Stephens - Townsend - Murphy Party of 1844

Stephens - Townsend - Murphy Party of 1844 (HMFLI)

Location: Truckee, CA 96161 Nevada County
Buy California State flags at!
Country: United States of America
Buy United States of America flags at!

N 39° 19.126', W 120° 19.131'

  • 0 check ins
  • 0 favorites

First Pioneer Wagons Over The Sierra Nevada

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.

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.
Series This marker is part of the California Trail series
Year Placed1994
Placed ByNevada County Historical Landmarks Commission, September 24, 1994
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Wednesday, September 17th, 2014 at 11:00pm PDT -07:00
Sorry, but we don't have a picture of this historical marker yet. If you have a picture, please share it with us. It's simple to do. 1) Become a member. 2) Adopt this historical marker listing. 3) Upload the picture.
Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)10S E 731136 N 4355579
Decimal Degrees39.31876667, -120.31885000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 39° 19.126', W 120° 19.131'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds39° 19' 7.56" N, 120° 19' 7.86" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)530, 775, 415
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 19322-19326 Donner Pass Rd, Truckee CA 96161, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

Is this marker missing? Are the coordinates wrong? Do you have additional information that you would like to share with us? If so, check in.

Nearby Markersshow on map
Check Ins  check in   |    all

Have you seen this marker? If so, check in and tell us about it.

Comments 0 comments

Maintenance Issues
  1. What historical period does the marker represent?
  2. What historical place does the marker represent?
  3. What type of marker is it?
  4. What class is the marker?
  5. What style is the marker?
  6. Does the marker have a number?
  7. This marker needs at least one picture.
  8. Can this marker be seen from the road?
  9. Is the marker in the median?