Books Set in the Great Lakes – Free Online Novels


Free online fiction set in the Great Lakes region. 40+ books; nearly all from the 1800s and early 1900s

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


Stories of the Great Lakes: Retold from St. Nicholas

New York: Century 1909

This is from a series of volumes called “Geographical Stories retold from St. Nicholas Magazine”. Each of the stories in the collection is from a different author. Story titles are:

-The Great Lakes
-Life-Savers, Old and Young
-Niagara
-The Life-Savers’ Ride of a Hundred Miles
-A Little White Steamer, a Man in Gray, and Twenty Thousand Ships
-In a Forest Aflame
-A Boy’s Recollection of the Great Chicago Fire
-Dog Teams and Sledges in Michigan
-Chicago

A Herald of the West; An American Story of 1811-1815

Altsheler, Joseph A.
NY: Appleton 1907

The author attempts to recreate attitudes and beliefs held by Americans in the West about Great Britain and Europe in the years before and during the War of 1812.
“The hero is a young Kentuckian in the Government service, who is sent as a messenger to the Eastern States. He returns in time to be present at the battle before Washington, where the British are victorious and the American capital is taken. Later he is present at the battle before New Orleans where the British are defeated.” – Guide to Historical Fiction, 1914

Joseph Alexander Altsheler (1862 – 1919) was born in Kentucky, worked on a Louisville newspaper and later for the New York World. He published the first of over 50 books and numerous short stories in about 1896. Included were an 8-volume series called “The Young Trailers”. He also published a six-volume series called “The French and Indian War series”.

See the resources on this site for: The War of 1812

For U.S. history of the War of 1812, see also on this site: Babcock, Kendric Charles, The Rise of American Nationality 1811-1819 in America in the Early 19th Century – 1809-1861

Over 120 magazines free and online, from the early 1800s to today, at Read Old Magazines Online

The Hunters of the Hills: A Story of the Great French and Indian War

Audio Book

Altsheler, Joseph A.
NY: Appleton 1916

See Altsheler’s first book on this page for a biographical note.

The Wilderness Road: A Romance of St. Clair’s Defeat and Wayne’s Victory

Altsheler, Joseph A.
NY: Appleton 1901

See Altsheler’s first book on this page for a biographical note.
“The first American settlements beyond the Alleghany Mountains, and the struggle of the early Kentuckians against the league of the Northwestern Indians. The important historical events described are the terrible defeat of the Americans under General St. Clair by the Northwestern Indians, and the subsequent victory of the Americans under General Wayne over the same Indians.” – Guide to Historical Fiction, 1914

Paul Bunyan and His Men

being exploits of the men in the logging camps of Paul Bunyan, lumberjack hero of the North

Benson, Ivan
Rutland, VT: Tuttle 1955

Chapter headings:

1. Headquarters Camp on the Big Onion – 2. The Big Blue Ox – 3. The Seven Axemen of the Stoney River – 4. Timber-r-r-r-r! – 5. Daylight in the Swamp – 6. Shadows on the Skidroads – 7. Fog on the Kawishiwi – 8. Big Business in the Timber – 9. The Round River Drive – 10. The Year of the Dry Rains – 11. The Bull of the Woods – 12. The Winter of the Blue Snow – 13. The Battle of Copenhagen – 14. The Hurry-Up Trail – 15. Bull Frog Nights – 16. Giants in the Underbrush – 17. The Long Night on the Stoney – 18. A Good Man Hits the Trail – Glossary of Lumberjack Terms

Sweetwater, Storms, and Spirits: Stories of the Great Lakes

Brehm, Victoria, ed.
University of Michigan Press 1990

See our collections of Classic Novels & Historical Fiction and Short Stories

Zachary Phips

Bynner, Edward Lassetter
Boston: Houghton 1892

A story of a Boston boy who took part in the mysterious western expedition of Aaron Burr and in the war of 1812.

Lazarre

Catherwood, Mary Hartwell
Indianapolis: Bowen-Merrill 1901

See Catherwood’s book Old Caravan Days on this page for a biographical note.
“Lazarre is the Dauphin (Louis XVII, d. in Temple) who is imagined to have been smuggled across to America as an idiot. He regains his reason, and has to decide whether he shall reassert his claims to the throne or sacrifice all to love. Very romantic, and a delicate study of complex motives: the supposed Dauphin tells his own story.” – Guide to Historical Fiction, 1914

Books and articles on Great Lakes Sailors & Shipping in History

Old Caravan Days

Catherwood, Mary Hartwell
Boston: Lothrop 1884

Mary Hartwell Catherwood (1847 -1902) was a novelist born in Luray, Ohio and as an adult lived in several cities in the Midwest. She developed a signature style of incorporating Midwestern culture, dialect, and local color into her texts. Although most of her novels and stories are set in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, some are also based along the American border with French Canada and on colonial Mackinac Island.

See more of Catherwood’s works at: Illinois Novels and Historical Fiction and Michigan Novels and Historical Fiction

See also: Books about 19th Century American Women Authors

The Queen of the Swamp and other Plain Americans

Catherwood, Mary Hartwell
Boston: Houghton, Mifflin 1899

See Catherwood’s book Old Caravan Days on this page for a biographical note.
“Short stories illustrating life in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois.” – Guide to Historical Fiction, 1914

The Crossing

Churchill, Winston
NY: Macmillan 1904

Winston Churchill (1871-1947) was one of the best-selling American novelists of the early 20th century. He is not to be confused with the British statesman of the same name.
“The great western movement during the American Revolution and after, across the mountains from Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas, into Kentucky and Tennessee. The story is of a boy, David Ritchie, who makes the journey over the Wilderness Trail with certain Scotch-Irish immigrants, and serves as a drummer-boy in the campaign of George Rogers Clarke against the British. Deals later with the Louisiana Territory and its acquisition from France. The scene shifts to St. Louis and New Orleans, and the early French settlers are contrasted with the enterprising men of Scotch and English blood who carry all before them. The intrigues of the time come into the story, and besides Clarke we have Andrew Jackson, Daniel Boone, Sevier, and minor historical characters.” – Guide to Historical Fiction, 1914

The Mystery of Metropolisville

Eggleston, Edward
NY: Judd 1873

Edward Eggleston (1837-1902) was born in Vevay, Indiana. He was both a novelist and a historian, authoring several texts of U.S. history.

The Frontier Angel: A Romance of Kentucky Rangers’ Life

Ellis, Edward S.
London: Routledge 1861

See the biographical note about Ellis at his other novel, Red Jacket, on this web page.

Red Jacket: The Last of the Senecas

Ellis, Edward S.
New York: E.P. Dutton 1900

Juvenile fiction by Edward S. Ellis (1840-1916), a teacher and school administrator who published hundreds of books and magazine articles under his own name and more than a dozen pseudonyms, including “Colonel H.R. Gordon” the name used on this book.

The First White Man of the West: Or, The Life and Exploits of Col. Dan’l Boone

Flint, Timothy
Cincinnati: Queen City 1833

Timothy Flint was one of the most significant literary figures in the early history of the Old Northwest. He was a minister and graduate of Harvard who went west in 1815 to carry out missionary work. For the next ten years he traveled in the Mississippi Valley, publishing in 1826 a memoir called Recollections of the Last Ten Years. In 1833 he published Biographical Memoir of Daniel Boone, which did much to develop the Boone legend. He also founded and edited the Western Monthly, a literary magazine in Cincinnati from 1827-1830.

You can find a biography of Timothy Flint by John Kirkpatrick on the Ohio Biographies and Memoirs page of this site. One of his novels is on the Ohio Novels and Historical Fiction page.

See also: Thwaites, Reuben G., Daniel Boone in Biographies & Memoirs in Great Lakes History

Collected Biographies & Memoirs for the historic Great Lakes region

The Boy Pioneer, Or, Strange Stories of the Great Valley

Grosvenor, Abbie J.
New York: Harper 1917

Frontier life in the Ohio River Valley, for a juvenile audience.

The War-path; A Narrative of Adventures in the Wilderness:

with minute details of the captivity of sundry persons; amusing and perilious incidents during their abode in the wild woods; fearful battles with the Indians: Ceremony of adoption into an Indian family; encounters with wild beasts and rattlesnakes, &c.

Jones, J. B.
Philadelphia: Lippincott 1872

See the entry for Jones’s Wild Western Scenes on this page for a biographical note.

Books and articles on Explorers and Travel in the history of the Great Lakes region

Wild Western Scenes: A Narrative of Adventures in the Wilderness:

with Minute Details of the Captivity of Sundry Persons, Amusing and Perilous Incidents During Their Abode in the Wild Woods, Fearful Battles with the Indians, Ceremony of Adoption into an Indian Family, Encounters with Wild Beasts and Rattlesnakes, Etc.

