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Lewis Keseberg
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Cannibal
    (May 22, 1814-September 3, 1895)
    Born in Germany
    Member of the ill-fated Donner Party
    Party was snowbound for four months in the Sierra Nevada Mountains (1846-47)
    One of 48 survivors of the 87 members of the Party
    Several other members of the wagon train complained that he beat his wife.
    While crossing the desert in Utah, he ordered a 70-year-old man named Hardkoop out of his wagon, telling the elderly man to walk or die.
    He was rumored to have refused to leave with the first three rescue parties so he could stay behind to murder the Donners for their money.
    He was found with $250 in gold, which he claimed Tansem Donner had left in his care to give to her children.
    He was reportedly the first member of the Donner Party to resort to cannibalism.
    He was rumored to have killed off six of the weakest party members, including several children, to eat them.
    He allegedly said that human flesh tasted better than California beef.
    After settling in Sacramento, he was twice charged with assault, once for hitting a little girl over the head with a stick when she climbed a fence to play with his daughters.
    One largely sympathetic historian described him as 'predisposed to derangement of mind' even before the Donner Party ordeal.
    He consistently denied having murdered anyone.
    He won a defamation suit against a group of rescue party members who accused him of killing Tansem Donner (and was awarded $1 in damages).
    The Donners' surviving daughter Eliza professed her belief in his innocence.
    His two children died during the Donner Party ordeal.
    Of the eight children he and his wife later had, only one lived to adulthood.
    After settling in Sacramento, he opened a hotel that was destroyed by a fire and a brewery that was wiped out in a flood.
    In old age, he rarely ventured outside because he was frequently threatened with lynching.
    He was often singled out over his cannibalism, even though many of the other surviving Donner Party members had also resorted to it.
    He said, 'I often think that the Almighty has singled me out, among all the men on the face of the earth, in order to see how much hardship, suffering, and misery a human being can bear.'

Credit: C. Fishel


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