Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"The Yankee West"

My first big shock of the New Year was realizing that I am apparently the only person on LibraryThing who owns a copy of Susan E. Gray's The Yankee West: Community Life on the Michigan Frontier, a microhistorical analysis of three townships in Kalamazoo County, Michigan between 1830 and 1860. (If you're a LibraryThing person who can find my techno-semiliterate mistake, please do so and post a comment!)

Even if you don't have people in the area, this book is full of insights about how things happen in predominantly Yankee or New Englander settlements in the Midwest in this crucial settlement time. (I read it avidly in the NFL playoff commercial breaks.) These folks believed in community/family values and they believed in commerce and commercial agriculture.

They were not confused, but their objective was fundamentally ambivalent: to create traditional rural communities of unlimited potential for economic growth. They wanted more of the same, only better. In realizing their goal, however, they altered forever the dialectic between market and morality. {15}
I learned about a new kind of source from her, too. She of course uses the population and agriculture census schedules, township tax rolls, and land records. But she also gets a lot out of Presbyterian and Congregational clergymen's letter reports to the New York office of the American Home Missionary Society. The explanation of how the timing of Michigan settlement, Indian "removal," and the 1840s depression made possible the survival of Ottawa Indians in the peninsula, and helped white settlers survive, is alone worth the price of admission. Please, buy this book and put it up on LibraryThing so I don't feel like quite such a geek!

6 comments:

Randy said...

So are you saying that NFL football sometimes breaks out between commercials. First I'll develop more patience and then check to see if you're right.

GrannyPam said...

Thanks for the clue and review of a book which will certainly be of great interest to me.

Patti Hobbs said...

Interesting, Harold. What's your user id on Library Thing?

Patti Hobbs said...

Never mind, Harold. Dumb question. I found your Library Thing widget in the sidebar.

Harold said...

Randy -- LOL. More commercials = more reading time. Is there a problem? -- Harold

Helmut Schmahl said...

I found Gray's book to be very useful for my doctoral research on German immigrants to Wisconsin in the 19th century. For a summary of my study, go to http://www.staff.uni-mainz.de/hschmahl/HessenWisconsin.htm