The Western Frontier

Haley McGlynn

The Donner Party

The Donner Party was a catastrophe that occurred in 1846. The Donner Party is an example of enlarging a nation that has overridden the cost and value of human life. It all happened when settlers from the east wanted to move to the west, in order to expand and start a new life there. 87 people came up with the idea of this, and transitioned their way to California, where they planned to form a new life. Hasting’s Cutoff and Cannibalism are two very important pieces that were introduced throughout this journey. These events changed the value of human life.


Hasting’s cutoff was an example of enlarging a nation that override the cost and value of human life. People who traveled on this journey came to the conclusion of either sticking to the original path, or taking a right, onto a new and shorter trail. This path is none as “Hasting’s cutoff”. Taking this right turn would supposedly lead the people to Fort Hall much quicker. Although the path was unclear if travelers with wagons could make it, Hasting’s had promised that they would save 400 miles. Hasting’s had said he had traveled on this path before, but he had lied about doing so. Some families had decided to stick with one another, on the original path but other families, including the Donner Party took Hasting’s path, expecting to arrive ahead of schedule. By taking Hasting’s cutoff, many people faced horrid deaths, and risked their live, just because Hasting’s was a selfish person who would rather claim he has his own land, and wanted to have people live in his territory.


Cannibalism was an example of how enlarging the nation impacted the value of human life because they ate people in order to survive, and make it to California. Cannibalism was introduced when the Donner Party had no food left, and would die of starvation. It came to the point where they had to eat anything, including tree bark, bones, leafs, etc. When they ran out of these types of sources of food, they would cut up the dead and flesh off the arms and legs of the living, and roast them over the fire. None of them had had food for more than a weak, and were in terrible conditions, and all they could think of was food, even if it meant eating a human being. The Donner Party knew they didn’t have much food left, but instead of turning back towards the east, they continued to travel to the west because they cared about the land more than the value of a human being.


In conclusion, the Donner Party is an example of how enlarging a nation had overridden the value of human life. The Donner Party was a catastrophe that occurred in 1846, which led to Cannibalism. Hasting’s cutoff affected the Donner Party the most because they were the ones who suffered the most, and ended up cutting up the dead and flesh off the arms and legs of the living, and roast them over the fire so they did not starve. Instead of turning back, the Donner Party forced one another to go to California because they cared more about the land, than the value of a human being.

Images of The Donner Party

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The Donner Party : A Quick History

The Donner Party: A Quick History

Works Cited

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Hokanson, Drake. N.d. “Central Pacific Rock Drilling, Iron Point, Nevada. <http://drakehokanson.squarespace.com/photographs-projects/transcontinental-railroad/19877893>. 16 March, 2016.


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