The Tragic Story Of The Donner Party

By | January 16, 2019

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'On The Way To The Summit.' depicting the Donner Party, a group of California-bound American emigrants caught up in the ‘westering fever’ of the 1840s. Source: (Fotosearch/Getty Images).

In April of 1846, the members of what would be known as The Donner Party, left Illinois to make their way to California. The leader of this group was James Reed, a well-to-do businessman lured by the stories of fame and fortune out west. Reed had read about a new route that cut out several hundred miles from the trip. What he did not know was that this new shortcut had never been taken before. This lack of information led the group to its doom.

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James and Margaret Reed, the organizers of the trip. Source: (

Who Were They?

James Reed brought along his wife Margaret and their four children as well as Margaret’s mother. Also going with the Reed family were the Donner Brothers, George, and Jacob and their families. After leaving Illinois, they joined up with another wagon train and many others joined in until the group reached eighty-seven members, many of them children.