California Trail Expert To Talk At Manhattan Public Library

"I would estimate that a quarter to a half of the young adult male population of the Midwest traveled to the West Coast on the California Trail in 1849-54, and, of course this would include those people living in and around Manhattan," said Gregory M. Franzwa, award-winning researcher and author of Maps of the California Trail. " Most of the gold seekers and other emigrants boarded the river boats in St. Louis, and headed for the jumping off points of St. Joseph, Independence, Nebraska City, and Omaha - or anywhere there was dry land to jump off on..."

"The discovery of gold in California in January 1848 sparked the greatest mass migration in the history of the world," the author stated. "Estimates range as high as 350,000 people traveled to California in the next 20 years, using what we know today as the California Trail."

Franzwa will present an illustrated lecture on this famous pioneer trail at the Manhattan Public Library at 7 P.M. on Wednesday, June 27. Both the Riley County Museum and the Friends of the Manhattan Public Library are sponsoring the lecture. The library is at Juliette and Poyntz Streets, and admission is free. A book signing will follow his slide show.

Franzwa is the author of 16 other books, mostly on the highways, byways, and trails to the American West. He is also the founder of the current day Oregon-California Trails Association, and perhaps best known as the author of The Oregon Trail Revisited, a history and driving guide to the Oregon Trail, from Independence, Missouri to Oregon City, Oregon.

"After several years of people coming by my house at all days and hours to peruse my research maps for that first Oregon Trail book, I prepared the companion volume to that book, Maps of the Oregon Trail," Franzwa remembers with a wry smile. "From there it was a simple progression to Maps of the Santa Fe Trail, (currently out of print), and then Maps of the California Trail."

His Maps of the California Trail is a portfolio of maps, with 257 map pages taken from U.S. Geological Survey maps. Gray lines define the route, detailing the main trail and many of the variant paths taken by the gold seekers as they left jumping-off places along the Missouri River to travel in ox-drawn covered wagons or with pack animals to the placers of the Sierra Nevada. Included are the variants going south of Lake Tahoe to cross the mountains at the Carson Pass, thus avoiding the infamous Hastings Cutoff, the crossing used by the Donner party; as well as the Applegate Trail, the Hensley Cutoff, the Hudspeth Cutoff, and others. Many of the map pages contain excerpts from pioneer diaries, referring to the sights they saw along the way, passing through or near the area on the map, giving the readers an insight to the hopes, dreams, fears and follies of those long-ago emigrants.

A book sale and signing follows Franzwa’s lecture, and part of the proceeds go directly to the sponsors.

For those who cannot attend the lecture, the book is available through the publisher, the Patrice Press at: $29.95, paperback or $34.95, for the spiral bound edition from which pages can be removed and re-inserted. There is a toll-free order line: 1/800/367-9242.