The Donner Party - Kristin Johnson

This website was created on August 29, 1997, and was last edited on November 5, 2006.
The most recent changes, which may have been minor, are listed on the
Updates page.

Please note: This website is based on the assumption that the reader is already familiar with the Donner Party story.

Website highlights

New! Visit my Donner Blog!

Revised Myths and Mysteries page.

Alder Creek report in Donner Party Bulletin No. 15.
Full text of What I Saw in California, by Edwin Bryant.
Full texts of Miller-Reed, Patrick Breen, First Relief, Second Relief, & Fourth Relief diaries.


          At the beginning of November 1846 a group of California-bound emigrants was trapped by snow in the Sierra Nevada. By the time the last member reached safety six months later, nearly half of the 81 men, women, and children had died of cold and starvation. Many of those who survived had resorted to cannibalism.
          The story of the Donner Party is one of the most fascinating in the history of the American West. The saga of how a group of ordinary people struggled almost to their journeys end only to encounter greater hardship, even death, continues to intrigue. Over the years the Donner story has been told by many different people in many different ways, but much of what has been written about the Donner Party is fiction. One authors interpretation has become the next generations fact, and few have stopped to question commonly held beliefs.
          This website was created to make public new information about the Donner Party and its members, to ask questions and challenge assumptions.


Chronology. A brief outline of the Donner Party story.
Donner Party Roster. List of Donner Party members with accurate biographical information.
Rescuers. Biographical information about the rescuers of the Donner Party.
Sources. Historic documents, books, and articles about the Donner Party; links to many full-text documents.
Myths, Misconceptions, and Mysteries. Dubious tales and unanswered questions still cling to the Donner story.
Donner Party FAQ. Answers to Frequently Asked Questions.
Student Page. Suggestions and links for your school projects.
Statistics. Data about the number, age, gender, and mortality of Donner Party members.
Donner Party News. News items of interest to Donner Party aficionados.
Donner Party Bulletin. Updates on current research.
Links. Many hyperlinks to Donner-related information.
"New" sources. Recently discovered or little-known documents that add to our knowledge of the disaster and its participants.
Recent Books. Information about the most recent books on the Donner Party.
"Unfortunate Emigrants". Publication information and excerpts from reviews.
Guestbook. Temporarily closed, but you can read the comments of previous visitors.
Website Updates. Check here to see what changes have been made to the site since the last time you dropped in.

About the author

Kristin Johnson has been researching the Donner Party since the fall of 1992. A librarian at Salt Lake Community College, she is the compiler/editor of "Unfortunate Emigrants": Narratives of the Donner Party (Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 1996), which in 1997 was awarded a Certificate of Commendation from the American Association for State and Local History. She is the historian for the Donner Party Archaeology Project and the former editor of Crossroads, the newsletter of the Utah Crossroads Chapter of the Oregon-California Trails Association (OCTA). The contents of this webpage and the newsletter, Donner Party Bulletin, are the product of her years of research.

Be sure to visit Roy Teas Hastings Cutoff homepage and virtual tour of the Hastings Trail.

Full texts of the Miller-Reed, Patrick Breen, First Relief, Second Relief, and Fourth Relief diaries.
Full text of Edwin Bryant's
What I Saw in California.

See Dan M. Rosen’s The Donner Party for a complete chronology of the disaster.
Researching your family history? Try
USGenWeb ProjectRootsWeb, or FamilySearch.
If you’re planning a pilgrimage to Donner Lake, visit the Donner Memorial State Park website.

| Home Page | Chronology | Roster | Rescuers | Statistics | Documents | Myths | Recent Books
"Unfortunate Emigrants"Bulletin | Site Updates | Guestbook | Links | FAQ | Utah Crossroads |
Student Page | Sources | Donner Party News

E-mail to Kristin Johnson

Revised: 31 Jan 2006

Original content copyright 1997-2006 by Kristin Johnson. All rights reserved.




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