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Started On The Plains

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Probably no event of a similar character ever more stirred the feelings of the earlier sefctlers of the West, and ! ularly those living in Illinois, than did the tragic ending of the Eoed and Donj ner expedition to California in 184B, The originators of this expedition ttere i James F. Ieed and Geol'ge and Jacob Donner, kind and öpen-hearted men, yet of bold and energetic dispositions! They had come with their families into Illinois only a short time after its admittance into the Union, and flnally settled in Sangamon oounty, not far from Springfi eld. In 1845 Tagafe recorts wonld occasionally reach that vicinity of the richness of soil and healthfulness of the 1 climate of the West, and especially of the land known as California, and these began to créate a restless spirit among the settlers. Keed and the ners called meetings of their neighbors, and induced many to join the proposed expedition, which flnaüy left Springfleld on the morning of April 14, 1846. The party numbered abont forty persons, two-thirds of whom were woinen and ohildten. At inüependence, Mo. , the final i arations for crossing the plaina were to I be made. They were joined there by parties frora Illinois, Iowa, Tennessee, Missouri, and Ohio, swelling the original number to nearly 100 persons. As all know, it was neoessary at thivt period for persons crossing the plains to travel in Jarge bodies, as the Indians were rery hostile. Again, it was never safe to set forth on suoh a journey nntil the grass was of sufflcient growth to afford sustenance for the stock. Everything being in readines3, extra wagons fllled with provisions, etc., the company departed froni Independence early on the morning of May 11, 184, npon their long and weary journey. All went well until they arrived at a point a few miles above 'the mouth of ;be Big Blue river, the spot where Manïattan, Kan., now stands. The party continued its journey up the Platte river valley, passing Fort Laramie, and at last reaehed Fort Bridger without serious mishap. So far the trip had oocupied ;he entire summer, and the month of September was well advanced. At Fort Bridger the expedition tarried our days to rest man and beast. It was ïere that they met with an act of treaehiy whicb. tindoubtedly led to their horrible fate. A prominent guide of that )8riod, one Hastings, had discovered a I more direct ronte to California, knowD j as Hastings' off. It passed through Veber's canon to the south end of Salt i jake, about where Salt Lake City now tands, and was 300 or 400 miles shorter I lian the old ronte. But it was fraught with so rnany difflculties and dangers hat it was safer to travel by the northwestern trail. It was the intention of j he Keed and Donner party to take the j old route: but one Vasquez, who was in command of the fort, and who was in some manner coDnected with the Hastngs cut off, urged Eeed and his party o take the new route, telling them that ; was much safer, and that they would each their destination many weeks earier. Keed and his friends agi-eed upon he Hastings route, and started once more upon their journey. Beaching the present eifce of Salt jake City, the first great obstacle preented itself. There was no road at all, he country being one denso mass of forst and underbrush. There was no ther coutse but to literally cut and hew ! heir way through to the outtet of Salt jake, now termed the river Jordán. ?his stupeudous task was the indirect ause of several deaths in the party, and j rought about much bad blood among ts members, the malcontents charging ïeed with the entire blame of the preailing state of affairs, a3 he had been rather urgent in having the party take he Hastings route. The dissatisSed nes at last openly declared that Reed r they should leave the company, or loodshed wonld follow. So it proved; n an altercation with Reed soon af ter, I tie ringleader of the grumblers, one i 'atrick Breen, who had come from owa, strnck him fiercely over the head with the butt end of a loaded ox gad, utting him severely. He was aboat to epeat the blow when Reed's wife, who was a witness of the affair, sprang in be;ween the two men, to prevent further rouble. In his madness Breen struck lie woman to the ground with the whip ïandle. This made Reed almost insane, nd in a moment he had ent his oppoïent in two with a buteher knife which ie carried, then, drawing a braee of large volvere, dared any of the dead man's rienns to interfere. By strennous eflorts lis friends prevented turther butchery, nd the affair for the timo was ended. ?his tiagedy cast a gloom over the enire party. Two or three days' travel from the cene of the distnrbanco bronght them o the springs where they were to provide water and grass for crossing what was known as Hastings desert, an alkaine región destitute öf water or vegetaion. The treacherous Vaaquez had inormed them that it was less than fifty miles wide, while it proved, iu fact, more j than eighty. It -was undeistood that they must travel day and night, onJy stopping to feed and water the cattle. When abont two-thirds of the way across the stook manifested signs of oxháuftion, and the company directed Mr. Keed to go forward untü he found water, and report. He did so, teaching it in about twenty miles, and was on his way back to camp when he met his teamsters.aboüt 11 o'clock at night, áriving the cattle, tiaving left their wagons. Soon after leaving his teamsters oneof their horses sank down in the road, and whüe they were endeavoring to raise it, the cattle - nine yoke of oxen- scented tho water and made for it. They were never found; and there was Keed and his faroj ily, with all their supplies, out on a desert hundreds of miles from any human habitation, and the winter very nearly at hand. The other menibers of the expedition drove their teams rauch further, end oome sncceeded in reaehing water. Keed not receiving any information, and their supply o? water being nearly gone. Reed stai-ted with his family on foot, carrying the yonngest child in his arms. In the course of the night the childreu' became exhausted ; but a cold hurricane commenced ! ing, and they were fotced to move on, ftlthongh the sufferings of the chiidren were intense. Near daylight, to their great joy, one of Jacob Donner's wagons was reached, which proved to contain the latter's family. Donner kindly veyed.the'jufsrtünate family to where thb otners were camped, whêre they ! mained a week trying to find Reed's oattle; but the search was fruitless. He then divided his provisions, borrowed a yoke of oxen, and, leaving his seven wagons in tne deseH, moved on with the othes. Some days furth r on it was f ound that the provisions were running short. Eeed propO3ed that, if two men woiüd go forward to Capt. Sutter's in California, he would write him (Sntter) a letter, asking for provisions and animáis to assist the party to its destination. None was eager to undertake a journey frauglit with so many dangers, bui flnally two mon consented tö go. These two were Wm. McCutcheon, who had joined the b-ain from Missouri, and a Mr. Stanton, of Chicago, a man of the most daring bravery and whose nobleness of character oost him his life. Their progress was slow, and -week after week elapsed 1 OKt tujy tidingsfrom them. Aflkirs were now becoming very desperato ia the camp; the food was well-nigh exhausted. The expedition was eamped in the j monntains, and it was impossible to I proceed further at that season of tlie year on account of the heavy snows. flere the party would haf e to remain until spring. It was finally agreed that Keed shcrald go forward to aseertain what h&d become of Stanton and McCutoheon, and hurry up supplies. So, ] leaving bis wife and ñve children in care of friends, he started out on horsebaek. The Donner brothers were eamped a j miie ox twn iu ariuancp. of theraain bodv ! aiiu with them was a man oy tuo Lme of Walter Herrón, who, when Keed reached them, volunteered to go witk him, which Reed agreed to. Having bnt i one norse thoy rode in turns. Inthecourse j of a week their provisions gave oixt, and they traveled for days without food, j excêpt wild geese and other game, which they were obliged to devour raw. When j crossing the Sierra Nevada mountains, ' Herrón became so desperate as to pose the killiüg of the horse. Reed, i knowing that they would never be able to cross the mountains alive without the aid of this animal, vowed he would put j an end to his own life rather than perish i of hunger and cold among the mountains. That afternoon Herrón became j delirious for want of food, and his case i looked hopeless, when, to Reed 's great joy, he found a handfuí of beans in the hollow of a log, and, althóVigh altnost starved himself, gave them to his Í panion. 