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Patrick Breen

Birthplace: Barnahasken, Kiltennell, County Carlow
Death: Died in San Juan Bautista, San Benito County, California, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Edward Breen and Mary Breen
Husband of Margaret Breen, Donner Party
Father of John Breen, Donner Party; Edward Breen, Donner Party; Patrick Breen, Donner Party; Simon Breen, Donner Party; James F. Breen, Donner Party and 3 others
Brother of Mary Breen; William Breen; Samuel Breen; George Breen; Edward Breen and 2 others

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Patrick Breen

Patrick Breen - The Donner Party

From November 20, 1846 to March 1, 1847, Irish immigrant Patrick Breen, a Donner party member, kept a diary of his ordeal in the mountains. Clinging to survival with his wife Margaret and their seven children, Breen described the harsh winter weather, the leather hides they resorted to eating, and the deaths of their traveling companions.

As spring approached, rescuers made their way to the Donner party’s mountain encampment. By March, Breen and his family were safely at Sutter’s Fort in California. All seven children and both parents had survived. Baby Isabella, who remembered nothing of the ordeal, lived until 1935, the last survivor of the Donner party.

Source: The Donner Party

In Patrick Breen’s first diary entry, from November 20th, he wrote: “We now have killed most part of our cattle, having to stay here until next spring and live on poor beef without bread or salt.”

On November 30th, Patrick Breen wrote: “Snowing fast…about 4 or 5 feet deep, no drifts. Looks…likely to continue…no living thing without wings can get about.” Then, the next day: “Difficult to get wood. No going from the house. Completely housed up.”

Although they didn’t know it, the Donner Party was experiencing one of the worst and earliest winters in the recorded history of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Warm, moist air from the Pacific Ocean had sped across the California mainland, colliding with cold, dry air in the mountains. This led initially to a rain/snow mix, followed by drier snow that accumulated to ski-slope depths. While these sorts of weather patterns are not uncommon in the Sierra Nevada, they don’t usually happen as early as they did in 1846, or with the same intensity.

Snow continued to fall through the following days. On December 13th, Breen noted that it was now about eight feet deep on level ground.

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Patrick Breen's Timeline

June 11, 1795
Barnahasken, Kiltennell, County Carlow
February 21, 1832
Age 36
Ontario, Canada
September 4, 1833
Age 38
St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada
Age 41
Keokuk, Lee Co., IA
Age 42
Keokuk, Lee, IA, USA
Age 45
Keokuk, Lee Co., IA
Age 47
Keokuk, Lee Co., IA
Age 49
Keokuk, Lee County, Iowa, USA
Age 53
December 1868
Age 73
San Juan Bautista, San Benito County, California, United States