July 17, 2004

The Donner Party

Growing up in northern California you learn different things than you do in other parts of the country. Of course, you learn about the Revolutionary War and The Civil War, and all those tiny states up in the corner where America first began, but you're more exposed to western history and geography. Things like the missions along the El Camino Real, Father Junipero Serra, redwoods and the '49 Gold Rush. Also, you hear about the Donner Party.

The Donner Party were settlers coming to California to homestead. After making a series of bad decisions, they wound up stranded up in the Sierra Nevada mountains for the winter. The winter was harsh and food was scarce, and before the spring thaw arrived half of the original eighty had died, and some had reverted to cannibalism to survive.

My uncle had a wonderful collection of books in his home, and one was about the Donner Party. In this book, diary entries and personal recollections from survivor interviews were gathered to tell their tragic story. These people literally went through frozen hell trying to keep their children and each other alive. Over the years I've read everything I could find on the subject, for it holds a morbid fascination for me.

Archeologists have discovered what they believe to be one of the camps used by the Donner party.

Here's an excellent site that shows the original route and timetable, using quotes from the original sources to create a daily log.

This is a nice resource, with tons of links to related materials.

Posted by Ted at July 17, 2004 08:06 AM
Category: History

When my giving name at restaurants, I often have to resist the temptation to say "Donner" . . . for some reason it amuses me to hear the Maitre D' call out "seating for Donner, party of six".

Posted by: Ted K at July 17, 2004 11:29 AM

I had a buddy who did not resist that temptation. We were often seated, snickering, after responding to "Donner, party of four."
He also liked to follow that up with "We are really hungry..."

Posted by: nic at July 17, 2004 04:03 PM
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