Emily Foster

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Few mementoes remain of what Ohio was like before white people transformed it. The readings in this anthology—the diaries of a trader and a missionary, the letter of a frontier housewife, the travel account of a wide-eyed young English tourist, the memoir of an escaped slave, and many others—are eyewitness accounts of the Ohio frontier. They tell what people felt and thought about coming to the very fringes of white civilization—and what the people thought and did who saw them coming.

Each succeeding group of newcomers—hunters, squatters, traders, land speculators, farmers, missionaries, fresh European immigrants—established a sense of place and community in the wilderness. Their writings tell of war, death, loneliness, and deprivation, as well as courage, ambition, success, and fun. We can see the lust for the land, the struggle for control of it, the terrors and challenges of the forest, and the determination of white settlers to change the land, tame it, "improve" it.

The new Ohio these settlers created had no room for its native inhabitants. Their dispossession is a defining theme of the book. As the forests receded and the farms expanded, the Indians were pressured to move out. By the time the last tribe, the Wyandots, left in 1843, they were regarded as relics of the romantic past, and the frontier experience came to a close.

Anyone fascinated by the panorama of America's westward migration will respond to the dramatic stories told in these pages.

Emily Foster is editor of Cincinnati Magazine.

"A revealing compilation of primary source materials describing Ohio's early history."—Journal of the Early Republic

"Foster collected many first-hand accounts of life of early Ohioans and assembled them thematically so readers could visualize the difficult transition of Ohio passing from a wilderness state to a setting of bustling towns connected by roads and canals and a thriving economy."—Northwest Ohio Quarterly

"A colorful tapestry of primary source readings from the early trans-Appalachian West."—Ohio Valley History

"Readers will have a better comprehension of what it was like to live on the frontier and how extensive the hardships encountered by the first generation of settlers were."—Ohioana Quarterly

"The organization and pacing are excellent and the evolution of Ohio's nature becomes clear."—Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Ohio, Ohio history, Frontier life


United States History

The Ohio Frontier: An Anthology of Early Writings
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