The Donner Party

Timeline created by karina ayala
In History
  • Journey begins at Springfield.

    Journey begins at Springfield.
    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). The trip is timed to begin when the spring rains have subsided and grass for the draft animals is available, and to end
  • The Donners and Reeds arrive at Independence, Missouri

    The Donners and Reeds arrive at Independence, Missouri
    where they spend the next two days completing their outfits for the journey.
  • At Indian Creek, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of Independence,

    At Indian Creek, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of Independence,
    the Donners and Reeds join a larger wagon train, which is led by Colonel William Henry Russell.
  • High water stops the Russell Train at the east bank of the Big Blue River in modern-day Kansas.

    High water stops the Russell Train at the east bank of the Big Blue River in modern-day Kansas.
    The emigrants build a raft to carry their wagons across.
  • While the emigrants are camped,

    While the emigrants are camped,
    Mrs. Reed's mother, Sarah Keyes, dies of tubercolosis and is buried under a tree near Alcove Spring.
  • The last of the wagons are ferried across the river

    The last of the wagons are ferried across the river
    At some point during the delay at the Big Blue, the Murphy family from Tennessee has joined the wagon bus.
  • Tamsen Donner writes that they are now at the Platte River, 200 miles (320 km) from Fort Laramie

    Tamsen Donner writes that they are now at the Platte River, 200 miles (320 km) from Fort Laramie
    in the future Wyoming, and that the journey so far has been easier than expected.
  • William Russell relinquishes his position as captain of the wagon train because he, Edwin Bryant, and others have decided to trade in their wagons and teams for mules in order to travel more quickly.

    William Russell relinquishes his position as captain of the wagon train because he, Edwin Bryant, and others have decided to trade in their wagons and teams for mules in order to travel more quickly.
    They travel ahead to Fort Laramie to make the transaction.
  • The Donner Party arrives at the Truckee River

    The Donner Party arrives at the Truckee River
    , which will lead them into the Sierra Nevada
  • : The party in which the Donners and Reeds travel, now called the Boggs Company (named for its leader Lilburn W. Boggs, a former governor of Missouri), arrives at Fort Laramie.

    : The party in which the Donners and Reeds travel, now called the Boggs Company (named for its leader Lilburn W. Boggs, a former governor of Missouri), arrives at Fort Laramie.
    James Reed meets James Clyman, an old mountaineer, who has just come by horse from California with Lansford Hastings by way of a new route, which will soon be known as Hastings Cutoff. Clyman advises the emigrants not to take it.
  • The Boggs Company celebrates

    The Boggs Company celebrates
    the Fourth of July at Beaver Creek on the Platte River.
  • The Boggs Company crosses the Continental Divide.

    The Boggs Company crosses the Continental Divide.
    They are 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) from Independence and have more than 1,000 miles (1,600 km) to go.
  • The Boggs Company reaches the Little Sandy River,

    The Boggs Company reaches the Little Sandy River,
    where several other wagon trains have also camped. Here those emigrants who have decided to take Hastings's route form a new company and elect George Donner captain, thus creating the Donner Party.
  • he Donner Party separates from the other wagon trains

    he Donner Party separates from the other wagon trains
    takes the left-hand road to Fort Bridger.
  • At Independence Rock

    At Independence Rock
    the Boggs Company encounters a lone eastbound rider bearing an open letter from Hastings urging "all emigrants now on the road" to meet him at Fort Bridger, so he can guide them on his cutoff.
  • The Donner Party arrives at Fort Bridger,

    The Donner Party arrives at Fort Bridger,
    the corral and two cabins of mountaineer Jim Bridger. There the Donner Party learns that Hastings left the previous week leading the wagons that had already arrived and leaving instructions for later groups to follow him. The Donner Party stays four days to rest their oxen and make repairs.
  • The Donner Party stops at the mouth of Weber Canyon;

    The Donner Party stops at the mouth of Weber Canyon;
    Hastings has left a note for them, warning them that the road ahead is impassable and instructing them to send someone ahead to get instructions. James Reed and two others set out following the wagon tracks of Hastings's group.
  • Reed returns to the wagons.

    Reed returns to the wagons.
    Hastings had accompanied Reed partway back; the men ascended a peak where Hastings pointed out an alternative route, then they separated, Reed blazing a rough trail to his wagon train.
  • The Donner Party sets out on the new route

    The Donner Party sets out on the new route
    slowed by the necessity of chopping a road through the brush of the Wasatch Mountains. The Graves family catches up with them; the company now numbers 87 people in 23 wagons.
  • The Donner Party enters the Salt Lake Valley.

    The Donner Party enters the Salt Lake Valley.
    With summer drawing to a close, there are still 600 miles (966 kilometers) to go
  • In the evening, Luke Halloran dies of tubercolosis;

    In the evening, Luke Halloran dies of tubercolosis;
    he is buried in a coffin at a fork in the road the following day. About this time the emigrants find another note from Hastings, warning them of a two-day dry drive ahead. They set out again, following the tracks of the emigrants ahead of them.
  • The Donner Party reaches Redlum Spring

    The Donner Party reaches Redlum Spring
    last source of water before the dry drive begins, then sets out to cross the Great Salt Lake Desert.
  • The Donner Party sets out again.

