Explorers and Travelers in Great Lakes History

The works below are accounts by or about explorers and travelers in Great Lakes history. See the right column for more info about this website.

The First Explorations of the Trans-Allegheny Region by the Virginians, 1650-1674

Cleveland: Clark 1912
Alvord, Clarence WalworthGo to Book

Clarence Alvord (1868-1928) was a history professor at the University of Illinois. This book opens with a 75-page chapter entitled “The Discovery of the Ohio Waters” by Professor Alvord. The remaining chapters, listed below, all contain transcriptions of documents from the subject time-period.

-Encouragement from the Assembly
-The Discovery of New Brittaine
-The Discoveries of John Lederer
-Governor Berkelely as a Promoter of Exploration
-The Expedition of Batts and Fallam
-The Journeys of Needham and Arthur
-Coxe’s Account of the Activities of the English in the Mississippi Valley in the Seventeenth Century

Ohio River Valley, Description and travel, Great Lakes explorers, free books online

Travels in America Performed in 1806: For the Purpose of Exploring the Rivers, Alleghany, Monongahela …

London: Phillips 1808
Ashe, ThomasGo to Book

(title continued) “Ohio, and Mississippi, and Ascertaining the Produce and Condition of Their Banks and Vicinity – (3 volumes)”

[Ashe]… traveled down various rivers, including the Ohio and the Mississippi, and made adverse comment about most of what he saw. The Falls of the Ohio were to him an awful scene; the population of Kentucky, he thought, would soon decline… [this attitude] aroused so much bitterness that Americans began to resent all British travelers and to look with suspicion upon any Englishman’s travel narrative that was not wholeheartedly favorable. [this volume] …played an important part in keeping alive the enmity that had existed since the American Revolution.
-Robert R. Hubach, Early Midwestern Travel Narratives: An Annotated Bibliography, 1634-1850. P. 41

Ohio River Valley, Mississippi River Valley, Description and travel, U.S. history

The Ohio Company of Virginia and the Westward Movement, 1748-1792 …

Glendale, Calif: Arthur H. Clark 1939
Bailey, Kenneth P.Go to Book

Subtitle: “A Chapter in the History of the Colonial Frontier”

The Ohio Company played a leading role in the early settlement of Ohio. It exercised considerable influence with the Congress of the Confederation and then with the first governor of the territory, Arthur St. Clair.

Ohio Company, Ohio River Valley, free books online, historical books, Great Lakes States history

Explorers and travelers in Great Lakes history

The Garden of the World, or, The Great West; its History, its Wealth, its Natural Advantages

Boston: Wentworth 1856
Benton, Thomas H., Houston, Sam, Fremont, Col. John C. and other “Old Settlers”Go to Book

(title continued) ” …and its future : also comprising a complete guide to emigrants, with a full description of the different routes westward”

The Wabash, or, Adventures of an English Gentleman’s Family in the Interior of America

London: Hurst and Blackett 1855
Beste, J. Richard, esq.Go to Vol 1|Go to Vol 2

Two volumes by a member of the English gentry, travelling in the early 1850s with “a large family of children” as a result of which they were “…brought into contact with much of which a single male traveller hears and sees nothing. I had to make thoughtful provision for our slow progress in the interior, where he would have sped fearlessly onward in his stagecoach or steamer. This has enabled me to describe much that he never sees. My endeavor has been to represent, in these pages, what we saw and felt: consequently, they must contain much that is personal; much that is light, frivolous, anecdotical; much also that is dark and sorrowing; for such was the course of our travels.”

Some of the chapter-headings and sub-topics from the Tables of Contents for the two volumes are:

Volume 1
-Bordeaux; residence in a convent.
-“The Kate Hunter”; search for a vessel, Torbay, life on board, icebergs, the Pilot.
-New York; Quarantine, Broadway, American omnibuses.
-The River and the Railroad; A sharp man, the river boat, the Hudson, Albany, first class trains.
-Niagara Falls; Buffalo, the railway accident, the runaway slaves, Canadian and American manners.
-Lake Erie; emigration, Sandusky city, log-houses and frame-houses, agriculture of Ohio.
-Cincinnati; Queen city of the West, the Catholics, the upper crust of Cincinnati, the ladies’ saloon.
-The Ohio; Plan for emancipation of slaves, vineyards, cholera.
-Indianapolis; a spirit shop, The Capitol, buying horses, American newspapers, fashionable shops.
-The Wagon; our new equipage, highway robbers, the cholera house, the National Road, records of children.

Volume 2
-Terre Haute; Physicians on the Wabash, fears for our child.
-The Death; The little sufferer, preparations for death, the mother’s despair, a funeral on the Wabash.
-The Illness; Medical consultations, more illness, sportsmen in the backwoods.
-The Prairie Hotel; an hotel in the backwoods, the dandies from Cincinnati, murder of our landlord, 4th of July.
-Society on the Wabash; Flirtations, American women, education in convents, the dressmakers and our daughters.
-Life in Indiana; our neighbors, topography of Terre Haute, the lawsuit, the ladies of Terre Haute.
-The Election; Colonel Harrison, an Indiana country house, vote by ballot, the candidates.
-The Wabash Canal; electric telegraphs, New Harmony, the canal boat, manners of American farmers.
-The Great Lakes; Fine ladies, Lake Ontario, the United States and Mexico.
-The Emigrant; religious equality, Roman agents, warning to European Catholics, free states or slave states.

