Clampers In The News:
Donner Monument Dedication.
Photos by J. C. Furlow
San Jose Mercury News.
Monday August 16, 2003.
"The Valley" Section, Page 1B.
Memorial revives Donner survivor's history.
By Jessie Mangaliman
It was an unmarked grave for 130
On Sunday afternoon in San Jose,
under the patchy shade of a deodara
pine, a piece of tragic California history
was reclaimed and marked with a
white granite memorial and the name
The 700-pound polished granite
memorial marks the grave site of
George Donner Jr., one of 46 survivors
of the Donner Party, a group of early
California settlers caught in a deadly
blizzard trying to cross the Sierra in
the winter of 1846. Some of the survi-
vors later recounted eating their own
dead to survive.
"My father never talked about our
history, but we knew all our lives." said
Ron Donner, 66 of Santa Rosa, His
great-grandfather George Donner Jr.
was the son of Jacob Donner and Eliza-
beth Blue Hook, settlers from Illinois
who set out on a 2,500-mile wagon
journey in search of new land to settle
in the West.
Donner said he knew that his great-
grandfather was buried in San Jose. But
this was his first visit to the cemetery.
"I'm glad to know there's a memori-
al to my family's part in histo-
ry," said Donner, as he read the
historical text on the memori-
"I want my children to understand California history,
-- Doug Rose, President of Native Sons of the Golden West Parlor 177.
because it's important we understand our past."
The memorial at Oak Hill
Memorial Park was the work
of two local historical groups,
E Clampus Vitus and the Na-
tive Sons of the Golden West
Parlor 177. Both groups are
dedicated to preserving Cali-
fornia's pioneer history.
At the urging of historians
with the Argonauts Historical
Society of San Jose, Bill Clark,
a historian with E Clampus Vi-
tus, began work in June on es-
tablishing the memorial.
"The Donner name is a sig-
nificant name in California his-
tory," Clark said.
According to historians of
the infamous westward jour-
ney, George Donner Jr. was 10
years old when he and the oth-
ers survivors were rescued. He
married in San Jose and fa-
thered eight children. He es-
tablished a farm near Sebasto-
pol in Sonoma County. He died
at 37 in 1874, and his body was
returned to san Jose.
"I want my children to un-
derstand California history,
because it's important we un-
derstand our past," said Doug
Rose, a native-born, fourth-
generation San Jose resident
and president of Native Sons of the
Golden West Parlor 177.
The Donner Memorial is the
latest acknowledgement of the
role of pioneers in settling ear-
ly California, said Marlene
Walther Cowan, a great-
George Donner Jr.'s uncle.
George Donner, who led the
group on the ill-fated journey.
"I think we're revaluing
their sacrifices to settle the
West," Cowan said.
The Donner Memorial also
pays tribute to the overland pi-
oneers -- settlers who came to
California from 1844 to 1846--
who are also buried at Oak
Contact Jessie Mangaliman at
or (408) 920-5794