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Virginia Reed Murphy


Virginia was only a baby when her mother married James F. Reed, who was appointed her legal guardian. Although he did not formally adopt her, Virginia went by his surname. There was a strong bond between them and Reed did not treat her any differently than he did his natural children. Virginia was a noted equestrian who won prizes for horsemanship in her later years. Virginia wrote letters to her cousin on July 12, 1846 and May 16, 1847. These two documents, her letters to historian C.F. McGlashan, and her memoir, Across the Plains in the Donner Party, are important contributions to our knowledge of the Donner Party. Her writing is sprightly, informal, and full of human interest. Later in life, she became the first woman on the Pacific Coast to engage in the fire insurance business. She and her husband had nine children, three of whom died young. She died in 1921 at the age of eighty-seven.

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