28 May 2021

Alcove Springs and the Donner Party (R+I+P Sarah Keyes)

On 12 May1846, the Donner Party set out from Independence, Missouri for California. As you probably know, it was an ill-fated group, taking over a year to successfully reach California, after being stranded in the Sierra Nevada over the winter of 1846-47, and resorting to cannibalism to survive.

Growing up in Marshall County, KS, I was always aware of the tragedy because one of the stops they made along the way was at Alcove Springs, about eight miles south of Marysville, east of the Big Blue River.

The Springs were a regular stop on the Western Trail for watering animals and to rest since it was a verdant spot with good pasture. 

I used to hike down to the Springs to picnic, shoot, and just enjoy nature.

Alcove Springs, By PowercatPark - CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64972100

Whilst they were laying over at Alcove Springs, a member of the party, Sarah Keyes, died on 28 May and was buried there. The exact site of her grave is not known, but there is a marker memorialising her. It had taken them sixteen days to traverse the 170 miles of trail between Independence and the Springs, just a bit over 10 miles a day.

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