Spurred on by reports of gold in the Cariboo, adventurers from all over the world descended on British Columbia in the mid-1800s. Among them were ambitious easterners who accepted the challenge of the shorter but more arduous overland route across the prairies and the Rockies.
One such man determined to find his fortune in the West was Thomas McMicking – destined to lead the largest and best organized group of “Overlanders” into British Columbia. His record of their epic journey is a valuable historical document that possesses the universal appeal of an adventure story.
McMicking presents a vivid image of the hardships of the overland route, the dangers, both real and imagined -- like the apparently threatening Plains Indians who turned out to be “our best friends” – facts about important officials and settlements, and scientific observations of the physical environment. But this is also a very human document that describes a journey of self-discovery revealing a sensitive man’s encounter with a bountiful and beautiful yet hostile and alien land.
The journal is augmented by a valuable introduction, appendices on the Overlanders’ trail and the McMicking family, and biographical sketches of many of the men who later played prominent roles in British Columbia’s development and whose descendants became some of the province’s best-known leaders and families. It is also enriched by the pictorial records of William Hind, a major Canadian painter who became known as the “expedition artist.”
Drawing on much previously unavailable material as well as on traditional sources, the editor has created a comprehensive historical framework for this unique document.
The result is an excellent contribution to Canadian Studies. McMicking wrote well and was an astute observer. We learn much about prairie transportation, wildlife, and native peoples. Altogether, this is a first-rate contribution.
This is the book that every historian in B.C. should be forced to read. Although no book or edited text will be perfect to everyone, Overland from Canada comes as close to perfection as any book that this reviewer has seen in more than a year.
All in all this little book is a valuable contribution to the pioneering and building process as a part of the history of the West.
William G.R. Hind: The “Expedition Artist”
A Note on the Text
McMicking's Journal: Overland from Canada
1 A Note on the McMicking Family
2 A Note on the Trail
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