Tahoe Nugget #72:
Rare Exhibit of Donner Artifacts (3 Photos)
May 8, 2006
On May 6, Sutter's Fort in Sacramento offered a rare exhibit of Donner Party artifacts to people willing and able to pay $35. It was well worth it. Not only was there a full contingent of knowledgeable staff
dressed as 19th century pioneers, there was plenty of food and wine for all. More importantly, the event was a fund raiser for money to build a real museum at the fort where the artifacts and exhibits can be
permanently displayed. It's a worthwhile goal. I just thought that this modest fund raiser was a bit like a car wash and shouldn't they really be getting a state or federal grant to develop this important
These aren't recycled exhibits. Archivist Steve Beck revealed that many of the artifacts have languished for years in one of the fort's back rooms, out of public view for decades. This
important collection has led to significant discoveries in the field. Apparently, it was a photograph collection from about 1929 that provided the clues for archaeologists to recently locate the long sought-after
hearth of the Donner family encampment 5 miles north of Donner Lake.
John Sutter was a Swiss national who had acquired a Mexican land grant at the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers in the
1830s. He was generally a good and generous man who lost most everything in the gold rush and transition of California/Mexico to part of the United States.
Photo #1: John Sutter's historic fort is
located in downtown Sacramento.
Photo #2: The family of Jim and Margaret Reed survived with no loss of life - only the Breen family was so fortunate.
Photo #3: Dale Shinn is a professional gunsmith and an
entertaining performer with the Hurdy-Gurdy musical instrument. The 1920 Funk & Wagnells dictionary describes the hurdy-gurdy as "A stringed instrument whose strings are vibrated by a resined wheel turned
by a crank, and shortened at will by keys operated by the fingers of the player. Two of the strings are tuned in unison and two are tuned a fifth apart, to serve as drones."