A lively, readable history of the exploration and settlement of the Pacific Northwest.
It’s hard to imagine a more timely tale for American readers than a history of the peopling by European-Americans of the increasingly vital states at the end of the old Oregon Trail. Walker, an experienced writer of Old West history (Bear Flag Rising, 1999, etc.), is just the one to tell it. Not that this is up-to-date Western history: Walker makes no use of the recent works that have revolutionized our understanding of both the real and mythic American West. There are few women here (although Narcissa Whitman plays her worthy part); native tribes are factors in, but not agents of, historical change; neither irony nor hardship are front and center. Nevertheless, this is the best kind of conventional history-telling, in the tradition of the great 19th-century historian Francis Parkman. Walker relates the adventures of men—sailors, explorers, trailblazers, missionaries, settlers—with verve and energy. In addition to the normal cast of western characters—John Jacob Astor, Marcus Whitman, and John C. Frémont—he gives lesser known, often colorful, figures (like Robert Stuart, George Simpson, and Hall J. Kelley) their due. And, working backward—a distinctive approach—from West to East and concentrating as much on these people’s destination as on their journey there, he looks upon them as would the Indians along the trail who watched these strange people go by and wondered where they were headed and why. While what drew people to their destination differed from person to person, by the 1840s (when the Oregon Territory fell permanently to the US) all were part of a great adventure that mixed ambition, hope, war, and diplomacy.
A solid history of the formative years of the land of Microsoft and Boeing. (2 maps)