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 William Cooper Graves

William Cooper Graves

Vicksburg, Warren County, Mississippi, USA
Death 1 Mar 1907 (aged 78)
Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California, USA
Burial Calistoga, Napa County, California, USA
Plot Section 2 Block E Plot 9
Memorial ID 55040362 · View Source
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Parents: Franklin Ward Graves and Elizabeth Cooper Graves.

William C. Graves was a survivor of the Donner Party tragic saga of the Winter 1846/47 in the Sierra Nevadas. His parents did not survive the ordeal, nor did three of his siblings.

He and his surviving siblings, Sarah, Mary, Eleanor, Lovina and Nancy Graves settled in Napa County after they left Ft. Sutter.

William C. Graves is found in the 1850 U.S. Census for Napa Co., CA (14 Oct.) William Graves was farming. Peter Storm, well-known as the creator of the Bear Flag of the Bear Flag Rebellion in Sonoma, CA, lived right nx to William C. Graves. He was a seaman who was born in Norway.

Their neighbors were M.D. Ritchie and his family; his son William Ritchie who had married Sarah Graves Fosdick, a survivor of the Donner Party tragedy and their son, George Leet Ritchie who was 1 yr old. Sarah was William's sister. The William Houston Nash family was also living nearby. William Nash's wife, Mary Ann Cyrus Nash was a sister-in-law to William Graves as her brother, John Cyrus, married his sister, Lovina Graves.

Also Reason Tucker lived nearby and also the Harbin family. Since the Enoch Cyrus family were also neighbors, the census is for Hot Springs Township which is now known as Calistoga, Napa Co., CA. Henry Owsley and his family are nearby too. William McDonnell and his wife Eleanor Graves McDonnell were also living nearby. Eleanor was also William Graves' sister. These families are all inter-related by marriage.

William C. Graves was an early settler in Lake Co., CA in the early 1850s. He also worked as a blacksmith in Calistoga and Pine Flat, an early mining community located near the McDonnell Ranch. He also was a miner, working in various areas of Northern California, including Pine Flat.

He was married briefly to Martha Blaisdell Cyphers in 1873. He was also associated with American Indian women and allegedly had children with them.

William Graves, who passed away at the hospital several days ago was one of the prominent men of this state. He was a member of the famous Donner Party, which met such a terrible fate in the winter of 1846 at Donner Lake. In that party were also three sisters of the deceased, two of whom, Mrs. McDonald [McDonnell] of Knight's Valley and Mrs. [John] Cyrus of Napa, still survive. A niece of the deceased is Mrs. Alex G. Hood, of Knight's Valley. Mr. and Mrs. Hood will accompany the remains to Calistoga Sunday, where the interment will take place.

Manville Doyle of this city is a life long friend of the deceased. These gentlemen met at Clear Lake in September, 1853, and have been close friends since that time. Mr. Doyle was greatly pained to hear of the death of Mr. Graves, and declares him to have been one of God's own men, kind of heart, courageous and firm. He was a splendid shot and the deceased and Mr. Doyle enjoyed many bear and coyote hunts together. For many years when his health permitted it Mr. Graves spent the time in the mines and amassed considerable wealth in his time, which he in turn spent in developing other property.

Deceased was a native of Mississippi, aged seventy-one years. He was six feet three inches in hight [sic] and strong and rugged. When the Donner party became stalled in the mountains his great strength manifested itself in going out to seek assistance and returning to rescue his comrades.

(Obit published in the "Santa Rosa Republican," March 9, 1907, Santa Rosa, Sonoma Co., Calif.)

Note: Mr. Graves was not known to have "amassed considerable wealth in his time" or to have developed other property.

His siblings data:

Sarah's husband did not survive Sierra Nevada ordeal. She later married William D. Ritchie and then Samuel Spires. They lived in Corralitos, Santa Cruz Co. until her death in 1871. Her children by Samuel eventually homesteaded in Myrtle Point, Oregon. The homestead is now a Century Ranch, having remained within the family to this very day.

Mary settled w/her husband J. Thomas Clark in Tulare Co. She is buried in Visalia Cemetery.

Eleanor married William McDonnell and they settled in Knights Valley (now in Sonoma County, but not far from Calistoga, Napa Co.), creating the McDonnell Ranch which was inherited by their son Henry who then bequeathed it to his daughter Florence who married a McCord. It was known as the McCord Ranch when it was sold to the Sonoma County Open Space program and is currently managed by the Audubon Society.

Lovina Graves married John Cyrus and remained in the area now known as Calistoga. She and John are also buried in the Pioneer Cemetery.

Nancy Graves married a minister, Richard Samuel Wesley Williamson and they eventually settled in the Sebastopol, Sonoma Co., CA area where they are buried and some of their descendants still live.

Family Members






  • Created by: J.D. Larimore
  • Added: 16 Jul 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 55040362
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for William Cooper Graves (20 Jan 1829–1 Mar 1907), Find A Grave Memorial no. 55040362, citing Calistoga Pioneer Cemetery, Calistoga, Napa County, California, USA ; Maintained by J.D. Larimore (contributor 47030633) .