You are currently viewing Mary Ann Graves

Mary Ann Graves

Daughter of Franklin Ward Graves and Elizabeth Cooper, Mary Ann Graves was one of five women survivors of the Forlorn Hope (along with her sister Sarah).

Born on 01 Nov 1826 in Dearborn Co., IN, Mary Ann 
has been called the ‘belle of the Donner Party’.

"She was a very beautiful girl, of tall and slender build, and exceptionally graceful carriage. Her features, in their regularity, were of classic Grecian mold. Her eyes were dark, bright, and expressive. A fine mouth and perfect set of teeth, added to a luxuriant growth of dark, rebelliously wavy hair, completed an almost perfect picture of lovely girlhood."

She was said to have been engaged to John Snyder, though she denied it, and has also been linked romantically with Charles Stanton, for little apparent reason.

Shortly after her rescue she was married 16 May 1847 at Sutter’s Fort, Sacramento Co., CA to Edward Gantt Pyle, Jr., another veteran of Hastings Cutoff, who had assisted with the relief efforts.

The Pyles made their home in San Jose. Edward Pyle disappeared in May 1848; he had been murdered, though his fate was not discovered for nearly a year.  

Mary’s second marriage on 05 Jul 1851 San Jose, Santa Clara Co., to James Thomas Clarke, was happy, though ranching life was beset with financial difficulties. The Clarkes lived in San Benito County for a few years, then moved to Tulare County, where Mary died in 1891.    

Throughout the Donner ordeal Mary Graves showed great courage and resolution. Her nieces and nephews remembered her as strong-minded and outspoken. While Edward Pyle’s murderer was awaiting execution, Mary is said to have cooked his food, to ensure that he lived to be hanged.

Children: Robert Franklin, Martha Lavina, James Thomas, Jr., Mary Isabelle, William Lewis, Alexander
Russell, Daniel Murphy

Mary Ann died 9 March 1891 in Tulare Co., CA

[Gratitude and credit to Kristin Johnson for her research into MA Graves]

Leave a Reply