It's not often you get a direct descendant from the Donner Party playing a show right in the location of where the ill fated journey ran into an act of God so severe, it made history that would jolt the new world and for generations to come. This year we have quite the surprise as Shelby Cobra from Shelby Cobra and the Mustangs will take the stage to open up Saturday night. It doesn't get anymore outlaw or solid country gold than Shelby Cobra.
As we know approximately half of the Donner Party starved or were killed by cold in a stormy winter. The documentary of this event has produced a human saga of the ultimate in suffering, despair, and courage exceeding the extraordinary. Shelby's uncle was kind enough to give us some more of the story of their relative, William H Eddy, who saw what true hell was like and met the devil himself right here in these woods. Reader discretion is advised.
William H. Eddy was identified by George R. Stewart in his book, Ordeal by Hunger, as a carriage maker from Illinois. He was about 28 years of age in 1846 when he joined a wagon train from Springfield, Illinois bound for the Sacramento valley in California, the infamous Donner Party. Eddy was chronicled as a hero who demonstrated honesty in dealing with others, unselfishness in the face of inhuman callousness, courage beyond limit, and endurance greater than any man should ever be expected to demonstrate. Stewart wrote, "He was... rough-and-ready, no man to be trifled with in a quarrel and for the same reason a man to be counted on in a pinch. He was enterprising, straightforward, and much liked in the company. Among them all he seems to have been the best hunter and the most skilled in the arts of the frontiersmen."
After he and his family were trapped for some time, dying of starvation, Eddy, half dead as he was went looking for help. After days of wandering he came across Indians that helped him get to Ritter house at Johnson's Ranch in the Sacramento Valley. His trail of blood in the snow was used by rescue parties to retrace his journey. But Eddy wouldn't rest, he had to get back to save his wife and two children. Before he could recover he organized relief party attempting a rescue for his family and the other unfortunate settlers. It must have been a bitter defeat upon arriving at the campsite to learn that his baby daughter had died of starvation, followed by his wife, and next his son who was neglected with no one left to care for him. Even more devastating must have been the confession of one of the camp survivors, named Lewis Keseberg, that he had eaten the body of the young boy James P. Eddy. Considerable evidence existed from hearsay that he might have killed the child first. Other survivors accused him of killing and eating another child of the same age named Georgie Foster. Eddy was was a hero in a lost cause. He served his traveling companions with all he had, but received a most inhumanly callous reward in return.
It was later claimed that Keseberg was the first member of the party to resort to cannibalism. Some people believed he was involved in the deaths of other children including George Foster and Tamsen Donner. After he was rescued Keseberg sued for slander but was only granted $1 and forced to pay the costs of the court. He was cursed for the rest of his life suffering countless tragedies until old age. Kenseberg died penniless and alone in Sacramento in 1895.
In 1848 Eddy married again in Gilroy, California. The marriage was not a success and following a divorce he married for a third time in 1856. William Eddy died on 24th December, 1859 at the age of 43.
As for the rest of the party, forty-two emigrants and two Indian guides had died. However, the remaining forty-seven travellers survived.