”The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West” by David McCullough, Simon & Schuster, 2019, 315 pages
This is the fulfillment of David McCullough’s dream, to search for and write about people not widely known.
Following the Revolutionary War in the late 18th century, the British ceded the territory west of the new country. This area eventually became the site of Ohio. One of the campus buildings at the University of Ohio was named Cutler Hall.
Manasseh Cutler, a pastor, became a hero to 85-year-old David McCullough. He was among the settlers who in 1788, established Marietta, Ohio. Cutler was a graduate of Yale University, McCullough’s alma mater.
“David McCullough is curious about everything,” commented the curator at the Marietta library. “He was always cheerful and enthusiastic during his research. He likes to honor people who have either been ignored or treated unfairly.”
She was moved by his interest in materials that previously only local historians had cared about. When David discovered a great story, his excitement became contagious.
McCullough likes to write about people who set out to do something that’s considered impossible. In the Northwest Territory there were no highways, no bridges, no hospitals. Only adversities they couldn’t have anticipated.
He details the experience of a brave and broad-minded band of people who crossed raging rivers, chopped down forests, plowed miles of land, suffered incalculable hardships and braved a lonely frontier to forge a new American ideal. They were indeed the pioneers.”
“The Pioneers” will indicate the settlement of the Northwest Territory was, in some ways, a second phase of the American Revolution — a messy experiment, touched by high ideals and bitter conflicts, that still resonates in ways.
Like McCullough’s other books, “The Pioneers” isn’t a dull history novel. It fascinates because the author is such a great storyteller.
The book reads like a novel, including romantic letters home to a beloved wife, with a cast of fascinating characters that are new to the average reader. In his writing, David McCullough makes history come alive.