#DonnerMemorialStatePark – Museum Remembers the #DonnerParty

Remembers the 1840’s Donner Party

This is a memorial to the infamous Donner Party. The Donner Party exemplified the difficulties the western pioneers encountered. The plaque inscription reads: “Donner Party, 1846-47. The face of this rock formed the north end and the fireplace of the Murphy Cabin. General Stephen W. Kearney, on June 22, 1847, buried under the middle of the cabin. Bodies found in the vicinity.” Photo by Brian Howard

By Brian Howard

I was spending some time in Utah a couple of years ago and ended up taking a trip over to Truckee, California. I ended up at the Donner Memorial State Park – Museum. It’s the location of the infamous Donner Party from the 1840’s that partook in cannibalism after their supplies ran out over the harsh winter.

It turned out to be less than anticipated but was still cool. The museum has several artifacts on display from the actual Donner Party cabin sites. That was pretty neat to see.

Work on the monument, as seen in the picture above, constructed near the site of the cabins that gave shelter to the Donner Party, began in 1901. On June 6, 1918, in a ceremony that included Donner Party survivors, the Native Sons of the Golden West donated the completed monument and 11 surrounding acres to the State of California.

The Donner Party started out in Illinois, faced many trials and tribulations along the way, and then faced a harsh winter that I doubt they were really prepared for in my own opinion.

According to historical accounts, Rescuers from California attempted to reach the migrants, but the first relief party did not arrive until the middle of February 1847, almost four months after the wagon train became trapped. Of the 87 members of the party, 48 survived the ordeal. Historians have described the episode as one of the most fascinating tragedies in California history, and in the entire record of American westward migration.

This tree along with another are visible in pictures taken at the time of the 1918 dedication of monument. I rescued a few pinecones for my grandkids. Photo by Brian Howard

Donner Memorial State Park is located outside Truckee, California. It has 2.5 miles (4.0 km) of hiking trails, campgrounds, and 3 miles (4.8 km) of lake frontage on Donner Lake, east of Donner Pass. The 3,293-acre (1,333 ha) park was established in 1928.

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