Old Northwest, United States history, history books, explorers, Wabash, history of Cincinnati, Terre Haute history, Wabash Canal

The Englishwoman in America

London: John Murray. 1856
Bird, Isabella LucyGo to Book|Audio Book

This account by an English lady traveling in America in 1854 with relatives was written for her friends rather than for publication. At nearly 500 pages, her narrative is very rich in detail. Probably because of the intended audience, it is light, amusing, frank and opinionated. Her route included substantial travel in the east as well as a western itinerary that included stays in Cincinnati and Chicago.

Women travelers, United States, read online, Social life and customs

Four Months in a Sneak-Box: A Boat Voyage of 2600 Miles Down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and Along the Gulf of Mexico

Boston: Lee & Shepard 1879
Bishop, Nathaniel H.Go to Book

The author had previously made a similar solo voyage in a canoe, but for this trip he sought a heavier boat with more storage capacity that could be either sailed or rowed. He selected a Barnegat sneak-box, built in New Jersey mainly for duck hunters. Twelve feet long and four feet wide, it weighed about 200 lbs. See the illustration at page 14.

The voyage was begun at Pittsburgh, from where he drifted down the Ohio River to the Mississippi, then continued south to the Gulf of Mexico. This book seems similar in style to many modern travel books, combining a detailed description of his progress and discomforts, notes on the natural beauty of the river, accounts of incidents and places along the way, and some occasional local history.

Some resources on this site for: Life on the River in Frontier Days

Ohio River, Mississippi River, free ebooks, travel accounts

Explorers and travelers in Great Lakes history

Notes on the Northwest, or Valley of the Upper Mississippi

NY: Wiley and Putnam 1846
Bradford, William John AldenGo to Book

(title continued) ” …comprising the country between Lakes Superior and Michigan, East; the Illinois and Missouri Rivers, and the northern boundary of the United States; including Iowa and Wisconsin, part of Michigan northwest of the Straits of Mackinaw, and northern Illinois and Missouri “

America of the Fifties: Letters of Fredrika Bremer

NY: American Scandinavian Foundation. 1924
Bremer, FredrikaGo to Book

Bremer was a Swedish novelist, and these letters described American life, as she traveled throughout the country. This passage is from the preface, written by a publisher of a later edition: “One day in the early fifties a New York publisher put on the market a series of letters bearing the double title, Homes of the New World; Impressions of America. It was a voluminous work of about thirteen hundred octavo pages, yet one that required five printings within a month. On opening the books one found revealed a curiously wide range of reading matter. Here was a conversation with Emerson, there a criticism of a girls’ school; here was an account of a negro camp-meeting, and there of a Norwegian settlement in Wisconsin. Amos Bronson Alcott was being advised to drink milk instead of water to make his Transcendentalism less foggy, or the author was watching the women smoke on a Mississippi boat. A description of an Indian chief led to a comparison of his wigwam with the Laplander’s hut or of the heathen Chippewas with the Christianized Choctaws…”

Fredrika Bremer, women authors, Swedish authors, personal narrative, Social life and customs, Description and travel

The Old Northwest Territory: its Missions, Forts and Trading Posts

Kalamazoo: 1875
Brown, Charles R.Go to Book

Brown was a Michigan judge who wrote on legal subjects as well as his historical interests. This 32-page booklet lists 94 forts in the Old Northwest, containing descriptions, histories, maps and drawings for a number of them.

See also related works on this site: military history of the Great Lakes region on Conflict, War and Military History in the Great Lakes Region

Old Northwest, History, Geography, forts, maps, free books online

Explorers and travelers in Great Lakes history

“The Early French Settlements on the Great Lakes”

Ohio History XXII, April 1913/Number 2, 341-8

Columbus: Ohio Historical Society
Bulkley, John M.Go to Article

This historian attempts in a brief article to describe a typical small French colony in the wilderness of the Great Lakes, with its post commandant, soldiers, merchants, Jesuit priests, traders and peasant farmers. He also addresses the economic and social relationship of the colony with local Indian tribes.

See also related works on this site: French history in the Great Lakes region on Great Lakes General History

Old Northwest, history of New France, forts, French colonization, Great Lakes, free ebooks

Guide to Summer Resorts in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, & c.

Charlton, JamesGo to Book

This appears to be a free travel booklet, courtesy of a railroad.

For links to tourist booklets from the 1880s and 1890s, see: Vacationing Up-North before Autos

Gems of the Northwest: A Brief Description of Prominent Places of Interest

Chicago: Rand McNally 1886
Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway Go to Book

(title continued) ” … along the lines of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway and connecting roads : with correct map and numerous illustrations”

Wisconsin, Minnesota, Yellowstone National Park.

Kilbourn and the Dells of the Wisconsin

Chicago: Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway 1901
Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway Go to Book

Consists almost entirely of full-page photos; of the Dells, views of the Mississippi, and sites in Minnesota.

A Reconnaissance of the Golden Northwest

Buffalo: Matthews, Northrup 1883
Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway Go to Book

Mississippi River Valley.

Summer Resorts and Watering Places of the North-West Illustrated

Chicago: Rand McNally 1875
Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway CompanyGo to Book

(title continued) ” … on lines of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway, with descriptions thereof. 1875″

A Journey in North America: Containing a Survey of the Countries Watered by the Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri …

Paris: 1826
Collot, Georges-Henri-Victor, and J C. BayGo to Book

(title continued) “…and Other Affluing Rivers, with Exact Observations on the Course and Soundings of These Rivers; and on the Towns, Villages, Hamlets and Farms of That Part of the New-World: Followed by Philosophical, Political, Military and Commercial Remarks and by a Projected Line of Frontiers and General Limits. Illustrated by 36 Maps, Plans, Views and Divers Cuts”

Collot (1750-1805) was a French general and the French Governor of Guadeloupe. The subject expedition in 1796 was likely a mapping mission on behalf of his government.

