Donner Party: A Doomed Journey

Overview

On April 16, 1846, a group of 33 pioneers, with their goods and animals, began to move west by wagon train from Springfield, Illinois, to California. After stopping in St. Louis, the Donner Party followed the California Trail until it reached Little Sandy River, in what is now Wyoming. There, the party joined other groups of travelers. When the settlers took a shortcut called Hastings Cut-off, they found themselves stranded in the Sierra Nevada Mountains as a snow-storm blocked the trail through what is now ...
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Overview

On April 16, 1846, a group of 33 pioneers, with their goods and animals, began to move west by wagon train from Springfield, Illinois, to California. After stopping in St. Louis, the Donner Party followed the California Trail until it reached Little Sandy River, in what is now Wyoming. There, the party joined other groups of travelers. When the settlers took a shortcut called Hastings Cut-off, they found themselves stranded in the Sierra Nevada Mountains as a snow-storm blocked the trail through what is now called Donner Pass. What started out as an adventurous trek to a new land turned into a nightmare as days turned into months, food and supplies dwindled, and members of the party died. The survivors resorted to cannibalism to stay alive. Of the 87 travelers, 39 died and 48 survived. The Donner Party tells the story of the most famous of all the hundreds of wagon trains to start for the Far West-a tale of hardships, horror, heroism, selflessness, and sacrifice.
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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Naomi Butler
On April 16, 1846, a group of thirty-three pioneers, with their goods and animals, began to move west by wagon train from Springfield, Illinois, to California. After stopping in St. Louis, the Donner Party followed the California Trail until they reached Little Sandy River in what is now Wyoming, where they camped alongside other groups of travelers. Now numbering eight-seven, the settlers took a shortcut called Hastings Cutoff, but found themselves stranded in the Sierra Nevada Mountains during a snowstorm that blocked the trail through what is now called Donner Pass. This book details the trials faced by the settlers as they made the journey to California. It is part of the excellent series "Milestones in American History." There are biographical sketches, extensive photographs, excerpts from primary source documents, and first-person narratives. It is a primary source for reading, searching the period, and for writing reports. The author is an associate professor of history and has written other historical works. Reviewer: Naomi Butler
School Library Journal
Gr 8–10—McNeese presents a thoroughly researched, clearly written account of the ill-fated Donner Party and the events and decisions that conspired against this early wagon train headed from Springfield, IL, to California. Arranged chronologically, the book describes early migration to the western United States, including a brief portrait of the Stevens Party, whose journey was one of the first to reach the Sacramento Valley. Originally traveling with a much larger party, the Reeds and Donners made the decision to separate from the group and take the Hastings Cutoff to save time, despite numerous warnings. What they didn't know was that Lansford Hastings, the man who wrote the guidebook encouraging this route, had never actually taken it himself. In addition to being severely misinformed, the Donner Party also suffered from personality conflicts, violence, a distrust among members, and plain bad luck, which ultimately led to starvation and cannibalism, described here in ghastly detail. Of the 87 members, only 47 survived. Each of the 11 chapters has a brief essay highlighting political or historical events (such as Manifest Destiny and the Mexican American War), placing them in the context of the journey. Photos, reproductions, drawings, and primary-source documents as well as a detailed chronology make this an excellent resource.—Madeline J. Bryant, Los Angeles Public Library
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781604130256
  • Publisher: Chelsea House Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/1/2009
  • Series: Milestones in American History Series
  • Pages: 152
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Table of Contents

1 The Stevens Party 1

2 A Vision Looking West 10

3 Wagons to California 20

4 The First "Donner Party" 32

5 Progress on the Trail 45

6 A Badly Advised Road 56

7 Tragedy at Every Turn 68

8 The Taboo 79

9 "Do You Come from Heaven?" 93

10 Nightmare's End 106

11 Lives of the Survivors 120

Chronology and Timeline 130

Notes 135

Bibliography 138

Further Reading 140

Index 142

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