Victoria-based book publishing company, Heritage House Publishing, is releasing a newly revised and updated edition of Wagon Road North: The Saga of the Cariboo Gold Rush, the first book the company published.
This now-classic pictorial account of the Cariboo Gold Rush trail was first published in 1960 by Art Downs. Wagon Road North is considered the quintessential popular history book chronicling gold-rush-era BC, and this newly updated, expanded, and re-designed edition has been carefully edited by author and historian Ken Mather.
Wagon Road North focuses on the Cariboo Wagon Road—the crucial transportation route stretching from Fort Yale to Barkerville that made it possible for tens of thousands of prospectors to make their way to the Cariboo goldfields in the 1860s. It brings to life the adventures, hardships, and blind ambitions of the men and women who risked everything in the quest for gold.
Ken Mather is the author of several books on pioneer and ranching history, including Trail North (2018) and Stagecoach North (2020). He first came across Wagon Road North in 1979 when he joined the staff of Barkerville Historic Park in the position of Interpretation and Education Coordinator.
“The book helped make the gold rush and the town of Barkerville come alive for me,” says Mather, who has worked in curatorial, management, and research roles at a number of historic Canadian sites.
In 2018, Touchie and Mather attended the BC Historical Federation’s annual writing awards—where Mather’s book Trail North won second prize—and the conversation ended up on Art Downs and Mather’s own interest in Cariboo history. When Touchie lamented that Downs’s book had gone out of print after the 1993 edition and asked Ken if he would have any interest in updating a new edition, Mathers stated that he would be proud to edit the latest upgrade with new material.
As Mather got down to the task of updating Wagon Road North, he was “struck by how well it has withstood the test of time.” Mather lightly altered the original book, focusing on updating language and attitudes toward Indigenous Peoples, and recognising the contributions of women and the Chinese community in more detail.
“Ken has done an absolutely wonderful job,” said Touchie.
Wagon Road North includes more than one hundred archival photos, many of them rarely seen, as well as maps and contemporary images of historical sites.
Heritage Speaker Series with Ken Mather
September 28, 2021, at 7:00 pm
Hosted by the Quesnel & District Archives and Museum