In 1849 James Swan turned his back on his wife and two children, a prosperous ship-fitting business, and the polite and predictable world of commerce in Boston and fled to the newly opened gold fields in California. Soon sick of the bonanza society, he emigrated to a shallow harbor called Shoalwater Bay (now Willapa Bay) north of the Columbia River in Washington Territory.
Swan eagerly became a part of the frontier community, enjoying the company of both the white settlers and friendly Indians in the area. First published in 1857, his classic account of the western frontier remains fresh and timely for the modern reader. Swan saw himself as both an observer and participant in a barbaric invasion. His interest in the Indians and his acceptance of them as individuals of importance and integrity emerge clearly in a lively and informed narrative.