Age: 19

b. 22 Feb 1828 Warren Co., Indiana
m. Oct 1848 to Sarah Graves Fosdick
d. 30 May 1854 near Sonoma, Sonoma Co., California

       An overland emigrant of 1846 and son of Matthew Ritchie, William was hired to take supplies to the First Relief as they came down from the mountains. He served for 19 days and earned $28.50.
       A year and a half later, William Ritchie married the widowed Sarah Graves Fosdick of the Donner Party — see her entry on the Graves family page for more details — and they made their home on a farm in the Napa Valley.
       About May 5, 1854, three mules went missing from a ranch on Santa Rosa Creek, miles away in neighboring Sonoma County. The owners instituted a diligent search and wrote to the postmasters of various towns describing the mules. Ritchie was arrested up in Shasta City for the theft but claimed he had received the animals in payment of a debt. A small group, which included John Cyrus, Ritchie’s brother-in-law, went to retrieve the prisoner and brought him south to Santa Rosa. Sonoma was then the seat of the county where the theft occurred; the local authorities were taking Ritchie there for trial when, on the night of May 30, a group of armed men took custody of the prisoner. His body was found the next morning hanging from an oak.


New Light on the Donner Party, Kristin Johnson

Ordeal By Hunger, George Stewart