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Beyond the Book

Nancy Herman, Author

5 October



The Donner-Reed Party left Springfield Illinois in Spring of 1846, in the era of Manifest Destiny.


There were countless trails created from the wheels of the wagons. If the cart was too heavy to cross the water, household necessities were often left behind. Parents often died, leaving their children to fend for themselves. By the end of the era, there were at least ten people buried within every mile. This story, fictional as it sounds, was the reality of the California and Oregon Trails. American progress and manifest destiny.

Nancy Herman, Author

22 August


Virginia Reed's whole family survived the Donner Party tragedy, but the once-wealthy family lost everything else in their desperate journey to California. Her father James, like many Party survivors, wasted no time settling in. He rebuilt his fortune through various ventures, including gold mining and real estate development. He bought property in San Jose, some of which is where San Jose State University now stands. Nearby is the mansion Reed built for his family, not surprisingly on a street he named Reed. He named several surrounding streets after family members, including Margaret Street, Virginia Street, and Keyes Street. That magnificent home is still standing: it is now a boarding house.

Many, many thanks to Bob Watson for sending me this photograph!

Nancy Herman, Author

10 March


In the winter of 1847, a group of 15 now known as The Forlorn Hope bundled up a scraps of food and clothing, strapped on self-made snowshoes, and braved the record-breaking Sierra snows in a desperate effort to reach Johnson's Ranch in California and get help for their snowbound Donner Party comrades. Their perilous journey, which I included in "All We Left Behind: Virginia Reed and the Donner Party" was both tragic and victorious. Although they didn't all make it, their efforts led to the eventual rescue of their companions.

Fast-forward to the winter of 2020, when four adventurers retraced the 100-mile journey to pay tribute to these brave souls. I was lucky enough to witness their arrival at Johnson's Ranch with writer Erika Mailman who just published this fabulous description of events, past and present. A real tribute to the human spirit.

Please read below!

Nancy Herman, Author

4 November 2020


What happened to the survivors?

One hundred seventy-two years ago this month Virginia Reed, the protagonist of my book "All We Left Behind: Virginia Reed and the Donner Party," was just three months away from becoming one of the first snow-bound Donner Party members to be rescued. Were she and the other survivors forever traumatized by their horrifying experience? Hardly! These amazing pioneers went on to live productive lives and actively contribute to the development and growth of California.

Nancy Herman, Author

29 April 2020


This is where the Donner Party story started...

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