Getting a late start, the party failed to clear the Sierra Nevada Mountains before the winter snows made passage impossible. Edwin H. Bryant (1805-1869) First Owner of Oaklea The original Oaklea, built 1857, burned 1905 According to Land of the Little Colonel, privately published by Mrs. John S. (Katie) Smith in 1974, Oaklea’s first owner was journalist and author Edwin H. Bryant. The men of the party had to hack through the Wasatch Mountains themselves, moving trees and cutting down brush to make it possible for the party’s enormous wagons to get through. Eager to see Hastings’ much-hyped shortcut, he went ahead to scout the trail. Elizabeth Donner remembered eating a lot of bark and twigs as a way to ease the hunger. The party all ate their bodies, which provided enough nourishment for the Forlorn Hope to clear the Sierras and reach the Sacramento Valley. Please support us with any contribution. There was just one problem: Hastings had never tested out the route. Edwin Bryant was a journalist traveling with the Donner party. Also the Donner Party was about 2 months behind this group, and the earliest published account of that tragedy is a chapter in this book. That was just the start. What he later wrote about that day was stomach-churning. As if the journey west wasn’t tough enough, the most difficult portion was among the last. It involved trekking through Weber Canyon, a steep, dangerous path that involved walking through a quickly-moving river to get between sheer walls of quartz rock. The Donner Party began as 89 people and 20 wagons heading for California. Thank you! Part 3. The eastern slope was so steep that bringing wagons over the Sierra Nevada was long thought to be impossible, while the huge amount of snowfall that regularly accumulated only added to the difficulty. As the Donner Party slowly dragged their wagons across the Great Salt Lake’s flats, they began to offload everything they could, dumping their personal belongings overboard as they coaxed their oxen and their primitive vehicles forward. In the early 1840s, he spent time in the future states. The book contained a passing reference to a route that would save more than 300 miles over the traditional California Trail that previous emigrants had used, which took travelers across Wyoming and into southern Idaho before crossing down into Nevada to reach California. The Donner-Reed party was large—with nearly 90 people—and had already taken plenty of time on the trail. As winter wore on, rescue parties were sent to bring back as many survivors as possible. A group of California-bound American emigrants known as the Donner Party, who after becoming snowbound in the Sierra Nevada in the winter of 1847, resorted to cannibalism. Then, they started gnawing on leather and the dried hides used for tents. The book was later found to be highly inaccurate, but it served its purpose in getting emigrants excited about traveling west. After many failed attempts to bring wagons over the range, the Stevens-Murphy party of 1844 finally became the first to successfully make the journey. The California tragedy. This large group of emigrants and young men were making their way to a … William Foster, who was described as “insane” by that point, immediately shot and killed both of them. In fact, the only reason they didn’t just clear the summit that day was because one of the Donner family wagons had broken a wheel. We accept limited advertisements to offer you a better experience. CHAPTER 20. Initially optimistic, Bryant rapidly became concerned about the rough terrain, which he doubted the wagons of the Donner party would be able to handle. Stumps of trees cut by the Donner Party, seen in Summit Valley circa 1866. Edwin Bryant, traveling with the ill-fated Donner-Reed Party, wrote a detailed description of the spring on May 27, 1846: "We found a large spring of water, as cold and pure as if it had just been melted from ice. Leave Missouri too early and there would not be enough grass to sustain cattle and oxen. Only 48 of the original 87 party members would survive getting snowbound in the Sierra Nevada that winter, and hunger and desperation would turn some of them into cannibals. It is estimated that around half of the survivors engaged in cannibalism, while nearly all of the dead bodies were eaten to some degree. To this day, controversy surrounds his survival, since he was found with a gun, pots of human meat, and much of the Donner family’s gold. Keseberg’s discovery by the fourth and final relief party meant that all of the survivors had finally made it to California. The party members themselves were optimistic about the new route, with James Reed declaring: “Hastings Cutoff is said to be a saving of 350 or 400 miles and a better route. Clyman was also an old friend of James Frazier Reed, one of the Donner-Reed party’s organizers. Tamsen Donner (Actress, voice-over): We have some of the best people in our company and some, too, that are not so good. With the summit impenetrable, the Donners realized that their chance of crossing the mountains before winter set in was gone. On a happier note, not a single member of