The Donner Party LeeAnn Childers and Sierra Bickett

Who: Jacob and George Donner (leaders), 89 emigrants and 20 wagons

When: April 1846

Where: From Springfield, Illinois. They went to Fort Bridger, Wyoming and then left the trail they were on and went to a "new" and shorter route to California.

Why: Lansford Hastings directed the Donner's to the new "cut off" trail that would be quicker and more efficient. So they chose this trail over the more preferred route.

Hasting's Cutoff Trail


After many snow bound months in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the pioneers became hungry and couldn't find any food. They were stranded and isolated. When their food ran out, they starved, roasting shoestrings and eating animal hides to stay alive. Finally, snowbound, with little hope of rescue, they started to eat each other. The first person to be eaten is a guy named Patrick Dolan. He'd been a neighbor of another family in Iowa. During the storm, he lost his head at one point and ran out into the open weather—probably, we know now, suffering from hypothermia. He began to strip off his clothes. He died, and he was the first person to be cannibalized.

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