Talk:Donner Party

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Featured article Donner Party is a featured article; it (or a previous version of it) has been identified as one of the best articles produced by the Wikipedia community. Even so, if you can update or improve it, please do so.
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March 25, 2010 Peer review Reviewed
April 4, 2010 Featured article candidate Promoted
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Current status: Featured article
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Excessive and probably inaccurate detail in Familes[edit]

I think Familes runs afoul of WP:SUMMARY. Also, Rarick states that "19th century ages are notoriously imprecise".(note 118) Rationalobserver (talk) 18:48, 26 February 2015 (UTC)

Which is why a citation is given for each age - that these are the best estimates of the historical work to which they are cited. The point of writing an article is to summarize the information given in the secondary sources used, NOT to go back to the primary sources and determine what is "truth". You've been writing articles for some time; I should not need to remind you of these basic premises. Also, what part of WP:SUMMARY do you think that background section violates? Karanacs (talk) 19:25, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
Isn't it overly detailed? Shouldn't it be summarized versus repeated verbatim? Rationalobserver (talk) 19:27, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
It is, quite obviously, a summary of information that is crucial to an understanding of the rest of the article. A detailed version would include their entire life histories. That would be inappropriate. Karanacs (talk) 19:58, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
I would think this: Levinah Murphy, 37, a widow from Tennessee, headed a family of thirteen. Her five youngest children were John Landrum, 16; Meriam "Mary", 14; Lemuel, 12; William, 10; and Simon, 8. could be condensed into something like this: "Levinah Murphy, a 37-year-old widow from Tennessee, headed a family of thirteen, with five children ranging from 16 to 8 years of age." Rationalobserver (talk) 20:01, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
Except those children are specifically mentioned in the article because they were part of the party. The other children were not. Even if we went with your version, that saves fewer then 15 words. BFD. Karanacs (talk) 20:04, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
I agree that the detail is excessive in terms of including the names. It might make sense to include an info box, similar to the one used for those who were rescued, to record the names and ages of the party members if people feel that the information is necessary. I personally don't think it is, but would actually be cleaner and more accessibly if presented in a table than in-line text for those looking for those kinds of details! Appellative (talk) 16:25, 25 May 2015 (UTC)
I much prefer it the way it is with no changes. The names with their ages seems more able to make the story come "alive", so to speak. Gandydancer (talk) 22:58, 25 May 2015 (UTC)
I agree that with regard to names this article is excessively detailed. To cherry-pick some examples, the mentioning of Frances and Leanna Donner seem rather superfluous. The congestion of largely meaningless text considerably increases the difficulty of reading this article. I have no doubt this information is of encyclopaedic value, but perhaps it could be spun off into an article of it's own? Whatever beef you guys have with Rationalobserver, I think he raises a valid point when he suggests that the section could be rewritten into a more readable prose rather than a semicolon-delimited list as I would consider that, too, to be a reasonable improvement.
Still just spitballing ideas, but maybe it could be spun off into a list article which contains a table of names, ages and fates? That would allow for the removal of side information without losing it altogether whilst retaining information about the truly pivotal persons in the main article. Forgive me if I appear to be trying to delegate the actual work to others, but I'm somewhat new to the editorial side of Wikipedia so I'm somewhat wary of treading on toes. Bawb131 (talk) 05:54, 19 January 2016 (UTC)
This article is extremely well written and clear. It documents one of the more famous episodes of settlers migrating west. Perhaps this is more of an eye of the beholder issue? --I am One of Many (talk) 06:05, 19 January 2016 (UTC)
If it is indeed the case, then what it boils down to is "I like the article the way it is" vs "this article is harder to read". Clearly I'm biased, but if a section presents a significant hurdle for some then shouldn't that trump an opinion of preference? Bawb131 (talk) 06:10, 19 January 2016 (UTC)
Is it just the fact that the names of the people in the Donner party are mentioned in the text? Or do you find the writing in the article too difficult? --I am One of Many (talk) 07:11, 19 January 2016 (UTC)
I'm solely referring to the list of names (and perhaps the more superfluous references to some of those names). I don't disagree with you, given the quality of the rest of the text I understand why this is a featured article. But I believe the Families section may represent an impediment to the comprehension of the rest of the article because the reader is presented with a barrage of names without any real indication of either who is pivotal or where an appropriate place to skip to might be. I mostly skim read due to difficulties with attention, so a couple of paragraphs of (what appear to be) largely irrelevant semicolon-delimited names sprinkled with important characters is something I think constitutes a significant barrier. Now it just so happens that it was pretty easy to infer who was who without that section; to be clear, I'm certainly not advocating the wholesale deletion of that section, but even something as simple as changing the semicolons to asterisks so it was formatted in a proper list would be of help. Bawb131 (talk) 07:27, 19 January 2016 (UTC)

Content Gaps[edit]

Hello there,

The summary mentions that the journey west usually takes 5-6 months (and then the main text states 4-6 months) and that the Donner Party was delayed, hinting that the delay was considerable but not indicating how bad the initial delay was. The summary just goes on to state that it was November by the time they reached the Sierra Nevada. When do most wagon parties generally reach it? September? August? October? June? How many months behind were they? I do feel that if you're going to bring up the delay in the summary, you should probably not leave it this vague.

Additionally, did I miss something in this mess of text or does Mr. Wolfinger's story go from "Two young single men named Spitzer and Reinhardt traveled with another German couple, the Wolfingers..." to "...Joseph Reinhardt, confessed on his death bed that he had murdered Wolfinger" with no mention of just what the hell happened? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:26, 7 June 2015 (UTC)

"Of the 87 members of the party, 48 survived..." "Of the 87 people who entered the Wasatch Mountains, 48 survived." Can YOU spot the difference? (but seriously, folks, do the people who died before that point just not count as members of the party? Is it saying that the Luis and Salvador aren't people?)

Also, I left this over at the timeline article too, but maybe editors here can sort it out instead:

"I think there might be some sort of screw up, either here or at the "Donner Party" article, regarding the timing of Lemuel Murphy's death and the timing of the cannibalism:

December 25, 1846: ...At "Camp of Death" Patrick Dolan and young Lemuel Murphy die.

December 26, 1846: The snowshoers resort to cannibalism, "averting their faces from one another and weeping."


As the blizzard progressed, Patrick Dolan began to rant deliriously, stripped off his clothes and ran into the woods. He returned shortly afterwards and died a few hours later. Not long after, possibly because 12-year-old Lemuel Murphy was near death, some of the group began to eat flesh from Dolan's body. Lemuel's sister tried to feed some to her brother, but he died shortly afterwards." — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:57, 21 June 2015 (UTC)

Kindly do this lowly anonymous editor a favour and explain what the problem is with the sentence 'The "shortcut" had added 150 miles (240 km) to their travels and probably delayed them by a month'? If it is the accuracy of the information, then I suggest you change or remove the caption as well. Or is there a rule about repeating information from captions in the main text? Is it the quotation marks, which could have easily been removed without changing the rest of the sentence? Did I make a mistake and the "shortcut" under discussion is not actually the Hastings Cutoff? No one deigned to explain in the edit summaries. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:57, 21 June 2015 (UTC)

I can't speak for others, but when an editor does not even bother to sign his/her posts I'm not willing to spend a great deal of time going through the article to check out what they are concerned about. I would tend to guess that others who watch this article feel the same way. Gandydancer (talk) 22:18, 18 July 2015 (UTC)
BAM! Now feel free check out my concerns. (Also, why exactly is that an issue, by the way? It seems to get added automatically anyway.) (talk) 22:36, 18 July 2015 (UTC)
Careless, know it all, and arrogant. Not exactly the sort of person that I figure is suggesting an improvement or that I want to engage with. Gandydancer (talk) 01:15, 19 July 2015 (UTC)
Ah, insults. Very civil, very welcoming to a newcomer. Anyhoo, regardless of how you "figure" me, I am, quite obviously, suggesting multiple improvements to the article, and have already made several. My comments here were made to garner input regarding changes that I thought might be controversial before I made them or have proven controversial since I made them. I had assumed (wrongly, I guess, since I've been met mostly with silence and now insults) that that was how I was supposed to do it. Thank you for engaging me though! I am sure that as a respected and experienced editor, you will be able to look past whatever you find abrasive about me (was it my question about the need for manual signing? That wasn't sarcasm; I really do find it puzzling since there's that little bot to do it for me) and actually look at the substance of my comments for the good of the article.

And on that note, the Citations section seems a bit strange to me. For example, even though it appears to be the first time the source is referenced, citation #2 doesn't have a lot of detail "(McGlashan, p. 16; Stewart, p. 271.)". I would have expected the first occurrence to be more like #1 (McGlashan, Charles Fayette (1907). History of the Donner Party: A Tragedy of the Sierra. H. S. Crocker. p. 158.) Is that intentional or just the result of citations being added/removed/shifted around over the years? If it is intentional, could someone link me to an explanation for it because damned if I could find any guidance on the subject from checking Wikipedia's help pages.

Cheers, (talk) 05:15, 19 July 2015 (UTC)
Mr/Mrs IP: Please try not to be so abrasive with other editors. I am unsure what your query is concerning the citation style of ref #2? It follows the standard format used for all the book references consistent throughout the article. By the way, you are being asked to properly sign your posts (use either four tildes: ~~~~ or the icon at the top of the edit window) as the bot triggers additional unnecessary notifications to other editors. SagaciousPhil - Chat 08:58, 19 July 2015 (UTC)
As SagaciousPhil says, these are Shortened footnotes with Harvard referencing, which are widely used in FAs such as this one. It stops having to repeat the same basic information about a print source that's referred to multiple times in an article. I appreciating finding guidelines and policies can be a maze, but the link here should give you some context. Shortened footnotes are fairly standard in books, not generally as much as Wikipedia articles, but they do exist when a particularly bold claim (such as a figure or statistic) needs to point to an original source. As for the other comments, I'll have to read the article in more depth and get back to you, but my gut feeling is at 57K of prose, the article is on the top of the acceptable limit of article size - so if you want to add anything, something else may need to be removed. Most editors will assume the Featured Article Review has set the balance about right. Ritchie333 (talk) (cont) 09:34, 21 July 2015 (UTC)

Further reading[edit]

Any objection to adding this book as further reading? It appears to have won the California Historical Society Award of Merit, 1994: Winter of Entrapment: A New Look at the Donner Party by Joseph A. King, 1992 (Toronto: P.D. Meany Publishers), revised edition 1994 (Lafayette, CA: K&K Publications). ISBN: 0-9608500-4-X Jodi.a.schneider (talk) 01:34, 8 March 2016 (UTC)

Changes to improve grammar/mechanics/clarity and/or consistency throughout the article[edit]

Hello, I see one editor is averse to making changes. While I applaud efforts to ensure the article's quality, I caution against reverting or objecting to changes that actually improve quality. For example, if you'll note the recent reversions to my changes, you'll see the editor who made the reversions is unaware of (at least in this instance) of the value of correctly placing modifiers or of using transition(al) terms. Additionally, the same editor earlier removed changes I'd made for the sake of consistency with how ages and numbers are written throughout this article, related articles, and most modern writing (i.e., writing as numbers, rather than words, ages and numbers 10 or greater, except in specific instances, e.g., year 2016). It's inappropriate to impose one's personal style on the article merely for preference's sake and wholly inappropriate to protect the status quo against improvements that are justifiable and add value.Froid (talk) 02:53, 29 June 2016 (UTC)

I have reverted the changes. The introduction of unnecessary sub-headings that cause accessibility issues, inconsistent formatting etc are not improvements. The article complies with the FA criteria and follows the WP:MOS. SagaciousPhil - Chat 06:51, 29 June 2016 (UTC)

No evidence of Cannibalism[edit]

I am not an editor of wikis but I have been researching the Donner Party and should mention here that there is no archaeological evidence of Cannibalism at either campsite at Alder Creek nor at the Cabins. Research done in the 1990s by Hardesty et al. and early 2000s by Dixon et al. show that faunal remains collected at Alder Creek show no evidence of humans being consumed at the hearths. Likewise, the two human bone fragments found at the Murphy Cabin in the 1990s showed no evidence of being burned, boiled or cut. It is possible that that the bodies could have been processed elsewhere, however, no human remains have been located yet by archaeologists.

Other details that need to be corrected include that Snyder was murdered by Reed who was banished by the Donner Party group prior to using the Hastings Cutoff. He was the reason why the group had so many rescue efforts made, as he had been forced to leave his family behind when he was banished from the group. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:31, 27 September 2016 (UTC)