For historic maps of the Great Lakes region and states, see:
Great Lakes Maps, Atlases & Map Collections
Ohio Maps, Atlases & Map Collections;
Indiana Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers;
Illinois Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers;
Michigan Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers;
Wisconsin Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers

Ohio River Valley, Mississippi River Valley, Description and travel, French explorers, Great Lakes explorers, Georges Henri Victor Collot, books online

The Journeys of Réné Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle As Related By His Faithful Lieutenant Henri de Tonty; …

NY: Allerton 1922
Cox, Isaac Joslin, ed. Go to Vol 1|Go to Vol 2

(title continued) “…his missionary colleagues, Fathers Zenobius Membré, Louis Hannepin, and Anastasius Douay; his early biographer, Father Christian LeClercq; his trusted subordinate, Henri Joutel; and his brother, Jean Cavelier; together with memoirs, commissions, etc”

This collection contains an introduction by the editor, a professor at the University of Cincinnati, that explains La Salle’s explorations in the context of the French government’s objective of taking control of the Mississippi Valley, and denying the British and Spanish a foothold in the interior of North America. The translations contained here are:

-Memoir of the Sieur de la Tonty.
-Account of the Discovery of the River Mississippi and Adjacent Country by Father Louis Hennepin.
-La Salle’s First Attempt to Explore the Mississippi, by Father Chretien Le Clercq.
-Adventures of La Salle’s Party at Fort Crevecoeur in Illinois (1680-1), by Father Zenobius Membre.
-La Salle’s Voyage down the Mississippi, by Father Zenobius Membre.
-Taking Possession of Louisiana, by M. de la Salle.
-Memoirs of La Salle presented to Marquis de Seignelay in 1684.
-La Salle’s Attempt to reach the Mississippi by Sea, and Establishment of French Colony in St. Louis Bay.
-La Salle’s Attempt to Ascend the Mississippi in 1687.
-Cavelier’s Account of La Salle’s Voyages.

See the resources on this site for: La Salle the Explorer

sieur de La Salle, Robert Cavelier, Ohio River Valley, Mississippi River Valley, travel accounts, read online, Discovery and exploration, Great Lakes explorers, history book, American history, U.S. history, history online, online books, free online books, famous explorers, travelers, wilderness, French explorers, Old Northwest, New France

Explorers and travelers in Great Lakes history

Western Portraiture, and Emigrants’ guide: A Description of Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa; with Remarks on Minnesota, and Other Territories

NY: Colton 1852
Curtiss, Daniel S. Go to Book

Life and Voyages of Louis Jolliet

Chicago: Institute of Jesuit History 1948
Delanglez, JeanGo to Book

Chapter headings:

1. Early Years (1545-1672)
2. Knowledge of the Mississippi before 1673
3. Discovery of the Mississippi – Primary MSS. Evidence
4. Discovery of the Mississippi – Cartographical Evidence
5. Discovery of the Mississippi – Secondary Sources
6. The Voyage of 1673
7. Jolliet’s Activities between 1674 and 1679
8. The Voyage to Hudson Bay
9. Lawsuits. Surveying. First Labrador Voyage
10. Second Voyage to Labrador
11. Last Years and Death

The Mystery of the Monogram; a Story of a Summer Tour on the Great Lakes …

Detroit: Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Co. 1904
Go to Book

(title continued) ” … via the Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Co., “The Coast Line to Mackinac””

Promotional literature by the shipping company. Contains numerous ads and illustrations of steamships, in addition to the short novel.

American Notes for General Circulation

London: Chapman and Hall 1855
Dickens, CharlesGo to Book

Description of a trip by the famous British novelist Charles Dickens to the U.S. in the early 1840s, which included travel through the Great Lakes states. The first and last portions of the book are accounts of his travel in the east. There are also chapters on slavery and his voyage back to England. Chapter headings for the portion on western travel are:

-From Pittsburg to Cincinnati in a western steam-boat. Cincinnati.
-From Cincinnati to Louisville in another western steam-boat; and from Louisville to St. Louis in another. St. Louis.
-A Jaunt to the Looking-glass prairie and back.
-Return to Cincinnati. A stage-coach ride from that city to Columbus, and thence to Sandusky. So, by Lake Erie, to the Falls of Niagara.

United States, Social life and customs, Description and travel, Charles Dickens, British authors, travelers, Great Lake states, free ebooks

The Great Lakes, or Inland Seas of America

NY: Scribner 1863
Disturnell, John, comp.Go to Book

(title continued) ” … embracing a full description of Lakes Superior, Huron, Michigan, Erie, and Ontario; Rivers St. Mary, St. Clair, Detroit, Niagara, and St. Lawrence, Lake Winnipeg, etc., together with the commerce of the lakes, and trips through the lakes, giving a description of cities, towns, etc., forming altogether a complete guide for the pleasure traveller and emigrant. With map and embellishments.”

A Trip through the Lakes of North America; Embracing a Full Description of the St. Lawrence River …

NY: Disturnell 1857
Disturnell, John Go to Book

(title continued) “… together with all the principal places on its banks, from its source to its mouth: commerce of the Lakes, etc. Forming altogether a Complete Guide for the pleasure traveler and emigrant. With maps and embellishments”

A large part of this travel guide covers steamboat routes on all the Great Lakes (including Superior) and some details about all the ports along the route. Some information is also provided about railroad routes.

Great Lakes, Guidebooks, Michigan, Ontario, steamboats, steamboat routes, maps, railroad routes,

Summer Rambles in the West

NY: Riker 1853
Ellet, Elizabeth F. Go to Book

Elizabeth Fries Lummis Ellet was a poet and writer who had published a popular 3-volume history called The Women of the American Revolution when she decided in 1852 to take a trip west to Detroit and Milwaukee, leaving open the option of extending it. The journey turned out to be much more extensive than that. Some of the place names mentioned in the Table of Contents are:

Lake Erie, Eastern Michigan, Ann Arbor, Leoni, The Kalamazoo, Lake Michigan, Chicago, the Fox River, the Rock River, the Lead Region, Galena, Iowa, Dubuque, Prairie du Chien, Fort Crawford, Point Douglas, St. Paul, Crow River, Minnesota River, Montrose, Davenport, Rock Island, Missouri River, St. Louis, Illinois River, Peoria, La Salle, Mackinaw, Sault Ste. Marie, Lake Superior, Grandes Sables, Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.

Old Northwest, Elizabeth Fries Ellet, women poets, women authors, Great Lakes travel, Great Lakes explorer, non-fiction, Illinois travel

Explorers and travelers in Great Lakes history

Ensign, Bridgman & Fanning’s Lake and River Guide

New York: Ensign, Bridgman & Fanning 1856
Ensign, Bridgman & Fanning Go to Book

(title continued) ” … being a Traveler’s Companion to the Cities, Towns, and Villages on the Western Waters of the United states; together with descriptions of natural curiosities, and thrilling scenes in border warfare, illustrated with maps and engravings”

Ensign, Bridgman & Fanning’s Travellers’ Guide through the States of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin ..

New York: Ensign, Bridgman & Fanning 1856
Ensign, Bridgman & FanningGo to Book

(title continued) ” … with railroad, canal, stage and steamboat routes, accompanied with a new map of the above states”

Sketches of America. A Narrative of a Journey of Five Thousand Miles through the Eastern and Western States of America

London: Longman 1819
Fearon, Henry B.Go to Book

The author writes in the introduction that he was deputed by friends in England to visit America, investigate, and provide an account that would help them decide whether or where to emigrate. He was representing 39 English families. Fearon arrived in New York in August 1817, toured the U.S., and departed New York for home in May 1818.

Because of the nature of his assignment, Fearon’s account contains a volume of hard data unusual in travel accounts. He collected prices of numerous goods and services in each location. He also reports on many occupations, the extent to which skilled workers in the field are in demand, and prevailing wage rates. He reports on the availability of high-quality education and other services, as well as the availability of goods, that English families of his class would want.

Fearon’s reports on western locales are fairly short compared to detail provided for eastern locations. Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky are covered in a single chapter. Upon his departure from Illinois he headed south on the Mississippi River and returned to the east coast.

For several early-19th century descriptions of the Great Lakes states and adjoining areas, see: Settlers’ Guides for the Great Lakes Region

Economic conditions, travel description, Great Lake state, Morris Birkbeck, Henry Fearon, personal narrative, free ebooks

The States and Territories of the Great West: Including Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minesota, Kansas and Nebraska

NY: Miller, Orton, and Mulligan 1856
Ferris, Jacob Go to Book

(title continued) ” … their geography, history, resources … comprising their local history, institutions, and laws ; giving a table of distances, and the most direct routes … also, pointing out the best districts for agricultural, commercial, lumbering, and mining operations. With a map and numerous illustrations”

Letters from America: Containing Observations on the Climate and Agriculture of the Western States, the Manners of the People, the Prospects of Emigrants, &c &c

Edinburgh: W. & C. Tait 1822
Flint, JamesGo to Book

James Flint (1781-1855) was a Scottish economist who went to America mainly to study prices, wages, land questions and labor problems. He wrote letters home describing America while traveling in New York and Pennsylvania, through Pittsburgh, then down the Ohio River to Cincinnati and the Falls of the Ohio. He addresses a wide range of subjects on American culture and the political and economic systems. Some topics mentioned in the Table of Contents are: Slavery and its effects, morals and manners, education, generosity, lawyers, doctors, clergy, Justices of the Peace, state legislatures, laying out of new towns and roads, paper money, Indians, manufactures, elections, a Methodist camp meeting, circuit court, and Americanisms.

For several early-19th century descriptions of the Great Lakes states and adjoining areas, see: Settlers’ Guides for the Great Lakes Region

Ohio River Valley, Travel account, economic books, Cincinnati history, Falls of the Ohio, labor problems, personal narrative, James Flint,

Personal Narrative of Travels in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky …

Cleveland: Clark 1906
Fordham, Elias Pym. Edited by Ogg, Frederic AustinGo to Book

(title continued) “… and of a residence in the Illinois Territory: 1817-1818, with facsimiles of the author’s sketches and plans”

This book is a collection of letters that Fordham had sent home to England during his 18-month stay in America, mostly in Illinois. The letters were collected by a descendant and published early in the 20th century. Elias Pym Fordham was a young civil engineer who was a nephew of George Flower, one of the founders of the 16,000-acre English Prairie settlement in Edwards County, Illinois. Fordham arrived a year after Flower, accompanying the other principal founder, Morris Birkbeck, in 1817. He stayed at the settlement for some time, helping to prepare it for arriving English settlers. He became something of a frontiersman while there, as can be seen from his narrative. His wide-ranging observations and opinions differ somewhat from the optimistic account published by Flowers (found on the Illinois Local History page of this site).

