Review: The Pioneers by David McCullough


My Interest

I’ve said before that David McCullough is a secret crush of mine! His history is so….readable! This book introduced me to where I live now. I had 4th-grade state history in Illinois, my kids had it Indiana, but we live in Ohio. Now I can pronounce Scioto County properly, too!

The Story and My Thoughts

“Ohio Fever!” was a thing. No, really. Back when the Northwest Territory opened up to settlers, Ohio was the wild west, the frontier, a land of forests and….Native Americans. Yes, we, the white settlers ran them out of their own home. No one is proud of that today. In spite of that (and I’m not joking, that is a blotch on our history) this book tells the story of the settlement of the part of the very young United States that became the state of Ohio.

There were horrible battles with the Native Americans, who among other ways of seeking revenge, killed everything edible that they could find. In time though, wildlife emerged again and settlers kept at it. I can’t say I blame them. If someone stole my land…. The town of Marietta is the focus of much of the story as are Rufus Putnam and Manasseh Cutler. Those names appear throughout the book. Saly, a place called Cincinnati soon eclipsed Marietta and does so to this day.

What impressed me most, given today’s world, was the desire to keep slavery out of the new territory, and the desire to start a public school system almost from the start of the settlement. Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio, was founded in 1804. I am privileged to have one of its graduates as my boss!

I was impressed that I listened to this book during the pandemic and it gave an account of an influenza epidemic,  or perhaps it was bilious fever, in the early years of the settlement. The doctor, who had hundreds of cases, refused payment. Imagine! Read here about Ohio’s first Rock Star Doctor.

I was also pleased to hear more about Circleville and that area–I went to Boone, North Carolina to inspect Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes with a wonderful group from Ashville, Ohio–near Circleville.

This was a VERY engaging story to me, but I can understand why some reviewers weren’t as happy with it. The title suggests much more than Marietta, Ohio. I wonder though if that wasn’t a Marketing Department decision rather than the authors.

My Verdict


A wonderful story as always for David McCullough. I’ve read nearly all of his books. None disappoints.

The Pioneers by David McCullough


Other books I’ve reviewed by this author:




The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough. My Review.





The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. My Review.



I highly recommend ANY of his books!

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