Thursday, October 12, 2006

Rename Donner Pass

Lately I've been doing a lot of research about California (my home state) and the emigrants who made their slow, miserable way across the Great Salt Flats in the 1850s. After reading quite a few books, I'm puzzled by one thing: Why is Donner Pass named after the Donners, the murderous, quarrelsome and (some would say) stupid group of people who left too late, brought way too much stuff, took an ill-advised 'shortcut' and wound up marooned in shanties in the Sierra Nevada, where they were forced to eat axle grease, dogs, mice, coyotes, rawhide, and, eventually, each other? It's not just the fact that Donner party behaved in reprehensible ways. On top of all this, they were not the first emigrants to cross the pass that bears their name. A homely -former blacksmith and fur trapper named Elisha Stephens crossed the same pass a full two years before the Donners clawed and gnawed their way across it. In fact, Stephens did not lose a single man, woman or child in his wagon train while half the Donner Party died of starvation and exposure. Stephens got very little glory for his role in all this. He ended up a beekeeper in Bakersfield and died alone and obscure. It's strange, how people who make a mess of things can become household names. Sometimes, doing your job properly, and quietly, confines you to the dustbin of history.

4 comments:

Zook said...
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Cannibalfan said...
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Zook said...

Not sure why you deleted that comment - oh well - guess you probably will delete this one too - but think about it - as the manager of Spinal Tap said after the Black Album - "death sells". For all of the boring uneventful trips of people who traveled through the mountain pass successfully - where is the story there? Even if these people were responsible, it is a heck of a story, gives it kind of a haunted feel. I travel through that pass quite a bit for my job - I feel like it is a great story and aptly named. Sorry if I offended you.

cannibalfan said...

Dude also mine was removed, whatup so Im just reposting. Donnos R not the only American cannibals just the worst but then again did they have a choice? tragic dominates sad but true.