I set out from Boston with a spring in my step, and visions of untold riches dancing before my eyes. I opted to travel by ship, rather than enduring the myriad hardships of traveling by wagon train. My mom wasn’t too thrilled with that decision, but I reassured her that my guidebook, An Emigrant's Guide to the Gold Mines, said it was the safest way to travel. I soon secured passage on a packet ship, and before I knew it I was on my way.
I was anxious to get to my destination as quickly as possible – my fortune awaited, after all – so rather than sailing all the way around Cape Horn, I opted for a route which took me through Panama. Not only was it significantly less expensive, it shaved over four months off my travel time. Of course, it also meant having to disembark, then make my way across the isthmus by foot, cart and canoe before meeting up with the ship which would take me the rest of the way to my destination.
Sadly, crossing Panama wasn’t as straightforward I had expected it to be. Not only did I miss my ship, I contracted cholera and died. San Francisco would have to go on without me… at least until my next try.
This is an overview of my first attempt to strike it rich in The California Gold Rush – one of a pair of “Pick Your Path” style books recently acquired by the Western History and Genealogy Department (the other being Westward Expansion). While these may initially strike you as somewhat questionable additions to our department, I assure you they actually fit in quite well. The You Choose series aren’t the fanciful yarns filled with magic, dragons and aliens that many similar styled tales put forth. These are researched, and designed to give as realistic as possible insight into what it was like to actually live the adventures portrayed therein.
There are a number of suggested topics of conversation at the end of each volume, which expand on the subjects found within various branches of the stories. In addition, each book has a bibliography, and the majority of the books listed therein are also available in the WHG collections. If you happen to have a child with an upcoming project, or just a desire to learn a bit more about olden times, these titles make a great jumping-off point.
While hardly a comprehensive look at American life in the mid-1800s, they do a good job describing many of the trials and hardships settlers had to endure. These are a great way to spark the interests of children, and engage them in learning about American History. Despite the fact that I haven’t been a child for quite some time (regardless of what you may have heard about my behavior), I found them quite endearing and entertaining myself.
I eventually struck it rich, too… but I’ll leave you to find that path yourself.