Journey begins at Springfield.
15 Apr 1846
The travelers are George Donner, his brother Jacob, and James Frazier Reed, with their families. Each man has three covered wagons and has hired teamsters to drive the oxen that pull them; Reed also has two servants. The destination of the first leg is Independence, where the Oregon Trail begins; the distance from Springfield to Independence is about 250 miles (400 kilometers).
Some of our Passengers on The Donner's Trail
George Donner was born in North Carolina in about 1785. He lived for a while in Kentucky before moving to Sangamon County, Illinois.
Jacob Donner, the brother of George Donner, was born in North Carolina in about 1781. He lived for a while in Kentucky before moving to Sangamon County, Illinois.
James Frazier Reed
James Frazier Reed is best known as a co-organizer of the Donner Party, the infamous wagon train caught in the early winter of 1846-47. That story is a saga of people pushed to the limits of human endurance and beyond, pushed there, in part, by their own divisiveness, some poor decisions, and a run of very bad luck.
James Frazier Reed
The Donners and Reeds arrive at Independence, Missouri
10 May 1846
where they spend the next two days completing their outfits for the journey.
While the emigrants are camped
29 May 1846
Mrs. Reed's mother, Sarah Keyes, dies of tubercolosis and is buried under a tree near Alcove Spring.
February 17, 1847
Seven men from California arrived at Truckee Lake with provisions for the trapped party. The rescuers left a few days later, taking a few of the strongest emigrants along. The failure of the rescuers to bring in many supplies, however, forced those left behind to subsist on hides for food. Recording this situation, Patrick Breen wrote that Lavina Murphy had confessed to him that she "thought [she] would Commence on Milt. [Milford Elliott] & eat him," which, he found "distressing." The equally desperate Donners, he penned, had claimed they too would begin to eat their dead.
The Death of the Mother
20 Feb 1847
Three of the rescuers go to Alder Creek to check on the Donners,Catherine Pike dies.
The Fourth Relief reaches the lake
17 Apr 1847
Louis Keseberg, surrounded by half-eaten corpses, is the only one alive.
The Find of the Donner's
22 Jun 1847
General Stephen Watts Kearny, heading east, reaches what he calls the "Cannibal Camp." Mormon Battalion veterans in his party gather the remains into the Breen cabin.The bodies are buried there and the cabin is then set afire.