Goldrush Diaries

The California Gold Rush is an interesting event, historically, as it was a movement of primarily laypersons across a great distance that was very well documented. In contrast to previous events of some similarity, travellers were often literate and believed it important to pen the tale of their journey for one reason or another. Some travellers intended these journals to serve as maps for future travellers as indicated by their details regarding landmarks, distances travelled and the time required to span those distances, where to locate water and grass for cattle or other livestock, and where to find trading posts to procure goods. Other travellers appear to have intended their journals to have simply served in an autobiographical nature, as evidenced through their dictation of individuals names, such as fellow travellers, tradesmen encountered along the route,  as well as through the notation of specific tribes of Native Americans and their ways of life, dress, food, and encounters with whites moving west. 

In his book Gold Rush Diary: Being the Journal of Elisha Douglass Perkins, Thomas Clark references 17 authors of unpublished Journals and collections of Papers, as well as an additional 28 authors of published journals. These came in conjunction with a litany of other newspaper and periodical articles that are in reference or relation to this period, and a myriad of other secondary sources analyzing sources likely unknown to Clark himself. The idea that Clark knew only a portion of the massive information available on the topic is supported by the fact that within his book, which was published by the University of Kentucky Press (Clark being a Kentuckian himself), he does not reference Amos Bargdoll's Diary or William Murray's diary, despite those diaries being located only a few miles down the road at Eastern Kentucky University. Thus, the likelihood is high that a vast number of currently unknown diaries pertaining to this journey exist in collections and archives across America, as well as into Mexico and Canada. 

Additionally, Dale Morgan's book The Overland Diary of James Avery Pritchard accounts of 139 diaries recorded in this period in relation to this trek, as well as an addendum in which Morgan dictates that three additional journals had been produced in the time between Morgan's completion of the book and his going to press with it. Morgan also has no notation of the Bargdoll or Murray diaries. The large number of diaries cited, however, indicates the vast popularity of these documents and Morgan's omission of the three diaries discovered in just the time it took to achieved publication of his document lends credence to the concept that there exists a likely-undiscovered gold mine of source material yet to be published and studied.

To view an original Gold Rush diary, take a look at the hand-written diary of Amos Bargdoll that has been digitized by the EKU Special Collections and Archive!