Exactly 160 years ago today, San Francisco's Alta California published news of the death of John Sinclair, an early California pioneer who had participated in the efforts to rescue the Donner Party.
Sinclair arrived in California in 1834, obtained a land grant, and plowed the first furrow in the Sacramento Valley, according to the Alta. He settled at Rancho del Paso, 2-3 miles north of Sutter's Fort across the American River, and was serving as the alcalde of the Northern District in the winter of 1847 when the news of the Forlorn Hope's arrival at Johnson's Ranch reached him. He promptly sent a message to Washington A. Bartlett, the alcalde at San Francisco, soliciting aid, then hurried up to Johnson's to interview the survivors. Sinclair helped coordinate the rescue of the Donner Party, sheltered some of the refugees in his home, and later, in May and June of 1847, officiated at the marriages of five of the survivors.
Sinclair did well during the early days of the gold rush and amassed a considerable fortune. In the spring of 1849 he and his family set out for New York by the isthmus route. During the voyage he became ill (cholera, according to some, yellow fever according to others) and died aboard the steamer shortly before it arrived in New Orleans.