This Day in History
Singer Family

On a day like today in the 1840’s…

Even before the discovery of gold in California, the promise of a new life in a new land caused many men to pack up their families and move west. As the cost of passage by ship was prohibitive and the railroads had not linked East and West, they traveled in canvas-covered wagons, carrying as much of their household goods and supplies as they could. The journey was long and exhausting and full of danger. With barely discernable trails and constant fear of Indian attack, families joined wagon trains with reputable guides who could lead them safely across the plains and mountains. Yet even experienced wagon masters could not insure against drought, famine, and early snowfall. No story in our history excites more horror than that of the ill-fated Donner Party, which, in 1846, became trapped in the snowy Sierras and, as their food gave out and fellow travelers died, succumbed to cannibalism to keep alive.

The modern reading of such tales finds it difficult to believe that pioneers setting out so hopefully from Missouri to Oregon or California really understood the perils awaiting them; surely; if they had, they never would have started.

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Friday July 1, 2022



All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.