In the four years between 1881 and 1885, Canada was forged into one nation by the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The Last Spike reconstructs the incredible story of how some 2,000 miles of steel crossed the continent in just five years — exactly half the time stipulated in the contract. Pierre Berton recreates the adventures that were part of this vast undertaking: the railway on the brink of bankruptcy, with one hour between it and ruin; the extraordinary land boom of Winnipeg in 1881–1882; and the epic tale of how William Van Horne rushed 3,000 soldiers over a half-finished railway to quell the Riel Rebellion.
Dominating the whole saga are the men who made it all possible — a host of astonishing characters: Van Horne, the powerhouse behind the vision of a transcontinental railroad; Rogers, the eccentric surveyor; Onderdonk, the cool New Yorker; Stephen, the most emotional of businessmen; Father Lacombe, the black-robed voyageur; Sam Steele, of the North West Mounted Police; Gabriel Dumont, the Prince of the Prairies; more than 7,000 Chinese workers, toiling and dying in the canyons of the Fraser Valley; and many more — land sharks, construction geniuses, politicians, and entrepreneurs — all of whom played a role in the founding of the new Canada west of Ontario.
About the Author
Pierre Berton, Canada's most widely read historian, was born in the Yukon and educated at UBC. Author of forty-seven books, he has received three Governor General's awards for nonfiction, two Nellies for broadcasting, two National Newspaper awards, the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, and the National History Society's first award for "distinguished achievement in popularizing Canadian history." He holds eleven honorary degrees, is a member of the Newsman's Hall of Fame, and is a Companion of the Order of Canada.
"No novel could surpass The Last Spike for plot; no western for wildness... This is a great book." —Vancouver Sun
"Lively, human and utterly absorbing." —The Financial Post