The Elijah Iles House Foundation and the Sangamon County Historical Society recently held a joint meeting to mark a significant anniversary. One-hundred sixty years ago, on April 16, 1846, the Donner and Reed families formed a group who departed from the Public Square in Springfield for an ill-fated journey west.
Enduring great hardships, they managed to reach the Sierra Nevada mountains and then became trapped in winter snows. Without adequate shelter or food, many in the party died and the survivors resorted to cannibalism. Some eventually hiked out and alerted rescuers, who managed to save only 46 of the original 87 emigrants.
The anniversary speaker was Don Springer, a descendant of the Sangamon County Donner family. He recently placed a family heirloom at the Iles House. The flax spinning wheel has been in Don's family since the mid-19th Century.
Approximately 80 people attended the event, held in the lower level Farrell and Ann Gay Museum of Springfield History.