As California gold miner, missionary to Hawaii, Apostle, European Mission president, personal secretary to Brigham Young, editor of the Deseret News Utah’s delegate to Congress, and counselor to four Church presidents, George Q. Cannon occupied an unparalleled position from which to view the historical events of nineteenth-century Mormonism. By keeping a personal journal in which he recorded his daily events from 1849 to 1901 (with only occasional lapses), Cannon produced a first-person account that, according to Richard E. Turley Jr., should be considered one of the “best extant records of Latter-day Saint history during the second half of the nineteenth century.” Long unavailable to researchers and Church members, Cannon’s journals are being published by Deseret Book in conjunction with the Historical Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
As the first volume in the series, The Journals of George Q. Cannon, this book provides a verbatim reproduction of Cannon’s journal during his overland trip to California in 1849. Cannon traveled to California as part of a group of men who were called by Church leaders to mine for gold. Spanning from October 6 to December 9, the journal includes Cannon’s trip through central and southern Utah, an account of an ill-conceived “shortcut” that took the travelers from the main trail and proved nearly disastrous, and Cannon’s description of his travel along the Spanish Trail to California. Editor Michael N. Landon, a historian and archivist at the LDS historical department, has ably provided historical context for each of the major portions of Cannon’s trip; Landon has also painstakingly culled material from the journals of Cannon’s contemporaries to briefly describe his activities between December 1849 and September 1850, a period of nearly ten months that Cannon did not describe in his journal. In transcribing the work, the editor has held to the highest level of editorial standards, ensuring the volume’s continued use as a primary source for future researchers. The book’s explanatory text and descriptive footnotes connect the Mormon experience on the trail to California with that of other Americans traveling west to find their fortunes.