One More River to Cross

Written by Jane Kirkpatrick
Review by David Drum

As the winter of 1844 approaches, several dozen men, women, and children set out to cross the Sierra Mountains into California by wagon train. The eleven ox-drawn wagons encounter steep cliffs and 15-foot snowdrifts. The party becomes bogged down and must leave supplies and some wagons with a group of mostly women and children. Farther into the mountains, other wagons become stuck, and that group fragments and rides for help.

Based on a true story, this book captures the courage and inevitable conflicts that arise in perilous conditions. Babies are born, oxen are slaughtered and eaten, a sick young man is abandoned to fend for himself, and dangerous rivers must be crossed on horseback. The story rings true. However, it is not easy to follow as the author jumps from character to character every few pages. A list of names and thumbnail sketches of characters in each group and a full-page map up front are helpful. Two winters before the ill-fated Donner Party became trapped in the Sierras and resorted to cannibalism, One More River to Cross tells the story of a wagon train that achieved a happier result in similar conditions.