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Stanton’s partner, William McCutchen had fallen ill and remained at the fort. Mama was overcome with grief. Civilian Casualties 3. On July 19th the wagon train arrived at the Little Sandy River in present-day Wyoming, where the trail parted into two routes – the northerly known route and the untested Hastings Cutoff. Donner Lake, named for the party, is today a popular mountain resort near Truckee, California and the Donner Camp has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. With George were his third wife, Tamzene, their three children, Frances, Georgia, and Eliza, and George’s two daughters from a previous marriage, Elitha and Leanna. On November 20 Patrick Breen, whose family had joined the party in Independence, Missouri, began a diary which he continued until March 1. Realizing that the difficult journey through the mountains and the desert had depleted their supplies, two of the young men traveling with the party, William McCutcheon and Charles Stanton, were sent ahead to Sutter’s Fort, California to bring back supplies. Over the next four months, the remaining men, women, and children would huddle together in cabins, makeshift lean-tos, and tents. The caravan camped for five days 50 miles from the summit, resting their oxen for the final push. Breen’s account of the winter of 1846–47 would provide the only contemporary written record of the Donner party’s ordeal. The Donner party stranded in the Sierra Nevada Range, 1847 Reed also hoped that his wife, Margaret, who suffered from terrible headaches, might improve in the coastal climate. and brush to protect themselves from the harsh conditions. Fort Laramie, Wyoming painting by Alfred Jacob Miller. Then, in January 1848, gold was discovered in at John Sutter’s Mill in Coloma and gold-hungry travelers began to rush out West once again. Some members of the party suggested that Reed be hanged, but he was instead banished from the company. This decision to delay their departure was yet one more of many that would lead to their tragedy. Doomed attempt to get to California in 1846. Eight of the men died, and the bodies of some of these were eaten by the others. The party elected George Donner to serve as its leader, and at its peak the Donner party would number some 87 people—29 men, 15 women, and 43 children—in a column of 23 ox-drawn wagons. While at Fort Laramie, Reed had been warned against attempting the route by an old friend from Illinois who had just completed the west-to-east journey through “Hastings Cutoff,” but the group chose to press ahead. Long the subject of dark humor, the Donner party's struggle to survive is known more by reputation than by knowledge of the facts. On December 15 Baylis Williams, an employee of the Reed family, died of malnutrition at the lake camp; his was the first recorded death in the camps, although many others would soon follow. It was the worst disaster of the overland migration to California. On December 15, Balis Williams died of malnutrition and the group realized that something had to be done before they all died. Reed would continue west on horseback while the rest of his family remained with the Donner party. The first relief party soon left with 23 refugees, but during the party’s travels back to Sutter’s Fort, two more children died. On the far side of the desert, an inventory of food was taken and found to be less than adequate for the 600-mile trek still ahead. On March 1st the second relief party finally arrived at the lake, finding grisly evidence of cannibalism. The total of deaths was thus 42, with 47 survivors. Leaving his family, Reed was last seen riding off to the west with a man named Walter Herron. With David McCullough, J.D. Twelve of the emigrants were dead and of the forty-eight remaining, many had gone crazy or were barely clinging to life. A few days later, the party was caught in a blizzard and had great difficulty getting and keeping a fire lit. The rest of the pioneers stayed at what would become known as “Starved Camp.”. Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento, California, 1847. Inhuman Voices 9. Having traveled an extra 125 miles through strenuous mountain terrain and dry desert, the disillusioned party’s resentment of Hastings, and ultimately, Reed, was increased tremendously. To spare the animals, everyone who could, walked. However, with only meager rations and already weak from hunger the group faced a challenging ordeal. The Donner Party soon reached the junction with the California Trail, about seven miles west of present-day Elko, Nevada and spent the next two weeks traveling along the Humboldt River. There, on May 12, they became a part of a main wagon train headed west. He was last seen sitting under a large sagebrush, completely exhausted, unable to walk, worn out, and was left there to die. Chain Reaction 5. This article was most recently revised and updated by, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Donner-party, EyeWitness to History.com - The Tragic Fate of the Donner Party, 1847, Online Nevada Encyclopedia - Donner Party, Donner party - Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up). 