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The Expedition of the Donner Party and Its Tragic Fate

The Expedition of the Donner Party and Its Tragic Fate by Eliza P. Donner Houghton
By: (1843-1922)

The Donner Party was a group of California-bound American settlers caught up in the “westering fever” of the 1840s. After becoming snowbound in the Sierra Nevada in the winter of 1846–1847, some of the emigrants resorted to cannibalism. Although this aspect of the tragedy has become synonymous with the Donner Party in the popular imagination, it actually was a minor part of the episode.

The author was about 4 at the time. The first part of the book accounts the tragic journey and rescue attempts; the last half are reminiscences of the child orphan, passed from family to family while growing up.

First Page:

[Illustration: S.O. HOUGHTON]




[Illustration: Eliza P. Donner Houghton]


Out of the sunshine and shadows of sixty eight years come these personal recollections of California of the period when American civilization first crossed its mountain heights and entered its overland gateways.

I seem to hear the tread of many feet, the lowing of many herds, and know they are the re echoing sounds of the sturdy pioneer home seekers. Travel stained and weary, yet triumphant and happy, most of them reach their various destinations, and their trying experiences and valorous deeds are quietly interwoven with the general history of the State.

Not so, however, the "Donner Party," of which my father was captain. Like fated trains of other epochs whose privations, sufferings, and self sacrifices have added renown to colonization movements and served as danger signals to later wayfarers, that party began its journey with song of hope, and within the first milestone of the promised land ended it with a prayer for help... Continue reading book >>

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