Patty Reed’s Doll

Chapter One Discussion

Let's see--lots learned in this beginning chapter.We learned the exact description of the doll--a painted face, a knob of painted hair, rosy cheeks, black hair. Nice to know as we make our clothespin dollies!

The story begins in 1845.  Didn't it seem like they were planning to take a LOT of stuff?  I don't think they knew in the slightest what they were getting into!

As the Book starts out Patty's doll tell us she first heard of pioneering in Grandma's big bedroom in Springfield Illinois in 1845.
Grandma's stories ignite the imaginations of Patty,Puss and Patty's doll. Soon they all learn that They too will be pioneering because Pa intends to take the family to California.The dolls worry that they might be left behind. But Patty's little wooden doll is sure that she will go in Patty's pocket. The doll watch the preparations from the window seat. I don't think I read Patty's dolls name. Did anyone notice her name?

I would just like to again recommend watching the American Experience broadcast on the Donner Party. It is available on-line. The film's first minutes include a lovely close-up of our heroine, Dolly.

No, I don't think they had a clue. It seems as though they were trying
to re-create their comfortable life-style, which as we know from history, was stripped away from them bit-by-bit. Frightful lesson to learn!

When I read this I thought how very much their adventure was like packing up into a sailboat or a camper van and traveling out into the world. They didn't really seem to have a sense of privation about squeezing all the stuff into the wagons.
They *thought* they knew what they were getting into. But Adventures are often like that.
Except we have roads!  the courage the folks must have had!

I was aghast at the list of things they were planning to transport across the country in wagons!!  It's hard to believe the leaders and/or parents thought they could move so much "stuff" successfully.

I think Mr Reed just wanted adventures because except for saying it would be a healthier place for

Mrs Reed there was not a reason for them to go! They were leaving a big white house and it

was never mention what Mr Reed did for a living, but they seem to be well off. They had a cook and other hired men. They talk about all the fine dresses the dolls had and even made more for the  journey.  I agree that they didn't know what they were getting into.

It did in another book... Mr Reed was a shop keeper... like a mercantile. they were very wealthy...but not great at survival...

Their wagon was the largest of all.. and they had more oxen than the others.

They also carried goods from their business to restart another business in the west..

Matter of fact most the people on the Donner wagon train were mostly business people. not the out of doors type rustic men needed for this journey.

And they followed a book written by a man very popular on the trails and area they should travel but when it came down to it, the writer never went west of Chicago. and this is how they ended up in the tragedy they did. It was supposed to be a shortcut.

I had the advantage of visiting the museum on route 80 into Reno on the border or California and Nevada. You could walk back to the area where they were stuck thru the worse storm ever at the lean to's.  I also bought that other book, not the patty reed doll one but it was mentioned in this other book. Years have gone by and i have lost this book by loaning it out to someone who never returned but I remember some of the history written. some of it were excerpts of Mr's Reed's  journals and she mentions the doll and the child quite often .. but I never put two and two together about the doll till y'all started talking about it.

Another really interesting book that is put out by Scholastic (schools order books from here) is called "The Perilous Journey of the Donner Party" by Marian Calabro.  It is an excellent book!!   Hi all you Patty Reed Doll friends!

I love this first chapter - it opens the book perfectly. Everyone talking about going "pioneering" to build the excitement and then the big announcement that they really are going "pioneering"! Then next the "planning" of the families - it showed how involved the trip was, each person had their part to prepare, then Patty "planning" for her doll family's things. I loved Dolly's personality that the author gave her right away, the way she envisions things are so one sided to stay loyal to Patty. They are a great team! :)

I have read this book so many times - probably 6 times and love it more each time. This is so great to be apart of a group reading it and discussing it. Thanks Julie!!

I think it's going to be fun too!  I liked the pleasant way the book begins too.  Even Dollie is getting into it!

Hi Annie,

I loved reading your post - its packed full of very interesting information and facts. How neat to have toured the museum. We take so much for granted to be able to drive places and eat along the way. Yes, its true they were educated, but were uneducated in many things.

