The gold seekers got as far as Salt Lake over the Oregon Trail by Bear River; or from Ft. Bridger by the new way Hastings had found a little farther south, and more direct, through Echo Canyon. From Salt Lake the chief trail west led down the Humboldt River to the Sierra and over that mighty barrier by what became known as Donner Pass to commemorate the Donner party and the shocking result of their miscalculation, the details of which are given in The Expedition of the Donner Party and its Tragic Fate (1911) by Mrs. Eliza P. Donner Houghton. "The Diary of one of the Donner Party" by Patrick Breen, edited by F. J. Taggart, is given in Publications of Pacific Coast History, vol. v. (1910); and C. F. McGlashan published a History of the Donner Party (1880). This ill-fated caravan originated in Illinois.John Carroll Power in a History of the Early Settlers of Sangamon County, III. (1876) gives the daily journal of the "Reed and Donner Emigrating Party."
The difficulties of travel by ox and mule team, the necessity of obtaining communication better from a military point of view, and other considerations led to talk of a railway to California. George Wilkes published in 1845 a volume now rare, Project of a National Railroad from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, for the Purpose of Obtaining a Short Route to Oregon. In 1848, Asa Whitney made addresses, memorials, and petitions for a transcontinental railway, and he gave his plan in a Congressional document, Miscellaneous 28, Senate, 30th Congress I: "Memorial of Asa Whitney for grants of land to enable him to build a railway from Lake Michigan to the Pacific". Whitney issued a volume in the same line, from personal exploration: Project for a Railroad to the Pacific with Reports and Other Facts Relating Thereto (1849).
No one was more enthusiastic or confident of the feasibility of a railway than Frémont, unless it was his father-in-law, Benton. They were both positive that neither rivers, nor hot deserts, nor the deep mountain snows of winter would interfere seriously with the operation of trains. Frémont projected his fourth expedition especially to prove that winter would be no obstacle, and he attempted crossing the highest mountains in the winter of 1848-49. He met with sad disaster in Colorado, for which he blamed the guide for misleading him. This dreadful experience he describes in his Memoirs, and it is