A Scot by birth, Sinclair had worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company in Oregon and had been the editor of a Hawaiian newspaper before his arrival in California in 1839. He lived on the Rancho del Paso two or three miles north of Sutter’s Fort, across the American River. Sinclair served as the Alcalde of the Sacramento district from 1846 to 1849, and it was in this capacity that he became involved in the rescue of the Donner Party.
In January 1847 Sinclair first heard of the “sufferings of the California emigrants” when a messenger arrived from Johnson’s Ranch. Sinclair helped organize the relief and took in several of the refugees. Eliza Donner remembered her arrival with her sisters at Sinclair’s late one day in March 1847. Although the house was already crowded, Mrs. Sinclair found a place for the little girls to sleep: she pulled up a corner of the rag rug, laid down fresh straw, and put the rug back over them as a blanket.
Sinclair was remembered as a very intelligent man, fond of grog; he was friendly with the Reed family and generally well esteemed. He died in 1849 on board a steamer en route to the United States.
New Light on the Donner Party, Kristin Johnson
Ordeal By Hunger, George Stewart