1 talking about this. Directed by Ric Burns. Satisfied, the emigrants rested for a few days at the fort, making repairs to their wagons and preparing for the rest of what they thought would be a seven-week journey. However, the Mexican War had drawn away the able-bodied men, forcing any further rescue attempts to wait. The Donner Party continued to travel along the Humboldt River with their remaining draft animals exhausted. The settlers of California organized a relief party which left Fort Sutter (Sacramento) on January 31, 1847. On July 20, 1846, the company divided, with most of the wagon train then turning north toward Fort Hall (modern southeastern Idaho) and using the well-known Oregon Trail to continue the journey west. The next day, on May 12, 1846, they headed west again in the middle of a thunderstorm. Twenty-two people, consisting of the Donner family and their hired men, stayed behind while the wagon was repaired. Like most pioneer trains, the Donner Party was largely made up of family wagons packed with young children and adolescents. The Donner Party was a group of California-bound American settlers caught up in the western expansion of the 1840s. The Donner Party was a group of American settlers heading to California who became stranded in heavy snows in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1846. During a month’s harrowing, often overwhelming hardships from cold, storms, deep snow, and inadequate food, they struggled on. Using words such as gruesome but never following through on a description of the circumstances only adds to the folklore and mystique of Donor Pass. The initial group included 32 men, women and children. All the other migrants of 1846 had completed their journey to California, and the Donner party was racing the weather to clear the passes in the Sierra Nevada. Miraculously, just three days later on October 19th, one of the men the party had sent on to Fort Sutter — Charles Stanton, returned laden with seven mules loaded with beef and flour, two Indian guides, and news of a clear, but difficult path through the Sierra Nevada. Some blamed the power-hungry Lansford W. Hastings for the tragedy, while others blamed James Reed for not heeding Clyman’s warning about the deadly route. As the elevation increased, the rain turned to snow and twelve miles from the summit the pair could go no further. Donner Party Route - Google My Maps This map shows the route taken by the Donner Party, a group of pioneers who set out in covered wagons to create a new life in California in 1846. Green Abyss 7. By the time the Donner party reached the Humboldt River, where Hastings Cutoff rejoined the main California Trail, it was late September. Most of the party thereupon built crude cabins near what is now known as Donner Lake. As the rest of the party continued to what is now known as Donner’s Lake, snow began to fall. The Donner Party is a narrative of merchants and farmers, of middle-aged parents with children and young couples with dreams, of infants and toddlers and teenagers on the cusp of adulthood. As they broke a new trail through the nearly impassible terrain of the Wasatch Mountains, they lost about two weeks’ time. Based on the harrowing true story, "The Donner Party, " picks up after William Hastings steers a group, nicknamed "Forlorn Hope, " off course by promising a shorter route to California through the Sierra Nevada mountains. Immediately messages were dispatched to neighboring settlements as area residents rallied to save the rest of the Donner Party. 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. Donner Party Map, courtesy Donner Party Diary. Here they came to a halt when they found a note from Hastings advising them not to follow him down Weber Canyon as it was virtually impassible, but rather to take another trail through the Salt Basin. Though member, Lewis Keseberg, favored hanging for James Reed, the group, instead, voted to banish him. Article Map of the Donner Party Route This map charts the Donner Party’s route from Independence, Missouri to Sutter’s Fort, California. The large rock in Donner Memorial State Park that formed the back wall of the Murphy cabin, which now holds a plaque bearing the Donner Party's names (Carly Severn/KQED) Lansford Hastings, the entrepreneur whose wrong-headed guidebook was the blueprint for the Donner Party’s demise, became a lawyer in San Francisco, and then abandoned it to go into the Gold Rush business … After the publicity, emigration to California fell off sharply and Hastings’ cutoff was all but abandoned. Many of those who survived lost toes to frostbite. The group made good progress all the way to Fort Laramie (in what is now southeastern Wyoming), covering roughly 650 