“The scholarly editing of the ‘overlanders’ journal of John W. Jones by Dwight L. Smith…has provided for the student of Western history a classic in his new book, Survival on a Westward Trek: 1858-1859.”
Fred R. Gowans, Journal of the West
“Jones’ journal, with skillful editing by Smith, is an excellent primary source for overland travel in the 1858-1859 period…Jones’ work gives an excellent picture of this quest. Youthful and zestful enthusiasm and vitality — and even ignorance — come through in this journal, making it an enjoyable and worthwhile demonstration of the triumph of the human spirit.”
Ronald A. Averyt, Overland Journal
When gold was discovered in the Fraser River country of British Columbia in the 1850s, St. Paul, Minnesota became the departure point for the plunge westward, as was St. Louis for the American gold rushes. Minnesotans soon caught the fever. Nine young men set out in July of 1858 for the goldfields of British Columbia. Struggling through inhospitable territory, losing their way, and barely surviving the winter, battered remnants of the splintered party straggled out into the Oregon country in the spring, apparently having abandoned their dream of gold. One of the few available accounts of Canadian overlanders in the gold rush, this book is the journal of John Jones, a member of the party. Occasionally, he sent a narrative letter of their progress to newspapers back in Minnesota, but the bulk of this book is Jones’ informative daily entries portraying the agony and the drama of this frustrated trek. Beyond its intrinsically readable and informative value, the Jones journal has significance as a historical document. It is the earliest Canadian gold rush account and it stands alone for the year 1858.
Dwight L. Smith is Professor Emeritus of History at Miami University (Ohio). He is currently investigating British naval surveillance in the Canadian Pacific Northwest coastal waters in the 1860s.
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