Explorers and Travelers in Ohio History

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

On the Ohio

NY: Dodd Mead 1919
Abdy, Harry BennettGo to Book

Description of a railroad and riverboat journey from western Kansas to Pittsburgh.

Journals of Charles Beatty, 1762-1769

University Park, PA 1962
Beatty, CharlesGo to Book

This volume contains journals of three trips made by Beatty; two to the British Isles and one through Pennsylvania to the Ohio country in 1766. Throughout the first half of the 18th century many thousands of Scotch-Irish Presbyterians immigrated to America, often arriving in Philadelphia, from where they then advanced west through Pennsylvania in search of land. Many could be found on the very edge of the frontier, which in the 1740s was in central Pennsylvania, but by the 1760s had extended to the western edge of present-day Pennsylvania and along the Ohio River. Reverend Beatty had been active since the outbreak of war in 1756 in providing assistance to frontiersmen on behalf of the Presbyterian church. In 1766 the church sent him to preach for two months on the frontier, to find out what Presbyterian frontiersmen needed from the church, and to get some idea of where they were settling. His journal is a record of his fulfilment of that assignment.

In addition to Beatty’s journal this volume contains an extensive introduction that describes Reverend Beatty’s activities in the 1750s and 1760s, and the efforts of the Presbyterian church to provide services to co-religionists on the frontier.

Sketches of a Tour to the Western Country through the States of Ohio and Kentucky …

Pittsburgh 1810
Cuming, FortescueGo to Book

(title continued) “… a Voyage down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and a trip through the Mississippi Territory and part of West Florida. Commenced at Philadelphia in the Winter of 1807 and Concluded in 1809”

Little is known about Fortescue Cuming, the author. Editor Reuben G. Thwaites concluded from clues in the account that “he appears to have been an Englishman of culture and refinement, who had travelled extensively in other lands…” Thwaites, who had edited dozens of travel journals, found him an excellent travel reporter. He wrote in his Preface that Cumings had, “…an intelligent, open mind, free from local prejudices, and with trained habits of observation.” “In plain, dispassionate style, he has given us a picture of American life in the West, at the beginning of the 19th century, that for clear-cut outlines and fidelity of presentation has the effect of a series of photographic representations.”

The journals here cover two journeys. The first began in January 1807, and started as a pedestrian tour from Philadelphia to Pittsburg. After a stay of several months in Pittsburgh he continued by boat down the Ohio River to Maysville KY. He then visited Lexington and Frankfurt, crossed the Ohio, and traveled the new state road through Chillicothe, Lancaster and Zanesville to Wheeling. Then he returned to Pittsburgh. The second narrative starts at Maysville in 1808 and describes his voyage down the Ohio and Mississippi to Bayou Pierre, and then a horseback trip in Mississippi Territory.

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

A Journey to Ohio in 1810: As Recorded in the Journal of Margaret Van Horn Dwight

New Haven: Yale University Press 1912
Dwight, Margaret V. H, and Max FarrandGo to Book

Author Margaret Dwight (1790-1834) was the daughter of a physician and the niece of a President of Yale College. Her father died in 1796 and her mother later remarried, so Margaret lived with other family members. In 1810, at the age of 19, she traveled from New Haven, CT. to Warren, OH. by wagon to live with cousins. She had promised one cousin that that she would keep a journal of her trip, and sent her this account immediately afterward. Margaret Dwight would go on to marry William Bell in 1811 in Ohio. They moved to Pittsburgh and raised a family of thirteen children.

Explorers and travelers in Ohio history

Journal of Captain William Trent from Logstown to Pickawillany, A.D. 1752 …

Cincinnati: Clarke 1871
Goodman, Alfred T., ed.Go to Book

(title continued) “… now published for the first time from a copy in the archives of the Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio, together with letters of Governor Robert Dinwiddie, an historical notice of the Miami Confederacy of Indians; a sketch of the English post at Pickawillany, with a short biography of Captain Trent, and other papers never before printed”

Map and Description of Northeastern Ohio

Cleveland: William W. Williams 1884
Heckewelder, John Gottlieb ErnestusGo to Book

A reprint of a 1796 publication.

The Diary of Lucy Ann Higbee, 1837

Cleveland: Privately Printed 1924
Higbee, Lucy AnnGo to Book

(title continued) “…Chiefly from original manuscripts; containing the papers of Col. George Morgan; those of Judge Barker; the diaries of Joseph Buell and John Mathews; the records of the Ohio Company, &c., &c., &c.”

