Book review: 'Mormon Gold' offers historical treasure trove

By Rosemarie Howard

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Oct. 15 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

"MORMON GOLD: Mormons in the California Gold Rush Contributing to the Development of California and the Monetary Solvency of Early Utah,' second edition, J. Kenneth Davies and Lorin K. Hansen, Granite Mountain Publishing Co., $39.99, 435 pages (nf)

A second edition of “Mormon Gold: Mormons in the California Gold Rush Contributing to the Development of California and the Monetary Solvency of Early Utah,” by J. Kenneth Davies and Lorin K. Hansen, offers an update of the 1984 version of the book.

In a hardcover, oversized, nicely layed-out, well-illustrated volume, the authors cover approximately 10 years of history (1847 to 1857) that deal with the discovery of gold in California and its impact on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Because the first edition has long been unavailable and because of the recent research, I felt it was time to prepare a second edition of 'Mormon Gold,' which would incorporate this new information,” Davies says in the preface.

The 435-page book contains 25 chapters, four appendices, a 16-page bibliography, a subject index and a personal name index. It is generously illustrated throughout with old photos, engravings, maps and drawings that enhance the text.

The text is based on extensive research in original sources that include diaries, letters, trail rosters and census records. Extensive endnotes, and often a short appendix, conclude each chapter.

Although the chapters are not ordered chronologically, Appendix C contains a time line of important events with page numbers indicating where the events are discussed in the main text.

Appendix D deals with the developing transportation and agricultural systems at the time. “In merely the decade of the story,” Hansen says in the preface, “California went from using two-wheeled ox carts to the beginnings of a railroad.” He suggests reading the final chapter and Appendix D before beginning the main text, which is a good suggestion.

Those with family ties to this era in Mormon history will find a treasure trove of name lists and personal as well as historical accounts of the people who lived this history in both Utah and California.

The amount of detail included is amazing and almost overwhelming. It is a book to be read over time and digested slowly. Summed up, it is a very readable, welcome and valuable resource to those interested in the impact the California gold rush had on the LDS Church.

Another more detailed review written by Vickie Cleverly Speek for the Association for Mormon Letters can be found here: www.forums.mormonletters.org/yaf_postst1088_Davies-and-Hansen-Mormon-Gold-Mormons-in-the-California-Gold-Rush-Contributing-to-the-Develo.aspx

Rosemarie Howard lives in a 100-year-old house on Main Street in Springville. She enjoys creating multimedia content. Her website is at www.dramaticdimensions.com.

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