Why this book?
The California gold rush of 1849 led to statehood in 1850. Brewer was charged with conducting a geologic survey of this new acquisition, and he led his band on a 14,000 mile trek while the Civil War raged, measuring peaks, finding fossils, cataloging fauna and flora, and visiting mining districts. All this is captured in elegant letters written to his brother. Although trained in agriculture, Brewer was a remarkable observer of nature with fine skills in interpreting the landscape. His uncomplaining accounts of sleeping on the snow in blankets and eating the same plain fare day after day will make modern backpackers cringe.
Why should I read it?
What is this book about?
In 1860 William Brewer, a young Yale-educated teacher of the natural sciences and a recent widower, eagerly accepted an offer from Josiah Whitney to assist in the first geological survey of the state of California. Brewer was not a geologist, but his training in agriculture and botany made him an invaluable member of the team. He traveled more than fourteen thousand miles in the four years he spent in California and spent much of his leisure time writing lively, detailed letters to his brother back East. These warmly affectionate letters, presented here in their entirety, describe the new state in…