Mary Ann Clarke, Donner Party survivor

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Mary Ann Clarke (Graves), Donner Party survivor

Also Known As: "Belle of the Donner Party", "Pile"
Birthplace: Dearborn County, Indiana, United States
Death: Died in Tulare County, California, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Frank Graves, Donner Party and Elizabeth Cooper Graves, Donner Party
Wife of Edward Gantt Pile, Jr. and James Thomas Clarke
Sister of Sarah Graves Fosdick, Donner Party; Melissa Graves; W. C. Graves, Donner Party; Eleanor Graves, Donner Party; Nancy Graves, Donner Party and 4 others

Managed by: Private User
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About Mary Ann Clarke, Donner Party survivor

Survived, age 19

Mary has been called the belle of the Donner Party:

She was a very beautiful girl, of tall and slender build, and exceptionally graceful carriage. Her features, in their regularity, were of classic Grecian mold. Her eyes were dark, bright, and expressive. A fine mouth and perfect set of teeth, added to a luxuriant growth of dark, rebelliously wavy hair, completed an almost perfect picture of lovely girlhood.

She was said to have been engaged to John Snyder, though she denied it, and has also been linked romantically with Charles Stanton, for little apparent reason.

Shortly after her rescue she married Edward Gantt Pyle, Jr., another veteran of Hastings Cutoff, who had assisted with the relief efforts. The Pyles made their home in San Jose. Edward Pyle disappeared in May 1848; he had been murdered, though his fate was not discovered for nearly a year. Mary reportedly walked the banks of Almaden Creek looking for him, and later Virginia Reed comforted her while the men were bringing home his body.

Mary’s second marriage, to J. T. Clarke, was happy, though ranching life was beset with financial difficulties. The Clarkes lived in San Benito County for a few years, then moved to Tulare County, where Mary died in 1891.

Throughout the Donner ordeal Mary Graves showed great courage and resolution. Her nieces and nephews remembered her as strong-minded and outspoken. While Edward Pyle’s murderer was awaiting execution, Mary is said to have cooked his food, to ensure that he lived to be hanged.

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Mary Ann Clarke, Donner Party survivor's Timeline

Dearborn County, Indiana, United States
Age 65
Tulare County, California, United States