Posts Tagged ‘Utah’

On February 19, 1847, a group of rescuers, traveling from Sacramento Valley, reached the Donner Party’s camp at Truckee Lake in the Sierra Nevada.  The Donner Party was a wagon train consisting of several families emigrating west to California in 1846.  Though the California Trail was well established at that time, the Donner Party had received word of a short-cut that promised to save 350 miles’ travel by traversing the Wasatch Mountains and the Great Salt Lake Desert.  The new route was called Hastings’ Cutoff, and it was described in Lansford Hastings’ The Emigrants’ Guide to Oregon and California from 1845.

A lithograph depiction of the camp at Donner Lake in November 1846, created by C.W. Burton circa 1879. Image courtesy of the UC Berkeley Bancroft Library, made available via Calisphere.

Timing was crucial because the pioneers needed to cross the Sierra Nevada before the winter brought heavy snow to the mountains.  Though Hastings’s Cutoff offered a shorter route, few had followed the trail, and the Donner Party was responsible for the arduous work of clearing the path for their wagon train.  Several other incidents delayed their travel, including illness, stolen oxen, and dwindling supplies.  In late October, the Party had reached Truckee Lake and stopped to rest.  The snows were not expected for another month, but when the snow came early, the families set up camp for the winter.  From November to February, 24 members of 87-member Party had died, primarily of starvation or hypothermia.  In order to survive, the living had no choice but to eat the flesh of those who had perished.

James Frazier Reed, shown here with wife Margaret Keyes Reed, was a member of one of the two surviving families. Image courtesy of Utah State History.

In the first rescue effort, 21 members of the party, aged 2-32, were guided over the mountains into Bear Valley, though three more died along the way.  A second and third relief group arrived on March 1 and 14, but several others had died in the intervening weeks.  By April, the 48 surviving members of the party had reached California.  In 1911, Eliza Houghton, the youngest daughter of George Donner, published a first-hand account entitled The Expedition of the Donner Party and Its Tragic Fate. She was three years old and an orphan when she was rescued by the final relief effort on March 14, 1847.

Monument in Truckee dedicated to the Donner Party, depicting a pioneer family. Image courtesy of the University of Southern California.

The texts and images above are drawn from various collections that may be accessed through Opening History.  Collections containing items related to the Donner Party include California As I Saw It: First-person Narratives of California’s Early Years, 1849-1900 from the Library of Congress; Trails of Hope: Overland Diaries and Letters, 1846-1869 from Brigham Young University; and the University of Utah Photo Archives among others.


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According to Wikipedia, the first elephant ever seen in the United States arrived from India on April 13, 1796.

The photograph below, courtesy of Utah State Historical Society Classified Photograph Collection, shows elephants Princess Alice and baby Prince Utah in 1918 in Liberty Park Zoo, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Elephants. P.6

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YWCA founded 140 years ago

The YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association) was founded 140 years ago, on February 10, 1870, in New York City. Originally the services provided by the association includes access to educational and religious classes, hostels for young women, and opportunities for both service and recreation. Today YWCA is a movement of women working for social and economic change around the world, and is present in over 120 countries.
The photograph below, taken in 1918, courtesy of Utah State Historical Society, Shipler Photograph Collection, illustrates the recreation mission of the YWCA.

Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) Group (1918)

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Thomas Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924), the 28th President of the United States and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was born in Staunton, Virginia, on December 28, 1856. The photograph below, courtesy of the Utah State Historical Society Classified Photograph Collection, shows President Woodrow Wilson presenting Victory Loan medals to Boy Scout Troop 51 at the Utah State Capitol.

Woodrow Wilson

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December 11 is observed worldwide as International Mountain Day since 2003.
International Mountain Day is an opportunity to create awareness about the importance of mountains to life, to highlight the opportunities and constraints in mountain development and to build partnerships that will bring positive change to the world’s mountains and highlands.

High Uintas mountains Kamas Lake
The photograph above, courtesy of Brigham Young University’s Harold B. Lee Library, George Beard Photograph Collection, was taken by George Beard in High Uintas mountains around Kamas Lake in Summit County, Utah, between 1900 and 1909.

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