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KF5JRV > TODAY    19.02.19 13:30l 42 Lines 2465 Bytes #7 (0) @ WW
BID : 31478_KF5JRV
Subj: Today in History - Feb 19
Path: ED1ZAC<ED1ZAC<IW0QNL<VE2PKT<N3HYM<KF5JRV
Sent: 190219/1226Z 31478@KF5JRV.#NWAR.AR.USA.NA BPQ6.0.18

On this day in 1847, the first rescuers reach surviving members of the
Donner Party, a group of California-bound emigrants stranded by snow in
the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

In the summer of 1846, in the midst of a Western-bound fever sweeping
the United States, 89 people–including 31 members of the Donner and Reed
families–set out in a wagon train from Springfield, Illinois. After
arriving at Fort Bridger, Wyoming, the emigrants decided to avoid the
usual route and try a new trail recently blazed by California promoter
Lansford Hastings, the so-called “Hastings Cutoff.ö After electing
George Donner as their captain, the party departed Fort Bridger in
mid-July. The shortcut was nothing of the sort: It set the Donner Party
back nearly three weeks and cost them much-needed supplies. After
suffering great hardships in the Wasatch Mountains, the Great Salt Lake
Desert and along the Humboldt River, they finally reached the Sierra
Nevada Mountains in early October. Despite the lateness of the season,
the emigrants continued to press on, and on October 28 they camped at
Truckee Lake, located in the high mountains 21 kilometers northwest of
Lake Tahoe. Overnight, an early winter storm blanketed the ground with
snow, blocking the mountain pass and trapping the Donner Party.

Most of the group stayed near the lake–now known as Donner Lake–while
the Donner family and others made camp six miles away at Alder Creek.
Building makeshift tents out of their wagons and killing their oxen for
food, they hoped for a thaw that never came. Fifteen of the stronger
emigrants, later known as the Forlorn Hope, set out west on snowshoes
for Sutter’s Fort near San Francisco on December 16. Three weeks later,
after harsh weather and lack of supplies killed several of the
expedition and forced the others to resort to cannibalism, seven
survivors reached a Native American village.


News of the stranded Donner Party traveled fast to Sutter’s Fort, and a
rescue party set out on January 31. Arriving at Donner Lake 20 days
later, they found the camp completely snowbound and the surviving
emigrants delirious with relief at their arrival. Rescuers fed the
starving group as well as they could and then began evacuating them.
Three more rescue parties arrived to help, but the return to Sutter’s
Fort proved equally harrowing, and the last survivors didn’t reach
safety until late April. Of the 89 original members of the Donner Party,
only 45 reached California.


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