The family history of the Russells of Georgia is a saga of the Westward Movement during the middle fifty years of the nineteenth century. The "Russell boys," as prospectors and miners, moved with the frontier as it followed fresh discoveries of gold, from Georgia to California to Colorado. Then, after the interlude of the Civil War, they settled in the new territories, turning their abilities and ruggedness of character to the development of careers on other frontiers—ranching, farming, land development, medicine—in Montana, Colorado, and Texas.
Elma Dill Russell Spencer, a descendant of one of these unusual brothers, relates their story as she learned it from family tradition transmitted by Grandma Russell, from family letters, from public documents, and from historical accounts of the exciting era.
The reader of her narrative sees the evolution of Western society in the vast wasteland of mountain and prairie from the viewpoint of the people who were making history, people too engrossed in their own problems to realize the far-reaching significance of their achievement. The reader sees the struggle to wrest gold from the streams and hills with primitive tools and techniques; the development of tent villages into populous towns affording most of the comforts of the East; the evolution of a code of mining laws, of protection from violence and crime; the building of schools; the emergence of sectional problems and divided loyalties; the Civil War, mostly through noncombatants' eyes; the progressive changes in transportation, until the railroads tied the West to the East. The reader also encounters Indians, who ride in and out of these pages, and other fascinating types of characters associated with "the wild, varied, and always unpredictable" frontier.
The odyssey of the Russell brothers as they struggle home to Georgia from Union-sympathizing Denver is particularly full of action, with tense moments in the account of narrowly escaped death—at the hands of Indians, through the ravages of disease, and from the enmity of Yankee foes.
This book was originally published as Gold Country in 1958; the University of Texas Press edition was completely revised and first published in 1966.