eliza and Thomas Follmer (whose name is spelled in a variety of ways) lived in Sonoma for a while in 1847 but soon moved back to Santa Clara County. Eliza lived near the Reeds for the rest of her life. 
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Eliza Williams, Donner Party's Timeline

Age 61
San Jose, Santa Clara Co., CA