This newspaper recently ran an Associated Press review of historian and author David McCullough’s new book, “The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West.” After having finished reading McCullough’s interesting book, I need to respond to the AP review.
As background, the author chronicles a group of New Englanders as they journey across the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania and down the Ohio River to build a town they named Marietta, across the big river from what was then Virginia. The Ohio Valley wilderness territory opened up for white settlement when Congress of the Confederation of the U.S. adopted the Northwest Ordinance in 1787.
The men who organized and led this venture were educated individuals, who became respected leaders. They left an astonishing collection of journals, letters, memoirs and various publications telling how the town was built from scratch, the families involved and subsequent stories generated over the years.
In the AP review, it says, “ ... a new generation of historians, scholars and activists took to social media to accuse McCullough of romanticizing white settlement and downplaying the pain inflicted on Native Americans.”
Perhaps the “new generation” of historians are so far removed from when Europeans first hit these shores and began the process of settlement, they either don’t know the details, or in their comfortable lives, can’t imagine circumstances so harsh.
I am in the process of studying this early history in preparation for writing my own book. It’s personal to me. My mother’s family had six direct line ancestors sail over on the Mayflower in 1620.
Throughout the history of mankind, if one group of people wanted territory occupied by another, they invaded, fought and laid claim to it. Or failed to conquer. This country was no different.
These settlers would roll over in their graves if they knew someone in 2019 was complaining about “the pain inflicted on the Native American.” And Indians didn’t just kill, they tortured and killed. They often captured women and children and marched them back to their base camps, sometimes weeks away, before turning them into slaves.
How real was this? Allow me to share my direct line ancestors I have thus far discovered, who were murdered by the natives. All of these, except the McIntires, were members of my mother’s New England family.
• John Oldham, 44, his boat boarded by hostile Pequot Indians, he and five crew members were killed off Block Island, Rhode Island on July 20, 1636.
• Capt. Thomas Lothrop, 63, killed by Indians, along with 72 of his men, while accompanying 3,000 bushels of corn and other goods in Essex County, Massachusetts, Sept. 18, 1675.
• Thomas Kimball, 43, killed by Indians and his family carried into captivity in Ipswich, Massachusetts, May 3, 1676.
• Capt. Benjamin Swett, 53, killed by Indians in battle while commanding the militia during King Philips War in an expedition to Black Point, Scarborough, Maine, June 29, 1677.
• William Dyer, father, 69, killed by Indians at home, Sheepscot, Maine, Aug. 16, 1689.
• Christopher Dyer, son, 43, killed by Indians at home, Sheepscot, Maine, December 1689.
• Capt. Samuel Sherborne, 53, killed in an Indian raid at Casco Bay, Maine, Aug. 4, 1691.
• John and Rachel McIntire, ages 37 and 33, killed and scalped outside their cabin on Bingamon Creek, Virginia (later West Virginia), May 11, 1791.
• The Levistone children, killed by Indians in an attack in their home, were: Seth, 8; Thomas, 7; Mary, 4, Margaret, 3, Alexander, 1 month; and grandmother Seeth Holman Ross, 53. Five others also were killed in the attack in Billerica, Massachusetts, Aug. 5, 1695. Sarah Levistone, 10, was taken captive and never heard from again. Three other children and one woman also were kidnapped.
• Capt. John Locke, 70, killed and scalped by Indians while reaping his fields in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Aug. 26, 1696.
I honor these families and those they left behind, who somehow persevered through hardships we cannot even begin to comprehend, in order to survive. They, and/or their parents, immigrated across the ocean to this unexplored New World seeking freedom from religious persecution and freedom to earn a living without undue taxation. The cost was high. Many of us are here today because of their stubborn persistence in planting seeds. In putting down roots.