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Profiles

  • Elizabeth Cooper Graves, Donner Party (c.1800 - 1847)
    Died, Age 47 Spencer Ellsworth describes Elizabeth Graves as " tall and thin, her good natured sunburnt face wreathed in smiles. She wore a blue calico frock, an old sun-bonnet and a faded shawl, on ...
  • Mary Ann Clarke, Donner Party survivor (1826 - 1891)
    Survived, age 19 Mary has been called the belle of the Donner Party: She was a very beautiful girl, of tall and slender build, and exceptionally graceful carriage. Her features, in their regularity...
  • Mr. Wolfinger, Donner Party (b. - 1846)
    Murdered. Nothing is known for certain about Mr. Wolfinger except that he was from Germany. In October 1846, as the Donner Party was traveling along the Truckee, he stopped to cache his wagon. August...
  • George Donner, The Donner Party (1786 - 1847)
    The Donner Party was the worst disaster in wagon train history. Forty-two emigrants and two Indian guides had died. However, the remaining forty-seven travellers survived. George and Jacob were repai...
  • Leanna Donner, Donner Party (1834 - 1930)
    Survived. Tamzene reportedly told Leanna and Elitha never to tell what they had experienced in the mountains. Leanna took this advice to heart and rarely spoke about the disaster. b. 05 Dec 1834 Sang...

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: