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THE HISTORY OF TRUCKEE, CALIFORNIA
Below read a submission from guest writer Eric Berkovsky an 11 year-old sixth grader from San Francisco.
What follows is a thoughtful essay from the perspective of a young person who was curious about the history of a place that is a second home to him. His article is being printed as he wrote it; for fact checking go to the TDHS website truckeehistory.org.or contact our research library staff at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read the results of his research assignment.
Reed received a letter from Hastings saying that he would meet him and lead Reed's party through the cutoff. On July 19, 1846 the party split, a majority taking the safer route instead of Hastings's Cutoff. George Donner was elected leader of the group who chose to take the cutoff. Unfortunately for Donner, Hastings had left with another group, and the Donner Party struggled to catch up. When the Donner Party reached the Weber River, they found a note from Hastings telling them to take another trail through the Wasatch Mountains. Hastings said his route would be safer, and faster. Instead, the Donner Party lost 36 oxen and four wagons, causing them to struggle for 6 days. The Donner Party finally rejoined the California Trail in present day Elko, Nevada. When the emigrants finally reached what is now Truckee, they had almost no food and belongings.
Three families managed to reach Donner Lake (in Truckee) by late October, but were unable to go any further due to a very strong storm. The families built in cabins to survive the winter. By December the families were running out of food. Ten men and five women, later known as Forlorn Hope, made snowshoes and set out for Sutter's Fort (100 miles away). The Forlorn Hope reached Sutter’s Fort on January 18, 1847. There were two men and five women left. Four rescue parties, called reliefs, were created to save the Donner Party.
The four reliefs arrived in February and March. The emigrants at the camps were starving, and eventually had to resort to cannibalism to survive because the reliefs couldn't take all of the emigrants at once. Of the 87 members of the Donner Party, 48 survived and 39 perished. 81 were trapped in the mountains near Donner Lake, which is where most emigrants died.
A big part of Truckee's history was that there was a Central Pacific train station built in Coburn Station (now Truckee). In the mid 1800s a man named Theodore Judah dreamed of making a railroad across the Sierra Nevada. The thought of building a railroad through the Sierra Nevada was considered absurd at the time, but four men named Leland Stanford, Collis P. Huntington, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker (later called the "big four") agreed with Judah. The "big four" created a company called Central Pacific. Crocker became the head of construction. The labor teams were mostly Chinese slaves.
Eventually, there were many Chinese people in Truckee that were working on the railroad. Nobody wanted to be near the Chinese, so they were only allowed to live away from the Coburn Station. They built several Chinatowns, which were frequently burned down. There are still a few Chinese buildings left in Truckee such as the Herb Shop from the third Chinatown.
In about six years, the project was completed, and Judah's dream came true. In 1959, the Central Pacific formally merged into Southern Pacific. Southern Pacific was bought by Union Pacific in 1996.
Another big part of Truckee history was the lumber mill in Truckee, and the ice mine in Boca (in Truckee). The first lumber mill was built in 1867 by Joseph Gray and George Schaffer near the Truckee River. Another lumber mill was built by Elle Ellen along the Trout Creek (in Truckee) in 1868. Ellen's mill burned down in 1869, but was rebuilt. Many other lumber mills existed to supply the Central Pacific. The Lumber industry was a big business in Truckee.
The ice mine was started in Boca. Ice became very popular quickly, because many people wanted ice (refrigerators weren't invented yet). Ice was usually shipped to San Francisco by train. Since there was a lot of sawdust from the lumber mill, sawdust was used to pack the ice.Today Truckee is a small town located in Nevada County, California. It has a population of 13,864 people (2000 Census), and takes up 33.8 square miles. The railroad is still in Truckee, but it is owned by Amtrak. Many historic buildings are still in Truckee, particularly in the downtown area. The lumber mill built by Elle Ellen is now owned by the Truckee-Tahoe Lumber Company. Truckee is a beautiful town, and I would strongly encourage readers of this article to visit it.
Truckee - Donner Historical Society
All Rights Reserved
by Dale Dilts
updated by Billie Cornell