On this date in 1846, the members of the Donner Party were snowed in for the winter in the middle of the Sierra Nevada, just north of Lake Tahoe. They were aiming for a pass (now called Donner Pass) that would lead them down the western slope of the mountains to the milder climate of the San Joaquin Valley. Instead, they were trapped with few supplies and a long winter ahead. (The cut stumps in this photo show the depth of the snow; they were cut off at what was “ground level” during the winter of 1846-47.)
The big question is: did they resort to cannibalism to survive? And if they did, did they simply eat those who died of the cold and hunger, or was it more sinister?
To learn more about the Donner Party and their months-long ordeal, try these books:
- The Donner Party by Scott P. Werther (979.403 Wer)
- The perilous journey of the Donner party by Marian Calabro (979.403 Cal)
- Ordeal by hunger: the story of the Donner Party by George Stewart (979.438 Ste)
- Lovina’s song: a pioneer girl’s journey with the Donner Party by Marian Rudolph (FIC Rudolph)
- Patty Reed’s doll: the story of the Donner party by Rachel K. Laurgaard (FIC Laurgaard)