History Hero: Bill Oudegeest

Bill Oudegeest immerses himself in history and is a virtual encyclopedia of California’s Sierra Nevada. But his speciality is a tiny spot of land made world famous in the fall of 1846 by the Donner Party– a group heading to California in wagon trains. We know it now as Donner Pass, but  It was first known as Stephens Pass — named after the leader of the first wagon train team that climbed the over the Sierra Nevada between Lake Tahoe and California’s Central Valley.  This narrow gap in the mountains is loaded with American history. The pass was first used by Native Americans 2000 BC.  Member of the Martis, Washoe and Maidu tribes came here in the summer to escape the heat, and to trade with other tribes.. Then came the mountain men, followed by the wagon trains, then a freight road, the transcontinental railroad, and finally the famed Lincoln Highway — the first coast to coast road. And Bill — a longtime member of the Truckee-Donner Historical Society — loves to walk people through all the history. You will meet him in several of our programs including “Magic of the Rails,” and “The Great Lincoln Highway.”




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“History Heroes” are profiles of people young and old we meet along the way sharing their love of the past.

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