Utah History to Go
The Donner Party
Overland Migrations
Bartleson-Bidwell party
Nancy Kelsey
Bryant-Rusell Party
Harlan Young Party
Hastings Cutoff
Donner Party
This is the Place
Mormon History
Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company
Handcart Companies
A Girl Triumphed Over Handcart Tradegy
Many Mormon Immigrants Delayed Their Journey
Settlement and Exploration
Colonization of Utah
Salt Lake City
The Founding and Naming of Moab
Hole-in-the-Rock Trek Remains an Epic Experience
What Made the Mormon Landscape Unique?
Snowslides Devastated Northern Utah in 1875
A Fatal Snowslide in Provo Canyon
Those Pioneering African Americans
The Lives of Six Pioneer Girls
He Was an Outsider in Utah But Not For Long
Forty-Niners in Salt Lake Valley
Utah Farmer and the Pike's Peak Gold Rush
Emma Lee Endured Many Hardships in Pioneer Utah
Alice Parker Isom Faced Challenges WIth True Grit
19th Century Utah Women Spun Yarn and Dug Ditches
Hilda Anderson Erickson, Working Woman
Oliver B. Huntington and His Bees
A Policeman's Lot in Early Salt Lake CIty
A Blind Man and His Harp
Fanny Brooks Helped Establish the Jewish Community
Reverend McLeod and Building of Independence Hall
Jenny Baker Stanford Bridged Mormon-Gentile Gap
Welshman Dan Jones Was One of Zion's Busiest Bees
The Case of Grave Robber Jean Baptiste
Slavery in Utah
History of Polygamy
The History of a Pioneer Utah Cottage
The Pioneer's Cost of Living Versus Today's
Coins and Currency
The Sego Lily, Utah's State Flower
Pestiferous Ironclads: Grasshopper Problem in Utah
From Pioneer Fort to Pioneer Park
Ensign Peak
Temple Square
Virgin River Doused Cotton Mission Settler's Hopes
Gardner Mill and the Birth of the Valley's West Side
The United Order Movement
The Beginnings of the University of Utah
Arrival of the Episcopal Church
Ben Holladay, the Stagecoach King, in Utah
The Pony Express Added a Colorful Chapter in Utah
Mark Twain's Utah
Pony Express in Utah
The Telegraph Was Information Highway of the 1860's
The Steamboat Era Was Glamorous But Brief in Utah
Cowboys and the Cattle Industry
Old La Sal Was Once a Thriving Cow Town
Preston Nutter Made Utah Home of His Cattle Kingdom
Robbers' Roost Was a Haven For Outlaws
Utah Had Hollywood Style Western Gunfights
Just Who Was the Outlaw Queen Etta Place?
Josie Bassett-Jensen's Remarkable Woman Rancher
Military in Utah
Utah War
The Civil War in Utah
Mountain Meadows Massacre
Fort Douglas
Fort Duchesne
Camp Floyd
The Colonel Orders a Grand Review
Dale Beecher
Utah History Encyclopedia

Tragedy was no stranger to western trails, but the sad experience of this ill-fated group has come to symbolize the hardships of all.

A large, well equipped wagon train rolled toward California in 1846. It crossed the plains without difficulty, but as it neared Fort Bridger a dispute arose. They had read Lansford Hastings' book, The Emigrants Guide to Oregon and California which suggested a shorter route and advertised that Hastings would guide those interested himself. The route- which headed west from Fort Bridger through the Wasatch Mountains, around the southern end of the Great Salt Lake, across the Salt Desert and on to the Humboldt River-was untested by wagons. Still, many were inclined to take it.

The company split and the majority took the longer northern route. The smaller division, joined by several small groups and individuals, headed for Hastings' Cutoff. They were eighty-seven men, women and children with twenty wagons led by Jacob Donner and James Reed.

At the Weber River they found a note from their guide telling them to turn south and cut a road over the mountain, in the sarcastic words of Reed's journal, "instead of the canyon which is impassible although 60 wagons passed through." They camped there four days while Reed rode down the Weber to find Hastings and obtain better guidance. Hastings was guiding two other trains and declined to go back. However, he gave specific instructions on the trail he had used two months earlier.

It was now 10 August and the new way looked shorter and less troublesome. But instead of three days fighting over the Weber Canyon boulders, they spent twelve cutting a road through brush and timber into the Salt Lake Valley.

Moving swiftly South of the Great Salt Lake, they paused one day to take on water and grass, then plunged into the Great Salt Lake Desert on 30 August. Driving day and night, they dared not stop. But the ground was evidently softer than it had been for the preceding companies. The crossing took six days rather than the two predicted by Hastings. Four of their wagons and many of the animals were lost.

Knowing that time was now critical, they made a swift dash across Nevada, but with no rest the stock could not make the pull over the Sierras before early snows blocked the high passes in late October. Of the eighty-two, forty-seven survived the starvation and cannibalism to be rescued by parties coming east from Sutter's Fort in February and March, 1847. Thirty-five perished in the snow and cold of the Sierra Nevadas, while five died before they reached the mountains. Two Indians also lost their lives in the rescue attempts. The Donner Party's fate insured that the Hastings cutoff would not be used by later wagon trains. However the trail they cut through the Wasatch Mountains was the main road into Utah for a decade.

Brass comb, a relic of the Donner party Remains of Donner-Reed wagons

Brass comb, relic of the Donner party

Remains of Donner-Reed wagons on the Salt Flats

See: Charles F. McGlashan, History of the Donner Party, (1907, 1947); George R. Stewart, Ordeal by Hunger: Story of the Donner Party, (1960); and The California Trail, (1962).


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