G.P.V. Akrigg and Helen Akrigg have helped me develop a sense of pioneer life in Gold Rush BC with their book British Columbia Chronicle 1847 - 1871: Gold & Colonists. What I appreciate most about this book is it's day-to-day journal style. It's written as if the Akriggs were right there on the scene, as events were unfolding, which in turn gives me a sense of actually being there.
Characters like James Douglas step out of the page and the reader is exposed first hand to the staunch Victorian values of society's elite and the rough cut values of the gold seekers and traders. It chronicles an era that - form a European standpoint - has much to be proud of, and much to be ashamed of. The attitudes are direct and unvarnished and sometimes make you cringe at the hubris and lack of sensitivity of our forebears.
The sections on building the Cariboo Trail and pioneer Victoria are especially revealing of the life and motivations of the times. As are the dealings with Aboriginal peoples. A strange mix of greed, piety, boldness, idealism, punctiliousness and arrogance motivates the Europeans as they carry out an undeclared invasion of a land already occupied.
In Stained Glass a 50s-something reporter, who has been jaded by overexposure to media hype and is cynical about every aspect of his wretched life, is given an assignment by his aging mother to complete the memoir of his great-great-grandfather Christopher Dryden. In the early 1870s Christopher had been sent on a mission to the boisterous Gold Rush town of Barkerville, BC, where a fund-raising campaign to install a stained glass window behind the alter of St. Saviour's Anglican Church (flickr image at right by jmegjmeg) turned into a heated controversy when it was revealed that the anonymous donor, who was covering most of the cost for the painted glass, was none other than the owner of the town's most notorious brothel...