Lucy Ann Higby and her niece Virginia Higbee traveled to the home of Joseph Higby (Lucy Ann’s brother and Virginia’s father), several miles east of Coshocton, Ohio. The two began from their home in Trenton, NJ, and the author describes their journey by canal boat, steam boat and stage. They went through the Alleghenies to Pittsburgh, and then through Wheeling and Steubenville to Coshocton. After a stay with Lucy Ann’s brother, the two continue on to Cleveland. The crisp, concise account provides a good sense of the hardships and inconveniences of travel, and includes remarks on many of the sites of interest they passed. 57 pages.

Pioneer History: Being an Account of the First Examinations of the Ohio Valley, and the Early Settlement of the Northwest Territory …

Cincinnati: 1848
Hildreth, Samuel P. Go to Book

(title continued) “…Chiefly from original manuscripts; containing the papers of Col. George Morgan; those of Judge Barker; the diaries of Joseph Buell and John Mathews; the records of the Ohio Company, &c., &c., &c.”

The “Publishers’ Advertisement” at the beginning of the book says that the work was published “under the superintendence” of the Historical Society of Cincinnati, and “contains a full account of all that took place in Washington county, where the first settlement in the present state of Ohio took place, from 1788 to 1803, or during the existence of the Territorial Government.” The author, in his Preface, wrote that he had lived in Ohio more than 40 years and was personally acquainted with a large number of the early pioneers. He drew on the diaries of Joseph Buell and John Mathews (mentioned in the title) for events on the Ohio river before the settlement of the Ohio Company, and a large portion of this history was founded on the notes of Judge Barker.

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

A Pictorial Description of Ohio

NY: Ensign & Thayer 1850
Lossing, Benson JohnGo to Book

(title continued) ” … comprising a sketch of its physical geography, history, political divisions, resources, government and constitution, antiquities, public lands, etc.”

“De Celoron’s Expedition to the Ohio in 1749”

Ohio History XXIX, October 1920, Number 4, 424-50.

Columbus: Ohio Historical Society
Marshall, O. H.Go to Article

This is sometimes called the “lead plate expedition”. Celeron was a French military officer on an assignment to strengthen France’s claim to the Ohio country. He did so by burying inscribed lead plates in the river at the mouth of principal tributaries, and by affixing lead or copper plates to trees. When the expedition encountered British trading posts along the river, the traders were ordered to leave the region. This expedition marked an escalation in France’s competition with Britain for the Ohio country, as France tried to establish control along waterways from Lake Erie, down the Ohio River to Mississippi, then down to New Orleans. This would, France hoped, stop the spread of the British across North America.

This introductory article and the three accompanying articles all appeared together in the same volume of Ohio History. Two of the accompanying articles are English translations of journals maintained by Celoron and the priest assigned to the expedition, Father Bonnecamps. The editors of both journals included explanatory notes.

“The Expedition of Celoron”

Ohio History XXIX, October 1920, Number 4, 331-334

Columbus: Ohio Historical Society
Galbreath, C. B.Go to Article


“Celoron’s Journal”

Ohio History XXIX, October 1920, Number 4, 335-96, 481-483

Columbus: Ohio Historical Society
Lambing, A. A., ed.Go to Article


“Account of the Voyage on the Beautiful River made in 1749, under the Direction of Monsieur De Celoron”

Ohio History Vol 29, October 1920, Number 4, pp 397-423.

Columbus: Ohio Historical Society
Bonnecamps, FatherGo to Article

Explorers and travelers in Ohio history

A Journey through the Indian Country beyond the Ohio, 1785″ II

Mississippi Valley Historical Review Vol II, 1915-16, 261-73

Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Mississippi Valley Historical Association
Montgomery, SamuelGo to Article

This is mainly a travel journal of Samuel Montgomery, one of four government agents who travelled from Pittsburg to the site of a Shawnee village in present-day Logan county, OH to negotiate with the Shawnee.

“The Journey of a Pennsylvania Quaker to Pioneer Ohio”

Cincinnati Historical Society Bulletin Volume 26, No. 1 (January 1968): 2-40

Cincinnati: Cincinnati Historical Society
Smith, Dwight L., and S. Winifred Smith, eds.,Go to Article

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

You can find more works like these at our other ‘Explorers and Travelers’ pages. Check ‘Explorers and Travelers in Great Lakes History’ for more material covering Ohio.

Explorers and Travelers in Great Lakes History

Explorers and Travelers in Illinois History

Explorers and Travelers in Indiana History

Explorers and Travelers in Michigan History

Explorers and Travelers in Wisconsin History

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