When gold fever struck in 1849, John S. Darcy—prominent physician, general, and president of the New Jersey Railroad—assembled a company to travel overland to California. In Jersey Gold, Margaret Casterline Bowen and Gwendolyn Joslin Hiles tell the story of that colorful company of some thirty stalwarts and adventurers.
Jersey Gold chronicles the experiences of the New Jersey argonauts from their lives before the gold rush to the widely varying fortunes each ultimately found. Animated by the trekkers’ own words and observations and illustrated with maps, photographs, and drawings by one of the company’s own men, Jersey Gold follows the Newark Overland Company’s journey by rail, stage, and riverboat to the Missouri frontier town of Independence, the group’s jumping-off point for the Oregon-California trail. There, the company splintered. Their divergent paths afford views of the westward journey from multiple perspectives as the companies faced the perils of the wilderness and the treachery of human nature. Once in gold country, many booked immediate passage home, but some remained with Darcy to work a successful mining operation before returning east with comfortable fortunes. A few, enchanted by the opportunities of the Golden Coast, took up permanent residence there—and in their stories we witness the emergence of California amid unprecedented lawlessness, the controversy of slavery, and diverse nationalities.
The story of the Newark Overland Company—in many ways a panorama of the nineteenth century—ranges from the wildness of the frontier through the chaos of the Civil War to the throes of early industrialization, and features such notables as John Sutter, Brigham Young, and Henry Clay. In chronicling this journey, Jersey Gold vividly re-creates a defining chapter in American history.