the Reed family died, nor did any of the Reeds engage in cannibalism. A journalist named Edwin Bryant who was traveling with them eagerly took Hastings’ shortcut and saw the rough terrain that could prevent wagons from moving forward and spell doom. Many groups of travelers came before them, and many would come after them, yet the horrifying tragedy of their journey would make the Donner party the most famous group of pioneers in American history. Once Hastings’ followers got further into Utah, they would have to cross the salt flats surrounding the Great Salt Lake, a salt desert that involved trekking for 80 miles with no water. But his warning letters never made it to the party. Source citations are included at the bottom of the page. Snow twenty feet deep. At #2 the Edwin Bryant group, which had left Fort Bridger with Hastings using pack animals (for speed) rather than wagons, is approaching Donner Lake. The Donner Party was a group of covered wagons which sought to reach California in the 1840s. Placed by: LDS 38 th North Ward Priests GPS Coordinates: 40° 45’5.76″N, 111° 48’3.28″W. [J Quinn Thornton; Edwin Bryant] -- Reprint of his account of the Donner party's disaster, first published in 1849. Edwin Bryant was born in Massachusetts in 1805. In 1846 Bryant became the leader of a wagon train travelling overland from Independence, Missouri to the west coast of America.It has been estimated that in 1846 around 250 wagons and 1,500 people assembled at Independence to journey to California and Oregon. The son of Ichabod and Silence Bryant, Edwin Bryant was born in 1805 around Bridgewater, Massachusetts. An unknown member of the Forlorn Hope cut some of the flesh from his corpse, and the group began to roast and eat the meat. I really, really didn’t enjoy this novel, which took as its basis, the doomed Donner Party of the mid-19th century. C. KreniontsExpedition in 1S44—The Emi^ranta of 1844—FremontsExpedition in 1S45—Edwin Bryant and other Emigrants in1S4G—Tlie Donner Party … B. Bartleson in 1841—.T. Of all the families on the journey, it was the Donner family that lost the most. The description was brief, but to those who dreamed of settling California, the route through Utah teemed with promise. Edwin Bryant (Actor, ... Ric Burns wrote, directed and co-produced the film The Donner Party. Chapter 20: The Donner Party. Unlike the California Trail, which had already been well worn by travelers, Hastings Cutoff lacked clear markings or wagon ruts to follow. Back on the trail, the party had to make the hard decision to follow through with his recommendations. The worst was yet to come. Once Hastings got to Fort Bridger, he spread the word that his overland route was faster and better than any other. Hastings was also eager to show off his shortcut to parties traveling west, even offering to guide them himself. Figuring they had plenty of time, the rest of the party decided to wait for them. It was mostly intended to salvage property left at the camps, since all the people were believed to be rescued or dead. Edwin Bryant, born near Pelham, Massachusetts in 1805, was the son of Ichabod and Silence Bryant and a cousin of the poet William Cullen Bryant. History of Nevada; . In the process, they established the California Trail, which would later be used by thousands of travelers, including the Donner party. On hearing of Snyder’s death, the rest of the group demanded that Reed be hanged for murder. Even with all the delays, the Donner party still managed to reach the Sierra Nevada by October. Primary Sources Edwin Bryant. After it was all over, Virginia Reed wrote a long letter to her cousin. Virginia Reed and the other members of the Donner-Reed Party had been suckered into a supposed shortcut to California that had led them to disaster. Unsurprisingly, he quickly lapsed into a stupor and died. The exile meant that Reed had to leave his wagon behind, which effectively also meant leaving his wife and children. Obstacle #1, Hitting That Sweet Spot. Knowing how delayed the Donner wagon train had become following the Hastings shortcut, Reed rushed ahead along the California Trail, hoping to send provisions back to the party. Two members of the Forlorn Hope never ate human flesh and yet still survived longer than many, working tirelessly to help the party through the Sierra Nevada. William Eddy was one of the rescuers that found Keseberg—only to realize that Keseberg had been feasting on the remains of his son. Hastings Cutoff, as it was known, was briefly touted as a better way for pioneers to get to Cal—even though its main promoter had never traveled the treacherous route. We seldom thought of bread for we had not any since I could remember.” With supplies gone and the deep snow making it difficult to hunt or forage, the party turned to some alternate sources of “food.”, First, they quickly ate the few oxen that had survived the arduous journey. Disaster ensued. He left a note encouraging the Donners and Reeds to go a different way. “In the process,” writes Donner Party historian Daniel James Brown, “he hoped to build a reputation, and perhaps a political career for himself in one of the new lands.”