CALIFORNIA – (Courage and Herosim)

Lest we forget,  courage and heroism built this nation.


Daughter and I had to read that plaque several times before we understood it.  Each time we read it out loud, we understood a little more, until finally – it hit us.   We were at the Visitor Center of the Donner Party Memorial.   This is a “hero plaque”  made for us today, so that we remember that,  at the risk of their own lives,  a small group of men returned to the scene of death and horror, hoping to find someone left alive to save in that terrible winter of 1846-1847.

It was hard to get into the mood of the memorial, because I was surrounded by such beauty:

donner lake

A few postings ago I put up the photo of Daughter and me on a Hobie on this lake,   Donner Lake.  It was so beautiful,  I remarked that I feel like I’m inside a picture postcard !

But the “beauty”  can turn beastly,  as the Donner Party Tragedy informs us.

donner mt snow

At this point, I know a little about how it happened:   greed,  indifference to human safety,  ignorance, arrogance, innocence and gullibility. . . .   A small wagon train of families headed out to the California coasts and valleys was led into harm’s way.  They left too late, they took wrong turns,  they had bad luck,  their leaders were criminally inept.    The result was that Donner Pass filled up with snow and the people could go no further.    They were left without food and with not very much shelter for the next miserable few months.     Many died,  many suffered worse horrors.

Here is their monument;  it’s a marker for two things:

Donner mon clsup

The names of the dead and of the survivors are on that monument, so it’s a marker for them.  But also,  the height of the monument that the statues are placed on is 22 feet,  the amount of snow that covered their wagons and make-shift cabins.    22 feet of snow. . . and more as the winter progressed.

There was a pathway  which led to  markers of where some shelters were.   There is a giant boulder that provided the back side of a fireplace that someone had made.   In the  Visitor Center nearby were pieces of their belongings:   buttons,  a broken pipe, a pot,  a shaving kit, a broken rifle, a little doll,  some clothing.   Everyday personal items;  and then this  –

Donner wagonIt’s a historically accurate  model.    I stood next to that woman.    She was shorter than I am,  but very, very, very thin.   I felt decadent next to her.   What an easy life I have!

I bought a few items in the gift store, including a journal written by one young man, 18 years old,  named Moses Schallenberger telling of his winter there.  I’m eager to read it because even though I came across the  Donner Party in my university history courses,  I want to hear it from a personal point of view,  from the words of a son, a part of one of the families that were destroyed that winter.

As some of you may know,  there are some sensational aspects to the history of the Donner Party.  We can afford to pretend to be shocked and horrified from this distance in time;  but in the end, this is a story of families which set out on their journey with the hopes and dreams that we all have for our families, and the willingness to undergo hardship to attain their own personal dreams.

Families.    We do it all for our families.      We want the freedom to search out and choose what is best for our own family.    A strong, safe family is the basic unit of any strong, safe, and free society.    It just always turns out that way, sociologically,  psychologically, historically.

Here is Cooper’s recreation center where he takes classes and learns about his world:


It’s within bicycling distance of Donner Pass.

He’ll learn about that some day.





Explore posts in the same categories: American History, Cooper, Travel

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One Comment on “CALIFORNIA – (Courage and Herosim)”

  1. […] Their story is actually worth knowing.  It has some elements of general human importance.      I wrote about it a couple years ago, so you can read the story,  here.     […]

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