Today I drove over the mountains to Donner Memorial State Park and have come to the conclusion the horrific tragedy never had to happen if the Donners leading the nearly 90 emigrants wouldn’t have been willful and self-important. Instead the brothers seemed unwilling to take advice from reputable guides about the best route to take. You be the judge.
In the spring of 1846, the group of nearly 90 emigrants (42 children) in 20 wagons left Illinois and headed for California led by brothers Jacob and George Donner. The brothers decided to take a new and supposedly shorter route to California laid out by an unscrupulous trail guide. Who, by the way, had left on an earlier wagon train traveling an established route. Dumb! I’m sure their wives weren’t happy. Naturally, they soon encountered untested, rough terrain and became trapped by heavy snowfall high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Not only did the group follow the decision of poor leadership to take this route, but they had no hunters or fisherman in the group leaving them hungry in a forest filled with game, setting up cabins on a lake full of fish that they could see but not catch to survive. Over the course of the winter, the unskilled group was reduced to cannibalism to survive, only half of the original group was rescued and reached California the following year. This didn’t have to happen. It was one bad decision after another that led to a terrible tragedy for these families … and this blog entry.