2017-2018 Nevada County Gold Magazine 2017-2018_Nevada County Gold Magazine - Page 127

PIONEERS H I S T O R Y Donner Party: MaDe DeaDly Mistake l OOKING AT DONNER LAKE today, it is hard to imagine the suffering that took place in the cruel winter of 1846-47. This beautiful lake is now enjoyed from sunrise to sunset by hikers, swimmers, fishermen, water-skiers and kayakers, as well as passersby who stop along I-80 to look down on this scenic spot. But Donner Lake has a darker side. Before gold was discovered in California, there were pioneers who set out across the plains to make new lives for themselves in the west. Among them was a group from Illinois that would go down in history as the Donner Party. Organized by brothers George and Jacob Donner, they set off from Springfield in 1846 and became part of a larger wagon train. Had they chosen to remain with the group instead of taking a “short-cut,” this would be a very different story, for their choice was a deadly mistake. When they reached what is now Reno, Nevada, the Donner Party was able to get badly needed provisions. But their three to four day rest proved to be a fatal decision. Storms were already brewing in the Sierra Nevada ahead. In fact, one had set in on October 28 as they reached Prosser Creek Learn More just east of Truckee. Despite the snow, they pressed on, but could not scale the summit and returned to Donner Lake where they set up camp in a ferocious storm. The party built crude cabins with the main encampment near the lake. The Donner brothers chose to camp about seven miles to the east. Provisions in the main camp were soon gone, and as they faced starvation, a party was dispatched on December 16 to attempt passage over the Sierra. Two returned, 15 continued including several women. Eight died along the way, but two men and five women stumbled upon an Indian camp. One man was then guided to a settlement on the western slope, followed by the other six. The journey took 32 days. Help was summoned from Fort Sutter in Sacramento. Within a week, pro \[ۜ˜\]Y [[[\ L L^\B\[YY\HXXYۛ\ZB\H^H\ݙ\YX[HYYYB\][ۈ[Y[[[[XX\H N HXۙܛ\][\YHYX[\ݙ\H[KBZ] ^H[[\YHXۙ[YY\KH\[YY\H[[ܙBۛ\[\[Z[Kۛ\\Z[š\YH[X]H[^YYYB][KZ\[[\H\YY B\[[[[YY\H\]Y]BXZ[[[\Y[]Hۈ\[ [\YYH\H\\]܋[[\ZY[ۙK Y[KB\وHۛ\\H\\Y  B\]Y YKYHوH\]ܜ\BYXY[X[\H[[][\šۈ[[[[YKHH^KBܚY[[YۈZ[YHYKB[ۘ[]H[\]YY[H]B[[Y\[][ۈ[[YܛXK#BӓTQSSԒPSUHTST^X]ۈۛ\\H Y[˂X\H\HوHX[]\˂[\]]HZ[ ]YٙKN X\XYKۛ\\Y L H N MLӓTSTPӒPTPB]Hوۛ\[Z[H[\ [\]]HZ[ KHܝ  Z[\ܝوXYB[\]]HYۂۛ\ZBHHHHH BL