On February 19, 1847, the first team of rescuers reached surviving members of the Donner Party. The Donner Party was a group of emigrants headed to California that lost most of its members due to starvation and extreme weather conditions.
By 1846, emigration to the American west had become the watchword and thousands of pioneers across the United States prepared to travel across the Sierra Nevada Mountains. One such group, popularly known as the Donner Party, consisting of 89 people in all, set off from Springfield in Illinois in a nine-wagon train. The Donner party included 31 members of the Donner and Reed families. The group, led by George Donner, set out on April 15, 1846, and moved from Illinois to Independence in Missouri, and then embarking on the California Trail. By June 27, the Donner Party completed the first leg of its travel coming over 650 miles to Fort Laramie in Wyoming.
In 1842, Lord Hastings, one of the earliest pioneers went over to California, and decided to promote the passage to the west. In his book “The Emigrants’ Guide to Oregon and California”, he described a route called the Hastings Cutoff. Lord Hastings, however, had made the passage through this route only in 1846, and that too without any wagons to accompany him. The route would take a pioneer across the Sierra Nevada range for over 100 miles. The trail was a tricky one and needed to be timed right for a safe passage. …(Read more)