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Jul 28, 2014, 07:47 PM
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Donner party rumor

There was a long time rumor that the Donner party, or at least the leftovers, were buried in Dublin. The rumor was false. Elisha Harlan is buried there, but was only a grandson of George Harlan, who led the 1st wagon train on a harrowing journey through the Hastings cutoff. Various pioneers who made the 1st crossing of Hasting's cutoff in the same season as the Donner party are buried in the valley, but none who actually got stranded in Truckee.

Little was made of Brigham Young using the Hastings cutoff to reach Salt Lake. It was just a footnote in all the literature. Truth be told, it was a big deal. The route was initially proposed by Lansford Hastings, a confirmed con artist. He hoped to create an independent nation in Calif* with him as leader by getting Americans to migrate through this faster route.

In reality, the path through the Wasatch mountains was virtually impassible. The Donner party traversed it just a year before BY & it contributed to their deaths. Kiwipedia tells a harrowing tale of boulders having to be moved, harrowing canyons, brush having to be cleared, wagon wheels having to be locked because of the steep inclines, & only 1.5 miles per day of progress.

BY followed this same ill fated route, was the 1st one to lay eyes on it after the Donner party crossed & perished, but was apparently much better equipped with 143 men instead of 30. His party followed the tracks of the Donner party & benefited greatly from the Donner party's sacrifices. Even with more improvements, the route taken by BY & Donner remaned impractical & was replaced by easier routes in the next few years, becoming an abandonned artifact of a very difficult past to this day.

There is no free map of the original Hastings cutoff, but there is a low resolution Kiwipedia image which can be overlaid on the modern interstate. Con artist though he was, Hastings did forsee the modern route.

The interstate avoids most of it. The original route was dictated by the need for oxen to eat & drink, so it hugged the grass lands & picked a shorter route across the desert in exchange for more mountains. The original route directly east of Salt Lake seems utterly nuts, considering it had oxen pulling wagons straight up mountains while the modern route has trucks on gently sloping grades.

Notes about the 1st wagon crossing, which followed the I84 route down Weber canyon & involved hand carrying wagons over a former 75 ft granite wall called Devil's Gate.

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The Donner party diverted south of this & used the current Emigration Canyon Rd, which ended up being much harder.

Notes about the BY crossing. It diverted slightly north of the Donner tracks 1.4 miles from the end of the canyon, undoubtedly due to energy saved by all the clearing done by the Donner party.

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Each wagon train successively found a better route.

None of the 1st wagon trains using Hastings cutoff were able to reach Calif* without becoming stranded & requiring rescue near Donner pass. Hastings himself never followed it all the way to Calif*. Most were lucky enough to reach Donner pass before winter. All lost too much of their cattle & supplies in the Utah crossing to make it through the Sierras.
Last edited by Jack Crossfire; Jul 28, 2014 at 10:00 PM.
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