Publisher description for Dreams to dust : a diary of the California gold rush, 1849-1850 / by Charles Ross Parke ; edited by James E. Davis.


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With a high sense of adventure and even higher hope of profit, Dr. Charles Ross Parke joined the gold seekers streaming toward California in the spring of 1849. A resident of Whiteside Country, Illinois, he formed a small company and headed west to the Great Platte River Road. Other forty-niners kept diaries of daily events on the trail, but Dr. Parke's is unusual in its scope and detail. Edited and annotated by James E. Davis and published for the first times, Dreams to Dust: A Diary of the California Gold Rush, 1849-1850 reveals an anthropologist's curiosity about Indians and their culture, a young man's eye for the ladies, a sociologist's sense of the roles people play, a politician's instincts for the art of governance, and a doctor's view of the cholera pandemic along the trail.



Dr. Parke had more to say than most contemporary diarists about the journey across northern Illinois, Iowa, northern Missouri, and beyond South Pass, Wyoming. Unlike most gold rushers, he continued his diary amid the gaudy attractions of California. His entries reflect on the scenery, hardships, squabbles, deaths, and much more; less typical was the space he gave to women on the trail, to Indians, and to life in the mining camps and towns of California. When his luck did not pan out in the gold fields he was one of the few to return east by way of Mexico and Nicaragua. The portion of his diary dealing with Nicaragua is rare for its personal glimpses of social and political conditions in that country in 1850.



In his introduction Davis sets Parke’s great venture in its historical and social context; his afterword fills in the doctor’s later life. Davis’s annotations to the diary elaborate on the people, places, and conditions the doctor encountered.




Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Parke, Charles Ross, -- 1823-1908 -- Diaries.
Overland journeys to the Pacific.
West (U.S.) -- Description and travel.
California -- Description and travel.
California -- Gold discoveries.
Pioneers -- West (U.S.) -- Diaries.
Pioneers -- California -- Diaries.