Narrator: It began in the 1840s, spurred on by financial panic in the East, by outbreaks of cholera and malaria and by the ceaseless American hankering to move west. At last we reached the foot of the main ridge near Truckee Lake. That spring, talk was everywhere of a new and faster way. Narrator: On January 10th, 1847, the United States Marines took Los Angeles from the Mexicans. Her breasts were cut off, her heart and liver taken out. I don’t know. Hungry times in camp. Susana Fernandes In places, their wagon wheels carved ruts shoulder deep in the rocky road. They were in what the mountain men called “Oregon country” now, 1,000 miles from Independence with more than 1,000 miles still to go. Of the five months the Donner Party spent trapped in the mountains, nearly half of it … Looks as likely to continue as when it commenced. Relief Party member (Actor, voice-over): The picture of distress was shocking indeed. On July 18th, they crossed the Continental Divide. The rescue process took over two months. From November 20, 1846 to March 1, 1847, Irish immigrant Patrick Breen, a Donner party member, kept a diary of his ordeal in the mountains. On October 16th, the battered party finally reached the Truckee, the narrow, rushing river that served as gateway to the Sierra. Some blamed Reed for the delay, but there was little time for recrimination. The community of Paradise, California, a town in the Sierra Nevada foothills, attempts to rebuild after devastating wildfires in 2018. The Indians stood disbelieving for a moment, then silently disappeared into the snowy woods. We have got through with our lives. Emigration to California fell off sharply and Hastings’s cutoff was all but abandoned. It took two grueling days to scale the summit. Robert Weinstein Collection On the sixth day their food ran out. George, who was dying, begged her to leave. 12-year-old Lem Murphy lay shuddering, all but dead. He was the one who caused all their trouble because they lost their way in the Wasatch and they lost half of their animals and a lot of their hope, crossing the desert south of Great Salt Lake. No one was keener to possess California than Lansford W. Hastings, an ambitious 27-year-old lawyer from Mount Vernon, Ohio, whose visions of empire would be the Donner Party’s doom. We do not give formal awards. Lois Smith SEPTEMBER 15, 2019 Penetrators Back on Top. It is barely possible to get through if you follow it and it may be impossible if you don’t. He names the river flowing through the valley, the Carson River, after his scout, Kit Carson. California Historical Society The highest peak in the contiguous United States, Mount Whitney at 14,505 feet, lies within the Sierra Nevada. If youâre looking for your next great hiking adventure, check out the High Sierra Trail documentary. M. H. DeYoung Museum At first Reed refused to go, but there was no choice. A lovelier scene was never gazed upon, nor one of more profound solitude. Someone cut the flesh from the arms and legs of Patrick Dolan. But they made the great mistake of listening to Lansford Hastings. Harold Schindler, Writer: Human endeavor and failure, blunders, mistakes, ambition, greed: all the elements. MORE. Relics from the camps, bits of china, buttons and nails, wood shavings from the cabins became popular souvenirs. The slips of paper were prepared and Patrick Dolan drew the fatal slip. The Sierra Nevada Ally is a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation based in Reno, NV. Performed by Clannad Time and again the hostile terrain brought them to a standstill while the men cursed and toiled and hacked a road through the dense undergrowth. On May 27th, the wagon train came to a standstill on the east bank of the Big Blue River, too swollen by rain to be forded. The wind blew very hard and if it had not been for the dogs, we would have frozen. Using archival photographs, paintings, and maps; diaries, letters and memoirs of the party members; interviews with writers and historians; and new cinematography from across the Oregon and California trails, The Donner Party traces the emigrants’ 2500-mile journey from Springfield, Illinois to Sutter’s Fort in California. HISTORY. I am willing to go and have no doubt it will be an advantage to our children and to us. It is a beautiful country. Wallace Stegner, Writer: Oh, it’s got everything. Somehow, Margaret Reed had managed to keep all her children alive. Mrs. Eddy died on the night of the 7th. It was a siren call and bad news. 12 emigrants had died and bodies lay everywhere on top of the snow, covered with quilts. Steve Longstreth That night, crazed with thirst, the Reeds’ oxen bolted into the desert and could not be found. Emigrants hurried from store to store, purchasing supplies and anxiously inquiring after the latest news. We will bury him in the snow. On July 15th, he crossed the Big Blue River and came to the grave of Margaret Reed’s mother. Narrator: On February 5th, the first small relief party left Johnson’s ranch and struggled slowly up into the snowy mountains. There was almost no food to spare for the 31 desperate people left behind. They roasted the meat and ate it, averting their faces from each other and weeping. Narrator: Someone would have to ride ahead to California and bring back relief. Also, an added bonus: This is a family-friendly show, and streaming it at home is a good way to train young children to appreciate live performance and learn to be good audience members. “We