Thanks again for the facts!!! Makes me ponder a lot!  Thanks Kathie for the link and info!

  They sure packed a bunch of stuff! :o)  I liked the comment that the dolls made about being shocked at all the food.

I cannot imagine packing items for 6 months trips.  And which one of us could possibly leave our dolls behind or take just one.  I could not decide on one.   Guess you better count me out on this trip.  They probably thought it would be easier.  I cannot imagine it.  The book is quite interesting.  Will try to get the other one too.

Thank you Beth, I read about the snow storm and the terrible things that really did happen on the trip.

The Patty Reed 's Doll does not really go into some of the bad things, Thank Goodness.

 Thank you for filling us in  on Reed  occupation. We can  see now where they made bad decisions,

 but now days we drive over the Sierra Mountains and the pass where they had all the trouble in about 5 minutes

and stop at a fast food place for a hamburger down the road a bit.  So I guess we shouldn't criticized our pioneers.

I love my Hittys, but she really didn't face the hard shipped Patty Reed's little Dolly did and survive.

And Dolly only had one owner,Patty, who loved her and took care of her and never forgot her whatever happen. 

I didn't think I was going to enjoy this book, but the history is great and Dolly is 167 plus years old.


The Reeds needed enough food for about 10 people, for about a year. True, the trip was to take 6 to 8 months, but arriving in early winter meant they would need food to last into spring, when they could pick wild greens & start a garden.
Some of the 'stuff' they packed were tools to repair wagons & to build a new home, as well as medicine they might need for a while.

I like that the story is told from Dolly's point of view like Hitty's story. I thought that the description of the dress that Patty sewed for Dolly was sweet and so child like, " dress was usually a little square with a hole for my head, sewed together with a few awkward stitches and tied round the middle with a bit of a ribbon sash."

If I get around to carving a Dolly, I want to make her a dress like this too.

That sounds like the first dresses I made for my dolls when I was five.  Cute.  However, the picture of Dollie at the Ft. makes her look a lot better dressed, so at some point, her clothing and the makers skills must have improved.

I thought the same when I saw her dress (on the real doll).  I would guess, much like the story of the Real Hitty, the author took some license with the 'facts'.  I'm still debating how I might dress my clothespin Dollie.

i have read alot of books on the Donner party - but saved this book to read chapter by chapter as we go along in the discussion - so that means i have not read the whole book yet.
This is my first attempt in participating in a book dicussion, so please forgive me of any mistakes I make in learning the process.

In this first chapter the doll talks about "puss"
it has me wondering about "puss" first i thought cat, but no - because the doll says "toasted thier toes by the warm fire" so i no longer think "puss" is a cat. In this first chapter I can find no explaination who "puss" is.
the doll appears delighted by the notion of the palace car in which they will travel - which i find amusing.
she seems excited and scared of what new ventures are to come, but finds comfort in her faith Patty will keep her safe.

Puss? well!  Now I have to go back and reread that chapter!  I assumed it was a cat too....!

Somehow I thought that was a reference to her sister. 

I also like that the book is written from the doll's point of view. if it wasn't, I don't think I'd read it. everyone knows the grief that they came to. it's good to have a story that the focus is on the journey and the comfort a small doll can give.

by not mentioning the shocking horror, we can have a better view of what it was like to take a trip west in those days.

 it does seem like they packed too much stuff, but there weren't any 7/11's along the way.

also, they might have gotten to California if they hadn't taken the cut-off.

I had seen a PBS show about it, and the ending related that one of the survivors (I think it was Patty Reed) wrote to her cousin who was planning to come west. she ended her letter with "hurry right along and don't take no cut-offs"     

   the tragedy reminds me of the titanic.  there were so many things that went wrong, and it seems that if any one thing had been different they may have survived.

This is my first book discussion too :). Knowing what the Donner party went through and the end of the story made me hesistant at first to read the book, but when I saw the pictures of Dolly I knew I wanted to know more.

It's easy for me to question the wisdom of the trip since it turned out so badly, but it is interesting to read how a little inanimate object like a doll made a difference. Is it because it has the same form as us that makes this difference?

