Saturday, November 26, 2011

Eating crow

Ah, the joys of writing! No matter how hard you try, errors inevitably creep into your work. It's dishearteningly easy to make dumb mistakes, and even if you catch them, your edits don't always make it into the published book. My copy of
An Archaeology of Desperation has become a correction copy, with penciled notes scattered here and there throughout my contributions to the book. So you dedicated Donner fanatics can make the following changes to your copies:

p. 8, Figure 1.1: The symbol representing Mary Blue, George Donner's first wife, is defined as "female, divorced"; it should be "female, deceased." This error I deny having made -- evidently it's the result of a miscommunication somewhere along the line -- but it's attributed to me, so I'll correct it.

p. 20, Table 1.1: Sarah Keyes should not be listed.
p. 33: The Donner Party "parted from the other emigrants to Fort Bridger to rendezvous with Hastings"; this gibberish should read "parted from the other emigrants to rendezvous with Hastings at Fort Bridger."
p. 39: "Dorothea Wolfinger, about twenty" should be "about twenty-nine."
p. 56: Jacob Donner's family left Springfield "in April 1847" (tch!) should be, of course, "in April 1846."
p. 57: "in utero" should be italicized.
p. 63: the Fourth Relief left the cabins "on April 17, 1847" should be "on April 21, 1847."
p. 299: "the last three months of 1847" should be "the last months of 1847."

There are no doubt more goofs I haven't noticed yet, and I'd change a lot of other things if I could; I had to leave out many details for lack of space, for instance, and admit I could have worded some passages better. In addition, the editorial staff at the U of OK Press did some tinkering with the citations and bibliography that I don't necessarily agree with. It's possible that the other contributors may have corrections, too, I don't know. But hey, the book is out at last; it is what it is.

So there you have it -- I'm taking my lumps in advance of any reviewer's criticisms. Remember, you read it here first!


Anonymous said...

Hello Ms. Johnson,

I was trying to get in touch with you for some time now. I'm senior from James Madison University and I'm trying to write a research paper that can look into the life of Patrick Breen and Sarah Graves/Fosdick on their travels out west. I was wondering if there were any actual primary sources from Sarah Graves; letters, journal entries, or interviews after the rescue? I was just trying to get some help from an expert in the field. Thanks.

Kristin Johnson said...

Unfortunately, there's only one known document by Sarah Graves Fosdick, a letter dated May 23, 1847, which she sent to her aunt and uncle in Indiana. It was published in an Indiana newspaper in November of that year and reprinted in 2-3 others. I published the text in "Survivor: Sarah Graves Fosdick," which appeared in Overland Journal 26:1 (Spring 2008).

There's also a receipt in the Reed Papers in which she acknowledges that James Reed repaid her the cattle that Margret bought from the Graveses at Donner Lake. It appears that somebody else (probably John Sinclair) wrote the body of the text and only the signature is Sarah's.

There are no other letters or newspaper articles by or about Sarah that I know of, except for a brief death notice in a newspaper (a facsimile appears in the "Survivor" article).

There are some references to her in "The Early Upper Napa Valley," but these relate to her life after the Donner Party.

Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

Thank you that does help saves me from wasting more time searching for what is not there. I guess I'm just puzzled. I read The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride by Daniel James Brown who pretty much tells the whole life of Sarah Graves. How does he know all this information about her and the family if she did not leave anything behind? Are there primary sources out there on the Graves family?

Thanks again for your quick response.

Kristin Johnson said...

Dan got his information from a wide variety of sources. In addition to general Donner Party books, there are many documents by and about the Graves family. The following are online: "The Graves Tragedy" Did the Graves Family Join Billy Survivor of the Downer Horror Member of Donner Party. Graves McDonnell Graves McDonnell Letter, 1850 Singular Cavern. Blaisdell Connection Revisited

There are documents by Sarah's siblings Mary Graves Clarke and William C. Graves, and told by Lovina Graves Cyrus, in my Unfortunate Emigrants.

Sometime before 1856, Mary spoke with Eliza W. Farnham, who included Mary's account of the Graves family in California, In-doors and Out. This is also in Unfortunate Emigrants.

In 1879, Mary and William corresponded with C. F. McGlashan. He published information from them, sometimes quoting directly, in his History of the Donner Party.

There's a lot of information in other sources, too, but they aren't as readily available. These should give you a good start.