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Profiles

  • Baylis Williams of the Donner Party (c.1822 - 1846)
    Baylis Williams, 24, died on December 15, 1846 at the Lake cabins. Baylis was a hired man who worked for the Reed family, along with his sister, Eliza Williams. Little is known about him, but he is d...
  • Eliza Williams of the Donner Party (aft.1813 - 1875)
    23 Sep 1847, Thu (Montpelier, Vermont) Info about Eliza Williams. More from www.donnerpartydiary.com : Servant, Eliza Williams, 25, was rescued by the First Relief. Six months after her rescue, she mar...
  • Maj. Lansford W. Hastings, (CSA) (c.1818 - 1870)
    Lansford Warren Hastings (1819–1870) is best remembered as the developer of Hastings Cutoff, a shortcut across what is now the state of Utah, a factor in the Donner Party disaster of 1846. Lansford...
  • Tamsen Donner, Donner Party (1801 - 1847)
    Tamzene Eustis received first rate education -- she wrote, sketched, spoke excellent French, and was skilled at botany -- and taught the "female department" at the Elizabeth City Academy in Eliza...
  • Sebastian Keyser (c.1812 - 1850)
    A native of Austria, Keyser was trapper who had gone overland to Oregon with Sutter in 1838 and later joined him at New Helvetia. In 1845 he settled on Bear River as a half-owner of William Johnson's...

A project to document the Donner party and their rescuers. Feel free to join in and help.

The Donner Party, or Donner–Reed Party, was a group of American pioneers that set out for California in a wagon train in May 1846. Departing from Independence, Missouri, they were delayed by a series of mishaps and mistakes, and spent the winter of 1846–47 snowbound in the Sierra Nevada. Some of the pioneers resorted to cannibalism to survive.

The journey west usually took between four and six months, but the Donner Party was slowed by following a new route called Hastings Cutoff, which crossed Utah's Wasatch Mountains and Great Salt Lake Desert. The rugged terrain and difficulties encountered while traveling along the Humboldt River in present-day Nevada resulted in the loss of many cattle and wagons, and caused splits within the group.

By the beginning of November 1846, the settlers had reached the Sierra Nevada where they became trapped by an early, heavy snowfall near Truckee (now Donner) Lake, high in the mountains. Their food supplies ran extremely low and, in mid-December, some of the group set out on foot to obtain help. Rescuers from California attempted to reach the settlers, but the first relief party did not arrive until the middle of February 1847, almost four months after the wagon train had become trapped. Of the 87 members of the party, 48 survived to reach California, many of them having eaten the dead for survival.

List of Donner party members:

Resources & Additional reading: