Who Explored the Great Lakes? – Travel Guides – Great Lakes Exploration


Great Lakes explorers, travel in the Great Lakes, Robert de la Salle, Wilderness travel, Why did the French first begin exploring the great lakes region?

Find the Directory for 90+ pages in this collection at History of the Great Lakes States.

 

Guidebooks to the Great Lakes Region Collection

A number of free online books at the Internet Archive, resulting from a search for books on “Great Lakes Region Guidebooks”. Be patient as the page loads.

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

Alvord, Clarence Walworth
Cleveland: Clark 1912

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
-Bibliography

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

Ohio, and Mississippi, and Ascertaining the Produce and Condition of Their Banks and Vicinity

Ashe, Thomas
London: Phillips 1808

[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

Great Lakes Journey: A New Look at America’s Freshwater Coast

Ashworth, William
Wayne State University 2000

“Great Lakes Journey is a follow-up to William Ashworth’s earlier book The Late, Great Lakes, published in 1986. Fifteen years after his first trip, Ashworth journeys to many of the same places and talks to many of the same people to examine the changes that have taken place along the Great Lakes since the 1980s. Great Lakes Journey is a poetic account of his 6,000-mile trip, mixed with explanations of the scientific and political realities behind the observed changes, reminiscences of his 1983 trip, and conversations with local residents – some of them scientists, and others simply people who care.”

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

A Chapter in the History of the Colonial Frontier

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

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.

Also see our collection of articles at Biography Articles

See our Biography Page for free online biographies of many historical figures.

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

and its future : also comprising a complete guide to emigrants, with a full description of the different routes westward

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

 

Collected Biographies & Memoirs for the historic Great Lakes region

Great Lakes: From Wildlife to Nightlife

Berkmoes, Ver et al.
Lonely Planet 2000

Guide book in the ‘Lonely Planet’ series of travel guides. Covers Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

The Wabash, or, Adventures of an English Gentleman’s Family in the Interior of America, Vol 1

Volume 2

Beste, J. Richard, esq.
London: Hurst and Blackett 1855

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.”

Contents: Bordeaux – “The Kate Hunter” – New York – The River and the Railroad – Niagara Falls – Lake Erie – Cincinnati – The pledge – Indianapolis – The wagon – Terre Haute – The death – The illness – The prairie hotel – Society on the Wabash – Life in Indiana – The election – The Wabash canal – The Great Lakes – Saratoga Springs – The emigrant – The “Asia”

Books and articles on the History of the Great Lakes region

The Englishwoman in America

Audio book

Bird, Isabella Lucy
London: John Murray. 1856

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.

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

Bishop, Nathaniel H.
Boston: Lee & Shepard 1879

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

Notes on the Northwest, or Valley of the Upper Mississippi

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

Bradford, William John Alden
NY: Wiley and Putnam 1846

 

Collected works of Fiction set in the historic Great Lakes region

America of the Fifties: Letters of Fredrika Bremer

Bremer, Fredrika
NY: American Scandinavian Foundation. 1924

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…”

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

Brown, Charles R.
Kalamazoo: 1875

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

“The Early French Settlements on the Great Lakes”

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

Bulkley, John M.
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society

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 Roads of the Midwest

Cantor, George
University of Michigan 1997

“This volume takes the reader and traveler on a back-roads journey through the states of Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana. Before the superhighways, most roadways were trails used by Native Americans, pioneers, and farmers. Today many of these roads are designated scenic and/or historic. The author follows nineteen such roads and describes the events and personalities that are associated with the stops along the way. The author points out the rich history of the Great Lakes region as he maps the route from the legacy of the Copper Country through the forts at Mackinac to Michigan’s Gold Coast. Cantor then takes us to Edison’s birthplace, the burial mounds of ancient cultures, and we are given a fine glimpse of Ohio’s Amish community.” -Publisher

Contents: U.S. 2 : St. Ignace, Michigan, to Ironwood, Michigan — U.S. 12 : Ypsilanti, Michigan, to Beverly Shores, Indiana — U.S. 20 : Oberlin, Ohio, to South Bend, Indiana — U.S. 22 : Steubenville, Ohio, to Cincinnati, Ohio — U.S. 23 and Michigan 25 : Mackinaw City, Michigan, to Port Huron, Michigan — U.S. 24 : Monroe, Michigan, to Kentland, Indiana — U.S. 27 : Angola, Indiana, to Cincinnati, Ohio — U.S. 31 : Carp Lake, Michigan, to Ludington, Michigan — U.S. 35 : Michigan City, Indiana, to Gallipolis, Ohio — U.S. 36 : Uhrichsville, Ohio, to Dana, Indiana — U.S. 41 : Copper Harbor, Michigan, to Menominee, Michigan — U.S. 50 : Belpre, Ohio, to Vincennes, Indiana — U.S. 52 : Burlington, Ohio, to Finly, Indiana — U.S. 62 : Youngstown, Ohio, to Aberdeen, Ohio — U.S. 231 : Crown Point, Indiana, to Rockport, Indiana — U.S. 250 : Sandusky, Ohio, to Bridgeport, Ohio — U.S. 421 : Michigan City, Indiana, to Madison, Indiana — Indiana 135 : Indianapolis, Indiana, to Corydon, Indiana — Ohio 7 : Martins Ferry, Ohio, to Chesapeake, Ohio.

Books and articles on Native American tribes in the historic Great Lakes region

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

Charlton, James
1874

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 in the Late 19th Century

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

along the lines of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway and connecting roads : with correct map and numerous illustrations

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

Wisconsin, Minnesota, Yellowstone National Park.

A Reconnaissance of the Golden Northwest

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

Mississippi River Valley.

Summer Resorts and Watering Places of the North-West Illustrated

on lines of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway, with descriptions thereof. 1875

Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway Company
Chicago: Rand McNally 1875

 

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

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, Georges-Henri-Victor, and J C. Bay
Paris: 1826

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.

Books and articles on Wars in the history of the Great Lakes region

The Journeys of Réné Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle As Related By His Faithful Lieutenant Henri de Tonty; Vol 1

Volume 2

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

Cox, Isaac Joslin, ed.
NY: Allerton 1922

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

Why did the French first begin exploring the great lakes?

Life and Voyages of Louis Jolliet

Delanglez, Jean
Chicago: Institute of Jesuit History 1948

Why did the French first begin exploring the great lakes?, Who explored the Great Lakes?

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

via the Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Co., “The Coast Line to Mackinac”

Detroit: Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Co. 1904

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

Collected vintage online Maps & Atlases for the Great Lakes region

American Notes for General Circulation

Dickens, Charles
London: Chapman and Hall 1855

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.

The Great Lakes, or Inland Seas of America

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

Disturnell, John, comp.
NY: Scribner 1863

 

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

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

Disturnell, John
NY: Disturnell 1857

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.

Summer Rambles in the West

Ellet, Elizabeth F.
NY: Riker 1853

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.

Ensign, Bridgman & Fanning’s Lake and River Guide

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
New York: Ensign, Bridgman & Fanning 1856

 

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

with railroad, canal, stage and steamboat routes, accompanied with a new map of the above states

Ensign, Bridgman & Fanning
New York: Ensign, Bridgman & Fanning 1856

 


Page Directory of 90+ subject pages at History of the Great Lakes States


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

Fearon, Henry B.
London: Longman 1819

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

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

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

Ferris, Jacob
NY: Miller, Orton, and Mulligan 1856

 

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

Flint, James
Edinburgh: W. & C. Tait 1822

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

Forbes Travel Guide: Southern Great Lakes 2011

Forbes Travel Guide
Five Star Travel Corp. 2011

A guide to visiting the Southern Great Lakes that provides star-rated reviews of hotels, restaurants, spas, activities, tours, and sights. For Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

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

and of a residence in the Illinois Territory: 1817-1818, with facsimiles of the author’s sketches and plans

Fordham, Elias Pym. Edited by Ogg, Frederic Austin
Cleveland: Clark 1906

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

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

Fountain, Paul
New York: Longmans, Green 1904

Please visit our collection of 2,000+ selected online magazine and newspaper articles on 40 subjects, plus online map & vintage photo collections, at Century Past History Resources

Summer on the Lakes, in 1843

Fuller, Sarah Margaret
Boston: Little & Brown 1844


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

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

Gist, Christopher and William M. Darlington
Pittsburg: Weldin 1893

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.

New England and the West

Haskins, Roswell Willson
Buffalo: Wilgus 1843

 

“A Young Woman in the Midwest: The Journal of Mary Sears, 1859-1860”

Ohio History Journal, Vol 82, pp 215-234

Jones, Daryl E. and Pickering, James H., eds.
Ohio History Connection

“Born in Greenwich, Massachusetts and trained as a music teacher, Mary E. Sears was twenty years old in the winter of 1859 when she began keeping a journal of her daily thoughts and activities while emigrating West to join family members in Ohio and Illinois. During the following two years she recorded a multitude of experiences which span both distance and social class: they range from her trials as a rural schoolteacher in Rochester; Ohio, to a tornado in the newly settled railroad town of Amboy, Illinois; from the gala social whirl of antebellum Columbus, to daily routine in a mud-chinked log cabin in Pana, Illinois, where hogs ran free in the streets.” -Editor

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

Joutel, Henri
Albany: McDonough 1906

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

Why did the French first begin exploring the great lakes?, Who explored the Great Lakes?

Narrative of an Expedition to the Source of St. Peter’s River, Lake Winnepeek, Lake of the Woods, &c., Vol 1

Volume 2

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.

Keating, William Hypolitus; Long, Stephen H. and others
London: Whittaker 1825

 

Guide to America’s Outdoors: Great Lakes

Lassen, Tina
National Geographic 2001

Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, with northeast Minnesota and southern Ontario, Canada. “In this practical, informative, richly illustrated guide, National Geographic takes you to the best nature sites in the Great Lakes region and tells you what you need to know— about the landscape, plants, animals, activities, and recreation—to experience them fully. Over 40 major sites, plus numerous smaller ones, grouped by bioregion, including national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges; state parks; conservation areas and preserves; and wild and scenic rivers. Guided hikes and drives. Suggestions of where to hike, bike, camp, canoe, kayak, fish, see wildlife, and more.” -Book cover

The Golden Northwest

Maitland, James
Chicago: Rollins 1879

 

See our book collections on Exploring Africa and Exploring Asia

De Celoron’s Expedition to the Ohio in 1749

Marshall, Orsamus H.
NY: 1878

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

Mason, Richard Lee
NY: Heartman 1915

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

May, John
Cincinnati: Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio 1961

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.

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

Illinois, Michigan, North-Western, Missouri, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, in their Real Characters, in 1818

Miller, Andrew
Miller 1819

 

Collected articles on Environmental History

A Guide to the Summer Resorts of Minnesota

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

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

A free travel booklet, courtesy of the railroad.

For links to tourist booklets from the 1880s and 1890s, see: Vacationing Up-North in the Late 19th Century

Letters from the West

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

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

 

La Salle and the Discovery of the Great West

Parkman, Francis
Boston: Little, Brown 1901

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

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

the Official Narrative

La Salle, Robert Cavelier, sieur de
Chicago: Caxton Club 1901

 

Book collections on Ships, Sailing & Seamanship and Sailors & Shipping on the Great Lakes

The Geographical Catechism of Pennsylvania, and the Western States

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

Rupp, Israel Daniel
Harrisburg, PA: Winebrenner 1836

 

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

Schoolcraft, Henry R.
NY: Collins and Hannay1825

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

Twelve Years in America: Being Observations on the Country…

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

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

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.

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

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

Smith, William Rudolph, General
Chicago: Wright Howes 1927

 

Collections of Books on Women’s History and Articles on Women’s History

A Summer Journey in the West

Steele, Eliza R.
NY: Taylor 1841

“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

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

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.

Steele, Oliver G.
Buffalo: Steele & Peck 1839

 

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

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

Stennett, W.H., compiler
Chicago: Chicago & North-Western Railway Co. 1879

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.

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

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

Sweetser, Charles H., comp.
NY: Evening Mail 1868

Travels Through the Western Country in the Summer of 1816 …

Including Notices of the Natural History, Antiquities, Topography, Agriculture, Commerce and Manufactures ; with a Map of the Wabash Country, Now Settling

Thomas, David
NY: Rumsey 1819

“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

Hundreds of books on American history at American History Books

Early Western Travels, 1748-1846 (32 volumes)

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

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

The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents: Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in New France, 1610-1791 – 71 volumes

Thwaites, Reuben G.
Cleveland: Burrows 1899

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 General U.S. History & Early U.S. History to 1607

A New Discovery of a Vast Country in America by Father Louis Hennepin, Vol 1

Volume 2

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.

Thwaites, Reuben G., ed.
Chicago: McClurg 1903

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 General U.S. History & Early U.S. History to 1607

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

Domestic Manners of the Americans, Vol 1

Volume 2

Trollope, Frances
London: Gilbert and Rivington 1832

“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”

Collected articles from a century ago on Political and Social Issues

Appleton’s Southern and Western Travellers’ Guide…

with new and authentic maps illustrating those divisions of the country

Williams, Wellington
NY: Appleton 1853

 

My Northern Travels: The Results of Faith and Prayer

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

Wood, Julia A.
Ashland, OH: Brethren 1887

 

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

Respecting the States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and some parts of New-York, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky : written in the winter of 1818-19

Wright, John Stillman
Salem, NY: Dodd & Stevenson 1819

 

Of nearly 250 webpages of books and other resources at Century Past History,

over 90 pages are in the group History of the Great Lakes States.

 

 

 

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