17 Heart-Wrenching Donner Party Facts

17 Heart-Wrenching Donner Party Facts - General Knowledge - News

17 Heart-Wrenching Donner Party Facts

Heart-wrenching Facts About the Donner Party:

The Long and Perilous Journey to California

In 1846, a group of families embarked on a journey from the Midwest to California. Unaware of the challenges ahead, they faced harsh weather conditions, diseases, starvation, and endless walks that claimed the lives of many. Here are some heart-wrenching facts about the Donner Party.

Tragic Losses

Of the 87 migrants, only 48 survived, with only the Breen and Reed families remaining intact. The elderly and children were the most vulnerable, and sadly, over half of them didn’t make it to their destination. Only three mules survived as well.

Abraham Lincoln and the Donner Party

Before Abraham Lincoln became the 16th President of the United States, he considered joining the Donner Party. Lincoln had business ties with James F. Reed, one of the migrants’ leaders. However, his wife intervened, and Lincoln changed his mind.

Cannibalism: Fact or Fiction?

Although some members of the Donner Party denied it, evidence suggests they resorted to cannibalism during their journey. They didn’t kill any of their own members for food but did feed on the corpses of those who had died to survive.

Unintended Victims

There were rumors that the Donner Party killed two travelers for food, but it’s unclear whether this is true. What is known is that they targeted “foreigners” when resources became scarce, as they believed it was a safer option than killing one of their own.

Native American Perspective

There is little information from the Native Americans about what happened to the Donner Party. According to their oral tradition, the migrants built their camps in unsuitable areas and shot at anyone who tried to approach them.

The Rush to California

The lure of California’s economic opportunities and the chance to practice Catholicism drew many migrants westward in the 1840s. Lansford Hastings, a former American explorer and Confederate soldier, offered an alternative route called the Hastings Cutoff, leading many to make the dangerous journey.

Lansford Hastings’ Deception

Hastings’ “Emigrants’ Guide to Oregon and California” enticed the Donner Party into taking an untested route, ultimately leading to their misfortune. Despite his failure, Hastings continued to write guidebooks, including “The Emigrants Guide to Brazil,” which also proved disastrous for those who followed it.

A Race Against Time

To avoid the winter, most emigrants left between mid to late April. However, the Donner Party didn’t leave until around May 12, 1846, and took an untested route, which delayed them further. They lost the race against the weather by a few days.

Hardships and Heartbreaks

The Donner Party faced many challenges during their journey, including a lost leader, scarce resources, and the loss of valuable time. Elderly man Hardkoop was left behind and never seen again after refusing to walk due to his age and health. Some deaths were avoidable, such as William Pike’s, who was killed by a negligently loaded gun.

Rescue and Survival

James Reed managed to reach Rancho Johnson earlier than his family but faced challenges seeking help due to the Mexican-American War. During the third and final rescue mission, 11 survivors were found, including nine children. John Stark vowed not to leave anyone behind and carried children until they were all saved. Peggy Breen attributed her survival to God, Stark, and the Virgin Mary.

Lewis Keseberg: The Donner Party’s Villain?

Infamous for abandoning the old man in a wagon and leaving him for dead, Lewis Keseberg was later found eating human flesh during his rescue. He opened a restaurant in Sacramento and admitted to having developed a taste for cannibalism.

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