'Ihö foïlowing day they oatne i upon some abandoned wagons, which they rausacked, but failed to fliid any ! food. Taking the tar-bucket from one of the wagons, and scraping the tar from the bottom, Mr. Beed found a ! streak of ranoid tallow, which he made ! known to Herrón, who atence swallowed ! a large pieoe without giving ifc a smcll. ! He swallowedasecond piece and wanted j i more, which Reed refused to give him, ' having himself (saten some which made him deathly sick. Soon af fcerward they ! descended into Bear Biver valley, where they found a party of emigrants, who relieved their sufferings. They here found Stanton and the two Indians sent by Gapt. Sntter to aid in carrying the provisions which he had kindly let Stanton have. Keed was so terribly emaciated that the others did not recogniza ! him until they had converged together for some minutes. ïhe next moniiog, Oct. 23, 1846, both : parties continned their journeys. Mr. Beed went on toOapt. Sutter's.told his story of the terrible condition Of the expedition, and Sutter, ever ready to exi tend a helping hand to the sufferins, i supplied him with au abundance of provisions and thirty horses and mules to convey the same to the emigrants. Beed here found McOutcheon, who had been prevented from joiuing Stmton on account of sickness. With the aid of two Iudians, Beed and McCutcheon staited to return to their friends. Weeks and I weeks were spent in the attetnpt to ro cross the rnountains, but every plan proved fruitless. The snow was so deep that men and horses sunk out of sight in it. To Reed, who had so niany Hves at stake, the failure was terrible. Of the suffering of those who had been caught in the mountams no better description can be had than that furnished in a diary, the writer of which is unknown. It came into possession of Capt. George McKinstry, who was stationed at Fort Sacramento in 1847. Tbuokee'8 Lake, Noy. 20, 184C. Carne to this place IL o 31st of last month ; went into the pass ; the snow so deep we were nnable to fiad the road, and turned back to the shanty on Truokee lake. Stanten came up one I d&y af ter we arrived Uere. We again took our teama and wagons, and made another nusuo oessful attempt to cross thO mountains, as snow feil all the time. We now have killed most of oar oattle, having to remain Uere until next spring, and live on lean meat without bread or salt. It snowed during tho space of eightdays aftcr our airival, with little intermission, thougli now clear and ploaeaiit, ireezing at night : the snow nearly all gone from the vallsye. Nov. 29 - Still siiowing ; now about three foet deep ; wind west ; killed my last oxen today ; wood hard to get. Nov. 30- Snowing iaat, and seems likely to continue for aays : no living thing, without wings, can get about. Dee. 1 - Still auowing; snow about 9ix and a half feet deep: very difiicult to get wood, and we are completely housed up; our cattie are ali killed but two or three, aod thíse, with the horsts and mules, all lost in the snow; no hopea of fiDding thom alive. Dec. 9 - Oomnienecd anowing about 11 o'clocn; tooit in Spitzcr yesterday, who is so weak that he cannot riso without help, caused by starveiioB; some have a soant suppiy of beef ; Stanton trying to get eome for himsolf ai;d liiiiaan; not likely to get mujh. Dia. 14- Bnows faker th&n any previous day ; Stanton and Graves, with others, makicg preparation to cross the mountains on snow shoes ; snow eight feet on a level, Dec. 17- Pleaeaut ; Wm. Murphy returned trom the ïnountain party last night B&yless Williams died night befofe last. Dec. 21- Milton arrivod from Donners last night; sad news. Jacob Donner, Samuel Shoemakcr, Rhinehurdt, and Smith are dead ; the most of tkem in a low condition ; snowed all night, with a strong eotithwest wind. Dec. 25 - Began to snow yeisterday Bnowed all mght, and snows yet ; extreméis bard to nnd wood ; offered onr pravers to " God this (Christmae) moroing : the prospeot is appalling, but we trust in Him. Jan. 1, 1847- We pray the God of Mercy to deliver us from oui' present calamity, if it be His holy will. Commenced snowing last night; provieions scant: dug up aliide from nnder the snow yesterday, bnt have not commenced on it yet. Jan. 4 - Fine morning ; Jooks liks spring Mrs. Eeed, Milton Elliott, and EJiza Williams started a short time ago with the hope of croseing the mountains ; left the ohildren here ; It was hard for Mra. Reed to part with them. Jan. 6- Eliza Williams came back from the mountains yeeterday evening, not able to procoed ; the others kept ahead. Jau. 8- Very cold thia morning Mrs. Keed came back, not being able to flnd their way over the mountains ; they have nothing but hides to live on. Jan. 13.