The Donner Party: could the tragedy have been prevented?

Ireland
April 22, 2007 6:35am CST
The Donner Party was a group of California-bound settlers who set out on their famous trip in the 1846. After becoming snowbound in the Sierra Nevada in the winter of 1846–1847, some of the group was forced into cannibalism. When it was discovered that the group, which included many women and children, were snowbound, Californians rallied to save the Donner Party. Four rescue parties, or 'reliefs' were sent out. When the First Relief arrived, 14 had already died and the rest were very weak. Most had been surviving on boiled ox hide, but there had been no cannibalism. The First Relief set out with 21 refugees on February 22. When the Second Relief arrived a single week later, they found that some of the 31 emigrants left behind at the camps had begun to eat the dead. The Second Relief took 17 emigrants with them, the Third Relief four. By the time the Fourth Relief had reached the camp, only one man was alive. The last member of the Donner Party arrived at Sutter's Fort on April 29. Of the original 87 pioneers, 39 died and 48 survived. It was a terrible tragedy that haunts Californians to this day. Could it have been prevented? Should they have resorted to cannibalism?
1 response
@ElicBxn (60762)
• United States
25 Apr 07
I read a whole big study on the Donner Party. There were about a dozen missteps they made that ended up with them getting snowed into the Donner Pass. Honestly, if they hadn't taken all of those missteps, they never would've ended up where they were & in the straits they were in. Is what they did bad, no. It was what it took to survive. It was very sad, but its not like they killed anyone to eat them. Fact is, there have been several occations that trains have also gotten snowed into Donner Pass after the tracks were laid thru there. It just seems that the pass is very much prone to heavy snow falls every few years.
1 person likes this
• Ireland
25 Apr 07
I have a really good book by Houghton, and put out by the Sierra State Foundation. I was even lucky enough to visit the museum many years ago. I find the bravery of the pioneers fascinating, but I agree, it was one wrong thing after another. I don't think they did anything wrong either, I think they were put in an impossible situation.
@ElicBxn (60762)
• United States
25 Apr 07
I totally agree. I feel that they were unable to make any other choices. We've seen too many cases in recent history not to know that we'd probably make the same choice, probably sooner than they did since we have even less respect for any lives but our own.
1 person likes this