Patty whispers her fears to Dolly and is reassured by Dolly's presence (after Grandma told her about Indians). Patty talks to Dolly about the trip and how exciting it's going to be and about their home on wheels. I think that Patty talking to Dolly reassures Patty that her basic needs of a home and protection will be taken care of.

Patty talks to Dolly as if she is real can hear and respond, but is it just hearing her thoughts aloud that really make a difference to Patty, having someone else little and with no control to share with?

Can you imagine the day back then.. ? what the pioneers had to go thru and face. The heathen indians scalping people. the piece of cloth the child found to make a dress.. probably some of the supplies brought forth from the Reeds inventory or a piece off her own dress?>

I went to  another museum up in Willits Calif... there on display was a covered wagon and two pioneer  mannequins, one was a woman.. even tho the sign SAID do not touch displays.. I had to reach out and touch the dress (when the guide looked the other way) the lady mannequin was wearing.. it intriqued me. It was like the heaviest of quilted blankets, not very clean and still smelled like the sweat of the wearer and aged fabric. Underneath were tens of petticoats (yes I lifted it), also not lightweight. the whole skirted part of the outfit must have weigh 20 pounds or more..

her boots were buttoned on the side and more delicate looking than the skirted dress..and worn like she walked alot the soles were busted out.

Now Im pretty rustic but to do such a task as they had to forego, i dont even think i could do it. well not in that skirt. I would have had to wear buckskins like the men.

Once again we find a little four-inch wooden doll, like Tottie in The Doll's House, as a pillar in her Dolly Community.  It is Dolly that explains the news on the upcoming journey to the other dolls in the family and how the pioneering might affect them.  And, like Tottie, Dolly also suffers discrimination for her size and humble estate from the more elegant dolls - the finer dolls misinterpreting Patty's  endearment for Dolly, "little country cousin", as a snub. For the most part, Dolly seems to have more confidence in her role than does Tottie, but even she was dismayed when the children of fellow travelers remarked that they could only take their best dolls and had to give their old dolls away.

It seems as though Patty achieved her desire for the hair trunk and new ensembles for the dolls.  Even in the midst of all the vital preparations, the family made sure Patty's dolls were well provided for.

Funny, I know many of us, that in the middle of preparations for a Hitty Gathering or a private vacation, spend just as much time making sure our own beloved dollies are kitted out properly.  I may forget to pack my toothbrush, but never a change of pantalettes for Hitty!

so true miss Jane so true.. I once forgot my hairbrush, an essential for longish hair at that time.. but my hitty..oh she had it all...!

Hi Sharon, I liked what you wrote and agree with all your points. Dolly and Patty were best buddies and she helped Patty so much!

I love the bond between Patty and Dolly, and how important Dolly was to Patty, both as her toy and as a comfort.  How fortunate that she was indeed small and portable, showing in many ways her superiority to larger and supposedly more beautiful ones.  Sometimes we prize the wrong things, but Patty got it right. 

perhaps the small dolls are the ones who can explain because they can easily be carried along everywhere especially in a pocket and are in a position to overhear much of what is going on.

I found a really cute book called "Dolls and Why We Love Them" by Weleran Poltarnees.  It has many delightful illustrations taken from publications as old as 1886, and ponderings and explanations, many of which apply to Patty Reed and her Dolly.  Here are a few examples:


Early in childhood humans develop a fondness for small and helpless beings. Dolls and toy animals draw upon this instinct.  They appeal with their smallness and helplessness.

The innocence of dolls is invincible.  Even when they encounter evil they fail to learn it.  They have little or no knowledge of the larger world.  Without us they are lost. They are weak in abstract understanding, but they enjoy being instructed and informed.

We love dolls for many reasons, but most centrally we love them because they need us so much, because they need us to fully live, and if we love them as they deserve, they will give back to us a deepened capacity for love.

Doesn't this sound like Patty's relationship with Dolly?

I'd buy that book just to be able to read the name of the author aloud! Both "Weleran" and "Poltarnees" need a doll named after them!

Those are all very good observations - thanks for sharing them, Ann.

you can understand that the Reed family was considered very wealthy..

