Friday, April 25, 2008

The Ohio Frontier

I'm reading my way across the Midwest, in the order it was conquered and settled, thanks to a highly readable series of four books Indiana University Press published in the late 1990s. I started with R. Douglas Hurt's The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830. He begins, appropriately, with the end: the final expulsion of the Wyandots from the state in 1843. So far these books are distinguished from the history I grew up with by taking Indians seriously as people.

That's not the only reason the triumphalist, individualist historians of a century and a half ago might not recognize the frontier Midwest of today's historians.

Between 1788 and 1795, some thirty settlements had been planted in Hamilton County alone. Fourteen of these settlements had been founded by loosely organized family-related groups. Only four settlements originated from the location of a single person, while five sprang from the location of single [nuclear?] families. Family ties and informal social and community relationships were more important for the establishments of settlements on the Ohio frontier than individual action.


Lori Thornton said...

I like your idea of reading "across the midwest". I've often thought it would be fun to read one book on each state in a single year, but I've never attempted it.

Harold said...

Maybe the trick is to make sure that one is a good one! So far in this series I've been lucky, 2 for 2 with 2 to go.