Daughter of Jeremiah Burns Murphy and Levinah W. Jackson, Harriet was born on
08 May 1828 in Union Co., SC

Levinah Jackson Murphy’s second daughter, Harriet, was only 14 when she married William Pike in 1842 on 29 Dec. in Clark Co., MO.

They lived for about a year in St. Louis, then made their home in Tennessee with Levinah until the spring of 1846, when the families left to emigrate to California.

Harriet lost her husband in a shooting accident along the Truckee River at the end of October 1846. William Foster, her brother-in-law and fellow future Forlorn Hope party member was present during the accident.

On December 16 she, her brother Lemuel, sister Sarah, and brother-in-law William Foster set out with the Forlorn Hope, leaving her daughters Naomi and Catherine with their grandmother Levinah at the Murphy cabin.

Harriet was one of the five women to survive the Forlorn Hope ordeal.

The First Relief rescued Naomi, but Catherine died the day after the relief arrived at the camp.

On May 25, 1847, the Murphy girls wrote to their relatives back in Tennessee. Harriet’s brief note reads in part,


"theare is know one that knows how to simpathise with mee left a widow in a strange cuntry with one por orpant childe to take care of I have not the hart nor minde to word all my suffering since I saw you..."

A month later, Harriet had found someone to sympathize with her. On June 24, she married Michael C. Nye at Sutter’s Fort, Sacramento, CA. Nye had come to California with the Bidwell-Bartleson Party of 1841 and was now working at Neu Mecklenburg as Theodor Cordua’s majordomo.

They had Harry, who perished at age 1 yr 10 mos.; and possibly others

Harriet’s marriage to the handsome young Nye seems to have been quite happy. In 1849 Mary Murphy wrote, “Harriet is married to Mr. Nye he is a very nice man… he loves Harriet very much.” Nye prospected for gold with Foster during the gold rush, but his main interest was stockraising and dealing. He also established a livery stable in Marysville.

The Nyes and Fosters were living in Marysville when they got to know Peter H. Burnett in 1849: “Mrs. Nye did not talk much, not being a talkative woman, and being younger than Mrs. Foster, her sister.”

Late in 1849 the Nyes and Fosters returned east for a visit via the Isthmus of Panama. There Harriet ran into an acquaintance, Heinrich Lienhard, who was escorting John Sutter’s wife and children from Switzerland to California. Lienhard happened to overhear “an attractive American woman” speaking of him and discovered that it was Mrs. Nye.

The Nyes lived in Marysville for several years, but moved to Oregon in the 1860s. Harriet died at the relatively young age of 46 and was buried in Marysville, but her widower remained in Oregon until his death in 1905.

Harriet died on 1 Sept 1870 at The Dalles, Wasco Co., OR

[The historical recount above is thanks to Kristin Johnson and her New Light on the Donner Party website]