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The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  20,597 ratings  ·  2,883 reviews
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 State
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 7th 2019 by Simon Schuster
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Josh Id argue that these answers are not entirely correct. The book is completely based off the real letters and diaries from 5 people who were actual pion…moreId argue that these answers are not entirely correct. The book is completely based off the real letters and diaries from 5 people who were actual pioneers that settled in Ohio and the midwest.

The book (imo) fails as a purely historical record, as the other 3 state it is. Which is strange for a McCullough book. I think with how short it is, and how it lacks a constant writing style.

The book honestly feels like it was cobbled together from rough drafts or pages of information/letters that haven't been sculpted into a book. Almost like a book that a Publisher completed after the author had passed away.

Back to your question after that context, the book very much DOES have an opinion. A opinion that feels EXTREMELY Revisionist to me. These commenters are very much in denial or didn't read the book.

The only mentions of Natives in this book are how they are merely an obstacle that the pioneers had to "overcome" so they could (and this is an actual quote) "build a community based on ideals that would come to define our country". It doesn't touch on anything from the point of view of the Natives.

The entire book, the characters are living in "fear" from them. I kept reading, expecting the next paragraph, page, or chapter to jump POV's to the Natives to combat the horrible stereotypes the book/main characters were painting. That never came.

That in mind, it's still a good non-fiction book if you want to learn about the perspective of the pioneers and what their lives were like.

It was just disappointing to me, McCullough almost always has included thought-provoking and empathetic information on whatever the subject he authors.

It really does feel like, there is an entire 1/2 missing from this book. Just my two cents.(less)
Ron I read both reviews and found them both biased. They both basically accuse McCullough of ignoring the "correct" version of history. The Slate "review"…moreI read both reviews and found them both biased. They both basically accuse McCullough of ignoring the "correct" version of history. The Slate "review" is nothing but a diatribe to set-out Ms. Onion's viewpoint. The WP review is a bit better but focuses too much on the writer's politically correct version of history. The WP piece does point out some of the deficiencies of the book. Ignore the reviews and read the book. Then make-up your own mind.(less)

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May 04, 2019 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ohio, nonfiction, history
The summer is heating up; school is finally out, and for me that means reading a variety of books about Americana and what makes the country a great place to live. I have lived in Ohio for nearly twelve years and admittedly know little about the state’s history besides the unit my kids study in fourth grade social studies. They do have an excellent teacher, but what they study in grammar school barely scratches the surface of Ohio history. When I found out that master American storyteller David ...more
Diane S ☔
Jun 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 5000-2019, lor-2019
2.5 There were parts I enjoyed, but parts that were flitting all over the place. I have been to Marietta, many times. Love it there, so it was interesting to see how it was named. Also the settling of parts of the country I had never read before. Strange to think that when my state, Illinois was admitted into the union in 1818, the total population was only 36,000. Enjoyed the ending parts with John Quincy Adams, that was touching. As a cohesive whole though, I found it lacking. There were so ma ...more
May 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
Going into this book with little information, I picked it up based on the merits of David McCullough’s earlier books. From the start, I was immediately struck by its excessive quantity of detail, the multitude of individuals referred to and that the prose did not flow well. I went to Simon & Schuster’s book website, searching for clarity:

Pulitzer Prize–winning historian David McCullough rediscovers an important and dramatic chapter in the American story—the settling of the Northwest Territory
Sep 25, 2022 rated it it was amazing
When I heard of the passing of David McCullough, I realized, despite owning several of his books (the Mister is a fan), I had not read any of them.

I’m ashamed to admit that page count might have been one of the biggest reasons I chose The Pioneers to honor the author’s passing. I won’t do that again!

It could have been 10 times longer and I’d still willing sit and listen/read to McCullough’s translation of facts to paper. History came alive— first hand accounts were especially poignant at times.
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
“The Northwest Ordinance was designed to guarantee what would one day be known as the American way of life.”

One reads a David McCullough book because one knows they are going to learn about people who shaped our world, but whose stories don’t make the textbooks. People like the remarkable Ephraim Cutler. A man who is almost single handily responsible for slavery never entering the Ohio Territory!
“The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers who Brought the American Ideal West” is not as good a
Aug 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
David McCullough is back with another of his interesting tomes on American history, this time turning to some of the early settlers. In this piece, McCullough explores those who ventured outside the original thirteen states to explore the newly opened and vast territories of the Midwest. Armed with the passion to explore, these men sought to develop a way of life not seen on these lands before, encountering much in the wilderness, from well-established Indian settlements to countless animals who ...more
May 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
Unfortunately, especially in this day and age, people want their beliefs and their political messages/rhetoric justified in every book they read (or don't read for that matter). The reviews/ratings for this book will surely reflect that, since revisiting well known early Americans and their roles in Native American treatment and slavery are hot topics today. Westward expansion hits on both topics.