camped with them,” Clyman remembered, “and continued the conversation until a late hour.” Reed, anxious to make up for lost time, asked Clyman what he thought of Hastings’s new route. Patrick Breen (Actor, voice-over): Friday, February the 26th. The next morning the party made a frantic dash for the pass, but five feet had already fallen higher up and the wagons began to slip on the steep, rocky ascent. Donner Memorial State Park Between are the peaceful fields of Tuolumne Meadows, the geologic curiosities at Devils Postpile, the picturesque Ansel Adams Wilderness and so much more. Tamsen Donner’s body was never found. Twelve miles from the summit Reed could go no further and turned back again to Sutter’s Fort for help. The Sierra Nevada region in California is teeming with wildlife. The party started up the river again. An assembly was convened to decide what should be done. They took six days’ starvation rations apiece. Most of the emigrants heeded James Clyman’s warning and turned right, but 20 wagons, including the nine belonging to the Donners and the Reeds, turned left towards Fort Bridger and the entrance to Hastings’s cutoff. Punishing storms trapped the party with nearly no food or shelter for 5 months in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Their paradise came to a violent end as volcanic and earth movements radically changed the landscape and vegetation (Figure 2). They brought mail from Independence and news that hostilities had broken out between the United States and Mexico on the Rio Grande. It's a very narrow-vision point of view of such a massive scale disaster that it feels a bit like a wasted opportunity. Came to this place on the 31st of last month that it snowed. Beyond them to the west stretched a glittering plain of salt. Harriet burst into tears and helped William Eddy into bed. Narrator: In early September, Lansford Hastings rode into Sutter’s Fort at the head of a battered train of 80 wagons. Wallace Stegner, Original Music Composed and Arranged by Wyoming State Museum When "Survivorman" Les Stroud gets lost in the rugged Sierra Nevada mountains, a Search and Rescue team is called in to track him down. Patrick Breen (Actor, voice-over): Friday, November the 20th, 1846. But of all the stories to come out of the West, none has cut more deeply into the imagination of the American people than the tale of the Donner Party, high in the Sierra Nevada in the winter of 1846. “The White Arcades” PLAYERS. Each night violent thunderstorms broke over the wagon trains, scattering cattle and drenching the encampments. Join Chris as he drives his friend John to insanity over 6 days in the Sierra Nevada. Narrator: One afternoon Peggy Breen motioned Margaret Reed outside to tell her that her daughter, Virginia, was dying. --Rodney Keinath . Alone among the survivors, Lewis Keseberg spoke openly of eating human flesh and was reviled as a man-eater and ghoul. May 11th, 1846. With the death of Snyder and the banishment of James Reed, the Donner Party was coming apart. Donald Buck, Historian: Once you got beyond Fort Laramie, there was no turning back. The Donners and the Reeds got started on May 12th. And for generations its been Californias backyard mountain range. Narrator: Two children had died and more were failing fast when the first relief party caught sight of something moving towards them through the trees. Angelo Badalamenti Tamsen refused. Except for the Donner Party, all the emigrants of 1846 had made it safely through to California. PLAYERS. It was in 1846 that the Mormons set out on their trek to the Great Salt Lake. Virginia Reed (Actress, voice-over): Papa carried Thomas and all the rest of us walked. A second drafty cabin housed the family of Franklin Graves at one end and Margaret Reed and her four children at the other. Courtesy of Tara Records, “Fear and Loathing at 4th and Butternut” The promoter had started west a week earlier at the head of another group of wagons, leaving instructions for any emigrants who wished to follow along behind. Narrator: Most of the men, women and children of the Donner Party were rapidly absorbed into the population of California. Narrator: The 81 members of the Donner Party -- 25 men, 15 women and 41 children, including six nursing infants -- were now huddled miserably in two makeshift winter camps. The US Best Managed Companies program is sponsored by Deloitte Private and The Wall Street Journal. A modern, multifaceted look at the city of Chicago. And if you call the rescue of the surviving parties a happy ending, it’s a happy ending. Lansford Hastings wasn’t there. This exciting documentary bounces back and forth between the modern experience of hiking the High Sierra Trail, and the early 1900’s when the trail was created. In March of 1996, armed with a typewriter and an idea, founder Mike Borda sent a letter to 8 other players inviting them to what is now known as the Sierra Nevada Classic. James Reed hurried over to stop it, but only enraged Snyder further, who struck him savagely on the head with his whip. Narrator: On Thanksgiving, it began snowing again. Ric Burns wrote, directed and co-produced the film The Donner Party. The rest of the camp was a shambles. Great was my surprise when I carefully opened the folds and found that I had nothing to show. Thursday, December 31st. No one else was alive. Ma spread down a buffalo robe and sat up by the fire. George and Tamsen Donner’s orphaned children were soon split