For memoirs and biographies of life on the frontier in the Old Northwest, see:
Biographies & Memoirs in Ohio History
Biographies & Memoirs in Indiana History;
Biographies & Memoirs in Illinois History;
Biographies & Memoirs in Michigan History;
Biographies & Memoirs in Wisconsin History

Ohio River Valley, Illinois history, Edwards County Illinois, travel accounts, Illinois Territory, Ohio history, Elias Pym Fordham, George Flower, English Prairie settlement

Explorers and travelers in Great Lakes history

The Great North-west and the Great Lake Region of North America

New York: Longmans, Green 1904
Fountain, PaulGo to Book

Chapter headings are:

-The Woodland Lake
-My Companions
-Fishing, and other Summer Occupations
-The Approach of Winter
-Winter at its Height
-A Journey to the Red River
-Red River Settlement
-Continuation of the Voyage in the Winnipeg Region
-A Month’s Encampment in the Wilderness
-A Winter in the Solitary Wilderness
-Continuation of the Journey to Fort Severn
-The Commencement of the Return Journey to the Ottawa River
-The Coast of James Bay to the Head of the River Abbitibbe
-A Journey to the Gulf of St. Lawrence
-A Winter with the Lumberers
-The Ohio District
-Shakers and Religious Mummers in America
-The Wild Bees of the American Forests
-Life in the Woods of North Michigan
-Animal Life about Mr. Dunford’s Farm, &c.
-Journey from Mr. Dunford’s Farm to Marquette
-The Southern Shores of Lake Superior
-The North Shore of Lake Superior
-Peddling in the United States

Natural History, history, Old Northwest, Canada, Great Lake region, travel description, Great Lakes explorer, Red River, Winnipeg, Fort Severn, Michigan, Marquette Michigan, Lake Superior

Summer on the Lakes, in 1843

Boston: Little & Brown 1844
Fuller, Sarah Margaret Go to Book

Sarah Margaret Fuller Ossoli (1810-1850), better known as Margaret Fuller, was a writer, editor, translator, early feminist thinker, critic, and social reformer who was associated with the Transcendentalist movement in New England. This is her introspective account of a trip to the Great Lakes region in 1843. Organized as a series of travel episodes interspersed with literary and social commentary, the work displays a style common to the portfolios, sketch books, and commonplace books kept by educated nineteenth-century women. In addition to her own thoughts about natural landscapes and human encounters, Fuller includes stories, legends, allegorical dialogues, poems, and excerpts from the works of other authors. When she traveled to the Midwest, Fuller was exhausted by her work as editor of the Dial, the Transcendentalist journal she edited with Ralph Waldo Emerson. Accompanied during part of the journey by her friends James Clarke and Sarah Clarke, who created the book’s etchings, Fuller traveled by train, steamboat, carriage, and on foot in a circle from Niagara Falls north to Mackinac Island and Sault Ste. Marie, west to Milwaukee, south to Pawpaw, Illinois, and back to Buffalo. Fuller discusses Chicago in some detail, and laments the unjust treatment of Native Americans. She comments on the difficulties of pioneer life for women and on the degradation of the region’s beautiful and exhilarating natural environment. She speaks favorably about the British-American agrarian visionary, Morris Birbeck, and includes a short story about an old school friend, Mariana, who dies because her active mind cannot adapt to the restrictive codes of behavior prescribed for the era’s elite women.
– Library of Congress American Memory website

Margaret Fuller, Sarah Margaret Fuller Ossoli, Great Lakes – Travel description, social reformer, feminist, women authors, “The Dial”, Transcendentalist, Mackinac Island, Sault Ste Marie, Milwaukee, Chicago, Morris Birkbeck

Christopher Gist’s Journals: With Historical, Geographical and Ethnological Notes and Biographies of His Contemporaries

Pittsburg: Weldin 1893
Gist, Christopher and William M. DarlingtonGo to Book

In 1750 and 1751 Gist explored the region now within the borders of Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia, and also western Maryland and southwestern Pennsylvania. George Gist (1706-1759) was a neighbor of Daniel Boone in North Carolina in 1750 when he was contracted by the Ohio Company to explore the country to the west and north of the Ohio River and befriend Indian tribes there. The Ohio Company had been established to carry out very large-scale settlement in the region, but first needed to explore, establish relations with the Indians, and somehow pre-empt the French, who were determined to maintain control of the region.

The first journal describes Gist’s journey into Ohio that winter as far as present-day Louisville. The company sent him on a second trip in 1751, to explore south of the river (present day Kentucky). In November 1753 Major George Washington delivered a letter to his house from the Virginia council, requesting that he take Washington to the commandant of the “French fort on the Ohio River” (Fort Duquesne). They set out the next day, reaching the fort within four weeks, carried out Washington’s business with the commander and returned. This trip was described in the third, and last journal.

The book also contains the historian’s notes about the three journals and profiles of a number of Gist’s contemporaries.

Christopher Gist, explorers, exploration, Ohio River Valley, Ohio Company, Ohio country, Virginia, French and Indian War, Kentucky country, – journal, Fort Duquesne, George Washington at Fort Duquesne

Explorers and travelers in Great Lakes history

New England and the West

Buffalo: Wilgus 1843
Haskins, Roswell WillsonGo to Book

Joutel’s Journal of La Salle’s Last Voyage, 1684-7

Albany: McDonough 1906
Joutel, HenriGo to Book

Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieru de La Salle is remembered as a great explorer in North America, but his last expedition was more like a military campaign. Back in France in 1683 after an exploring expedition, he proposed to the King and ministry that he establish fortified posts on the Gulf of Mexico and on the Mississippi River, and collect an army of over 15,000 Indians in preparation for military operations against the Spaniards in the most northern province of Mexico. The long-term goal would be for the French government to control all trade and colonization of the entire Mississippi valley. The crown approved his proposal and gave him four ships rather than the two he requested, including a 36-gun ship from the navy. The expedition departed France in the summer of 1684.

Henri Joutel was a soldier and a volunteer on the expedition who seems to have been an aide to La Salle, and also supervised provisioning of the ships and care for the settlers who accompanied the expedition. Historians have considered his journal account to be unbiased and reliable.

