Epic Wanderer: David Thompson and the Mapping of the Canadian West

Overview

Epic Wanderer, the first full-length biography of mapmaker David Thompson (1770–1857), is set in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries against the broad canvas of dramatic rivalries between the United States and British North America, between the Hudson’s Bay Company and its Montreal-based rival, the North West Company, and among the various First Nations thrown into disarray by the advent of guns, horses, and alcohol.

Less celebrated than his contemporaries ...

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Overview

Epic Wanderer, the first full-length biography of mapmaker David Thompson (1770–1857), is set in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries against the broad canvas of dramatic rivalries between the United States and British North America, between the Hudson’s Bay Company and its Montreal-based rival, the North West Company, and among the various First Nations thrown into disarray by the advent of guns, horses, and alcohol.

Less celebrated than his contemporaries Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, Thompson spent nearly three decades, beginning in 1784, surveying and mapping more than 1.2 million square miles of largely uncharted Indian territory. Traveling across the prairies, over the Rockies, and on to the Pacific, Thompson transformed the raw data of his explorations into a map of the Canadian West. Measuring ten feet by seven feet and laid out with astonishing accuracy, the map became essential to the politicians and diplomats who would decide the future of the rich and promising lands of the West. Yet its creator worked without personal glory and died in penniless obscurity.

Drawing extensively on Thompson’s personal journals, illustrated with his detailed sketches, intricate notebook pages, and the map itself, Epic Wanderer charts the life of a man who risked everything in the name of scientific advancement and exploration.

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Editorial Reviews

Oregon Historical Quarterly

“Jenish presents a lively version of the explorer’s adventures, detailing the hardships of life on the trail, Thompson’s interactions with aboriginal peoples, and the vast country he traversed.”—Arn Keeling, Oregon Historical Quarterly

— Arn Keeling

Choice
"Well illustrated and served well by a thorough bibliography, this imaginative reconstruction will whet readers' appetites to seek out the copious literature on Thompson, the 'epic wanderer.'"—Choice
Journal of the West

“David Thompson was an important, if little known, explorer of the Canadian West. . . . Jenish tells this remarkable man’s story from the journal Thompson kept throughout his life and the narrative he wrote in his old age…. We view the daunting hardships facing a fur trader working far beyond white settlement.”—Donna Roper, Journal of the West

— Donna Roper

WAML Information Bulletin

Epic Wanderer is a thoroughly enjoyable, easy read of the life of the fur trader David Thompson.”—D’Arcy Jenish, WAML Information Bulletin

— D'Arcy Jenish

Outdoor News Bulletin
“Thompson’s travels in and accurate mapping of the interior between 1797 and 1812 exceeded the combined mileage of all of the U.S. Geological Survey expeditions into the American West in the 1800s. And that accounts for only a part of the man’s greatness and why this book is worth reading cover to cover, maybe twice.”—Outdoor News Bulletin
Ruffed Grouse Society
“Jenish does a wonderful job of providing character and context to the man, his time and his accomplishments.”—Ruffed Grouse Society
Oregon Historical Quarterly - Arn Keeling
“Jenish presents a lively version of the explorer’s adventures, detailing the hardships of life on the trail, Thompson’s interactions with aboriginal peoples, and the vast country he traversed.”—Arn Keeling, Oregon Historical Quarterly
Journal of the West - Donna Roper
“David Thompson was an important, if little known, explorer of the Canadian West. . . . Jenish tells this remarkable man’s story from the journal Thompson kept throughout his life and the narrative he wrote in his old age…. We view the daunting hardships facing a fur trader working far beyond white settlement.”—Donna Roper, Journal of the West
WAML Information Bulletin - D'Arcy Jenish
Epic Wanderer is a thoroughly enjoyable, easy read of the life of the fur trader David Thompson.”—D’Arcy Jenish, WAML Information Bulletin
American Surveyor
“Now and again a book comes along that simply transcends geographical limits. Epic Wanderer is such a book. . . . Epic Wanderer, like the man himself, covers a lot of ground and does so very well. If you'd like to purchase just one biography on David Thompson, make it this one.”—American Surveyor
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803226005
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2004
  • Pages: 309
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

D’Arcy Jenish is the author of Indian Fall: The Last Great Days of the Plains Cree and the Blackfoot Confederacy and the best-selling The Stanley Cup: A Hundred Years of Hockey at Its Best.
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Read an Excerpt

Popular historian D’Arcy Jenish recreates the adventure and sacrifice of mapmaker David Thompson’s fascinating life in the wilderness of North America.
Epic Wanderer, the first full-length biography of David Thompson, is set in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries against a broad canvas of dramatic rivalries -- between the United States and British North America, between the Hudson’s Bay Company and its Montreal-based rival, the North West Co., and between the various First Nations thrown into disarray by the advent of guns, horses and alcohol.
Less celebrated than his contemporaries Lewis and Clark, Thompson spent nearly three decades (1784-1812) surveying and mapping over 1.2 million square miles of largely uncharted Indian territory. Travelling across the prairies, over the Rockies and on to the Pacific, Thompson transformed the raw data of his explorations into a map of the Canadian West. Measuring ten feet by seven feet, and laid out with astonishing accuracy, the map became essential to the politicians and diplomats who would decide upon the future of the rich and promising lands of the West. Yet its creator worked without personal glory and died in penniless obscurity.
Drawing extensively on David Thompson’s personal journals, illustrated with his detailed sketches, intricate notebook pages and the map itself, Epic Wanderer charts the life of a man who risked everything in the name of scientific advancement and exploration.

Author Biography: D’Arcy Jenish is the author of the award-winning Indian Fall: The Last Great Days of the Plains Cree and the Blackfoot Confederacy and the bestselling The Stanley Cup: A Hundred Years of Hockey at its Best. He is also co-editor of Canada on Ice: Fifty Years of Great Hockey.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Preface
Introduction: The Old Man

Part One
To the New World (1784)
Into the Country (1786)
By Star and Compass (1790)

Part Two
With the Nor'Westers (1797)
Over the Mountains (1807)
To the Pacific (1810)

Part Three
The Great Map (1812)
Williamstown Days (1815-1836)
Hard Times (1837-1857)

Afterword: The Return of David Thompson

Bibliography
Picture Credits
Index
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2010

    Fascinating Read!

    This book was great.It is very involving and captures your imagination very thoroughly.I picked up this book at the library to read for a college course on Canadian History and I was greatly surprised at how fascinating it was.This book let me live the life of a Fur Trader and Explorer in the virgin territory west of the Canadian settlements.I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in Canadian History or anyone who loves reading about explorers of the wild frontier.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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