By Lesley Wischmann and Andrew Erskine Dawson. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013. 336pp. Map, illustrations, bibliography, index. $39.95 cloth.
In This Far-Off Wild Land, Lesley Wischmann and Andrew Erskine Dawson integrate information from recovered nineteenth-century transatlantic correspondences and supplementary sources in their wonderfully detailed account of the American life of Andrew Dawson (1820-1872), one of the last giants in the American fur trade. They tell of a continually conflicted and lonely Dawson, who as a young man left his Scotland home in pursuit of redemption and honor in the lands beyond the frontier of American resettlement and who, despite immense success, always maintained among his chief desires the attention, approval, and affection of his European family. The book is divided into three parts: (1) Dawson’s biography, (2) letters from Dawson to his immediate family, and (3) lodge talks, which were recounts of trapper storytelling sessions that Dawson penned, possibly in hopes of someday publishing them.
In addition to a detailed sketch of Dawson’s character, this book contributes important information concerning life on the Upper Missouri during the waning years of the fur trade, as well as firsthand glimpses into the workings of the monopolizing American Fur Company (i.e., Pierre Chouteau Jr. & Company), from the perspective of one rapidly ascending its ranks. The authors’ careful editing of Dawson’s letters and stories avoids excessive details and length that casual readers may find cumbersome, while their acknowledgment of these edits and references to the unaltered original sources is likely to satisfy and provide future research directions for dedicated scholars. [End Page 225]
University of Nebraska–Lincoln