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  • The Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party consisted of ten families who migrated from Iowa to California prior to the Mexican-American War or the California Gold Rush. The Stephens Party is significant in California history because they were the first wagon train to cross the Sierra Nevada during the expansion of the American West. They pioneered the first route at or near what was later named Donner Pass in 1844. The crossing was a year before Fremont, two years before the Donner Party and five years before the 1848-49 Gold Rush.