The Donner family and their hired teamsters left Springfield, Illinois in April, 1846. At Independence, Missouri, their wagons joined hundreds of others traveling west on the Oregon-California Trail.
The New Captain Takes a Shortcut
Upon reaching the Little Sandy River, several families including the Donners, left the main wagon trail in favor of a shortcut. This small band of pioneers elected George Donner as Captain.
In August, the 23 wagons of the Donner Party headed west from Fort Bridger, the last outpost of "civilization" until they reached Sutter's Fort in California's Sacramento Valley, over 1,000 miles away.
(Side bar at top right:)
I never could have believed we could have traveled so far with so little difficulty.
Mrs. George Donner
From a letter written by Tamzene Donner, in Nebraska near the junction of the North and South Platte Rivers - June 16, 1846