The Donner Party

Western Frontier

Donner Party Essay Level 3

In the 1840s a man by the name of Lansford Hastings wanted to take California away from Mexico and claim it as his own, but he could not do it alone. So he wrote a guide book for immigrants that would lead them to California. His plan was that he along with all these immigrants that traveled, would take over California. He needed a big group to claim it. In the guide book Hastings claimed that there was a short cut he had been on that would take them to California quicker. Unfortunately this was a lie. He had never used a short cut to travel to California. He just wrote down a route he had never traveled on and told the people to use it.


A group of about one thousand individuals packed up wagons, animals, supplies and family and started the long journey to cross from the Eastern side of the U.S. to the Western side. The cross was suppose to take a few months for all the people to cross to California. For some it did only take a few months, but for some it took a year. Not only did it take a year for some, but it also cost the lives of people. The people had reached a cut off that Hastings had listed in his guide book. Most of the group went on to the correct turn of the cut off, but a small group turned left. The people who made the correct turn made it to California, but the group that made the incorrect turn ended up not being so lucky.


They had faced many obstacles and lost a few lives, but they eventually made it to the summit. They just had to go over it and then they’d be in California. They decided to rest for a few days, but unfortunately in those few days it began to snow. The snow was too deep to go over it, so they just camped and sat around a fire. People were starved and people were dying due to various reasons. So most of the group resorted to cannibalism. Around 40 people survived and were rescued. They were taken to California and restored back to health.

PBS Donner Party Documentary

The Donner Party (Full Documentary)

Photographs Related to the Donner Party

Big image