Monday, May 11, 2009

New treasure

In March 1847 Mrs. Elizabeth Graves hid her family's wealth near Donner Lake. When the coins were rediscovered in May 1891, the story of the lost Graves treasure hit newspapers across the country. On Thursday I became the recipient of a new Graves treasure, a collection of photographs, letters, and other material from the family of Eleanor Graves McDonnell's daughter, Mary McDonnell Greene.

Mary grew up on her parents' ranch in Knight's Valley, Sonoma County. When she married Lester Downing Greene in 1878 she moved to his spread along the Sacramento River, but missed the hill country and spent her summers at her old home. Her children accompanied her and grew to love the area as well. Consequently the collection includes numerous pictures of the McDonnell place and Eleanor's side of the family. There are also many letters from various relatives to Mary. I haven't had a chance to read them, but there's at least one letter from Eleanor, one or two from her husband William McDonnell, several from Mary's siblings, and many, many more. At least half of the of the letters and photos are from Lester's family, the Greenes, Beals, Buckmans, and others, so it will take a while to sort everything out.

What does this have to do with the Donner Party? Well, nothing, really. I doubt I'll find out anything new about 1846-47! It is, however, fascinating to learn more about what happened to some of the survivors in later years, to see their faces and pieces of their lives, and I am grateful for the privilege. Thanks again, Ron!


Kiki said...

Hi--I have always had an interest in the Donner Party, and am curently reading The Indifferent Stars (an ARC copy)...(tore myself away to see if I could find a photo of Sarah online) and I stumbled across your site and blog. Yea!

The Forlorn movie, I had no idea about. They definitely look a little clean (and even well rested and well fed!)to me!

I'll check back soon!

Kristin Johnson said...

Hi, Kiki, thanks for writing!