Donner Party Tragedy III

Lead: Buried under tons of snow in the Winter of 1847 the Donner Party, a group crossing the mountains to California, waited in their cabins for rescue or death.

Intro.: "A Moment in Time" with Dan Roberts.

Content: Following bad advice the wagon train lost three vital weeks in their race with time. At the peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountain range they were caught by the winter in early November and became snowbound. A few escaped on December 16th and after a month of great suffering brought word to the settlements in the Sacramento Valley. Two weeks later a rescue party led by Aquilla Glover began its trip into the mountains to find the Donner Party and bring them out. It took them two weeks of hard travel to get through to the stranded emigrants near the summit of Truckee Pass near what is now Lake Tahoe. In the meantime, death continued to stalk the camp by the Lake. The children were especially susceptible to the cold and with each death depression gripped the shrinking number. 

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Donner Party Tragedy II

Lead: Following the wrong trail in the summer of 1846, the Donner Party, 89 strong, got far behind in their race with time. This proved disastrous.

Intro.: "A Moment in Time" with Dan Roberts.

Content: The Donner Party following bad advice got bogged in the Wahsatch Mountains of Utah and lost three vital weeks in their race with time. They needed to be over the Sierra Nevada and into California before the snow caught them but the delay put them at Truckee Pass near what is now Lake Tahoe at the end of October. At the base of the Pass was Truckee Lake, just short of 6,000 feet above sea level. The pass another 1200 feet above the lake was reached by a grueling climb. Snow was already on the ground when the main body of emigrants reached the lake on November 1st. After a day of rest they discarded all unnecessary gear and began the climb. The oxen were thin and weak. Many of the children had to walk in snow up to their waists. Just as they were preparing to make the final effort a blinding storm made the assault impossible. During the night a foot of new snow had fallen. The drifts around them were ten feet deep. They turned back. All day long they struggled back down the slippery slope. It was November 4, 1846. The trap was shut tight.

 

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Donner Party Tragedy I

Lead: Of the suffering experienced by Americans making their way west across the mountains to California, none is more tragic than that of the Donner Party.

Intro.: "A Moment in Time" with Dan Roberts.

Content: In the summer of 1846 the lure of good land and moderate climate was drawing many Americans from their homes in the East and Midwest to risk the privation and hard travel necessary to cross the deserts and mountains to a new home on the Pacific Coast. Some went north along the much travelled trail to Oregon. Other parties went due west over the Continental Divide, skirted the Great Salt Lake, crossed the Nevada desert basin and braving the passes of the Sierra Nevada range made their way into the fertile Sacramento River valley. The key to this trip was time. If a group negotiated the wilderness and was ready to address the Sierra crossing by mid-September then they would probably make the hard journey without difficulty, but if by late October the climb over the mountains was delayed, if snow blocked the way ahead, if the wagons were light of provision and the oxen were lean and tired then the story might be a tragic one. Such was fate of the 89 members of the Donner Party. Forty-two never made it to California.

 

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