So Rugged and Mountainous

Will Bagley

This is an excellent well-researched book if you are looking for history about the beginning of the overland migration to Oregon and California.  Even better, for history aficionados is that it is the first of a trilogy of books.

This first one deals with the migration through the news of the Gold Rush in 1848, “The era of pioneer trails to the discovery of gold which would change” everything.  It begins with background: Native Americans, Hudson Bay Company, fur trappers, and early trails and explorations.

The book is full of stories, personalities, and wider history than just he emigration.  It has some pictures and a few maps.  One of the book’s strongest points is the many quotes from the historical participants.  This personalizes the history and we can get a sense of how hard things were besides just what happened.

Within the migration history Will Bagley, the author, give a lot of detail so that with the quotes, there is a real sense of the human adventure.  Details include food, how letters were sent home from the wagon trains and the west, how the wagons worked, and how life was on the trails.  He does this in sections entitled, “Arise! Arise! Breaking Camp,” “I Walked Half of the Way to Oregon: The March,” “A Splendid Affair for the Plains: Camp Life, Music, and Dance,” “Democracy on Wagon Wheels,” or “To Keep off the Wolves.”

The stories, details, and personalization make the book read very well and not like a dry historical tome.

I look forward to the next two in the trilogy.