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Historical Society makes push to preserve trail that marked end of Donner Party

By Andrew Haubner

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    WHEATLAND, California (KOVR) — The historical society in Wheatland is making a push to preserve a little-known wagon trail that marked the end of the Donner Party.

California’s early history is on full display at Wheatland’s historical museum.

“Once a historical site is gone, it’s gone forever and what we’re talking about is America’s heritage,” said Bil Holmes.

Along with Historical Society President Bart Thompson, Holmes is out to preserve a vital piece of it.

“The Emigrant Trail comes from basically the Missouri River and it’s about 2,000 miles long,” Holmes said.

Johnson’s Ranch is the terminus of the Emigrant Trail.

“This is the last two miles of it and it’s pretty undisturbed,” Holmes said.

But what makes it so significant?

“This is where the Donner wagon train survivors all ended up and got their first sustenance help,” Holmes said

So far, the historical society, along with developer and landowner Angelo Tsakopoulos, are hoping to find solutions to make sure the area is preserved.

“Mr. Tsakopoulos is very interested in preserving history and has dedicated himself to doing it,” Holmes said.

That could be a foundation to caretake the area or even a state park to keep the area safe.

“We were looking at maybe some combination of conservancies, foundations and maybe an oversight agency like state parks,” Holmes said. “Without somebody or someone or organization that’s gonna give some protection or oversight to the areas it will fall into ruin.”

This is all to make sure that the history of the state is held for future generations in Wheatland and beyond.

“Once it’s destroyed and it’s gone, it’s gone forever. The story of California’s birth really ties Sutter’s Fort, Donner Memorial State Park and Johnson’s Ranch together,” Holmes said.

The society is walking the site on Friday. The town just celebrated its 150th anniversary.

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