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Donner Party

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OPINION
May 2, 2010 | Ethan Rarick
A lot of headline writers had a field day in the middle of April, putting toppers on stories suggesting that members of the Donner Party might not have engaged in cannibalism: "Oops," they wrote, and "Sorry, folks." The claim, based on a university news release, was obviously a historical shocker sure to get people's attention — and yet it was grossly misleading, if not flat wrong. As a former journalist now working at a university, I'm not sure whether I'm more appalled at the performance of the Fourth Estate or the academy.
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NEWS
September 30, 2011 | By Mary Forgione, Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
Much has been said of the Donner Party, much of it not good. Here's a chance to hike the terrain and learn what really happened during the pioneers' horrific winter spent in the Sierra during their long wagon journey West in 1846-47. The 19th annual Donner Party Hike near Truckee, Calif., offers two days of immersion in the history of the Donner Party and other emigrant journeys that defined westward migration. On Oct. 8, participants can choose from six hikes (moderate to strenuous)
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SCIENCE
July 17, 2004 | From Times Staff and Wire Reports
Archeologists have unearthed a cooking hearth at a site in the Sierra where they believe the Donner Party gathered for meager meals in the months before starvation led to the country's most infamous tale of cannibalism. Government and university researchers said Wednesday that bone fragments they located appeared to be large enough to allow for DNA testing to determine whether they were human.
OPINION
May 2, 2010 | Ethan Rarick
A lot of headline writers had a field day in the middle of April, putting toppers on stories suggesting that members of the Donner Party might not have engaged in cannibalism: "Oops," they wrote, and "Sorry, folks." The claim, based on a university news release, was obviously a historical shocker sure to get people's attention — and yet it was grossly misleading, if not flat wrong. As a former journalist now working at a university, I'm not sure whether I'm more appalled at the performance of the Fourth Estate or the academy.
NEWS
May 1, 1990 | From Times Staff and Wire Reports
Nearly a century after her death, a simple marker has been placed on the grave of a member of the Donner Party--pioneers trapped in a Sierra blizzard who ate the flesh of dead companions to stay alive. Mary Graves Clarke settled in Tulare County after the Donner ordeal. Forty-eight people survived the brutal winter of 1846-47 by resorting to cannibalism of 42 others who died. At 19, Clarke left Independence, Mo.
NEWS
May 22, 2001 | MICHELLE HUNEVEN, SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
The writer James D. Houston had been living in Santa Cruz for 20 years when he found out that a member of the infamous Donner Party had died in his very own bedroom--a fact that set off a physical sensation in Houston. "There is a tingling across my scalp that I refer to as the literary buzz," says Houston, "a little signal from the top of my head that there is some mystery here, or some unrevealed linkage that will have to be explored. There is a story-size buzz. There is also a book-size buzz."
TRAVEL
June 7, 1998 | KARIN ESTERHAMMER, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Follow the trail of the ill-fated Donner party from Kansas City, Mo., to Donner Lake, Calif., from Oct. 24 to 31. The excursion is by tour bus, but in one section participants will ride in covered wagons and will have the option of taking a side trip in four-wheel-drive vehicles to see trail remnants and the infamous Hastings Cutoff, which the pioneers took disastrously. The tour ends 152 years to the day that the Donners were stranded in the Sierra for the winter.
NEWS
May 11, 1986 | ANN JAPENGA, Times Staff Writer
O Mary I have not rote you half of the truble we have had but I have rote you anuf to let you now that you dont now what truble is but thank god we have all got throw and the only family that did not eat human flesh. --Donner party survivor Patty Reed, 12, writing to her cousin in 1847. At about the age when children are most attracted to scary stories, they're apt to hear one in fourth-grade history class that tops anything whispered at a slumber party or summer camp.
NEWS
July 19, 1996 | ANN JAPENGA, Special to The Times
The fine focus is gone from the memory now. All Pat Ramsey can recall is an indistinct image of a picture hanging in her grandparents' house in Sacramento. "I remember somebody saying that behind the picture frame was something my grandfather didn't want to talk about," says Carmel resident Ramsey, 68. In Mary Murray's case, it was not a photograph but a book she wasn't supposed to discuss.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
January 12, 1992 | NANCY COSTELLO, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Women are twice as likely as men to survive extreme cold and hunger, based on new research on the Donner Party, 19th-Century pioneers who resorted to cannibalism to survive winter in the Sierra Nevada. More body fat, a lower metabolic rate and a temperament that is less prone to aggression make females the hardier sex when it comes to surviving disaster, according to archeologist Donald Grayson of the University of Washington.