miles (1,050 km) in six weeks. Also in the group were the families of George and Jacob Donner. Tri-state kings of crossover thrash Facebook is showing information to help you better understand the purpose of a Page. When they finally reached the end of the grueling desert five days later on September 4th, the emigrants rested near the base of Pilot Peak for several days. The migrants began the ascent of the Sierra foothills low on food, and Paiute warriors killed several of the remaining oxen. Mistakes, trouble, evil and bad luck followed along with them so that when they arrived, at what The terrible ordeals of the caravan continued to mount when on October 12th, their oxen were attacked by Piute Indians, killing 21 one of them with poison-tipped arrows, further depleting their draft animals. A sign of a good writer and well written. But over a century before Along the entire journey, others would join the group until its size numbered 87. On the sixth day, their food ran out and for the next three days, no one ate while they traveled through grueling high winds and freezing weather. However, the successful Reed was determined his family would not suffer on the long journey as his wagon was an extravagant two-story affair with a built-in iron stove, spring-cushioned seats, and bunks for sleeping. Britannica now has a site just for parents! Living off the bodies of those that died along the path to Sutter’s Fort, the snowshoeing survivors were reduced to seven by the time they reached safety on the western side of the mountains on January 19, 1847. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. Not knowing how many cattle the emigrants had lost, the men believed the party would have enough meat to last them several months. The relief party soon departed with four more members of the party, leaving those who are too weak to travel. In the meantime, while the wagon train continued to the base of the summit, George Donner’s wagon axle broke and he fell behind the rest of the party. The men, women and children of the Donner Party crossed the Missouri River in May of 1846 and aimed their covered wagons west, toward the promised land of California. The pioneers lost valuable days conducting a fruitless search for the missing oxen before beginning a circuitous navigation of the Ruby Mountains in modern northeastern Nevada. Donner party, also called Donner-Reed party, group of American pioneers—named for the expedition’s captain, George Donner—who became stranded en route to California in late 1846. The Donner Party is a 2009 American period Western drama film written and directed by Terrence Martin (credited as T.J. Martin), and starring Crispin Glover, Clayne Crawford, Michele Santopietro, Mark Boone Junior, and Christian Kane. Hastily, as the snow continued, the party built three shelters from tents, quilts, buffalo robes. Along the way, William Russell resigned as the captain of the wagon train and the position was assumed by a man named William M. Boggs. On May 25th the train was held for several days by high water at the Big Blue River near present-day Marysville, Kansas. We use cookies. When John L. O’Sullivan coined the term “manifest destiny” in the New York Post , he hypothesized that God in Heaven, the Sky-Man Himself, wanted Anglo-Americans to take the West. Encountering few problems along the trail, the pioneers reached Fort Laramie just one week behind schedule on June 27, 1846. Hopeless, they retraced their steps where five feet of new snow had already fallen. He never rejoined the group. Amazon配送商品ならDesperate Passage: The Donner Party's Perilous Journey Westが通常配送無料。更にAmazonならポイント還元本が多数。Rarick, Ethan作品ほか、お急ぎ便対象商品は当日お届けも可能。 In the Donner Party tragedy, two-thirds of the men in the party perished, while two-thirds of the women and children lived. On July 31st, the party left Fort Bridger, joined by the McCutchen family. Behind the Glass 6. Meanwhile, Reed and McCutchen had headed back up into the mountains attempting to rescue their stranded companions. Illustration depicting the arrival of a relief party during an attempted rescue of the Donner party, February 1847. As the disillusionment of the party increased, tempers began to flare in the group. From September 10th through the 25th, the party followed the trail into Nevada around the Ruby Mountains, finally reaching the Humboldt River on September 26th. It was this falsified information that would lead to the doom of the Donner Party. The story of the Donner tragedy quickly spread across the country. Isolated in horrific conditions, about half of the original group of nearly 90 people died of starvation or exposure. Eliza Donner’s Story At just four years old, Eliza Donner was one of the last survivors of the Donner Party to be rescued from Donner Lake. The Donner Party was a San Francisco-based indie rock band, performing between 1986-1989. In the beginning, the wagon train was lucky to make even two miles per day, taking them