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The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American…

by David McCullough

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8713518,330 (3.63)39
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough rediscovers an important and dramatic chapter in the American story--the settling of the Northwest Territory by dauntless pioneers who overcame incredible hardships to build a community based on ideals that would come to define our country. As part of the Treaty of Paris, in which Great Britain recognized the new United States of America, Britain ceded the land that comprised the immense Northwest Territory, a wilderness empire northwest of the Ohio River containing the future states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. A Massachusetts minister named Manasseh Cutler was instrumental in opening this vast territory to veterans of the Revolutionary War and their families for settlement. Included in the Northwest Ordinance were three remarkable conditions: freedom of religion, free universal education, and most importantly, the prohibition of slavery. In 1788 the first band of pioneers set out from New England for the Northwest Territory under the leadership of Revolutionary War veteran General Rufus Putnam. They settled in what is now Marietta on the banks of the Ohio River. McCullough tells the story through five major characters: Cutler and Putnam; Cutler's son Ephraim; and two other men, one a carpenter turned architect, and the other a physician who became a prominent pioneer in American science. They and their families created a town in a primeval wilderness, while coping with such frontier realities as floods, fires, wolves and bears, no roads or bridges, no guarantees of any sort, all the while negotiating a contentious and sometimes hostile relationship with the native people. Like so many of McCullough's subjects, they let no obstacle deter or defeat them. Drawn in great part from a rare and all-but-unknown collection of diaries and letters by the key figures, The Pioneers is a uniquely American story of people whose ambition and courage led them to remarkable accomplishments. This is a revelatory and quintessentially American story, written with David McCullough's signature narrative energy.… (more)
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» See also 39 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
Hardly anyone today thinks of the Ohio Valley as "the West." A great many Americans, in fact, regard Ohio as "back East." Yet when the country was very young, those who settled in Ohio were among the very first pioneers, and they are the subject of David McCullough's “The Pioneers” (2019)

McCullough writes that the idea for the book came to him when he was the commencement speaker at Ohio University, my own alma mater, in 2004 in tribute to the university's 200th anniversary. He took an interest in the founding of the school in 1804, just a year after Ohio became a state and when it was still mostly wilderness. He was referred to the Legacy Library at nearby Marietta College, which holds an extensive collection of original documents about early Ohio, and also about Ohio University's founder, Manasseh Cutler.

It was Manasseh Cutler, a minister, who was most responsible for settling the Northwest Territory in the first place. Those first settlers stopped in what is now Marietta. Yet it is Cutler's son, Ephraim, who takes most of the spotlight in this book. A significant early political leader in the new state, he left his sickbed long enough to cast the deciding vote that prohibited slavery in Ohio. (It was apparently Thomas Jefferson who was responsible for persuading many legislators to vote in favor of slavery.)

Such people as Aaron Burr, John Quincy Adams, Tecumseh and Harriet Beecher Stowe play roles in this early Ohio history, which spans the years from 1787 to the Civil War. We read of Indian battles, an earthquake, epidemics and floods. People kept coming, most of them following the Ohio River, and many kept going west from Ohio, becoming pioneers elsewhere.

This is hardly the most interesting of McCullough's many books, in part because of its broad focus. Yet it was subject matter ripe for revisiting by a historian, and McCullough is among the best. ( )
  hardlyhardy | Feb 12, 2021 |
McCullough rarely disappoints. About the settlement of the West, starting in Ohio. A story of which I was not familiar. Knew a few of teh characters, but most I had not heard of. And these people were truly Pioneers. Trying to carve out a life in Indian wilderness. I'll pass. Sounds hard. ( )
  bermandog | Dec 17, 2020 |
I read this book because it's by David McCullough and because my family on my mother's mother's side settled in Ohio as pioneers from New England, as did those on whom this book is based. I learned a lot about the early settling of Ohio, though it turns out none of it was really relevant to my family history. The focus is on the town of Marietta as it was the first town in the Northwest Territory.

I have to agree with many others who reviewed this book that it reads with a point of view from the ninteenth century rather than something from 2019. McCullough based this book on diaries from a number of the early pioneers. The personal insights from the diaries lends much to the story, and their worldview comes through as you might expect. What's missing is any interpretation or context from the 21st century. I've read many town or county histories from the late 1800s while doing family research and this book reads like one of them. I was disappointed that McCullough did not add more context to the book. ( )
  stevrbee | Nov 7, 2020 |
Based on records kept by individuals associated with the Ohio Company, who established Marietta, the first significant American-founded settlement in the Old Northwest Territory, I can't say that this is particularly satisfactory work. On one hand, it's not really lively enough to be popular history. On the other, it doesn't have enough of a critical or analytic backbone to really appeal to a scholar. The overall flavor is one of antiquarian fustiness. This is too bad, as I have personal and professional interests in early Ohio history, and I really do expect better from David McCullough. ( )
  Shrike58 | Oct 7, 2020 |
Not David McCullough’s best Book. The first six chapters really stick to the supposed theme. The early settlement of the Old Northwest Territory focusing on Marietta, Ohio. The first six chapters deal with the establishment of the Ohio Company, the forging of a town out of wilderness, problems with Indians, and even dabbles in the Aaron Burr Conspiracy. The final four chapters would really only be of interest by local Ohio Historians. ( )
  tkgbjenn1 | Jun 8, 2020 |
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The character ought to be known of these bold pioneers....From whence did they spring? ... For what causes, under what circumstances, and for what objects were difficulties met and overcome? - Ephraim Cutler
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Never before, as he knew, had any of his countrymen set off to accomplish anything like what he had agreed to undertake--a mission that, should he succeed, could change the course of history in innumerable ways and to the long-lasting benefit of countless Americans. [Manessah Cutler]
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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough rediscovers an important and dramatic chapter in the American story--the settling of the Northwest Territory by dauntless pioneers who overcame incredible hardships to build a community based on ideals that would come to define our country. As part of the Treaty of Paris, in which Great Britain recognized the new United States of America, Britain ceded the land that comprised the immense Northwest Territory, a wilderness empire northwest of the Ohio River containing the future states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. A Massachusetts minister named Manasseh Cutler was instrumental in opening this vast territory to veterans of the Revolutionary War and their families for settlement. Included in the Northwest Ordinance were three remarkable conditions: freedom of religion, free universal education, and most importantly, the prohibition of slavery. In 1788 the first band of pioneers set out from New England for the Northwest Territory under the leadership of Revolutionary War veteran General Rufus Putnam. They settled in what is now Marietta on the banks of the Ohio River. McCullough tells the story through five major characters: Cutler and Putnam; Cutler's son Ephraim; and two other men, one a carpenter turned architect, and the other a physician who became a prominent pioneer in American science. They and their families created a town in a primeval wilderness, while coping with such frontier realities as floods, fires, wolves and bears, no roads or bridges, no guarantees of any sort, all the while negotiating a contentious and sometimes hostile relationship with the native people. Like so many of McCullough's subjects, they let no obstacle deter or defeat them. Drawn in great part from a rare and all-but-unknown collection of diaries and letters by the key figures, The Pioneers is a uniquely American story of people whose ambition and courage led them to remarkable accomplishments. This is a revelatory and quintessentially American story, written with David McCullough's signature narrative energy.

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