ENTERTAINMENT
October 11, 2009 | By Gabrielle Burton
Last year, I won the lottery. After 36 years of writing about Tamsen Donner and the Donner Party, I sold two books on her: a memoir, "Searching for Tamsen Donner," and a novel, "Impatient With Desire." This summer, I set up gigs in Truckee, Calif., and Reno, as well as at the Emigrant Museum at California's Donner Pass, to read "Searching for Tamsen Donner" in the heart of Donner Party country. The Emigrant Museum, in a state park, was a particular challenge. If you want to hold an "event" in a California state park -- a wedding, a rock concert, a reading -- there is a 20-page, one-size-fits-all application.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
April 18, 2009 | Elaine Woo
James D. Houston, a novelist, essayist and short-story writer firmly rooted in the West, whose works explored his native California, Hawaiian culture and, in collaboration with his wife, the World War II internment of Japanese Americans, died Thursday at his home in Santa Cruz. He was 75. His death was due to complications of cancer, according to his daughter Gabrielle.
ENTERTAINMENT
March 22, 2009 | William Deverell, Deverell is director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West and professor of history at USC.
Searching for Tamsen Donner Gabrielle Burton University of Nebraska Press: 328 pp., $26.95 -- It's little wonder that some people remain obsessed by the story of the Donner Party. We all know the basic outline: An emigrant wagon train of 90 people headed for California starts west out of Illinois and Missouri in the spring of 1846. By the time the wagons and the walkers hit the eastern edge of the Sierra months later, they've already been cursed by bad luck, bad leadership and bad advice.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
May 14, 2006 | From the Associated Press
Archeologists will soon launch a major dig at the main Sierra campsite of the tragic Donner Party. The project is expected to begin by mid-June at the site selected for a new $6-million museum in Donner Lake Memorial State Park. A team of state parks archeologists will search for artifacts near the present museum on the east side of Donner Lake.
OPINION
February 5, 2006 | Ethan Rarick, ETHAN RARICK is at work on a new history of the Donner Party, to be published by Oxford University Press.
DECLARING THAT there may be a shortage of evidence for cannibalism in the Donner Party is like announcing that the Titanic may still be afloat -- the most notable chapter of a legendary story is thrown into doubt. The tale of the ill-fated pioneers of 1846 has transfixed Americans for a century and a half at least in part because of one universally known fact: snowbound and starving in the Sierra Nevada, members of the company were forced, out of dire necessity, to eat the dead.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
January 13, 2006 | Eric Bailey, Times Staff Writer
Nudging the history books, archeologists studying one of two campsites used by the ill-fated Donner Party during a snowbound Sierra winter 160 years ago announced Thursday that a study had unearthed no physical evidence of cannibalism. The stranded emigrants settled into two camps during the harsh winter of 1846 and '47, and previous scientific studies confirmed cannibalism at the principal encampment, on the east shore of what is now Donner Lake.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
August 20, 2003 | Thomas H. Maugh II, Times Staff Writer
Archeologists have found what may be a human bone scarred by the marks of a butcher's ax, possibly the first physical evidence that the 1846 Donner Party -- trapped in the Sierra Nevada by early blizzards -- resorted to cannibalism. If the bone is confirmed to be human, "that would really be the smoking gun," proving that the travelers ultimately were forced to eat some of their companions to survive the harsh winter, said archeology team leader Julie Schablitsky.
ENTERTAINMENT
March 22, 2009 | William Deverell, Deverell is director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West and professor of history at USC.
Searching for Tamsen Donner Gabrielle Burton University of Nebraska Press: 328 pp., $26.95 -- It's little wonder that some people remain obsessed by the story of the Donner Party. We all know the basic outline: An emigrant wagon train of 90 people headed for California starts west out of Illinois and Missouri in the spring of 1846. By the time the wagons and the walkers hit the eastern edge of the Sierra months later, they've already been cursed by bad luck, bad leadership and bad advice.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
April 12, 2005 | Eric Bailey, Times Staff Writer
The clues are covered by snow now, 158 winters removed from events that haunt these hills and the history books. Back before railroads and interstates and ski towns, the families of George and Jacob Donner hunkered down here during the terrible winter of 1846-47, snowbound in a pine-ringed meadow a couple miles north of the old pioneer trail now flanked by vacation homes. We all know the Donner Party story -- or at least think we do. A wagon train of 81 emigrants is trapped in the Sierra.
SCIENCE
July 17, 2004 | From Times Staff and Wire Reports
Archeologists have unearthed a cooking hearth at a site in the Sierra where they believe the Donner Party gathered for meager meals in the months before starvation led to the country's most infamous tale of cannibalism. Government and university researchers said Wednesday that bone fragments they located appeared to be large enough to allow for DNA testing to determine whether they were human.
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