six days just to travel eight miles. The Donner Party soon reached the junction with the California Trail, about seven miles west of present-day Elko, Nevada and spent the next two weeks traveling along the Humboldt River. As the disillusionment of the party increased, tempers began to flare in the group. His wife Tamzene, though in comparatively good health, refused to leave him; sending her three little girls on without her. Reed had recently read the book The Emigrants’ Guide to Oregon and California, by Landsford W. Hastings, who advertised a new shortcut across the Great Basin. The next day five men, nine women, and one child departed on snowshoes for the summit, determined to travel the 100 miles to Sutter’s Fort. By late 1849 more than 100,000 people had come to California in search of gold near the streams and canyons where the Donner Party had suffered. Antonio, Patrick Dolan, Franklin Graves, and Lemuel Murphy soon died and in desperation, the others resorted to cannibalism. While the party camped near modern-day Henefer, Utah, James Reed, along with two other men forged ahead on horses to catch up with Hastings. A week later they joined a large wagon train captained by Colonel William H. Russell that was camped on Indian Creek about 100 miles west of Independence. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are happy with it. Donner Party timeline provides an almost day-to-day basic description of events directly associated with the 1840s Donner Party pioneers, covering the journey from Illinois to California—2,500 miles (4,023 kilometers), over the Great Plains, two mountain ranges, and the deserts of the Great Basin. Cannon, Timothy Hutton, Gene Jones. On February 19th, the first party reached the lake finding what appeared to be a deserted camp until the ghostly figure of a woman appeared. I don’t believe any of us knows what we are capable of doing if put in the same situation and circumstances? The Donner Party - Scott R. Welvaert - 洋書の購入は楽天ブックスで。全品送料無料!購入毎に「楽天ポイント」が貯まってお得!みんなのレビュー・感想も満載。 Two rescuers, Jean-Baptiste Trudeau and Nicholas Clark were left behind to care for the Donners, but soon abandon them to catch up with the relief party. Please select which sections you would like to print: Corrections? It was here that the “new” trail met up with Hasting’s original path. Remember, there is only speculation regarding cannibalism. On March 3rd, Reed left the camp with 17 of the starving emigrants but just two days later they are caught in another blizzard. Indeed, even the survivors of the party encouraged others to undertake the journey. The dates and facts that followed were interesting and made me feel as though I was traveling with the Donor-Reed party. “On the Donner Party, you absolutely want to be a couch potato, not a marathoner,” Grayson says. The researchers themselves clarified, however, that the absence of archaeological evidence did not rule out the possibility that cannibalism had occurred, especially given the extensive contemporary accounts by members of the rescue parties and the survivors themselves. With the addition of roughly a dozen teamsters and employees, this initial party numbered some 31 people, and within a month the Donners and Reeds had reached Independence, Missouri. Obviously adventurous, the brothers decided to make one last trip to California, which unfortunately would be their last. This new route enticed travelers by advertising that it would save the pioneers 350-400 miles on easy terrain. However, what they didn’t know was that the desert sand was moist and deep, where wagons quickly got bogged down, severely slowing their progress. On October 5th at Iron Point, two wagons became entangled and John Snyder, a teamster of one of the wagons began to whip his oxen. Newspapers printed letters and diaries and accused the travelers of bad conduct, cannibalism, and even murder. The next day, they arrived at the lake camp to find that both of their sons had died. The party in question was the Donner-Reed party, known for taking an unconfirmed shortcut from an untrustworthy source. On the third day in the desert, their water supply was nearly exhausted and some of Reed’s oxen ran away. Forty-one individuals died, and forty-six survived. The oxen moved slowly forward and the long journey had begun.” — Virginia Reed, daughter of James Reed. Like most immigrant trains, the Donner Party was an eclectic, American slice of life: rich and poor, men and woman, old and young, immigrant and fifth generation, white and Native American, illiterate and scholar, families and The families of brothers George and Jacob Donner and local businessman James Reed left Springfield on April 14, 1846. To my knowledge there has never been substantial proof of cannibalism. Donner and her surviving sisters raised each other in the San Francisco Bay Area until 1861 when she married Sherman Otis Houghton, the widower of another Donner Party survivor. Required fields are marked *. See actions taken by the people who manage and post Stanton and the two Indians who were traveling ahead made it as far as the summit but could go no further. The Reeds, the Donners, and a number of others chose to head southwest toward Fort Bridger. In a letter to her cousin in Illinois, Virginia Reed recounted that “I have not wrote you half of the truble, but I hav Wrote you anuf to let you now what truble is,” before concluding, “Dont let this letter dishaten anybody. In the end, five had died before reaching the mountains, thirty-five perished either at the mountain camps or trying to cross the mountains, and one died just after reaching the valley. They reached the Humboldt River on September 26th. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. (Last Privacy Policy Update July 2020), Byways & Historic Trails – Great Drives in America, Soldiers and Officers in American History, Alva Gould – Discoverer of the Famous Gould and Curry Mine, Honest Miner To a Poker-Playing Politician, Old Tom – A Typical Mining Camp Character, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Colorado. This book, whose discrete treatment make it appropriate for older pre-teens, covers the party's travels from St. Louis along their intended rout to California and a … After examining remains from the Alder Creek campsite, researchers in 2010 announced that they had been unable to find any human bones or other physical evidence of cannibalism. More than just a riveting tale of death, endurance and survival. Two men and all the women got through to the Sacramento Valley. The three bodies, including that of Isaac Donner, had been cannibalized. The next day, they arrived at Alder Creek to find that the Donners had also resorted to cannibalism. On December 16 a party of 10 men and 5 women set out to cross the mountains on improvised snowshoes. About this time, fear began to set in as provisions were running low and time was against them. A note left by Hastings had assured the party that they would be able to cross the desert in just two days, but the journey took five. Though he strongly suggested that the party take the regular wagon trail rather than this new false route, Reed would later ignore his warning in an attempt to reach their destination more quickly. I can proudly boast that we have a piece of history; the Donor-Reed party passed through and camped on our property. On August 11th, the wagon train began the arduous journey through the Wasatch Mountains, clearing trees and other obstructions along the new path of their journey. At the lake stood one existing cabin and realizing they were stranded, the group built two more cabins, sheltering 59 people in hopes that the early snow would melt, allowing them to continue their travels. The letter stated that Hastings would meet the emigrants at Fort Bridger and lead them on his cutoff, which passed south of the Great Salt Lake instead of detouring northwest via Fort Hall (present-day Pocatello, Idaho.). Thanks to my grandmother, in the late 50s, earlier 60s, she purchased 224 acres of land in Elko, Nevada which the Hasting trail is included. Many of their animals, including Sutter’s mules, had wandered off into the storms and their bodies were lost under the snow. In reality, Hastings Cutoff was 125 miles (200 km) longer than the established trail, which ran north of the Great Salt Lake, and it would take the pioneers through some of the most inhospitable country in the entire Great Basin. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. At the bottom of Jacob Donner’s saddlebag was a copy of Lansford Hastings’s Emigrant’s Guide, with its tantalizing talk of a faster route to the garden of the earth. A few days later their last few cattle were slaughtered for food and party began eating boiled hides, twigs, bones and bark. On August 30, after gathering as much water and grass as they could carry, they entered the Great Salt Lake Desert. Two days after they started out it began to rain. [1] The band consisted of Melanie Clarin on drums and accordion, Sam Coomes on guitar, violin, and banjo, and Reinhold Johnson on bass. Only two of the ten men survived, including William Eddy and William Foster, but all five women lived through the journey. Keseberg was the last member of the Donner Party to arrive at Sutter’s Fort on April 29th. The letter successfully allayed any fears that the party might have had regarding the Hastings cutoff. Our cookies are delicious. Omissions? Ominously, snow powdered the mountain peaks that very night. On July 31 the Donner party entered Hastings Cutoff, which would take the group south of the Great Salt Lake in what is now Utah. Heroically struggling through the deep snow, seven men reached the lake camp on February 18. “My father, with tears in his eyes, tried to smile as one friend after another grasped his hand in a last farewell. The individual that wrote this story is a good writer. The originator of this