The Ohio Frontier by R. Douglas Hurt

Indiana University Press, The Ohio FrontierThe Ohio Frontier:Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720–1830

R. Douglas Hurt

rating: 4/5

Series: A History of the Trans-Appalachian Frontier

Publication date: 3/25/2009

Format: paper 6×9, 440 pages, 23 b&w photos
ISBN: 978-0-253-21212-2

I grew up in New York, a great state to be from, and emigrated to Ohio after college, where I found a job. I did not have the benefit of learning Ohio history in elementary school. With the bicentennial of the war of 1812, I have learned that there was considerable action on the Ohio frontier. This resurrected the nagging feeling that I needed to start filling in the gaps in my knowledge of Ohio history, and early 19th century American history. A bit of searching lead me to this book. While it has not filled in all the holes, it has helped considerably, and I recommend this to anyone seeking to learn more of this period.

The author does not take a story telling approach. So it does not read like a novel. He covers topics that are roughly chronological, but with considerable overlap. This can be a little confusing, as cause and effect are not always ascertained, and leads to some questions that are not answered. I never did get a good understanding of the difference between Seneca, Iroquois, which is learned in New York, and Mingos, a term I learned here (or maybe cane across it first in Last of the Mohicans). The relationship between Ohio Indians and related groups outside the state is poorly covered.

With very few exceptions (Pittsburg, Fort Wayne, Detroit), the author doesn’t events outside of the state, even though one has to suspect there were nearby events and contributions that greatly influenced the state.

The author covers the Indian settlement of Ohio, and the frontier squatters that followed. Ohio was a front in the French/ British and Revolutionary wars through to the War of 1812. The Federal government paid Indians for their lands, though there are questions about how much Indians understood about the process in this clash of cultures, and who got paid for what. The land was then divided between Connecticut (?), Virginia and the Federal government. The sale of land was to provide income to these governments for various purposes, whether paying revolutionary war debts, or supporting the poor of Connecticut (Firelands). The Author describes the land speculators, early settlers, farmers, merchants, and food processors.

The transport of goods was important to the building of Ohio’s early economy, whether pig drives to Philadelphia down the National Road (I70?), or Flatboats carrying goods down the Ohio River, to New Orleans. The Ohio canals opened the interior to Lake Erie and New York, or the Ohio and New Orleans, and completed the frontier period.

Despite my criticism, I’m glad I read the book. I learned a lot and can delude myself with thinking I understand Ohio a little better. I recommend this book to the student of Ohio history and the early American frontier.

(c) David B. Snyder, 2013

Some other reviews (well one for now):