See the resources on this site for: La Salle the Explorer

Sieur de La Salle, Robert Cavelier, Mississippi River exploration, New France, North American explorer, explorer journal, Henri Joutel, free online books, Great Lakes region

Narrative of an Expedition to the Source of St. Peter’s River, Lake Winnepeek, Lake of the Woods, &c.

London: Whittaker 1825
Keating, William Hypolitus; Long, Stephen H. and others Go to Vol 1|Go to Vol 2

(title continued) ” … performed in the year 1823, by order of the Hon. J.C. Calhoun, Secretary of War, under the command of Stephen H. Long, U.S.T.E.”

A Summer in the Wilderness; Embracing a Canoe Voyage Up the Mississippi and Around Lake Superior

NY: Appleton 1847
Lanman, Charles Go to Book

The Prairies of the Western States their Advantages and their Drawbacks

Toronto: 1860
Lindsey, Charles Go to Book

The Golden Northwest

Chicago: Rollins 1879
Maitland, JamesGo to Book

De Celoron’s Expedition to the Ohio in 1749

NY: 1878
Marshall, Orsamus H. Go to Book

Pierre Joseph Céloron de Blainville (1693-1759) was a French military officer who served in Michigan, Louisiana, Fort Niagara and on Lake Champlain. In 1749 he led an expedition through the Ohio River Valley to strengthen France’s claim to the region, as that claim was contested by the British. Competition between the French and British for the region eventually led to the Seven Years’ (French and Indian) War.

See also on this site, three more articles on the Celoron expedition at Marshall, O. H., “De Celoron’s Expedition to the Ohio in 1749″ on Explorers and Travelers in Ohio History

Pierre-Joseph Céloron de Blainville, de Celoron, Ohio River Valley, exploration, French explorer

Narrative of Richard Lee Mason in the Pioneer West, 1819

NY: Heartman 1915
Mason, Richard LeeGo to Book

A 1st person account of a journey made by Dr. Mason in 1819 from Philadelphia to Illinois, through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

The Western Journals of John May, Ohio Company Agent and Business Adventurer

Cincinnati: Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio 1961
May, JohnGo to Book

The Ohio Company of Associates (which should not be confused with the Ohio Company formed about 1850) was formed at the Bunch of Grapes Tavern in Boston on March 1, 1786. It was based on an idea of General Rufus Putnam and others, that veterans of the Revolution would pool their resources in an association that would purchase land in Ohio. Shares were $1,000 each, and land purchase would be under the terms of the Ordinance of 1785.

In October 1787 the company received a contract from Congress for several million acres in Ohio, and an advance party went down the Ohio and established a settlement later known as Marietta. John May was one of the company agents, and arrived there a couple of months after the advance party in early 1788. These journals cover the period from his departure for Ohio until his return to Boston in December 1789. The editor has included a bibliography of manuscript sources and published sources.

Ohio River Valley, Ohio Company, John May, Ohio Company of Associates, Rufus Putnam, Settlement of Ohio, Marietta history, travel journal, Ohio History

Explorers and travelers in Great Lakes history

New States and Territories, or, The Ohio, Indiana …

Miller 1819
Miller, AndrewGo to Book

(title continued) ” … Illinois, Michigan, North-Western, Missouri, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, in their Real Characters, in 1818 …”

A Guide to the Summer Resorts of Minnesota

Chicago: St. Louis, Minneapolis & St. Paul Short Line 1878
Ogden, D. H.Go to Book

Subtitle: “A Full Description of the Summer Resorts of Minnesota, with Routes of Travel, Principal Hotels and other Useful Information”

A free travel booklet, courtesy of the railroad.

For links to tourist booklets from the 1880s and 1890s, see: Vacationing Up-North before Autos

Letters from the West

New Bedford: Melcher & Rogers 1823
Ogden, George W.Go to Book

(title continued) ” … Comprising a Tour through the Western Country and a Residence of two summers in the states of Ohio and Kentucky ; originally written in letters to a brother”

La Salle and the Discovery of the Great West

Boston: Little, Brown 1901
Parkman, FrancisGo to Book

René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle (1643-1687) was a French explorer in the Great Lakes region who traveled the Mississippi River, claiming the territory for France. Born and raised in France and educated in the Jesuit religious order, he went to Montreal in New France in 1666. On one of his expeditions in the subsequent years he built the first sailing ship on the Great Lakes, Le Griffon. Part of his legacy was a chain of forts from Ontario into present-day Ohio and Illinois that extended French control and the French fur trade into the region of the present Great Lakes states.

Author Francis Parkman was one of America’s best-known and most respected historians in the late nineteenth century. He drew on a great depth of expertise about the history of the French in North America for this book, which was long considered a standard history on the topic.

See the resources on this site for: La Salle the Explorer

The Western Country in the 17th century; the Memoirs of Lamothe Cadillac and Pierre Liette

Chicago: Lakeside 1947
Quaife, Milo, ed. Go to Book

Relation of the Discoveries and Voyages of Cavelier de La Salle from 1679 to 1681

Chicago: Caxton Club 1901
La Salle, Robert Cavelier, sieur deGo to Book

(title continued) ” … the Official Narrative”

The Geographical Catechism of Pennsylvania, and the Western States

Harrisburg, PA: Winebrenner 1836
Rupp, Israel DanielGo to Book

(title continued) ” … Designed as a Guide and Pocket Companion, for travellers and emigrants, to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Missouri : containing a geographical and early historical account of these several states, from their first settlement up to the present time”

Travels in the Central Portions of the Mississippi Valley: comprising observations on its mineral geography, internal resources, and aboriginal population

NY: Collins and Hannay1825
Schoolcraft, Henry R.Go to Book

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (1793-1864) was an explorer, government administrator, and scholar. For a more detailed biographical summary, and for his memoirs, see the Biographies & Memoirs in Michigan History page of this site. Other books by Schoolcraft on the site can be found by typing his name into the search box.

