On November 20 Patrick Breen, whose family had joined the party in Independence, Missouri, began a diary which he continued until March 1. October 28th, an exhausted James Reed arrived at Sutter’s Fort, where he met William McCutchen, now recovered, and the two men began preparations to go back for their families. Tensions were running high among the exhausted migrants, and on October 5 an altercation between Reed and a teamster employed by another family ended with Reed fatally stabbing the man. Some members of the party suggested that Reed be hanged, but he was instead banished from the company. The Donners, whose progress was delayed by a wagon accident, made a similar camp a few miles farther east on the trail near Alder Creek. More small cabins were constructed, many of which were shared by more than one family. Five of the emigrants died before reaching the mountain camps, 34 at the camps or on the mountains while attempting to cross, and one just after reaching the settlements. The Donner Party wasted no time in administering their own justice. On December 16 a party of 10 men and 5 women set out to cross the mountains on improvised snowshoes. On August 30, after gathering as much water and grass as they could carry, they entered the Great Salt Lake Desert. During their first week in the Cutoff, the Donner party made good progress. The wagon train reached Independence, Missouri about three weeks later, where they re-supplied. HISTORY OF THE DONNER PARTY TRUCKEE LAKE December 26, 1846 Satd.... 20th Cleared off in the night to day clear & pleasant Snowd. Our cookies are delicious. Ominously, snow powdered the mountain peaks that very night. The Donner party stranded in the Sierra Nevada Range, 1847. The Donner Party continued to travel along the Humboldt River with their remaining draft animals exhausted. In the beginning, the wagon train was lucky to make even two miles per day, taking them six days just to travel eight miles. As proof he points to the example of George Donner, who … Ironically, on the very day that the Illinois party headed west from Springfield, Lansford Hastings prepared to head east from California, to see what the shortcut he had written about was really like. Get exclusive access to content from our 1768 First Edition with your subscription. 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. The Donner Camp has been the site of recent archeological excavations. Chain Reaction 5. George Donner was a successful 62-year-old farmer who had migrated five times before settling in Springfield, Illinois along with his brother Jacob. 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. 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. 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. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. 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). It was an excellent read. 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. On March 3rd, Reed left the camp with 17 of the starving emigrants but just two days later they are caught in another blizzard. and brush to protect themselves from the harsh conditions. Taking a vote among the party members, the group decided to try the new trail rather than backtracking to Fort Bridger. 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. Directed by Ric Burns. 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. Antonio, Patrick Dolan, Franklin Graves, and Lemuel Murphy soon died and in desperation, the others resorted to cannibalism. 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. 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. 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. To spare the animals, everyone who could, walked. Updates? They then took 23 of the starving emigrants, including 17 children, back to the settlements; several deaths occurred on the way. While the Donner Party has a reputation due to the gruesome acts that were committed during their trip, there are some things that many don't know about this ill-fated trip. 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. The Donner Party was a San Francisco-based indie rock band, performing between 1986-1989. 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. On Thanksgiving, it began to snow again, and the pioneers at Donner Lake killed the last of their oxen for food on November 29th. Keseberg was the last member of the Donner Party to arrive at Sutter’s Fort on April 29th. The Donner Party: A terrifying tale of modern cannibalism First hearing the story of the Donner Party, it’s natural to think it’s some kind of tribute to Jeffery Dahmer by someone who can’t spell Dahmer. Meanwhile, Reed and McCutchen had headed back up into the mountains attempting to rescue their stranded companions. Like most pioneer trains, the Donner Party was largely made up of family wagons packed with young children and adolescents. Along the way, they discovered that some of their wagons would have to be abandoned and before long, morale began to sink and the pioneers began to adamantly blame Lansford Hastings. A false shortcut The Donner Party’s journey began with laughter and hope in the spring of 1846. Most of the party thereupon built crude cabins near what is now known as Donner Lake. In the twenty-one days since reaching the Weber River they had moved just 36 miles. In the Donner Party tragedy, two-thirds of the men in the party perished, while two-thirds of the women and children lived. The individual that wrote this story is a good writer. On April 17th, the relief party reached the camps to find only Louis Keseberg alive among the mutilated remains of his former companions. The dates and facts that followed were interesting and made me feel as though I was traveling with the Donor-Reed party. Unfortunately, while cutting timber for a new axle, a chisel slipped and Donner cut his hand badly, causing the group to fall further behind. 