up. Narrator: That night they camped 1,000 feet beneath the dark, granite summit, waiting anxiously for the Donner wagons to catch up, praying that the weather would hold. They are fundamental to who we are: Without the foothills gold-festooned gravel, few would have crossed the continent to get here. The fourth relief party was delayed one full month by the ninth and final blizzard of what was the worst winter ever recorded in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. By the ninth day out, they were hopelessly lost high in the California mountains. Please feel free to contribute a photo or two of the wildlife you've been lucky enough to encounter in the Sierra. Thomas H. Hunt The same day the Donners and the Reeds rolled west out of Springfield, Lansford Hastings prepared to head east from California, to see what the shortcut he was promoting was really like. I am going to write to you about our troubles in getting to California. All five women had survived. This time, Sutter had none to give. No living thing without wings can get about. Rebuilding Paradise They retraced their steps to the lake and started building a winter camp. David desperately tries to keep his family of six together during a separation from his wife. Captured in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Eastern California in the 1970s, these legendary recordings have become known as âThe Sierra Soundsâ. Oakland Museum I never knew about the Shays before. She was the first to die. George Davis, Eighth Frame Camera, Titles and Opticals For a week they made good time, 10 sometimes 12 miles a day, working their way deeper into the rugged mountains, following the track of Hastings’s wagons. Joseph King, Historian: I think we’re curious, you know, about people who’ve experienced hardship, who’ve gone through terrible ordeals, and certainly the Donner Party, you know, 87 people, went through a crisis the like of which few human beings have ever faced. Gene Jones The Reeds’ palace wagon had to be laboriously double-teamed over even moderate inclines, to the immense irritation of those forced to crawl along behind. In July of that year, following the advice of a guide book written by a persuasive promoter named Lansford W. Hastings, the Donner party split off from the main body of emigrants heading for California to take an untried “shortcut” across the barren reaches of the Great Basin which is bordered by the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada. Latest From Nevada Today. Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global aerospace and national security leader owned by Eren and Fatih Ozmen, has been named a US Best Managed Aerospace & Defense Company for 2020. 1844 Explorer John C. Fremont travels through Western Nevada, including the future site of Carson City. The Kogi (/ Ë k oÊ É¡ i / KOH-gee), or Cogui, or Kágaba, meaning "jaguar" in the Kogi language, are an indigenous ethnic group that live in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains in northern Colombia.Their culture has continued since the Pre-Columbian era. Farewell, my sister. Eddy’s child, Margaret, died last night. Courtesy of Polygram Music and MCA Music, Additional Pre-Recorded Music The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the very spindle from which the all-knowing Mother’s thread unwinds, turning possibility into reality, dreams and … Cannon On February 22nd, the first relief party started back. Two more attempts to get over the pass ended in failure, the emigrants floundering in the 20-foot drifts. The majority declared the deed murder and demanded retribution. Centers around a family gathering on the anniversary of a patriarch's recent death. The rest of them in a low situation. Reed drew his hunting knife and, as Snyder raised his arm to strike again, drove it into the teamster’s chest just below the collarbone. For two more months four relief parties battled the terrible snow and cold of the Sierra Nevada to try to save the starving emigrants. “Wanderer” SIERRA NEVADA CLASSIC. With Erin Brockovich-Ellis, Matt Gates, Michelle John, Woody Culleton. George Plimpton The American dream has some nightmares attached to it and this is one of the ways the American dream could go. Only two of the 10 men had made it through. The Huntington Library John Alagna, The Effects House. The farther we went up, the deeper the snow got. John E. Allen, Inc., Cinema Arts, Inc. Color Timing When he did, the promoter refused to come back to lead the company himself, pointing out what he thought might be a more manageable route from a high peak, instead. The Indians knew we were doomed and one of them wrapped his blanket about him and stood all night under a tree. Courtesy of North Star Records, Archival Material Every time we come into the wagon, we look at the bed for her. The mules kept falling down in the snow head foremost and the Indian said he could not find the road. Each morning the skies cleared, but the trail had turned to mud. Snowing fast, about four or five feet deep. Join Chris as he drives his friend John to insanity over 6 days in the Sierra Nevada. Monday, the 8th. They cursed him also for his misrepresentation of the distance across this cruel desert. Narrator: When she heard her husband’s voice, Margaret Reed stumbled in the snow and almost fainted. Ron Howard turns to documentary (not for the first time: only in the last few years he did one on the Beatles and Pavarotti) but like often