For historic maps of the Great Lakes region and states, see:
Great Lakes Maps, Atlases & Map Collections
Ohio Maps, Atlases & Map Collections;
Indiana Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers;
Illinois Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers;
Michigan Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers;
Wisconsin Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers

Indians of North America, Native Americans, Henry Schoolcraft, Old Northwest, Mississippi River Valley, read online, explorers, geography, geographers

Twelve Years in America: Being Observations on the Country…

Chicago: Poe and Hitchcock 1867
Shaw, James (Rev.)Go to Book

(title continued) “… the people, institutions and religion; with notices of slavery and the late war; and facts and incidents illustrative of ministerial life and labor in Illinois, with notes of travel through the United States and Canada”

James Shaw, a Minister from northern Ireland, traveled to the U.S. in 1854 and spent 12 years there. While there he traveled a great deal, and also stayed in Illinois for a number of years. The book was written along the lines of a series of addresses he gave in 1866 and 1867, after his return to Ireland. Chapter headings, and some of the topics listed there, are:

-The Voyage Over.
-Westward Travel. Chicago, Bloomington.
-The Country and its Resources. Physical aspects, Climate, Minerals and Metals.
-Fauna and Flora, Zoology and Ornithology.
-The South and West, the Future Field of Emigration. Texas, New Mexico, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Kansas (and other states).
-Illinois, the Garden State. Development of the North-West, Natural Resources, Agriculture, Commercial Facilities.
-American Life and Character. Aborigines, African, Anglo-Saxon, Marriage and Divorce, Parents and Children.
-The Late War and its Lessons. Slavery, Cherokee Indians, Fugitive Slave Law and its Victims.
-Old and New America. Nations Second Birth, Emigration.
-The American Churches. Evangelical Churches, Temperance, Bible, Missionary Societies, Colleges, Press.
-American Revivals. The Great Awakening and Revival of 1857-58. Public Prayer Meetings.
-The Randolph Grove Circuit. Illinois Conference.
-Bloomington West Charge. Church Courts in America, Revivals, Methodist Episcopal and Protestant Episcopal churches.
-Petersburgh Station. Financial Crisis and Indian Rebellion.
-Oldtown Circuit.
-Decatur Circuit.
-Clinton Station. Revival and Conversions, Death and Funerals of Soldiers.
-Rushville Station. Travels through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio by Railroad.
-Atlanta Station.
-The Church of a Hundred Years. Generic and Specific Forms, Historical Development.
-Methodist Centenary Celebrations.
-The Canada Confederation.

Illinois history, Social life, customs, Reverend James Shaw, church history, travel description, American revivals, minister circuits, Illinois conference

Incidents of a Journey from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin Territory, in 1837

Chicago: Wright Howes 1927
Smith, William Rudolph, GeneralGo to Book

(title continued) ” … being the journal of Gen. William Rudolph Smith, U.S. Commissioner for Treaty with the Chippewa Indians of the Upper Mississippi, to which are added Gen. Smith’s Autobiography, 1787-1808; Letters Relating to the Commission”

A Summer Journey in the West

NY: Taylor 1841
Steele, Eliza R. Go to Book

“This little book assumes to be nothing more than a note book of all that passed before the observation of the author, during a summer tour of four thousand miles, through the great lakes; the prairies of Illinois; the rivers Illinois, Mississippi, and Ohio; and over the Alleghany mountains to New York. … the author has added to her notes and letters, some little information regarding the western States, in hopes her book may be of use to future tourists and emigrants, who will here find an account of the distances, prices, and conveyances, throughout the author’s route.”
– From the author’s Preface

Midwest history, travel book, Frontier and pioneer life, Great Lakes, personal narrative, Eliza Steele,

Explorers and travelers in Great Lakes history

Steele’s Western Guide Book, and Emigrant’s Directory

Buffalo: Steele & Peck 1839
Steele, Oliver G. Go to Book

(title continued) ” … Containing Different Routes through the States of New-York, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin Territory, &c. With descriptions of the climate, soil, productions, prospects, &c.”

The North and West Illustrated for Tourist, Business and Pleasure Travel …

Chicago: Chicago & North-Western Railway Co. 1879
Stennett, W.H., compilerGo to Book

(title continued) “… The Popular Resorts of California, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Northern Michigan and Minnesota. A Guide to the Lakes and Rivers, to the Plains and Mountains, to the Resorts of Birds, Game Animals and Fishes; and Hints for the Commercial Traveler, the Theatre Manager, the Land Hunter and the Emigrant.

As the title suggests, this is a large guide. The index at the front lists around 900 places that are described inside, including a very large number of locations in Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota. The guide is organized by railway lines, listing stops on each branch line from end to end, also including connected lines owned by other companies. There are nearly 100 illustrations.

railway lines, railroad guide, railroad travel, railway routes, history of railroads, Chicago and Northwestern Railway, travel guide, description, Wisconsin, Northern Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa

Tourists’ and Invalids’ Guide to the Northwest. In Three Parts

NY: Evening Mail 1868
Sweetser, Charles H., comp.Go to Book

Subtitle: “I. The pleasure tourist. II. The rod and the rifle. III. The invalid. Containing information about Minnesota, Wisconsin, Dacota, and the Lake Superior Region”.

