Ma and Pa Donner set out for the West sometime in the 1860s. They were accompanied by 25 of their nearest and dearest.
Sometime in the spring, they stopped to fix their wagons (presumably their oxen did not successfully cross the Snake River – FAIL) in the mountains on the west side of what was someday to be called Lake Tahoe. Evidently, they also neglected to sufficiently stock up on spare axles and wheels and, frankly, whoever it was really sucked at Oregon Trail. In any case, their wagons became mired in the ungodly marshes of the Sierra Nevadas (damned mud puddles). Without spare wagon parts they proceeded to fell trees to build their own. Several party members forgot to move and got squashed. During this feat, which took a good while since they had chosen the ubiquitously useless careers of teachers and lawyers, a snowstorm befell them.
Woe unto the Donner Party! Stuck in a bog on a mountain in a snowstorm, they slowly began to get very hungry and cold. Here, the story becomes a tad sketchy (I swear to this point it’s the truth). Common knowledge asserts that they all turned to cannibalism and went up in pillars of smoke and flame. Ish. Alternate renderings suggest some profound sacrifices on the part of the mothers, all to save their children.* Hopefully, this sacrifice involved their own blood and flesh because that’s the only good part of the story anyway. Only eleven members survived.
In any case, the “Donner Camp Picnic Ground” (oh, it hurts) graces the side of CA Rte. 89 somewhere north of Truckee. Its plaques commemorate the bravery and pioneering spirit that made California what it is today: the land of saintly cannibals.
*This is the National Park version of the story. Wimps.