 With James and Margaret Reed were their four children, Virginia, Patty, James and Thomas, as well as Margaret’s 70-year-old mother, Sarah Keyes, and two hired servants. Though Sarah Keyes was so sick with consumption that she could barely walk, she was unwilling to be separated from her only daughter. However, the successful Reed was determined his family would not suffer on long journey as his wagon was an extravagant two-story affair with a built-in iron stove, spring-cushioned seats and bunks for sleeping. Taking eight oxen to pull the luxurious wagon, Reed’s 12-year-old daughter Virginia dubbed it "The Pioneer Palace Car.”

 In nine brand new wagons, the group estimated the trip would take four months to cross the plains, deserts, mountain ranges and rivers in their quest for California. Their first destination was Independence, Missouri, the main jumping-off point for the Oregon and California Trails.

I have been following along with all the discussions, but haven't gotten my book yet, I have it ordered and should be in soon.. I have read the book about the Donner Party though.. It is such a heart touching story.. I think if you really are to understand completely, one would have to be from that time.. I can't imagine what it must of been like to load up and move away without knowing the exact location of each stop being made.. This was through some rough and really scary land that they traveled.
I am excited to read the book from Dolly's view..
Thanks for inputting all you have..

Someone drew a picture of Patty Reed all grown up..attached

I went to the library to see what I could find and I have Patty Reed's doll book coming in from  springfield OR

I found a bungh of books on the Donner party itself...

but its going to take a good week...Im interested in reading anything about her.. and her sweet doll

She was only 4 inches small? I have a picture in the book of that doll also next to a ruler..if anyone wants me to take a picture copy of it so you can see?


She has the Hitty hairstyle too.  Love the dress collar.  Bet she has a pocket on her dress.  Thanks for the info.  I have the 2 other authors coming.  Am glad it wasnt me in the wagon.  We traveled with 6 kids but in a station wagon and toys etc and there was fast food snacks etc.  I WILL NEVER complain again.

I didn’t notice the hair!  Good eyes!

Thanks so much for the drawing!!! So cool :0)  Hi Beth, This explains so much more than the book. These are details I have pondered about. Thanks so much for sharing your findings!


She's twenty years younger than Patty's Dollie... but I thought you might like to take a peek.
I think Patty's doll is nicer:

that really looks a lot like her, though, doesn't it!

Amazing that the little doll is still around. Think of the attics she might have seen!

pretty isnt she tho, spendy but pretty

Im sort of amateur historian and this was one i really researched out... as I live so close...and love to delve into history.

thanks for the kind words.

(This explains so much more than the book. These are details I have pondered about. Thanks so much for sharing your findings!) Great observation,
I felt this too about patty's relationship to dolly when reading the chapter - just jas not sure how to express in words.Just a bit of trivia - Patty was not her real name, Patty was a nickname. Her real name was "Martha Reed"

The excepts from a letter someone quoted in an earlier post, the letter was not written by Patty. It was written by her sister Virgina.

Since childhood I have always been fastenated by the Donner Party story. I have read a total of 14 Donner Party related books (3 more in the last 9 mos) and I seen three documentaries throught the years on this pioneering group(excluding hollywoods lastest movie scare & gore fest a few years ago on the Donner Party). Five yrs ago I did an extensive historical study on the typical snow & rain totals for the Sierra mountains. So very interesting story on the whole.

Hey Annie, I'd love to see the picture of Patty's doll next to a ruler. I hoep to carve one and am getting as many pictures as I can to go by. I thought Patty's hair looked like Hitty too.

okay... see here.. now I took a pix of it in the book...

I cant hardly believe it was a mere 4" tall...

I did not sign up for the discussion but dearly love the book about Patty Reed's doll. I'm doing another library display, going in next week, and my Judy Brown Patty Reed doll will go, along with a little very old peg wooden. The exhibit, Dolls in Books, will be such fun to do. I was amazed how many dolls and books I have that go together!

Judy sent me the paperback book when I bought her beautiful little doll.

Beth, THANK YOU for the picture of the real Patty Reed. I've printed it off to put with the dolls and the book!

