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History - United States Minnesota Books

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We Suffered Much: Charles Wood Irish and the Dakota Territory Railroad Survey of 1879–1881

ISBN: 9781643435671
Binding: Paperback
Author: Cindy Wilson
Pages: 472
Trim: 7 x 10 inches
Published: 03/25/2024

Surveyor Charles Wood Irish had a job to do: chart a path for the Chicago & North Western Railroad, beginning in Tracy, Minnesota, and heading toward gold-rich Deadwood in the Dakota Territory. But roaming the prairies was an unpleasant endeavor. "We suffered much" was Irish's not-uncommon refrain.

Artfully drawn from diaries, letters, and contemporary newspapers, We Suffered Much chronicles Charles Wood Irish's two-year odyssey through the Dakota Territory. It's a tale of ordinary work and extraordinary adventures. A tale of sickness and hardiness. A tale of unimaginable conditions and awesome wonders. It's also a tale of Irish's devotion to his profession as well as his family. A man ahead of his time, he strove to stay connected to his wife and daughters, who proved to be just as adventurous and capable as he.

In a special behind-the-scenes look, We Suffered Much also includes author Cindy Wilson's own research adventures as she retraces Irish's footsteps.


Cindy Wilson is the author of The Beautiful Snow: The Ingalls Family, the Railroads, and the Hard Winter of 1880-81, which was awarded gold in the Midwest—Best Regional Non-Fiction category for the 2021 Independent Publisher Book Awards (the IPPYs). It was also a 2020 finalist for the National Indie Excellence Awards.

Cindy lives in southern Minnesota and is passionate about history. She also enjoys traveling, delving into architecture (even leading tours at a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home in Iowa), creating art quilts, reading, hiking, biking, and watching storms as a trained spotter for the National Weather Service. Her response to the pandemic was to learn to play the cello.


"Wilson has provided a masterful and unique look at a more-often-than-not-overlooked time in the development of the northern plains. Brilliantly woven and easy to read, this marvelous work belongs in the collection of any student of Dakota history and of anyone who enjoys a riveting story." - Rick Mills, curator and historian, South Dakota State Railroad Museum, Ltd.

"Wilson makes it immediately clear that her book is not about surveying but surveyors. Charles Wood Irish and his crew did, indeed, suffer much. Rail fans will find this book to be a most-welcome addition to the history of railroads on the Great Plains. And readers of all kinds will find inspiration in Irish's fierce determination and endurance." - John Berg, director of the Chicago & North Western Historical Society and retired American history teacher

"WE SUFFERED MUCH is a monumental, never-before-told tale of a significant aspect of the closing of the American frontier. In this gripping, adventurous account, Wilson transforms Irish's words into a vibrant latter-day Lewis and Clark expedition narrative. It's a page-turner and an unexpected gift for those interested in railroad history and the development of the upper Midwest." - William Anderson, historian and author of THE SELECTED LETTERS OF LAURA INGALLS WILDER and many other titles

"Wilson masterfully retraces Charles Wood Irish's journey, supplementing the story with her own field research. The result is a fascinating look at the strength of character it took to blaze the trail for the railroads across the Great Plains." - Nancy Tystad Koupal, director of the Pioneer Girl Project