This tragic story of
Virginia Reed’s journey west is told through her memoirs of the 12
girl, with supplementary accounts based on her father's letters and the
of another traveler.
Across the Plains in the
many other wagon
trains, the Donner party did not have a guide, nor did anyone in the
group have any idea of the difficulties that awaited them. None of them
had ever undertaken a two-thousands-mile overland trip before, nor had
they ever seen a desert that took days to cross or mountains the size
of the Sierras, which are over 8,000 feet tall. None of them had
experienced a mountain blizzard, either, which, unlike Midwestern
snowstorms, could last for a week at a time, depositing unbelievable
amounts of snow each day and stranding travelers until spring.
Confident that they could handle any problems that came their way, the
party, with its heavily loaded wagons, chose to proceed at a leisurely
pace instead of pushing across the plains as rapidly as possible. This
choice proved to be disastrous.
The Donner party's journey
to California is one of the most interesting and intriguing stories in
American history. It is a life-and-death struggle full of heroes and
villains that is still surrounded by questions and controversy even
though it occurred 150 years ago and has been studied closely by many
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