Will Bagley, today’s most knowledgeable historian of the overland trails experience, has focused his narrative expertise on the most important point on those routes: South Pass.
This quickly paced, extensively researched book, South Pass: Gateway to a Continent (University of Oklahoma Press, $29.95) takes readers across the Rocky Mountain pass from the days of early Indian use and travel, to the Robert Stuart expedition of 1812 that identified the logical route for westward expansion. Place combines with people and events, the whole shared through the words of prior travelers such as Stuart, Broken Hand Fitzpatrick (1824), Narcissa Whitman (1836), Ephraim Hanks (1856), Gen. Frederick Lander (1857), Sir Richard Burton (1860), Ezra Meeker (1906) and dozens more. This is remarkable history of a place Bagley calls “a national treasure,” and an argument that South Pass deserves the highest level of preservation efforts. –Candy Moulton, author of The Real and Imagined Duke