- Suowiug fast ; enow hieher than the ehanty; it must be 13 feet decp; oannot get wood this morning; it is a dreadful sight for us to look upon. Jan. 15- Clear day again ; Mr. Murphy I blind, and Lathron not able to get wood ; has but one ax between him and Kienburg ; it looks like another storm ; expect to hear from Sutter's soon. Jau. 17 - Lathron became crazy last night ; provisions scarce ; hides our main eubsistence; may the ümighty send ua help. Jan. 21 - Fine morning ; the nomen do not I like hides, but mnst either eat them or die. Jan. 28 - Commanoed snowing yesterday, and I still continúes ; one of Stanton's Indians died three dajs ago ; food growing scarcer ; don't have firo enough to cook our hides. '. Feb. 5- Snowed hard until 12 o'clock laat night ; many uneasy for lear we ahall all 1 ish with hunger ; we have bnt little meat left, J and three hides ; Mrs. Eeed Las but one hide, and tliat is on the Graves house ; Milton lives tuere, and wül ikely keep tiiat ; two children died last night. ! Feb. 8- Fine, clear morning ; Bpitzer died laat night ; we will bury him iu the snow Mra. Eddy died on the night of the 7th. Feb. 9.- Mr. Pike's chUd died laat night ; Milton is at Murphy'ë, not able to get cüt of bed ; Mrs. Eddy and ehild were buried to-day wind soiitheasfr. Feb. 10- Bautiiiu moïniug thawing in the sun ; Miltou Elliot diod night at Murphy's ehanty ; Mra. Eeed went there to see alter his effecta ; John Dentón faying to borrow meat i for the Gravesee, but failed : they have ' ing but hides ; all are entirely ut of meat, bnt we sl.ill have a little ; onr hides are ueariy gone ; God's help, spiing will soon smile upou Feb. 15- Morning cloudy untü 9 o'clock, then eleared off warm. Mrs. Murphy refused to give Mra. Reed any hides ; put Sutter's pack hidea on ber shanty, and would uot let her have mem. Feb. 19- Froae hard last night. Seven men aïritod yesteiday trom California with provis ions, but left the greatcr part on the way. Same of the men have gone to Donner's camp, ! and will start back on Monday. Feb. 22- The Caüfornians started tbis morn úig, accompanied by some of our partv, who were ia a verv weak condition. Mrs. Kiêsburg started with them, and left Kiesbnrg here unabie to go. Buried Pike's child tais moming in the snow ; it dieá two davs ago. Feb. 23- Fïoze hard" laat night. To-day pleasant and thawy, and has the appearance of spring, all but the deep snow. Shot a dog toFeb. 25T6layl iSïfe Murphy wa the wolves are abont to dig up the dead' bodies around her ehanty, and the nighta are too co!d to watch them, but we can hear themhowl. Feb. 26- Hungry timen in camp ; plenty of hirïes, but the tollus won't eat them ; our little party eat them with tolerably good appetite. thanks be to the Almighty God. Mrn. ' phy said here yesterday that she thought she would commence on Milton and eat nim. I don't think ehe haa done so yet. It is distressing. The Donners told the California folka foiu1 dajs ago that they would commence on the dead people if they did not rmd their cattle, theu ten or twelve feet undersnow, and i did not know the spot or anywhere uear it ; they have done it ere this. Feb. 28- One öulitary Indian paesed by to day ; had a hoavy pack on his back : gave me fWe or six roots reaembiing onions in shape ; tasted like Bweet potato, but fuil of tough little flbere. Feb. 29- Ten men arriyed this morning f rom i Bear valley with provisions ; we all leave ia j two or three days, and Ciche our goods here ; they say Ihe enow will rem.ain nntil June Thus ends the journal. Capt. McKinatry, wlio forwarded it to Springfleld, as before stated, furnished the conclusión of the affair in his brief letter : The above-mentioned inen Btarted fov the valley wlth eeventeen of the Bafferers. ïhey traveled fifteen rcilea and a sevore snow utortu came on. They Ie ft fonrteen of the emigrante, inclmling the writer of tho abovo Journal and his family. Lieut. Wosd worth waa immediately sent to the asaiatance of the others, but before he reaohed thein they had eaten three of their number, who had" died from hunger and fatigue. Woodworth brought in the rem&icder. The ie8t of the unfortunate party reached Suttei'a Fort in April, 1817. The emigrante thua caught in the mountaina died, one by one, until about forty of qheir number were literally starved to death, among theui being tho two Donner brothers and their wiyes, together with aeven cf their children. The camp where the Donnora died ia marked by a email body of water among the mountaine, now known as Lake Djnner, in the western part of the State of Nevada.


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