Two time Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winner David McCullough delivers a story with fascinating details about the founding and settlement of the Northwest Territory, which eventually became the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The earliest settlers were largely New Englanders rooted in the Massachusetts clergy and often Revolutionary War heroes who sought frontier property as compensation for their service. Many were officers who had fought with George Washington or worked with John Adams. They had a vision for the expansion of the U.S. and began negotiating The Northwest Ordinance with Congress before we had a Constitution or a President. Their strong beliefs in education for all, freedom of religion, prohibition of slavery, and fairness in dealing with "Indian" Nations were ideals which they held dear and sometimes attained. As the subtitle makes clear, McCullough focuses on the settlers "heroic" American experience, specifically with the beginnings of Ohio, but he's even-handed about the impact of expansion on the First Nations. He's also skilled at telling the compelling, sometimes surprising stories of real people, including a few well known historical figures. This book is a treat for anyone interested in the origins of the Midwest.— Tim McCarthy
#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.
About the Author
David McCullough has twice received the Pulitzer Prize, for Truman and John Adams, and twice received the National Book Award, for The Path Between the Seas and Mornings on Horseback. His other acclaimed books include The Johnstown Flood, The Great Bridge, Brave Companions, 1776, The Greater Journey, The American Spirit, and The Wright Brothers. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. Visit DavidMcCullough.com.