Virginia Elizabeth Backenstoe Reed

Virginia was 13 years old when she was stranded at Truckee Pass with the the Donner party. Hers was the only family who did not resort to cannibalism, but that didn’t make their ordeal any less horrific.

The passage below is from a letter she wrote to her cousin, after the surviving members of the Donner party were rescued.

O Mary I would cry and wish I had what you all wasted Eliza had to go to Mr Graves cabin & we staid at Mr Breen they had meat all the time & we had to kill littel cash the dog & eat him we ate his head and feet & hide & evry thing about him o my Dear Cousin you dont now what trubel is yet a many a time we had on the last thing a cooking and did not now wher the next would come from but there was awl ways some way provided

Reed, Virginia, 1833-1921, Letter to Her Cousin, 16 May 1847, in Covered Wagon Women: Diaries & Letters from the Western Trails, volume 1: 1840-1849, page 78. Holmes, Kenneth L., editor & compiler Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1983.

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