Inscription. On May 22, 1844, this small wagon party of 50 men, women and children “jumped off” from Council Bluffs, Iowa, bound for California. These courageous pioneers were the first emigrants to take wagons over the Sierra Nevada, opening the Truckee Route of the California Trail.
By Syd Whittle, October 21, 2009
|1. Stephens – Townsend – Murphy Party of 1844 Marker|
The Murphy, Townsend, Miller, and Hitchcock families formed the main groups of the party. Caleb Greenwood was the hired guide, and Elisha Stephens was elected Captain of the wagon train.
After following the Oregon Trail to Fort Hall, Idaho, they turned away from the well-worn path and headed west into the unfamiliar Nevada desert. A Paiute Indian Chief showed them how to reach a river flowing from the Sierra Nevada, which they named “Truckee” in his honor.
Overcoming severe conditions, they followed the Truckee River to the base of the Sierra. Six members, on horseback, continued to follow the Truckee River and eventually arrived safely at Sutter’s New Helvetia on December 10, 1844. Six of the wagons were left in the charge of two men, and young Moses Schallenberger, near Truckee Lake (present Donner Lake). Near this spot, with two feet of snow on the ground, they worked the remaining five wagons across the summit of the mighty Sierra Nevada on November 25, 1844.
Deepening snow forced them to camp near
Big Bend, on the South Yuba River. Leaving the wagons with two men and the women and children, the remaining 17 men continued on to New Helvetia to seek help. Somehow, John Sutter persuaded the men to enlist in his forces taking part in a Mexican Civil War. Eventually the families were reunited, and all members (including two babies born on the way) arrived safely at Sutter’s Fort in early March 1845.
By Syd Whittle, October 21, 2009
|2. Stephens – Townsend – Murphy Party of 1844 Marker|
Erected 1994 by Nevada County Historical Landmarks Commission, September 24, 1994.
Marker series. This marker is included in the California Trail marker series.
Location. 39° 19.126′ N, 120° 19.131′ W. Marker is in Truckee, California, in Nevada County. Marker can be reached from Donner Pass Road (Old Highway 40). Click for map. Marker is located at the lookout parking area near the walkway to the bridge. Marker is at or near this postal address: 19326 Donner Pass Road, Truckee CA 96161, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 5 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Donner Pass (within shouting distance of this marker); China Wall of the Sierra (about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line); Pollard's Station (approx. 1.5 miles away); First Wagons Across the Sierras (approx. 1.5 miles away); Western America Skisport Museum (approx. 2.1 miles away); Snowshoe Thompson (approx. 2.1 miles away); Donner Party (approx. 4.3 miles away); a different marker also named Donner Party (approx. 4.4 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Truckee.
Regarding Stephens – Townsend – Murphy Party of 1844. See the Nearby Marker "Schallenberger Cabin Site" for additional information.
Also see . . .
1. The First Pioneer Wagons Crossed the Sierra Over 160 Years Ago. This article by the Truckee-Donner Historical Society chronicles the Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party. (Submitted on October 23, 2009, by Syd Whittle of El Dorado Hills, California.)
2. The Emigrant Trail at Big Bend. A publication by the National Forest Service giving information on the Emigrant Trail at Big Bend. Highlights include the Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party, The Emigrant Trail to California, and the Transcontinental Railroad. (Submitted on October 23, 2009, by Syd Whittle of El Dorado Hills, California.)
Credits. This page originally submitted on October 23, 2009, by Syd Whittle of El Dorado Hills, California. This page has been viewed 1,414 times since then. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on October 23, 2009, by Syd Whittle of El Dorado Hills, California.
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