McCullough has never pandered to this political crowd (on either side), and this book is no differen
David McCullough is one of my favorite historians. He won two Pulitzer Prizes in 1993 and 2002 for his biographies of Truman and John Adams. The book starts out discussing the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, but the majority of the book follows a number of families who settle the North Bank of the Ohio River.

The book is well writing and researched. McCullough provides an excellent description of the Ohio River, forests and mountains of the west. The time frame of the book is from 1787 to about 186
Alan Tomkins-Raney
This book tells the story of the settlement of Ohio, focusing primarily on the history of Marietta, Ohio, established by the first pioneers arriving in the country west of Pennsylvania and North of the Ohio River. This may not sound like much breadth of scope for a David McCullough book, and some reviewers have faulted the book and the author for precisely this reason. However, McCullough is not only a great historian, but such a talented educator and gifted storyteller that I found this to be o ...more
David Eppenstein
Objectively this is a good book but it disappointed me. Since it did disappoint me I should be giving it two stars instead of three but my disappointment might be somewhat unfair and subjective so I give it three in recognition of my failings and not the author's. When this book's publication was being promoted it caught my immediate attention. McCullough is certainly no lightweight historian and the subject of the Northwest Territory and its early settlers was an intriguing subject. I read Alla ...more
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
I've long been a fan of David McCullough, having read and enjoyed four of his earlier books. This book, however, was a great disappointment. Rather than bringing history to life with the vivid descriptions and crisp writing style for which he's so well respected, McCullough takes the path of least resistance by liberally stringing together quotes drawn from a trove of original sources. As a result the book lacks cohesion and is, quite frankly, dull. ...more
Mar 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
David McCullough always writes appealing books and this one (read from an eARC provided by Edelweiss) does not disappoint. I've always learned from his books but this one was on a subject that I was not at all acquainted with: the first American settlements in the Ohio territory. I knew that the Ohio territory was the first 'west' that Americans went flocking to but no other details and I even ended up hauling out an atlas so I could figure out where exactly these first pioneers settled.
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It’s always a treat to have a new David McCullough book! In The Pioneers, he tells the story of the early settlers of the Ohio River Valley, from those who first moved to the frontier and broke land to those who created communities and governing bodies. While the story he tells is specific, focusing on particular families and the region that is now Marietta, Ohio, it gave me a great sense of the changes and movements of those early years of 19th century-America – and how they were linked to our ...more
Feb 09, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-books, 19in2021
This is really a 4.5

I loved this. My home state and it's establishment. I loved following the characters from early settlement up to the Civil War. I enjoyed following the Cutler family, in particular.

I took a half star off because there was one missing major piece, in my opinion. Set in the early 1800s, the Second Great Awakening and the Circuit Riders would have been very important in the early settlement and I was disappointed that this part of the establishment of Ohio was neglected.

Jessica J.
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This book is, essentially, about the area where I grew up. I spent the first 24 years of my life in the 50 or so miles between Marietta, where the first Americans looking to establish a permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory, came ashore and Athens, the site of the first public university in the Territory. I took elementary school field trips to Campus Martius, Coonskin Library, and Blennerhassett Island. When it was time for college, I had to choose between, among others, Ohio Universi ...more
Karl Jorgenson
Feb 10, 2022 rated it it was amazing
I'm a fan of David McCullough, and this book confirms my attraction. He's a well-researched historian and a skillful writer and storyteller. Here, in newly independent United States of America, some farsighted, brave people decided they ought to expand the country west, along the Ohio River. With enthusiasm and determination they do it. But there's more than chopping down trees and planting corn. They brought their 'New England' values with them to the territory that would become Ohio, particula ...more
Leslie Ray
Oct 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
David McCullough is an excellent writer and this book, like all of his books, is well written. It describes the American expansion into the Ohio including the settlements and ultimately the attention to making sure public education was a priority. The descriptions of the landscape and the harrowing journey was enlightening and kept my attention. The focus was also on a lot of lesser known people in history in order to bring to light their sacrifice and challenges as they forged west.
David McCullough is a master storyteller and it shows in The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West. While it may not be as great as John Adams or Truman it is nonetheless a great story that provides insight into a part of American history that I knew little about.