    The Donner Party sets out again.
    After taking an inventory of their supplies, the emigrants have realized that they don't have enough food to get them to California and have sent Charles Stanton and William McCutchen ahead to Sutter's Fort to request more.
  • The party arrives at the Humboldt River,

    The party arrives at the Humboldt River,
    cutoff meets the standard trail, which is actually 125 miles (200 kilometers) shorter than Hastings Cutoff.
  • While struggling up a sandy hill at Iron Point, Nevada, the Reed and Graves teams become entangled.

    While struggling up a sandy hill at Iron Point, Nevada, the Reed and Graves teams become entangled.
    A fight breaks out between Milt Elliott, Reed's teamster, and John Snyder, driving the Graves wagon. When Reed intervenes, Snyder grows angrier and hits Reed on the head with his whip. With Snyder about to strike again, Reed stabs him in the chest with a hunting knife. Snyder stumbles some feet up the hill and dies. The emigrants decide to banish Reed, who at first refuses to leave but then agrees.
  • Reed heads west.

    Reed heads west.
    The following day he overtakes the Donners, who have moved ahead of the rest of the party. One of Reed's teamsters, Walter Herron, has been traveling with the Donners; he decides to accompany Reed to California. Knowing that time is running out, the emigrants travel as quickly as possible along the Humboldt River.
  • Louis Keseberg turns Mr. Hardkoop, an elderly Belgian traveling with him, out of his wagon to lighten the load.

    Louis Keseberg turns Mr. Hardkoop, an elderly Belgian traveling with him, out of his wagon to lighten the load.
    Everyone who can is walking. Hardkoop gives out, but nobody can take him in. He is last seen sitting by the road.
  • At night, Paiute Amerindians kill 21 of the Donner Party's oxen.

    At night, Paiute Amerindians kill 21 of the Donner Party's oxen.
    Shortly thereafter the Indians steal another 18 oxen and wound several others. More than 100 of the party's cattle are now gone.
  • Since the Indians have killed almost all his cattle, a German emigrant named Wolfinger stops at the Humboldt Sink to cache his wagon.

    Since the Indians have killed almost all his cattle, a German emigrant named Wolfinger stops at the Humboldt Sink to cache his wagon.
    Two men, Joseph Reinhardt and Augustus Spitzer, stay behind to help but return without him, saying that he has been killed by Indians. Reinhardt later confesses to having killed Wolfinger.
  • Patrick Breen begins keeping a diary:

    Patrick Breen begins keeping a diary:
    "Came to this place on the 31st of last month that it snowed. We went on to the pass, the snow so deep we were unable to find the road, when within 3 miles (4.8 km) of the summit, then turned back to this shanty on the Lake... We now have killed most part of our cattle, having to stay here until next spring & live on poor beef without bread or salt. It snowed during the space of eight days with little intermission, after our arrival here."
  • Patrick Breen's diary:

     Patrick Breen's diary:
    "Fine morning. Wind N.W. 22 of our company are about starting across the mountain this morning, including Stanton & his Indians."
  • Snowshoers: About this time,

    Snowshoers: About this time,
    William Eddy kills a deer, but too late to save Jay Fosdick, who dies in the night.
  • The Mexicans lose Los Angeles, California, to the United States Marines.

    The Mexicans lose Los Angeles, California, to the United States Marines.
    The war in California is essentially over, freeing men and supplies for another rescue attempt.
  • While recuperating,

    While recuperating,
    , Eddy has dictated a letter which has been carried to John Sinclair, the alcalde (magistrate) of the Sacramento district. Sinclair alerts others in the area and on this day writes a letter to his colleague Washington A. Bartlett, alcalde of San Francisco
  • Harriet McCutchen

    Harriet McCutchen
    dies.
  • Alcalde Bartlett of San Francisco calls a public meeting to raise funds and organize a party to rescue the trapped emigrants.

    Alcalde Bartlett of San Francisco calls a public meeting to raise funds and organize a party to rescue the trapped emigrants.
    The local citizens make generous donations of money, goods, and services.
  • Rescuer Daniel Rhoads remembered,

    Rescuer Daniel Rhoads remembered,
    "They gave the alarm that the people would all die without assistance. It was two weeks before any person would consent to go. Finally, we concluded we would go or die trying, for not to make any attempt to save them would be a disgrace to us and California as long as time lasted." John Sutter, proprietor of Sutter's Fort, and Captain Edward Kern, the fort's temporary commander, offer $3 a day to anyone who will join a rescue party.
  • Catherine Pike dies

    Catherine Pike dies
    Three of the rescuers go to Alder Creek to check on the Donners
  • The Fourth Relief reaches the lake.

    The Fourth Relief reaches the lake.
    Louis Keseberg, surrounded by half-eaten corpses, is the only one alive.
  • 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.

    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.