Jones, John Beauchamp
Philadelphia: Lippincott 1877

John Beauchamp Jones (1810-1866) was a popular novelist (particularly of the American West and the American South) and a well-connected literary editor and political journalist in the two decades leading up to the American Civil War. Jones’s fiction and activities as an editor attracted the attention of other literary notables of the period, including Edgar Allan Poe and William Gilmore Simms. Jones’ early novels, Wild Western Scenes: A Narrative of Adventures in the Western Wilderness, Forty Years Ago (1841), The Western Merchant: A Narrative . . . (1849), and Life and Adventures of a Country Merchant: A Narrative of His Exploits at Home, during His Travels, and in the Cities; Designed to Amuse and Instruct (1854), capture the picturesque and generally edenic qualities of the West, where he spent his early years.
– Wikipedia entry on John Beauchamp Jones

Myths and Legends of the Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes

Judson, Katharine, ed.
Chicago: McClurg 1914

“This group of legends from the folk-lore of the Winnebago, Wyandot, Biloxi, Menomini, Ojibwa, Cherokee, and other tribes of the Mississippi valley is added to the other books in Miss Judson’s excellent series. This particular group has an especial literary interest, for it was the tales of the northern tribes that furnished Longfellow with his material for Hiawatha; while the legends of the southern Indians show interesting parallels with the slave stories given form by Joel Chandler Harris.
– The Book Review Digest

Myths and Legends of the Mackinacs and the Lake Region

Kane, Grace Franks
Cincinnati: Editor Publishing 1897

The Frontier Fort, or, Stirring times in the North-west Territory of British America

Kingston, William H. G.
Toronto: Musson 1880

William Henry Giles Kingston (1814-1880) was the son of a British wine merchant in Portugal who settled in England. He was secretary of a British colonization society, worked on the improvement of conditions for British seamen, and published translations of Jules Verne’s novels from French. He also traveled very widely. After 1850 he was chiefly employed in writing for young people. He published over 100 stories of travel and adventure, including fiction, biography and travelogues, and also edited periodicals for boys.
– Wikipedia entry for W.H.G. Kingston

The Story of the Trapper

Laut, Agnes C.
NY: Appleton 1902

Agnes Christina Laut (1871-1936) grew up in Manitoba, Canada and worked in the late 1890s for a newspaper there. In 1901 she moved to the state of New York and began a prolific and very successful career writing historical novels about the western U.S. and Canada.
“Life and wanderings of the fur-trapper from the St. Lawrence to the Rockies.” – Guide to Historical Fiction, 1914

The Indian Drum

MacHarg, William and Balmer, Edwin
NY: Grosset & Dunlap 1917

“It was an Indian superstition—that the drum, hidden somewhere in the woods at the northern end of Lake Michigan, tolled the passing of every soul lost on the lakes. Twenty years before, when the freighter “Miwaka” had gone down with all on board, the drum had beaten short. Twenty-five was the number of the lost, but the drum made the count twenty-four. And there were those who had waited many years for the return of a rescued man. The story opens with the disappearance of Benjamin Corvet of Chicago, veteran ship owner and best known man on the lakes. Coincident with this is the arrival In Chicago of young Alan Conrad of Kansas, who had been summoned by Corvet. Henry Spearman, youngest member of the firm Corvet, Sherrill and Spearman, insists that the senior partner is dead, but Constance Sherrill refuses to be convinced and encourages Alan in his search for the missing man.”
“An unusually good mystery story.”
“The power and tragedy of the Great Lakes in time of storm form an impressive background.”
– The Book Review Digest

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

Old Fort Duquesne: or, Captain Jack, the Scout. An historical novel with copious notes

McKnight, Charles
Pittsburgh 1873

Charles McKnight (1826-1881) was born in Pittsburgh, PA. A graduate of Princeton, he went into the iron business for a short time before becoming the editor and owner of the periodical The Chronicle. He sold that during the Civil War and began publishing and writing for several other periodicals in Philadelphia. In addition, he found time to write novels, publishing Old Fort Duquesne in 1873. This was well-received and was published in England and Germany soon afterward. He also wrote Simon Girty the White Savage, Our Western Border, and several other novels published serially.

The Prairie Bird, Vol 1

Volume 2

Volume 3

Murray, Charles Augustus
NY: Harper 1845

Includes a detailed account of the habits and customs of the Indians in Ohio and an account of the wars between the Delawares and the Osages, in a story about the adventures of some English people in the Far West.

The Sign of the Prophet: a Tale of Tecumseh and Tippecanoe

Naylor, James Ball
Akron, OH: Saalfield 1901

James Ball Naylor (1860-1945) lived in Morgan county, Ohio throughout his life. He was a physician, best-selling author of novels and short stories, and a poet. He was also a newspaper columnist, political candidate, and a popular speaker on the lecture circuit.

The Lady Angeline; A Lay of the Apalachians. The Hours, etc.

Noble, Louis Legrand
NY: Sheldon, Blakeman 1856

Poetry.

Lake Breezes; or, The Cruise of the Sylvania

Optic, Oliver (Adams, William T.)
Boston: Lee & Shepard 1878

Out West; or, Roughing it on the Great Lakes

Optic, Oliver (Adams, William T.)
Boston: Lee & Shepard 1877

Westward Ho! A Tale

Paulding, James Kirke
NY: Harper 1845

Two volumes in one.

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

The Man with the Iron Hand

Parish, John C.
Boston: Houghton, Mifflin 1922

About Henry de Tonty and his fellow French explorers, based on historical letters and documents of Tonty, Father Marquette, Joliet, La Salle and others.

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

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

Beyond the Frontier: a Romance of Early Days in the Middle West

Parish, Randall
Chicago: McClurg 1915

George Randall Parrish (1858-1923) grew up in Kewanee, Illinois and began a legal career in Wichita, Kansas. In the early 1880s he left his law practice and worked at a number of odd jobs throughout the west, eventually becoming a newspaper reporter. He wrote many novels.

Practically all of the action of the story is occupied with a long journey from Quebec to old Fort St. Louis (Starved Rock), on the Illinois river. Adele la Chesnayne, who tells the tale, has been forced into a marriage with Francois Cassion against her will. She accompanies her husband on the hazardous journey. She knows that reasons of state lie behind her marriage and knows that her departure from Quebec is due to Governor La Barre who sees a menace to his plans in her presence. But it is not until after many adventures that the proof of what she suspects comes to her hands. The death of Cassion sets her free from the marriage, which has been only nominal, and as the wife of Rene De Artigny, a follower of La Salle who has been her devotee and champion, she begins a new life in the new country beyond the frontier.
– Book Review Digest

The Bridge; A Story of the Great Lakes

Pickthall, M. L. C.
NY: Century 1922

Blennerhassett or The Decrees of Fate; A Romance founded upon events in American History

Pidgin, Charles Felton
Boston: Clark 1901

This is about the infamous Aaron Burr episode, in which Burr was alleged to conspire with Spanish government officials in New Orleans to enable western frontier areas to secede from the U.S. Harman Blennerhasset, who settled on Blennerhasset’s Island in the Ohio River, was involved in the affair (1805) indicted for treason, and released in 1807. Pidgin was very well versed in the details of the Burr affair, and believed Burr to be innocent of the charges.

The Tory’s Daughter; a Romance of the North-west, 1812-1813

Riddle, Albert G.
NY: Putnam 1888

A historical novel, following the fortunes of the contestants on both sides during our last war with Great Britain. The scene is for the most part laid out in northwestern Ohio, Detroit, and the points of General Harrison’s operations in the War of 1812.

See the resources on this site for: The War of 1812

For U.S. history of the War of 1812, see also on this site: Babcock, Kendric Charles, The Rise of American Nationality 1811-1819 in America in the Early 19th Century – 1809-1861

Myths and Legends of our Own Land (Vol. 2)

Skinner, Charles M.
Philadelphia: Lippincott 1896

Volume 2 of this collection contains about 40 myths and legends from the Central States and Great Lakes. Some titles are “The Snake God of Belle Isle”, “Were-Wolves of Detroit”, “Hiawatha” and “Twelfth Night at Cahokia”.

Down the O-hi-o

Roberts, Charles Humphrey
Chicago: McClurg 1891

Rural life among the Quakers on the Ohio before the Civil War

The Western Captive, or, The Times of Tecumseh

Smith, Seba
NY: Winchester 1842

Elizabeth Oakes (Prince) Smith (1806-1893) was born and raised in Maine, and married Seba Smith, a popular humorist and editor of a Portland weekly journal, the Eastern Argus. In addition to raising their six sons and managing a household that included printers and apprentices, Mrs. Smith wrote poems and stories for the Argus. After her husband lost their fortune in the Panic of 1837 she began writing for leading ladies’ journals. The Western Captive first appeared in two “supplements” in the New World in 1842.

Stories from Where We Live: The Great Lakes

St. Antoine, Sara, ed.
Milkweed 2003       

This series for families “celebrates the literature of North America’s eco-regions. . . Each book portrays (the eco-region’s) unique features through literature written by those who have lived in that place and love it. . . This book takes readers on an informative, imaginative trip through the [Great Lakes] region’s past and present” -Book cover.
Some of the many authors represented are: April Pulley Sayre – Susan Power – Gwen Hart – Sigurd Olson – Gene Stratton-Porter – Bruce Catton – Katharine Crawford Robey – Ellen Airgood – Marie Howe – Aldo Leopold – Sara St. Antoine – Carol Farley – Roger Pfingston – Shannon Sexton – John Knott – Margaret Atwood – Edwin Way Teale – Pat Kertzman – Sandra Cisneros – Pamela Uschuk – George Vukelich – Marjorie Carlson Davis – Laurie Allmann.

Over 120 magazines online, from the early 1800s to today, at Read Old Magazines Online

On the Trail of Pontiac or the Pioneer Boys of the Ohio

Stratemeyer, Edward
Boston: Lothrop 1904

“Sequel to “Marching on Niagara”. Chiefly concerned with the Ohio pioneers during and after the French and Indian war. A fight in a snowstorm with the Indians and the French is especially realistic.” – Guide to Historical Fiction, 1914

Edward L. Stratemeyer (1862-1930) was a writer and publisher of juvenile fiction. He published dozens of series, some of which are still remembered today; for example, Tom Swift (volumes produced from 1910 to 1984), The Hardy Boys (1927-2005) and Nancy Drew (1930-2003). As a publisher, he instituted the practice of using a team of free-lance writers all working under the same pen name owned by his company. Because of this practice, it can be very difficult to determine the real author of any given title.

With Sword and Crucifix: Being an Account of the Strange Adventures of Count Louis de Sancerre, Companion of Sieur de la Salle, on the Lower Mississippi in the Year of Grace 1682

Van Zile, Edward S.
NY: Harper 1900

Adventures of La Salle, the explorer of the Mississippi region.
Edward Sims Van Zile (1863-1931) was a New York newspaper editor, a poet, playwright, and an author of short stories and novels. His novels were well-received by the critics.

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

The Young Shipper of the Great Lakes; A Story of the Commerce of the Great Lakes

Weir, Hugh C.
Boston: Wilde 1912

A volume in the “Great American Industries” series.

Simon Kenton, or, The Scout’s Revenge; an Historical Novel

Weir, James
Philadelphia: Lippincott 1852

Conjurer’s House. A Romance of the Free Forest

Audio Book

White, Stewart Edward
NY: McClure 1903

“The rivalry between the Hudson Bay Company and the Free Traders in the far North-west. Realistic pictures of the woodman, the factor, the Indian, etc., with a thrilling story of passion and adventure, a captured Free Trader being rescued by the factor’s daughter, who loves him.” – Guide to Historical Fiction, 1914

Stewart Edward White (1873-1946) grew up in Grand Rapids, MI and was a graduate of the University of Michigan. An avid camper and outdoorsman, Theodore Roosevelt said he was “the best man with both pistol and rifle who ever shot” at Roosevelt’s rifle range at Sagamore Hill. White wrote fiction and non-fiction about adventure and travel, with an emphasis on natural history and outdoor living. Beginning in 1922, he and his wife Elizabeth wrote a number of books about spiritualism.
– Wikipedia entry for White

Please visit our Century Past Free Online Library, with thousands of books to read online or download

The Silent Places

White, Stewart Edward
NY: McClure 1904

See the biographical note about the author at his book Conjurer’s House, on this page.
“The journey of two servants of the Hudson Bay Company into the northern wilds (Canada, late 1860s). Brings vividly before the imagination what appalling hardships and what feats of endurance the old fur-traders were called upon to face as part of the day’s work; and shows, with no little art, the effect such experiences had upon a man’s nature.” – Guide to Historical Fiction, 1914

On the Frontier with St. Clair

Wood, Charles
Boston: Wilde 1902

This action-packed story is about St. Clair’s disastrous campaign against the Indians in Ohio country in 1792. The book was said to bring home vividly the terror and savagery of Indian warfare, and provides sketches of the notable Indian fighters of the day.

Charles Seely Wood (1845-1912) was born in Cincinnati and earned degrees from Miami University of Ohio and the Princeton Theological Seminary. He was a pastor in Wisconsin and New York in the 1870s before retiring from the ministry for health reasons. He then wrote books and articles on Ohio history.

 

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.

 

You can find more works like these at our other History of the Great Lakes States ‘Fiction’ pages.

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We have 300 more works of fiction from the late 19th and early 20th centuries on our Century Past Free Online Library at the Fiction Directory.


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