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Trail to Donner Pass began in Rowan County

On this day in 1846: George Donner, born in the part of Rowan County that would become Davidson County, leads a California-bound wagon train out of Springfield, Illinois.

The Donner Party will be caught in a weeks-long snowstorm in the Sierra Nevada. Many will die, and some resort to cannibalism.

In what is later known as the Donner Pass, a bronze statue commemorates the bravery of all pioneers who went west.

In 2010 a publicist’s misreading of research by an Appalachian State anthropologist would give the Donner Party a moment of unmerited exoneration.