Forlorn Hope and First Relief and Auxiliary
b. 19 April 1805 in Pennsylvania
m. 23 Sept 1823 to Caroline Matilda Allen
d. 20 August 1874 in Napa Co., California
The family name is also spelled “Ritchey,” but it’s unclear how the Donner rescuer spelled it himself. Given the title “colonel” from his service in the Black Hawk War, M. D. Ritchie and his family were overland emigrants of 1846. They arrived in California too late to find a permanent home, so they lived at Johnson’s Ranch during the winter of 1846-47. In February 1847, Indians helped Forlorn Hope survivor William Eddy stagger up to the first white person he saw at Johnson’s Ranch, Col. Ritchie’s teenaged daughter Harriet. She burst into tears and helped the exhausted wayfarer into the family cabin while the Ritchies got help and set out to rescue Eddy’s companions.
Ritchie started out with the First Relief but turned back. He began a diary of the expedition, which he turned over to Reason P. Tucker to continue. Ritchie later moved his family to the Sutter’s Fort area but left for Sonoma in September 1847, and in 1850 moved to Hot Springs Township in the upper Napa Valley, where Ritchie Canyon is named after him. After 15 years of farming he moved once more, to the town of Napa, where he died in 1874, leaving 32 grandchildren.
New Light on the Donner Party, Kristin Johnson
Ordeal By Hunger, George Stewart