in his movies, he manages to produce a handsome, properly crafted piece of work and yet a rather unmemorable one too (yes there are exceptions: Frost/Nixon is great, Rush was good, I have a soft spot for Cocoon and Apollo 13... but the Dan Brown film are really terrible). California State Library courtesy of Varrick/Rounder Records, “White Cockade” I am fearful the snow is too deep for the last company of emigrants to cross the mountains. The Sierra Nevada Film Festival is a non-competitive festival. Lansford W. Hastings (Actor, voice-over): March 3rd, 1846. Eliza and Georgia were adopted by a Swiss couple who lived near Sutter’s Fort. Daniel Rhoads (Actor, voice-over): At sunset, we crossed Truckee Lake on the ice and came to the spot where we had been told we should find the emigrants. Come, boys, you can have as much land as you want without costing you anything.” The notice was signed G. Donner, George Donner, leader of what was to become the most famous of all the hundreds of wagon trains to start for the far west, the tragic, now nearly mythic Donner Party. We got to the Donners’ wagon and they were all asleep, so we laid down on the ground. Fort Laramie National Historic Site Native American tribes are facing real struggles in the United States that are often overlooked. So did the Donners. They cleave to the things of this world as if assured that they will never die, and yet rush to snatch any that comes within their reach as if they expected to stop living before they had relished them. VIDEO. DOCUMENTARY. RESULTS. Eliza Donner (Actress, voice-over): Even the wind seemed to hold its breath as the suggestion was made that were one to die, the rest might live. The terrible ordeals of the Donner Party passed into history and legend. The company went into camp to build a makeshift ferry. I could scarcely believe that I was alive. Then, in January, 1848, gold was discovered in John Sutter’s creek. George Donner was a 62-year-old farmer who had migrated five times before settling in Springfield, where he and his older brother Jacob had made enough money never to have to move again. James Clyman (Actor, voice-over): I told him about the great desert and the roughness of the Sierras and that a straight route might turn out to be impracticable. Three years before the Gold Rush, 87 pioneers took a shortcut westward to California, only to get caught in the snows of the Sierra Nevada. MORE. Finally, on September 26th, the Donner Party reached the Humboldt River where the shortcut rejoined the old trail. Narrator: On May 31st, two days after the burial of Sarah Keyes, the last of the wagons was ferried safely over the Big Blue. The white-topped wagons and the men and animals belonging to them are the only relief to the tomb-like stillness of the landscape. I never could have believed we could have traveled so far with so little difficulty. Missouri Historical Society The relief effort would have to wait. HOME. A Steeplechase Films Production for AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. He dreamed of taking California from Mexico and of establishing an independent republic with himself at its head. It painted California as a second Eden and advertised a new and faster route across the Great Basin, a shortcut no one had ever seen -- including Hastings himself. Two thirds of the women and children made it through. These are some of the world's largest trees, rising majestically out of the snowy slopes along the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It runs along in Central and Eastern California, overlapping into neighboring Nevada in some areas. CONTACT. Narrator: To her father’s dismay, Virginia Reed kept the vow she’d made in the cabin by the lake and converted to Catholicism. Cutting timber for a new one, George gashed his hand and the family fell further behind. The Keddie murders are an unsolved 1981 quadruple homicide in Keddie, California, a rural resort town in the Sierra Nevada.The victims were Glenna Susan "Sue" Sharp (née Davis; born March 29, 1945); daughter Tina Lynn Sharp (born July 22, 1968); her son, John Steven Sharp (born November 16, 1965); and John's friend, Dana Hall Wingate (born February 8, 1964). Milt got back last night from the Donner’s camp. Harold Schindler, Writer: He’d heard that you could go south of the lake. 48 still clung to life, but some had gone mad and others were too far gone to be revived. Monday, November the 30th. Every day we would search for some sign of Papa, who would leave a letter by the wayside. It had taken them five days to cross the 80-mile desert Hastings had assured them was only half as wide. It was the parting of the ways. ... - Documentary, drama, comedy, animation, and experimental films will be considered. The ground was covered with green grass. Narrator: For weeks, the Americans at Sutter’s Fort had waited anxiously for the Donner Party to come in. “...Remember, never take no cut-offs and hurry along as fast as you can.” – Virginia Reed, Donner Party survivor. CONTACT. Such a beautiful place. The birds were singing from the tops of the trees and the journey was over. He has collaborated with the Arhuaco on documentary projects since 2004 when National Geographic published "Keepers of the World," about indigenous groups in the Sierra Nevada â¦ Want to share IMDb's rating on your own site? The weather is bad. Luke Halloran died of consumption this evening. 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