Young Adventurer

Superintendents |  Young Adventurer |  Medical Student and Practitioner
Alienist and Administrator |  Man of Letters |  Philosopher

R. Maurice Bucke was born in Methwold, England on 18 March 1837. The seventh child of Reverend Horatio Walpole Bucke and Clarissa Andrews, he grew up on a farm near London, Ontario, after his family's emigration to Upper Canada in 1838. At the age of 16, Bucke decided to leave home. For the next few years, he worked in the American Midwest, performing a variety of manual jobs.

In the spring of 1856, Bucke was hired to travel with a train of wagons bound for Salt Lake City, Utah. This trip impressed upon him the natural beauty of the Rockies. With other men of his train, Bucke decided to continue to head west towards the new state of California, then a popular destination for prospective miners, owing to the gold deposits that had been discovered in recent years.

The decision to head west brought Bucke face-to-face with two near-death encounters. The first involved an attack by a native tribe on his party as they were traveling along the Humboldt River in the fall of 1856. The sixteen men survived the attack to reach the nearest trading post, but not without enduring acute thirst and hunger.

Although exact details vary among different accounts, Bucke's second confrontation with death occurred in the winter of 1857. Mining at the base of the Sierra Nevadas earlier that year, Bucke had become acquainted with two young prospectors, brothers Hosea and Allen Grosh.

After a series of unfortunate events, which included the accidental death of Hosea Grosh, Bucke found himself accompanying Allen in an attempt to cross over the Sierra Nevada mountains into California in the middle of November 1857. The early onset of winter increased the difficulty of their trip. Out of provisions and unable to take their donkey through the snow-laden trail, the men had to kill the donkey for food.

After many difficult days, stumbling in the snow, frost-bitten by the intense cold, and going without food near the end, they finally reached a mining camp in California in early December. Both men were then struck with delirium, and Allen died less than two weeks later. Bucke himself was not unscathed: one of his frostbitten feet and a part of the other were amputated. He would later speak about this experience as a turning point in his life, one in which he was "born again," though it had come at a great price.