Emigrant Trails - The Long Road to Californian
by Marshall Fey
Eastern Oregon is pretty empty and driving across it, after the first few miles, is not so interesting.
More interesting on the satellite radio was a news piece about Emigrant Trails by Marshall Fey. It sounded really good.
So through the wonders of the internet I ordered the book and it was waiting for me on our return from Canada.
Emigrant Trails is a must for any history buff especially one with an interest in the emigrant wagon trains that helped populate and build California. For those with an interest in Donner Summit, parts are especially interesting.
The book is not a typical history book. It tells its story through pictures, maps, and sidebars. There is no continuing prose. The cover says a lot, "A History and Guide To the Emigrant Routes from Central Nevada to the Crossing of the Sierra with The End Of The Trail For The Donner Party Includes How to Follow the Trail, Diaries, Original Trail Guides, Maps and Points of Interest."
The forward says, the book "presents a useful guide for exploring the routes of the California Emigration Trail by automobile, hiking, and bicycle." The book also serves as a guide to old Nevada settlements.
Both the cover and the foreward describe the book very well. What sets the book apart from others is the reliance on primary sources in particular the quotes of the emigrants traveling to California.
If you want to follow the old Emigrant routes to California, The Humboldt, the Truckee, The Carson, and the Johnson cut-off this book will help you do that with driving instructions to the markers that delineate the trails. Parts of actual trail guides are reprinted.
Another facet that makes the book interesting are the many facts which set the truth about wagon trains and put the lie to the Hollywood version. Reading or paging through this book looking for the interesting parts, you will discover interesting facts and how tough the pioneers were. I couldn't have done it.
•how to emigrate in case you have a hankering
•what to take and the cost if you decide to go
•some wagons had rudimentary odometers
•why to take oxen instead of mules and certainly not horses
•250,000 people came to California by wagon train from 1841 to 1869
•10% of the emigrants died.
•there were on average 10 graves per mile of travel
•graves were oriented east-west and put within the trails which were then driven over to discourage scavenging by Indians and animals.
•The Donner Party's troubles with Indians, and later their stories
•The Amazing and tragic story of the Eddy Family
•The Truckee River used to be called the Trout Salmon "from the multitude of fish of that name that fill its waters." (from the 1849 Emigrant's Guide to California)
Fans of hiking trails will also find instructions for hiking parts of the Emigrant trails.
The book is available from the Western Trails Research Association 775-747-0800
The "Emigrant Voices" scattered throughout the book are particularly powerful (all misspellings are the emigrants')
To read some of the emigrants' quotes go to April, '11 newsletter. They are scattered throughout. April, 2011 newsletter PDF