The Emigrants' Guide to Oregon and California
A notorious bit of historical esoterica, this 1845 handbook for travelers heading westward from the civilized United States for the freedom of the wild, unsettled frontier is remembered today mainly for its small role in one of the most horrific stories of the American West: it suggested the untried "shortcut," now known as the Hastings Cutoff, through Utah that led the Donner Party to its dreadful end. Absent the book's footnote position in the history of the West, this would still be a remarkable document of mid-19th-century America and the machinations and politicking that went into the American expansion across the continent. Written and published by Ohio-born lawyer LANSFORD WARREN HASTINGS (1819-1870), it sets out glowing, idyllic descriptions of the bountiful landscapes of California and Oregon, offering almost irresistible enticements to settlers looking to make a new start. Hastings' motives were less than noble, however: he hoped to establish an independent Republic of California... with himself as its ruler. He failed in his efforts, but the evidence of his ambition, in the form of this fascinating work, remains must reading for anyone looking for a deeper understanding of what drove the settling of the frontier.
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Page 9 - ... when we met a company of trappers and traders, from Fort Hall, on their way to the States, among whom was a Mr. Fitspateric, who joined our party, as a guide, and traveled with us, as such, to Green river. From this gentleman's long residence in the great western prairies, and the Rocky mountains, he is eminently qualified as a guide, of which fact, we were fully convinced, from the many advantages which we derived from his valuable services.
Page 6 - El Dorado of the West. Now, all was high glee, jocular hilarity, and happy anticipation, as we thus darted forward into the wild expanse, of the untrodden regions of the "western world." The harmony of feeling, the sameness of purpose, and the identity of interest, which here existed, seemed to indicate nothing but continued order, harmony and peace, amid all the trying scenes incident to our long and toilsome journey. But we had proceeded only a few days travel, from our native land of order and...
Page 8 - This meeting afforded a very favorable opportunity for forwarding letters to the States, of which many of the party were happy to avail themselves. We were informed, by this party, that we would find the buffalo upon the Platte, a few days travel below the confluence of its north and south branches: upon arriving at which place, we did find them in the greatest abundance imaginable. No adequate conception can be formed of the immensity of the numerous herds, which here abound. The entire plains and...