Son of Jeremiah Burns Murphy and Levinah W. Jackson, Lemuel was born October 17th, 1833 in, it is believed, Weakley County, Tennessee. He was Levinah’s second son.

Lemuel set out with the Forlorn Hope in mid-December as it’s second youngest member at age 12 (his younger brother William Green Murphy was 10 years old but turned back after the first day). Lemuel was adored by his sisters as they admired his courage, to join the Snowshoe Party in an attempt to save them and their family.

He already feeble when he started from the cabins, and the overwhelming sufferings of the fatal trip had destroyed his remaining strength...

At Camp of Death, Lem’s older sister, Sarah Ann Murphy Foster sat holding him, trying to comfort him in his delirium. The sun set, the moon rose, and about two o’clock in the morning on December 17th, 1846 Lemuel died.

Years later when C.F. McGlashan interviewed Sarah for his upcoming book, History of the Donner Party, she told McGlashan, she could never “behold a bright moonlight without recurring with a shudder to this night on the Sierra.” 

Mrs. Foster spoke of this young hero with the greatest feeling. His patience and resignation were of the martyr type. When they were reduced to half a biscuit each, he insisted that she should eat his portion as well as her own; but this she refused.