I did not sign up for the discussion but dearly love the book about Patty Reed's doll. I'm doing another library display, going in next week, and my Judy Brown Patty Reed doll will go, along with a little very old peg wooden. The exhibit, Dolls in Books, will be such fun to do. I was amazed how many dolls and books I have that go together!

Judy sent me the paperback book when I bought her beautiful little doll.

Beth, THANK YOU for the picture of the real Patty Reed. I've printed it off to put with the dolls and the book!

Billie Aye, You don't have to sign up for the Discussion. Just read the book and jump in. I love the library displays of dolls and books. I first read Miss Hickory because of a display like that when I was 8 years old.

Don't you think that they all went into this as if it was a great and wonderful adventure?  They must have been very excited about the whole idea of not only the trip but of being in a new land, so to speak, doing new things.  Like a trip to Disney or anticipating Christmas.  At this point, it was all wonderful and new and speculative. 

Regarding clothing.

I worked at an 1816 c. museum/fort many years ago and we had a Christmas weekend. 

With only fireplaces, and no other heat in the log buildings.

It was along day, and when I got home I was very tired. 

Then I realized, how much clothing I had on. 

So, curiosity too over, and I stepped on the scale in my many layers. 

Full length flannel lined wool cloak, quilted petticoat, dress, jacket, chemise, stockings, boots, mittens and muff, and linen coif.  

I had on 35 pounds of clothing!  No wonder I was tired.  From bending over the fire, cooking, and just walking!   

We really have come a long way, baby!!!!!

I added two photos of Dolly from our visit to Sutter's Fort to the April album. I think you may get a little better view of her ensemble. I am not too sure Patty's needle-working skills progressed much further than her initial "square with a hole for my head...tied around the middle with a bit of ribbon sash". I think that description fits this gown almost perfectly, and that *could* be the author's literal interpretation of what she saw.

I'd love to know if anyone has any further information about Dolly's present costume. Do we even know if this is the dress she traveled in? Was she dressed again by Patty at some point after the ordeal?
Has Patty's diary been published?

A quick google brings up a photo of Patty's diary, and today's quest found this web-site. I have not read through the entire site, so make no claims as to correctness or suitability, but there are many photos to view.


I don't know about the diary - it would be an interesting read. however the ebook on that blog, and another one is available for free download at this site

Yup, I re-read this morning and found that it is a direct reference to a female sibling - aka sister. This book mentions Puss had a pony named Billy.
In all my other Donner Party books, the pony Billy belonged to Virgina Reed, Patty's sister. What I find curious is none of my other 14 books refer mention the nickname name "Puss" at all - not even in the use for Virgina. So I believe Rachel K Laurgaard used creative license with this nickname for Patty's sister.

Also as for clothing the book mentions the woman received a new wardrobe of "Lindsey" dresses for the trip. these garments were suppose to be lighter wear more appropriate for the journey est through the blazing sun and hot summer days. I looked up Lindsy cloth and found it is a coarse twill or plain-woven fabric woven with a linen warp and a woolen weft. this is suppose to be a lighter wearing cloth, but still sounds pretty sturdy and heavy to me. If this as lighter wear, Wow, can you imagine what how bulky and heavy the regular wear must have been?


Patty Reed Doll by Judy Brown

Your Dolly is a sweet thing, Billy - such a far-away look, remembering. Judy did a wonderful work with her gown - looks perfect!

Minnie is another doll that Patty owns. She is the big wooden doll (large peg or Schoenhut?) who was jealous and snubbed Dolly calling her just the little country cousin (which she had heard Patty say).

I like Dolly's personality. Minnie is hurtful to her, and Dolly's reaction is not anger or retaliation, but confidence in the facts that Patty didn't mean her remarks as a put down (simply referring to Patty's own sewing abilities) and that Patty loved her best.

The time is 1846, so the doll Minnie needs to be earlier than that - good excuse for research and pondering. I wonder who she could be?

Yes, Dolly is a good example of confidence in her own worth and the unconditional love of Patty.

The Donner Party: American Experience is also available from Net Flix.