It covers the 1787 - 1863 time period and is the story of the settling of the Northwest Territory. The area containing the future states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The s
Tamar...playing hooky for a few hours today
OK, I nearly tossed my cookies more than once while listening to the very long and very graphic description of the Big Bottom Massacre....I don't remember learning this in my 4th grade lessons on the history of Ohio

Other than that, the book was interesting but I remember now why I didn't major in History in college.
Aug 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: history-american
I received the “Pioneers” as an Advanced Reader’s Copy. Having read and rated highly David McCullough’s “John Adams” and “Truman”, I found “Pioneers” a little above average. Dealing with the opening of the West, starting essentially with Ohio, I would say McCullough does better when he focuses on an individual such as a president.

He did that here too but more on individual pioneers such as Putnam and Cutler in addition to another dozen or so pioneers who were trailblazers. He traces from where
Joseph Sciuto
Jun 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
David McCullough's "The Pioneers" is simply wonderful. Mr. McCullough is among a group of historians you have literally changed American history over the last half-century. What I learned in high school and college back in the 70's and 80's, is to a large extent irrelevant, so completely has the revision been, and continues to be.

"The Pioneers"is the story of the settling of the Northwest territory (Ohio) by a group of conscientious, hard working pioneers... Many of who were members of the Revol
Deacon Tom F
Dec 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well Written

Once again, David McCullough delivers a winner.

It is a story of how the West was settled. Not the far west bit the farthest West known after the Revolutionary War. The bulk was focused on the settlement of Ohio.

As usual, it is incredibly well referenced including pictures from the time.

Great Job!
Anita Pomerantz
Feb 17, 2020 rated it liked it
It's really hard for me not to compare everything McCullough writes to Truman which is an incredible presidential biography. While The Pioneers has a catchy title, it really is about the settlement of Ohio, specifically Marietta. Three interesting men, and by extension their sons who carried on their work: Manasseh Cutler (and son Ephraim), Rufus Putnam, and Samuel Hildreth. These folks bravely ventured forth into the wilderness and established a territory without slavery and with free education ...more
Sep 08, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The subtitle is “the heroic story of the settlers who brought the American ideal west” — sure, if the American ideal is imperialism, environmental destruction, and genocide. The storytelling is just as good as I expect from a David McCullough history, but it gets one star because of the one-sidedness. We learn all about the backstory, families, hopes, and dreams of the “pioneers,” but nothing about the people whose home they are invading. There are tons of quotes from letters and journals of “se ...more
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West was an all-encompassing story of the pioneers who ventured west to explore and settle the Northwest Territory lying northwest of the Ohio River in the latter part of the eighteenth century and well into the nineteenth century. The initial expedition was led by the legendary veteran of the Revolutionary War, General Rufus Putnam. Another legendary American was the Reverend Manasseh Cutler of Massachusetts, who was ...more
May 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Note: I received the ARC of this book
Secondary note: this review has been re-written after seeing the final dust cover.

I liked this book. I think McCullough does a unique, interesting take on American history by focusing on one specific town in Ohio as an example of what the west was like at the end of the 1700s and up until the Civil War. It was a fascinating read.

That said, I didn't have the final dust jacket blurb when I read the ARC. I thought it was going to be about the entire northwest te
Jul 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, adult
As someone born and raised in Ohio, and whose ancestors were among the first European settlers in these early days, I was interested in reading these stories as told by a master historian. I was particularly taken by the description of the beauty of these lands in these primary sources, and wish that we had done more to preserve it.
Because the focus is so narrow, the level of detail can at times be overwhelming. More of a niche read than most of McCullough's work.
An inch wide and a mile deep.
Feb 13, 2020 rated it liked it
This was a book that was selected for our book discussion group and it did make for a lively discussion. The main criticism was that that there were too many names, too many details, and it covered too much. But at least one person thought it was too short and wished for more detail. My feeling is that it was rather short and certainly not as ambitious as other books by McCullough, books such as "John Adams." The focus is on the settlement of Marietta, Ohio, and covers the biographies of five p ...more
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What do you think of when you hear "going west?" Well my first thought is certainly not about braving the new frontier of Ohio, but that's exactly what we're in for - nearly 400 pages starting from 1788 when the first explorers set out from New England to establish a settlement in the Northwest Territory.

Most impressive to me were 3 conditions set forth in the Northwest Ordinance: freedom of religion, free universal education, and most importantly, the prohibition of slavery. And make no mistak
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David McCullough was a Yale-educated, two-time recipient of both the Pulitzer Prize (Truman; John Adams) and the National Book Award (The Path Between the Seas; Mornings on Horseback). His many other highly-acclaimed works of historical non-fiction include The Greater Journey, 1776, Brave Companions, The Great Bridge, The Wright Brothers, and The Johnstown Flood. He was honored with the National B ...more

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