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. 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 last survivor, Lewis Keseberg, who had supported himself during the last weeks by cannibalism, did not leave camp until April 21. Two men who had joined the party at the lake also died. “On the Donner Party, you absolutely want to be a couch potato, not a marathoner,” Grayson says. The Donner Party - Kristen Rajczak - 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。 By the time the Donner party reached the Humboldt River, where Hastings Cutoff rejoined the main California Trail, it was late September. Fort Laramie, Wyoming painting by Alfred Jacob Miller. 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. Their height indicates the depth of the snow during the winter of 1846–47. Also in the group were the families of George and Jacob Donner. In the meantime, the Graves family caught up with the Donner Party, which now numbered 87 people in 23 wagons. Had Lansford Hastings never lied about a trail that did not in his book An Emigrant’s Guide, none of this would have ever happened to begin with. 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. The three bodies, including that of Isaac Donner, had been cannibalized. Twenty-two people, consisting of the Donner family and their hired men, stayed behind while the wagon was repaired. After the publicity, emigration to California fell off sharply and Hastings’ cutoff was all but abandoned. 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. 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. Your email address will not be published. Finding the party at the south shore of the Great Salt Lake, Hastings accompanied Reed partway back to point out the new route, which he said would take them about one week to travel. Over the next four months, the remaining men, women, and children would huddle together in cabins, makeshift lean-tos, and tents. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. The letter successfully allayed any fears that the party might have had regarding the Hastings cutoff. 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. The party in question was the Donner-Reed party, known for taking an unconfirmed shortcut from an untrustworthy source. I can proudly boast that we have a piece of history; the Donor-Reed party passed through and camped on our property. Hopeless, they retraced their steps where five feet of new snow had already fallen. 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. Donner Lake and Donner Pass, California, are named for the party. 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. The surviving members had differing viewpoints, biases and recollections so what actually happened was never extremely clear. Hastily, as the snow continued, the party built three shelters from tents, quilts, buffalo robes. 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. Cannon, Timothy Hutton, Gene Jones. 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 … 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. 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. The Donner party stranded in the Sierra Nevada Range, 1847 Leaving his family, Reed was last seen riding off to the west with a man named Walter Herron. Many of those who survived lost toes to frostbite. From the Unknown 8. Continuing to encounter multiple obstacles, on October 16th, they reached the gateway to the Sierra Nevada on the Truckee River (present-day Reno) almost completely depleted of food supplies. Their third album, quirkily titled "The Donner Party" was recorded in 1989 but not released until 2000 on the anthology The Donner Party: Complete Recordings 1987-1989 which contains all three albums plus some live tracks. 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. The group now numbered 74 people in twenty wagons and for the first week made good progress at 10-12 miles per day. Not knowing how many cattle the emigrants had lost, the men believed the party would have enough meat to last them several months. On March 12th the third relief led by William Eddy and William Foster reached Starved Camp where Mrs. Graves and her son Franklin had also died. The party was trapped by exceptionally heavy snow in the Sierra Nevada, and, when food ran out, some members of the group reportedly resorted to cannibalism of those already dead. At Donner Lake, two more attempts were made to get over the pass in twenty feet of snow, until they finally realized they were snowbound for the winter. 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. 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.). 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. By the time they reached the shore, they also blamed James Reed. During a month’s harrowing, often overwhelming hardships from cold, storms, deep snow, and inadequate food, they struggled on. 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. Behind the Glass 6. The total of deaths was thus 42, with 47 survivors. Hastings, who had promised to lead migrants along the trail, left Fort Bridger with a different company of wagons, and it fell to Reed to act as the company’s guide. We use cookies. Inhuman Voices 9. 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. A few days later their last few cattle were slaughtered for food and party began eating boiled hides, twigs, bones and bark. Green Abyss 7. 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