Sunday, April 20, 2014

James F. Reed And The Donner Party

James F. Reed And His Wife
  James F. Reed was an Illinois merchant that lived close to Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln in Springfield Illinois. Reed and his family joined a wagon train in 1846 that was headed for California. After reaching Wyoming Reed's family along with several other families decided to break away from the larger wagon train and take a different route. One of the men in Reed's group was named George Donner. This group would eventually come to be known as the infamous Donner party. When the Donner party reached Ft. Bridger it made the mistake of taking a path called the Hastings Cut-Off. This path caused them to lose about forty days which would eventually place them in a life or death situation. During this period some of the men's nerves became frayed causing tempers to run short. An argument broke out between two of Reed's companions. Reed tried to break up the argument but one of the men beat Reed with a bull whip. In an effort to defend himself Reed stabbed the man in the chest. It was decided by the Donner Party that Reed would have to leave. His wife and family could stay but he would have go. He was sent off without a gun or food into the wilderness. On November 1, 1846, just three miles from the summit of the Sierra Nevada mountains the Donner party was trapped by heavy snow. It would be stuck there for over three months. In the meantime people began dying of hunger and the members of the wagon train resorted to cannibalism in order to survive. Then in February 1847 who should appear but James Reed leading a rescue party. He had nearly died of starvation himself but he eventually found Sutter's Fort California on October 28, 1846. He tried to organize a relief expedition but was blocked by snow. The Mexican War had started in May of that year and he was needed to fight. On January 2, 1847 he fought in the battle of Santa Clara. Finally in February citizens and Naval Officers of San Francisco helped fund and lead another rescue mission along with Reed into the Sierra Nevada. Reed found his entire family alive but separated over a period of several days. George Donner was alive but would be dead in a few days of gangrene. Out of 79 people only 45 survived.
The route of the Donner party

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