On a journey to a better life in California, the infamous Donner party, met sorrow at every turn. Before their journey began, they encountered a shortcut discovered by Hastings. Like any other normal person, they decided to take the easier route that unfortunately led to tragedy. There were many key elements leading to the misfortune of this group. From the beginning of their journey, the Donner party made mistakes.
First of all, at the time of the party’s departure there was an outbreak of cholera and malaria. Germs and disease are not good to carry along a journey half way across the country. Even the slightest germs were deadly to them. After they passed Independence, Missouri, they were in unfamiliar land. All they knew was that there was desert and mountainous are ahead, yet they continued on. Soon after, Grandma Reed died due to such a rough journey.
This was probably a good indication that they should take the longer safer route, but they continued on by Hastings shortcut. Then they ran into a man by the last name of Kleiman. He warned the group that the road ahead was very tough and that Hastings had trouble on the route himself. Kleiman told Mr.
Donner NOT to take Hastings route, but the Donner party continued despite their warning. Mr. Hastings promised the party that he would wait for them at a fort along the way to California. When the party reached the fort, Hastings had already gone ahead a week earlier with another group.
He left simple instructions for the Donner party to follow telling them it would not take long to get to Salt Lake. Then they turned off track into the wilderness. It took 6 days to chop through to Big Mountain and one month to reach Salt Lake rather than the week they had been promised. After 3 days they ran out of water and Reed’s oxen ran away and could not be found. Thirty-six oxen were lost and wagons had to be left behind in order to get over the mountain.
Then Reed killed Schneider because he was whipping the oxen. Everyone was going mad. Indians killed 21 more oxen and then the Donner axle broke on the first wagon. To make things worse, they encountered blizzard like snow and sleet. If they had rested 4 days instead of 5 they would have made it through to California safely without having to deal with any of the conditions mentioned above.
It turns out that Hastings “shortcut” was actually 125 miles longer than the longer safer route. Each of the circumstances that they dealt with could have been easily avoided by taking the longer route that had been traveled on many times before. Unfortunately, many people died and suffered because of key elements like weather and misjudgments. The lesson learned from this tragedy is, “never take no cut offs and hurry along as fast as you can.” Bibliography: