|The Perilous Journey
of the Donner Party
In April 1846, 32 people set out from Springfield, Illinois, in search of a better life in the largely unsettled California territory. Joining forces with other emigrants along the trail, they became known as the Donner Party. The journey started well. Then the pioneers fell perilously behind due to questionable choices, infighting, and plain bad luck.
By the time the Donner Party began to cross the Sierra Nevada, winter had arrived. Stopped by impassable snows, 81 people were trapped in the mountains with rapidly dwindling food and supplies. Those who survived did so at an appalling cost; some of the survivors ate the dead.
This historic journey
is chronicled in detail and with unique attention to the experiences of
the children and teenagers who made up nearly half of the group. The author
especially draws on the observations of Virginia Reed, who was 12 years
old when her family left Springfield. Virginia's letters and recollections
give a personal voice to the tragic tale. The 192-page book also includes
about 85 photographs, some of which have never been published before.
VIDEO: PBS "American Experience" 90-minute documentary by Ric Burns
Donner Party - Diaries, accounts, interviews, and diagrams made by actual participants as well as photographs of artifacts, people, and location.
The Perilous Journey of the Donner Party has been awarded:
An ALA Best Book of the Year
Marian Calabro is a writer with a special interest in history and biography. She first became intrigued by the Donner Party one winter when she and several friends suddenly encountered blinding fog while crossing Donner Pass at night. In researching The Perilous Journey of the Donner Party, she traveled West several times and attended a reunion of Donner Party descendants and scholars.
Ms. Calabro is the author of three previous books, all nonfiction: Operation Grizzly Bear; Zap! A Brief History of Television; and Great Courtroom Lawyers. She is also a business writer who has written corporate histories.
A graduate of Rutgers College, she lives in northern New Jersey with her husband, the writer Bernie Libster.