The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 35, July 1931 - April, 1932 Page: 246
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
unpublished contemporary reports and diaries. This volume is, in
a sense, a by-product of the map studies. It supplements and
illuminates the maps.
Having saturated himself with the literature of the trails, Pro-
fessor Hulbert determined to write a description of the gold-rush
of 1849. He solved a somewhat difficult problem of presentation
by casting his book in the form of a contemporary diary. In effect
the book is a composite diary. Perhaps no group of emigrants
encountered all the incidents and experiences that the book incor-
porates, yet Professor Hulbert assures us that "Every material fact
in it is from some record left by an Argonaut of the gold-rush of
The plan of the book divides the trail into eight sections, each of
which is mapped on a scale of thirty miles to the inch. The diary
follows the imaginary composite movements of a wagon train across
these successive stages of the trail from Independence, Missouri,
to "Hangtown," California. The device is ingenious. For most
readers a diary--even the simplest and most illiterate-has an
indefinable fascination. Therefore Professor Hulbert has assured
himself a host of readers who would probably be repelled by an
objective description of the California Trail in modern historical
form. At the same time he is able to incorporate a multitude of
details which would overburden a conventional narrative.
The grim routine of the terrible journey half way across the
continent is summarized by the guide in one terse speech. The
rest of the book is hardly more than an elaboration of his text:
"'No, it's not high mountains nor great rivers nor hostile
Injuns,' says Meek, speaking in the vernacular of the plains, 'that'll
give us most grief. It's the long grind o' doin' every day's work
regler an' no let-up fer nobody ner nothin'.' . .. 'Oh yes,'
Meek said, 'them Sierras; they're the king-pin o' the whole wagon.
Figger it fur yourself; 2100 miles-four months to do it in between
April rains and September snows-May, June, July, August-123
days. How much a day, and every cussed day?'
"I saw the point. Seventeen miles a day."
"'Yaas,' drawled the scout; 'and every day, rain, hail, cholera,
breakdowns, lame mules, sick cows, wash-outs, prairie fires, flooded
coulees, lost horses, dust storms, alkali water. Seventeen miles
every day-or you land in the snow and eat each other like the
Donner party done in '46.'"
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 35, July 1931 - April, 1932, periodical, 1932; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101092/m1/250/: accessed November 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.