Searching for Tamsen Donner

Searching for Tamsen Donner

Book - 2009
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Tamsen Donner. For most the name conjures the ill-fated Donner party trapped in the snows of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1846-47. Others might know Tamsen as the stoic pioneer woman who saw her children to safety but stayed with her dying husband at the cost of her own life. For Gabrielle Burton, Tamsen's story, fascinating in its own right, had long seemed something more: the story of a woman's life writ large, one whose impossible balancing of self, motherhood, and marriage spoke to Burton's own experience.
This book tells of Burton's search to solve the mystery of Tamsen Donner for herself. A graceful mingling of history and memoir, Searching for Tamsen Donner follows Burton and her husband, with their five daughters, on her journey along Tamsen's path. From Tamsen's birthplace in Massachusetts to North Carolina, where she lost her first family in the space of three months; to Illinois, where she married George Donner; and finally to the fateful Oregon Trail, Burton recovers one woman's compelling history through a modern-day family's adventure into realms of ultimately timeless experiences.nbsp;Here Burton has for the first time collected and published togethernbsp;all seventeen of Tamsen's known letters.
Publisher: Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, c2009
ISBN: 9780803222854
Branch Call Number: 978 Burton
978 Burton
978.02 BURTON
Characteristics: xii, 314 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Feb 25, 2014

Gabrielle Burton has a bit of an obsession with Tamsen Donner, who was the wife of George Donner and a prominent member of the eponymous and tragic Donner Party of 1846. In 1977, as part of her research for a novel she plans to write, Gabrielle packs her husband and five daughters into their station wagon and sets off from Illinois to retrace the steps of Tamsen Donner on her fateful journey West, passing the same landmarks, sleeping where Tamsen slept, and attempting to view the landscape, over 100 years later, through the eyes of those early pioneers.

I especially enjoyed the Burton family's own travelogue chapters, reminiscient of some other travel adventure memoirs I've read, but I think I wished that it the rest had been fleshed out more, and for that reason I struggled with whether to rate it three or four stars. Regardless, it sounds like Gabrielle Burton has an amazing family dynamic and five strong, confident, incredible, kick-ass daughters.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at OPL

To Top