William Pike, Donner Party

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William Montgomery Pike

Birthdate: (32)
Birthplace: Dearborn Co., Indiana
Death: 1846 (32)
Truckee River in Nevada ( shooting accident)
Immediate Family:

Son of James Brown Pike and unknown mistress
Husband of Harriett Murphy, Donner Party
Father of Naomi Pike, Donner Party and Catherine Pike, Donner Party
Half brother of George Washington Pike; Montgomery Pike and John Brown Pike

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About William Pike, Donner Party

 William M. Pike, the illegitimate son of James Brown Pike and a Mrs. Wolfries, was a grandson of a Revolutionary War officer, Zebulon Pike, and a nephew of the explorer Zebulon Montgomery Pike, after whom Pike’s Peak in Colorado is named.

Parents: James Brown Pike (b. 01 May 1784, New York, d. 19 Apr 1855 Kirkville, Wapello Co., Iowa) and Mrs. Wolfries.

b. abt 1814 in Dearborn Co., Indiana m1. 29 Dec 1842 Clark Co., MO to Harriet Frances Murphy

    Ch: Naomi Levina, Catherine

d. Late Oct 1846 along the Truckee River in Nevada

      William M. Pike, the illegitimate son of James Brown Pike and a Mrs. Wolfries, was a grandson of a Revolutionary War officer, Zebulon Pike, and a nephew of the explorer Zebulon Montgomery Pike, after whom Pike’s Peak in Colorado is named.
      In late 1842 Pike was the engineer aboard a riverboat which became icebound on the western shore of the Mississippi. One of the passengers was fourteen-year-old Harriet Murphy. The couple was married on board the ship on December 29, the same day that William Foster married Harriet’s sister Sarah. The Pikes spent about a year in St. Louis, then went to live with Harriet’s family in Weakley County, Tennessee.
      There Pike helped clear a 200-acre tract belonging to the family. His unfamiliarity with woodcutting amused the Murphy boys, who nevertheless thought him "the greatest man they ever met." According to William G. Murphy, Pike was "an extraordinary man, a real genius, a full fledged mechanic" and a "powerful ally" to Levinah Murphy.
      On the trail, Pike is recorded as going ahead with James F. Reed and Charles Stanton to overtake Hastings and get his advice about the route through the Wasatch Mountains. In 1871, however, Reed wrote that his companions were Stanton and William McCutchen. It has been suggested that Reed confused the mission to consult Hastings with the sending of Stanton and McCutchen ahead to Sutter’s Fort for supplies. Whatever the case, the earliest sources--an article which appeared in the California Star on February 13, 1847 and J. Quinn Thornton’s Oregon and California in 1848--report that it was Pike; survivors told McGlashan it was Pike; even Virginia Reed Murphy said it was Pike, contradicting her father.
      In October, while the company was traveling along the Humboldt, Pike returned from a hunting trip with William Eddy to discover that Mr. Hardcoop had been put out of Keseberg’s wagon and was now missing. When Hardcoop had not arrived at the camp the next morning, Pike, Eddy, and Milt Elliott volunteered to go on foot after him, but the company would not wait and they were forced to leave Hardcoop to his fate.
      William Pike met his own fate not long thereafter. As C. F. McGlashan told it
   After the arrival of Stanton, it was still deemed necessary to take further steps for the relief of the train. The generosity of Captain Sutter, as shown to Stanton, warranted them in believing that he would send still further supplies to the needy pioneers. Accordingly, two brothers-in-law, William Foster and William Pike, both brave and daring spirits, volunteered to go on ahead, cross the summits, and return with provisions as Stanton had done. Both men had families, and both were highly esteemed in the company. At the encampment near Reno, Nevada, while they were busily preparing to start, the two men were, cleaning or loading a pistol. It was an old-fashioned "pepper-box."
It happened, while they were examining it, that wood was called for to replenish the fire. One of the men offered to procure it, and in order to do so, handed the pistol to the other. Everybody knows that the "pepper-box" is a very uncertain weapon. Somehow, in the transfer, the pistol was discharged. William Pike was fatally wounded, and died in about twenty minutes. Mrs. Pike was left a widow, with two small children. The youngest, Catherine, was a babe of only a few months old, and Naomi was only three years of age. The sadness and distress occasioned by this mournful accident, cast a gloom over the entire company, and seemed an omen of the terrible fate which overshadowed the Donner Party. 



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William Pike, Donner Party's Timeline

Dearborn Co., Indiana
Age 29
St. Louis, MO
Age 32
Age 32
Truckee River in Nevada