Last week, on a short vacation to the Sierra Nevadas, I read a
book that may be of interest to readers with a special liking for
_Roughing It_. _Death Valley in '49_ by William Lewis Manly.
I realize that this is not directly relevant to Twain studies, but
I found this work to be a remarkable companion piece to Twain's
writings on travels west and the California gold fields. The subtitle
is "Autobiography of a pioneer, detailing his life from a humble home
in the Green Mountains to the Gold Mines of California; and
particularly reciting the sufferings of the band of men, women and
children who gave `Death Valley' its name.
My copy is from the Time-Life series "Classics of the Old West"
which I picked up at a Barnes & Noble for about $5. The type was not
reset from the original edition by the Pacific Tree and Vine Co., 1894,
San Jose, CA. The book is rife with type setting errors but this in no
way detracts from it's overall readability.
I am mentioning this book on this list particularly for those of you
who employ Twain in teaching history. The prose is in many places humorous
while remaining enlightening about the characters Manly encountered on his
journeys. He is also quite effective in portraying the tragedy of the
several people trapped in the arid desert. After being saved from a
potential deadly boat trip down the Colorado, by a local band of Indians,
he wound up in Salt Lake City. There, he became associated with a wagon
train heading to Los Angeles. They were advised of a short cut and wound
up stranded in Death Valley with little food or water. Manly and a Mr.
John Rogers were forced to leave the party to wait while they walked out of
the valley to secure assistance and determine a route.
They walked all they way to San Fernando before finding help. Here
they meet Spanish/Mexican rancheros who resusitated and resupplied them.
Both Manly and Rogers returned to Death Valley and rescued the two remaining
families (Bennet and Arcane). Following this adventure, the book goes on
to describe life in California in 1850 and the gold fields. Manly also
describes a trip, via Panama, back to Wisconsin then back to California
I recommend this book to any of you interested in first-hand descriptions
of California during the gold mining days, encounters by "Americans" with
Indians, the Mormons and the early Spanish occupants of California.