The Donner party

Route taken by the Donner occasion. The bushes have been reduce on the top the snow reached in 1846-47.

Rising up in a suburb outdoors San Francisco, my household vacationed in Lake Tahoe each summer season.  I keep in mind driving by Donner Lake and driving over Donner Cross. I consider I used to be about eight years outdated when my mother gave me the e-book Patty Reed’s Doll, which I nonetheless have right now. The e-book particulars the expertise of the Donner Occasion getting snowbound at Donner Lake. I turned fascinated by the story. It wasn’t lengthy earlier than I used to be studying every little thing I may get my palms on about them, one other undeniable fact that continues right now. Once I was 13, I used to be driving by the lake with my father, my brother, and his girlfriend on the time, and the topic got here up. For the primary time, I noticed the statue, identified right now because the Pioneer Monument, that my brother informed me was the identical top because the snow in the course of the winter of 1846, when the Donner Occasion turned stranded there.

With snow flurrying round it, and snow on the bottom that solely got here as much as perhaps half of the statue’s pedestal, I used to be flabbergasted by this thought. Additional analysis taught me that the statue is 22 ft excessive. To at the present time, that’s thoughts blowing to me. I can’t think about ever being in that a lot snow. Immediately, the tragedy of the Donner Occasion made sense to me. With that a lot snow, after all they received caught. After all, they ran out of meals and provides. After all, half of them died. And, to not dismiss the information, after all they resorted to cannibalism.

After we started to check the Oregon Path and the California emigrants at school, I used to be excited to check the Donner Occasion. I used to be wanting ahead to studying one thing that I didn’t know and I hoped to have the chance to impart a few of my data to my classmates. However to my shock and dismay, they had been by no means talked about.

As someone with greater than a passive curiosity in family tree, I’ve researched Donner Occasion descendants up to now and located that few are vocal about their ancestry.

I lately completed Daniel James Brown’s e-book The Detached Stars Above. As I discussed earlier than, the tragedy nonetheless fascinates me, and books concerning the Donner Occasion fill my bookshelves. Brown’s e-book was totally different within the sense that it coated extra concerning the aftermath of the tragedy. As someone with greater than a passive curiosity in family tree, I’ve researched Donner Occasion descendants up to now and located that few are vocal about their ancestry. Whether or not that is out of respect for his or her struggling and trauma, or in the event that they select to not discuss it as a result of their ancestors doubtless didn’t, I don’t know.

What I do know is that Donner Occasion survivors had been influential within the space. The Reed household was lively in San Jose, and plenty of streets there are named for members of their household. The Graves household was well-known within the Napa space, and Mary Ann Graves Clarke was fondly remembered as a schoolteacher there years later. Among the Donner kids, all of whom had been orphaned in the course of the ordeal, settled in Sacramento, and right now an elementary college is known as for Elitha Donner. The final surviving Donner Occasion survivor was Isabella Breen, who’s buried in the identical cemetery as a number of members of my household, not removed from my grandparents.

The ordeal additionally impressed a museum, memorial park, a number of historic websites and markers, and even a hike. The expertise is, arguably, surrounding hundreds of California residents, whether or not or not they understand it.  So my query is, for an expertise that many have gone out of their strategy to memorialize, why is it nonetheless being swept underneath the rug in our faculties?