In April 1846, a group of about 90 pioneers in about 20 wagons followed brothers Jacob and George Donner westward from Illinois to California. The California Gold Rush wouldn't be for another two years, and the Donner Party, inexperienced in the wilderness, was headed into uncharted territory. They began their journey on the California Trail, a known wagon-train route west, but decided to try a shorter, alternate route. Because of freezing temperatures and rough, mountainous terrain, the shortcut they'd hoped for turned out to be long and deadly.
The Donner Party is still well-known today, although we might not all know the specifics of their journey. What they're best known for, though, is the question of whether they engaged in cannibalism for survival while trapped in the snowy Sierra Nevada mountains.