Tuesday, January 25, 2011
On April 14, 1846, a group of pioneers known as the Donner Party began their voyage to relocate from the U.S. state of Illinois to California. The trip covered 2,500 miles (4,023 kilometers) over the Great Plains, two mountain ranges and the deserts of the Great Basin. The voyage took between four and six months, but the Donner Party was slowed because they decided to follow a new route called Hastings Cutoff. The group was told that Hastings Cutoff was a shortcut, but, in fact, it was a longer and more treacherous path. Ultimately, 87 people made the journey through the cutoff, which crossed Utah’s Wasatch Mountains and the Great Salt Lake Desert. In all, 37 of the pioneers were members of the Reed and Donner families, while German emigrants Louis and Philippine Keseberg were also traveling with the group.
During the voyage, many of the pioneers documented their daily activities. Louis Keseberg was frequently mentioned in these journals. The connotation surrounding his activates was almost always negative. Louis Keseberg was routinely confronted for abusing his wife and children. Keseberg’s behavior was suspicious to the other travelers and he was regularly accused of theft, malingering and murder. In fact, the Donner Party journals are full of animosity, violent events and war.
After intense snow storms struck the Donner Party, it soon became evident that the group was not going to make it over the mountains before winter. To fend off the cold, all of the families built shelters in the area surrounding Truckee Lake and Alder Creek. By December 13, there was 8 feet (2.4 m) of snow. By the middle of January, most of the group’s food was gone and all that remained was dead human bodies. To stay alive, certain members of the Donner Party began to eat each other. Human bodies were labeled with the names of the deceased and the area became a “Cannibal Camp.”
On February 18, a seven-man rescue party scaled Frémont Pass and reached the Donner camps, which by this time were completely buried in snow. “The first two members of the relief party to enter the camp saw Trudeau carrying a human leg. When they made their presence known, he threw it into a hole with other dismembered bodies.” Twenty-three people were chosen and taken by the rescuers, but the pioneers were weak and some died on the long voyage to California. Dozens of people remained at the Truckee Lake and Alder Creek camp sites. One of these individuals was Louis Keseberg. Little is known about what Keseberg did during this time, but claims have been made that he became a predator.
The final rescue party didn’t reach the camp until April 21, 1847. When they arrived, Louis Keseberg was the only survivor. He was surrounded by dismembered bodies, gallons of blood, and had a fresh pot of human flesh over the fire. The men also found George Donner’s pistols, jewelry and $250 in gold in Keseberg’s cabin. The rescue group threatened to lynch Louis Keseberg, but he was ultimately taken to California. Upon return, Keseberg sued Ned Coffeemeyer for slander and for allegedly spreading stories about his deeds at the Donner camps. Keseberg won his case, but was awarded only $1 in damages. This was evidently all the judicial system felt his reputation was worth. During his lifetime, Louis Keseberg saw over ten of his children die in a number of different ways.
Posted by The Champ at 5:55 PM