Travels Through the Western Country in the Summer of 1816 …

NY: Rumsey 1819
Thomas, DavidGo to Book

(title continued) “… Including Notices of the Natural History, Antiquities, Topography, Agriculture, Commerce and Manufactures ; with a Map of the Wabash Country, Now Settling”

“This Journey was undertaken with a view to explore the Wabash Lands in the New Purchase. It is a work of sterling merit. The author (a Quaker) was a practical engineer, and on the whole, the work, although very unpretentious in style, is well worthy of attention; The route of the author was down the Ohio, stopping at all the towns and places of interest on both sides of the river; the description of the journey to Vincennes, occupies the first half of the volume.”
– Peter G. Thomson, A Bibliography of the State of Ohio (1880)

For several early-19th century descriptions of the Great Lakes states and adjoining areas, see: Settlers’ Guides for the Great Lakes Region

For historic maps of the Great Lakes region and states, see:
Great Lakes Maps, Atlases & Map Collections
Ohio Maps, Atlases & Map Collections;
Indiana Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers;
Illinois Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers;
Michigan Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers;
Wisconsin Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers

Ohio River Valley, Indiana, travel book, Indiana explorer, Wabash lands, New Purchase, Indiana history, history of Vincennes, nonfiction, travel guide, free online books

Early Western Travels, 1748-1846 (32 volumes)

Glendale, CA: Arthur H. Clark Company 1900
Thwaites, Reuben G., ed.Go to Website

A series of annotated reprints of some of the best and rarest contemporary volumes of travel: descriptive of the Indians and social and economic conditions in the middle and far West, during the period of early American settlement, Edited with notes, introduction, index, etc. The 32 volumes of reprints include 2 volumes of indexes. Some of the reprints are offered separately on this website, and a number of them cover travel in the far west. Reprints in the collection that may be of interest are:

-Journals of Conrad Weiser, George Croghan, Christian Frederick Post and Thomas Morris.
-Francois Andre Michaux’s Travels west of the Alleghany Mountains, 1802.
-Cuming’s Tour to the Western Country 1807-1809.
-Bradbury’s Travels in the Interior of America, 1809-1811.
-Evan’s Pedestrious Tour of Four Thousand Miles, 1818.
-Hulme’s Journal of a Tour in the Western Countries of America, 1818-1819.
-Wood’s Two years’ Residence in the English Prairie, 1820-1822.
-Faux’s Memorable Days in America, 1819-1820.
-Welby’s Visit to North America, 1819-1820.
-Bullock’s Journey from New Orleans to New York, 1827.

Old Northwest, Pennsylvania, French and Indian War, Colonial Period

Explorers and travelers in Great Lakes history

The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents: Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in New France, 1610-1791

New York: Pageant 1959
Thwaites, Reuben G.Go to Website

These are translations of the original Jesuit records for all of New France. The Introduction in volume 1, by Wisconsin Historical Society President Reuben Gold Thwaites, provides the background on the Jesuit Relations and discusses the many missions established by the Jesuits.

See also on this site: Winsor, Justin, Cartier to Frontenac; Geographical Discovery in the Interior of North America in its Historical Relations 1534-1700 in Section 973.1 on General U.S. History & Early U.S. History to 1607

online library, historical, Jesuits, Jesuit fathers, Jesuit missionaries, explorers, Great Lakes explorers, Indians of North America, history, French Catholic Missions, Native Americans

A New Discovery of a Vast Country in America by Father Louis Hennepin …

Chicago: McClurg 1903
Thwaites, Reuben G., ed.Go to Vol 1|Go to Vol 2

(title continued) “… reprinted from the second London issue of 1698, with facsimiles of original title-pages, maps, and illustrations, and the addition of introduction, notes, and index by Reuben Gold Thwaites.

Father Hennepin was sent to New France in 1675. He was at first assigned to Quebec, where he spent part of each year as an itinerant missionary. He then spent two years at Fort Frontenac on Lake Ontario before being assigned to accompany La Salle on an exploratory expedition. From that point onward Hennepin traveled a great deal in the western country, and relates his adventures in these two volumes.

See also: Winsor, Justin, Cartier to Frontenac; Geographical Discovery in the Interior of North America in its Historical Relations 1534-1700 in Section 973.1 of General U.S. History & Early U.S. History to 1607

See the resources on this site for: La Salle the Explorer

Sieur de La Salle, Robert Cavelier, Father Louis Hennepin, Mississippi River Valley, Great Lakes, Discovery, exploration, New France, French explorer, Fort Frontenac, Quebec, free ebooks

Domestic Manners of the Americans

London: Gilbert and Rivington 1832
Trollope, FrancesGo to Vol 1|Go to Vol 2

“The book created a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic, as Frances Trollope had a caustic view of the Americans and found America strongly lacking in manners and learning. She was appalled by America’s egalitarian middle-class and by the influence of evangelicalism that was emerging during the Second Great Awakening. Trollope was also disgusted by slavery, of which she saw relatively little as she stayed in the South only briefly, and by the popularity of tobacco chewing.”
– Wikipedia entry for “Frances Trollope”

Social life, customs, Frances Trollope, women authors, travel description, Cincinnati, history of Ohio River

Appleton’s Southern and Western Travellers’ Guide…

NY: Appleton 1853
Williams, WellingtonGo to Book

(title continued) ” … with new and authentic maps illustrating those divisions of the country. “

My Northern Travels: The Results of Faith and Prayer

Ashland, OH: Brethren 1887
Wood, Julia A.Go to Book

(title continued) ” … based upon a tour of nine months through Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Canada. With the author’s autobiography”

Letters from the West, or, A Caution to Emigrants being Facts and Observations

Salem, NY: Dodd & Stevenson 1819
Wright, John StillmanGo to Book

(title continued) ” … Respecting the States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and some parts of New-York, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky : written in the winter of 1818-19 “

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