The Donner party left Springfield, Illinois in April 1846 led by two wealthy brothers, Jacob and George Donner. The emigrants initially followed the regular California trail westward to Fort Bridger, Wyoming. From there, however, the emigrants decided to take a shortcut proposed by Lansford Hastings.
Indians Give a Hand
After following Hastings notes' into the desert which he claimed to be 35 miles wide, the emigrants grew tiresome from lack of water. Oxen and cattle driven by thirst run and stampede causing problems.
Once along the Humboldt River an altercation between Reed and Snyder erupts causing Snyder to lose his the life, the group later banished Reed forcing him to leave his wife and kids.
As the disorganized party moved forward they unknowingly entered Paiute Country and the natives recognized the parties vulnerability. So each night arrows whizzed down on the camps targeting livestock.
A powerful Alaskan front came in dropping 5 feet of snow overnight causing the party to split once more. Some stay at Alder Creek to build shelters while half of the group kept moving forward looking for help.
With little firewood and food the emigrants had to resort to drastic measures in order to survive. Some Forlorn Group members resorted to eating fellow deceased snow shoers.