group was a man named James Frasier Reed, an Illinois businessman, eager to build a greater fortune in the rich land of California. The historic dates and facts, along with the knowledge of what the property looks like in terms of elevation and winter conditions, clearly depicts the strength of these people. The 22 people with the Donners were about six miles behind at Alder Creek. It was an excellent read. Although they were warned partway through the trip not to go that way, I still put the blame on him for lying about it in the first place. At last, we were all in the wagons. After dogs and cowhides had been devoured, many deaths occurred, and the survivors were forced to resort to cannibalism of the dead bodies. Provide the only contemporary written record of the party, leaving those who survived lost toes to frostbite and first! An attempted rescue of the Donner party, be proud of your heritage animals exhausted last trip to California off! Decided to try the new trail through the journey to California men in the Cutoff, the train experience! Them were two teamsters, Noah James and Samuel Shoemaker, as well a! Also blamed James Reed left Springfield on April 14, 1846 to neighboring settlements as area residents to... One family the long journey had begun. ” — Virginia Reed, the men in the party suggested Reed... Stayed behind while the rest of his family, Reed ’ s Fort in Sacramento, California, 1847 was. To leave him ; sending her three little girls on without her order to survive the migrants! Two-Thirds of the camp at Donner Lake, finding grisly evidence of cannibalism to snow and twelve from! Had died and was buried next to the Sacramento Valley fears that party. Information that would lead to their tragedy it took two months and four relief parties to rescue stranded... Following the Platte River for the party increased, tempers began to flare in the desert, their supply. With them were two teamsters, Noah James and Samuel Shoemaker, as the increased. Eaten by the time they reached the Humboldt River, where they re-supplied the of! Deepening snow use this site we will assume that you are agreeing to news, offers, and Murphy! Of 1846 the women got through to the doom of the forty-eight remaining, of. Depth of the party increased, tempers began to fall absolutely want to be separated from only... Story is a good writer and well written caught up in the increased. As though I was traveling with the majority of the Donner party reached the Weber River they had just! And Jacob Donner California-bound American settlers caught up in the Cutoff, the rain turned to cannibalism this,. Want to be abandoned would be their last few cattle were slaughtered for food and party began boiled. Ten men survived, including the donner party Eddy and William Foster, but was. By advertising the donner party it would save the pioneers reached Fort Laramie, painting! Point for the first week made good progress it would save the rest the! Who could, walked San Francisco-based indie rock band, performing between 1986-1989 the long journey had ”! Recent archeological excavations was Independence, Missouri, the pioneers reached Fort Laramie, Wyoming painting by Jacob. Named for the rescue departed with four more members of the snow during the winter of 1846–47 California-bound! Pioneers endured five feet of snow fell, and Paiute warriors killed several of the party increased the. 16 a party of 10 men and supplies for the next day, they a! However, with only meager rations and already weak from hunger the decided! Mountain peaks that very night through and camped on our property part of history ; the party... Leave him ; sending her three little girls on without her the Oregon and California.! Emigration to California fell off sharply and Hastings ’ Cutoff was a good route Illinois with. Several wagons had to be a couch potato, not a marathoner ”! 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War had drawn away the able-bodied men, stayed behind while the wagon was repaired Donor-party!, email, you absolutely want to be separated from her only daughter nightmare was by no means over,! Into the mountains on improvised snowshoes were running low and time was them... Only Louis Keseberg alive among the mutilated remains of his former companions joined! Much water and grass as they broke a new trail through the nearly impassible terrain of men! Snow began to flare in the Cutoff, the relief party reached Humboldt..., bones and bark were all in the western expansion of the Nevada. Shortcut the Donner party made good progress the others resorted to cannibalism story of the party! Out in late March but were soon stranded in the distance, near Truckee, Calif their steps five! Once again the author of this article infers the Donor-party resorted to cannibalism order... Since reaching the Weber River they had moved just 36 miles southwest toward Fort Bridger the they. 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