The Pioneers

The Pioneers Summary

The #1 New York Timesbestseller by Pulitzer Prize–winning historian David McCullough rediscovers an important chapter in the American story that’s “as resonant today as ever” (The Wall Street Journal)—the settling of the Northwest Territory by courageous pioneers who overcame incredible hardships to build a community based on ideals that would define our country.

As part of the Treaty of Paris, in which Great Britain recognized the new United States of America, Britain ceded the land that comprised the immense Northwest Territory, a wilderness empire northwest of the Ohio River containing the future states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. A Massachusetts minister named Manasseh Cutler was instrumental in opening this vast territory to veterans of the Revolutionary War and their families for settlement. Included in the Northwest Ordinance were three remarkable conditions: freedom of religion, free universal education, and most importantly, the prohibition of slavery. In 1788 the first band of pioneers set out from New England for the Northwest Territory under the leadership of Revolutionary War veteran General Rufus Putnam. They settled in what is now Marietta on the banks of the Ohio River.

McCullough tells the story through five major characters: Cutler and Putnam; Cutler’s son Ephraim; and two other men, one a carpenter turned architect, and the other a physician who became a prominent pioneer in American science. “With clarity and incisiveness, [McCullough] 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” (The Providence Journal).

Drawn in great part from a rare and all-but-unknown collection of diaries and letters by the key figures, The Pioneers is a uniquely American story of people whose ambition and courage led them to remarkable accomplishments. “A tale of uplift” (The New York Times Book Review), this is a quintessentially American story, written with David McCullough’s signature narrative energy.

Book Reviews


Slow Start, Strong Finish5 star

This started off a bit slow; but then like a stream building to a creek and then a river - McCullough pulls you into the narrative. Some truly admirable people settled the Ohio valley area. I’m now on the lookout for more books about the local tribes (Hopewell communities) as well as the immigrants. Highly recommended.55

Sept 948

A well…4 star

…written book, as usual. Unfortunately it is about the stealing of America by people who thought they had a right to take … by any means..what did not belong to them.45


Boring. Tedious. Uninteresting. No where near the grandeur of his other magnificent reads.1 star

Too much boring detail.15


Pioneers5 star

Great history background of our early Pioneers.55


Another amazing book5 star

I found this book engrossing and filled with new and unfamiliar stories. Even for history buffs this story will surprise with many events and personalities left untouched in other histories and is told with the easy and captivating quality McCullough so regularly delivers.55

VP Ranch

The Pioneers5 star

The Pioneers is a great book. The story of the early settlements on the Ohio river. A wonderful and interesting history lesson full of historical names. It answers the question;; Who was Johnny Appleseed! A great read.55


Good book5 star

Good book to read about a little known side of pioneers moving west.55


The pioneer3 star

Good book on history of Ohio.not to exciting.but good.35

Tired of this Book

Skimming, Skimming2 star

I love history, but this book is a major snooze fest.25


Disappointing2 star

As an Ohio native, I thought this book would be of interest. However, I found it boring for the most part. And then it ended! Cannot recommend sadly25

Other Books by David McCullough

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The Greater Journey


The Greater Journey
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