Donner Party

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Donner Party,

group of emigrants to California who in the winter of 1846–47 met with one of the most famous tragedies in Western history. The California-bound families were mostly from Illinois and Iowa, and most prominent among them were the two Donner families and the Reed family. In going West they took a little-used, supposedly shorter route after leaving Fort Bridger; the route proved arduous and and they were delayed. They suffered severely in crossing the salt flats W of Great Salt Lake, and dissensions and ill feelings in the party arose when they reached what is today Donner Lake in the Sierra Nevada. They paused (Oct., 1846) to recover their strength, and early snow caught them, falling deep in the passes and trapping them. Their limited food gave out, the cold continued, and the suffering of the group, some two thirds of them camped on Alder Creek and the remaining 22, including all of the Donner family, camped at Donner Lake, grew intense.

A party of 15 snowshoers that attempted to make its way through the snow-choked passes in December to get help suffered horribly; about half of them survived to get aid from Sutter's Fort. Many of the emigrants died during the winter. Some surviving members of the Donner Party were reputedly driven to cannibalism, but despite archaeological examinations of the remains, cannibalism has never been definitively proved. Finally, expeditions from the Sacramento valley made their way through the snowdrifts to rescue the hunger-maddened migrants. Only about half of the original party of 81 reached California. The survivors later disagreed violently as to the details of (and particularly the blame for) the disaster. Donner Lake, named for the party, is today a popular mountain resort near Truckee. The large bronze Pioneer Monument (1918) erected at the lake is dedicated to the party. Nearby Donner Pass has a U.S. weather observatory.


See C. F. McGlashan, History of the Donner Party (1879, repr. 1966); G. R. Stewart, Ordeal by Hunger (1936, new ed. 1960); E. Rarick, Desperate Passage (2008).

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Donner Party

of 89 emigrants to California, 47 survive by eating others (1846-1847). [Am. Hist.: EB, III: 623]

Donner Party

survivors of group of emigrants to California (1846–1847). [Am. Hist.: NCE, 783–784]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
"My grandmother was one of the survivors of the Donner Party. My grandfather, Jason Whitney, came around the Horn and took part in the raising of the Bear Flag at Sonoma.
McLaughlin, a Lane County deputy medical examiner currently working toward her doctorate in anthropology at the University of Oregon, and Tasa, a UO scientist known for his ongoing efforts to prove whether California's notorious Donner party truly resorted to cannibalism, buried real placenta with the fake bodies so cadaver dogs would have something to track.
Tasa is one of several scientists involved in an effort to prove or disprove once and for all whether the pilgrims of the Donner Party resorted to cannibalism as they struggled for survival during a brutal winter high in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
The keyboard-driven band features singer-instrumentalist Sam Coomes, formerly of the Donner Party and Heatmiser, and drummer Janet Weiss, who still is with Sleater-Kinney.
It's been compared to the Donner Party tragedy, although it wasn't nearly as horrific in the end.
When Donald Trump says that Republicans will become known as the "Party of Healthcare," I assume he means in the same way that the Donner Party became known as the "Party of Fine Dining."
In winter, the crowd of "underfed hippies" would be snowed in for weeks at a time, and it didn't take long for Donner Party jokes to lose their punch.
Whether it's a curse from the beautiful Tamsen Donner (who some think might be a witch), their ill-advised choice of route through uncharted terrain, or just plain bad luck, the ninety men, women, and children of the Donner Party are heading into one of one of the deadliest and most disastrous Western adventures in American history.
Grayson uses a biological framework to explore the fates of three emigrant groups traversing the American West in 19th century: the well-known Donner Party, plus two Mormon groups who lost a total of 200 people in Wyoming: the Willie Handcart Company and the Martin Handcart Company, who tried to bring their goods and children in wheeled carts drawn by humans, not animals, from Iowa to Utah.
HHHHH THIS historical horror is inspired by real events - the journey made by a wagon train of settlers known as the Donner Party in 1846, who took a short cut while moving west from Illinois to the new American frontier along the California Trail.
This historical horror is inspired by real events - as a wagon train of settlers known as the Donner Party travel west from Illinois to the new American frontier in 1846.
THE HUNGER by Alma Katsu, Bantam Press, PS12.99 (ebook PS9.99) HHHHH THIS historical horror is inspired by real events - the journey made by a wagon train of settlers known as the Donner Party in 1846, who took a short cut while moving west from Illinois to the new American frontier along the California Trail.