. To their surprise, the mission discovered Louis Keseberg, alive all by himself. Instead, Bridger gave the Donner party the written instructions that Hastings had left for them, allowing the travelers to continue on their way oblivious to the dangers ahead. 2009.144.2 - MS32. Eager to see Hastings’ much-hyped shortcut, he went ahead to scout the trail. In fact, local Native Americans estimated that they still had a month before the first snows would close the pass. Ahead of the Donners, Hastings’ party ran into serious trouble when they tried to traverse Weber Canyon. Though Virginia said her family had not eaten human flesh to survive, other members of the party had. The trail presented problems from the start. This certainly didn’t supply much in the way of sustenance, but simply giving the teeth something to chew on apparently went some way to “soothe the gnawings which made one cry for bread and meat.”. It snowed 1.5 meters (5 ft) that night. One of the party, Edwin Bryant, wrote: “Strewn around the cabins were dislocated and broken bones—skulls (in some instances sawed asunder with care for the purpose of extracting the brains)—human skeletons, in short, in every variety of mutilation. Lansford Hastings was an adventurer who promoted a shortcut that he claimed would shave hundreds of miles off the journey west, while also providing a trail free of hostile Native Americans. Apparently, the pair struggled to believe what Eddy was telling them but vanished out of fear once they recovered from their shock. He describes why the story of the Donner party has had such a lasting resonance. Lansford Hastings was an ambitious attorney who saw the promise in California and Oregon years before the Gold Rush sent thousands of fortune-seekers out west. The Donner, Reed, and some other families decided to trust this guy handing out pamphlets in wilderness. Because of the time lost taking Hastings Cutoff, the party ran into a catastrophic—and fatal—snowstorm. Almost a year to the day after the Donners began their journey west, it was over. Pionierów próbował ostrzec także dziennikarz Edwin Bryant, który przez jakiś czas podróżował z nimi, by w końcu odłączyć się od grupy. (See Week #13 in Donner Party series by McLaughlin.) Edwin Bryant is in the 1st generation of the family tree for Edwin Bryant (Ahnentafel #1). Vasquez had a letter from Reed's friend Edwin Bryant warning Reed about the dangers of the cutoff but he failed to deliver the note. At this point, most of the wagon train wisely decided to take the established route. Probably, although nothing has ever been proven. The name was fairly appropriate—the group left walking on homemade snowshoes and took almost no food or supplies with them. Another member, William Eddy, strongly disagreed and even warned Luis and Salvador about the potential plot. It is at least of the same order of suffering as that endured by Washington’s troops while in Valley Forge. It was a perilous journey. Convinced the trail spelled disaster, he returned to the trading post at Black Fork and left a warning letter for the Donner party, instructing them not to risk the shortcut. Edwin Bryant (Actor, voice-over): Singular as it may appear, there is as much electioneering here for the captaincy of this expedition as there is for the presidency of the United States. When the party finally made it across the salt flats, they rejoined the trail usually taken by emigrants. It has since been established that the worst winter in the recorded history of the Sierra Nevada just happened to be the year the Donner party attempted to make it through. “The most direct route, for the California emigrants, would be to leave the Oregon route, about two hundred miles east from Fort Hall, thence bearing west southwest, to the Salt Lake; and thence continuing down to the bay of St. Francisco,” Hastings declared. To further publicize his route, Hastings wrote open letters claiming that his route would save pioneers’ time, and that he’d meet anyone interested at Fort Bridger to lead them to California. The weather was mild and because he wasn’t headed toward the Sierra Nevadas, time was not of the essence. But once the Forlorn Hope had finished eating those who had died of natural causes, member William Foster suggested that they should kill Luis and Salvador, the only non-whites present. They brought with them an expert knowledge of survival in the Sierras and a willingness to put their own lives at risk to reach the stranded party. Safe travel west meant hitting the “sweet spot” for timing. Margaret Reed recalled that the group “had not the first thing to eat. By the time they got to Fort Bridger, they were determined to take the new route. Things came to a head shortly after the party made it through Hastings’ Cutoff and returned to the more established trail. Bryant's group passed directly through the location it later occurred at and Bryant notes in particular the 1844 cabin that saved the lives of people in similar straights. By late April 1847, the tragedy of the Donner party was finally over. 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