Manifest Destiny

Donner Party

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

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.

The Dead

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.