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Ohio Pioneers Virtual Exhibit: Introduction

Ohio Pioneers: “From such beginnings much may be expected”


Welcome to Legacy Library’s exhibit Ohio Pioneers: “From such beginnings much may be expected.” Consisting of materials held in Special Collections, the exhibit presents a selection of manuscripts, rare books, artwork, and informational panels about pioneer settlement in the Northwest Territory, particularly the Marietta area. 

The subtitle of the exhibit was taken from a letter written by George Washington at Mount Vernon to the Marquis de Lafayette, February 7, 1788, while the first group of pioneers from New England, led by Rufus Putnam, were on their way to the Ohio Country.  The original letter is held in the George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress.  Both Washington and Lafayette knew many of the pioneers personally, having served in the American Revolution with them.

Washington wrote, “A spirit of emigration to the western Country is very predominant. Congress have sold, in the year past, a pretty large quantity of lands on the Ohio, for public Securities, and thereby diminished the domestic debt considerably. Many of your military acquaintances such as the Generals Parsons, Varnum and Putnam, the Colos. Tupper, Sproat and Sherman, with many more, propose settling there. From such beginnings much may be expected.”

David McCullough's The Pioneers

This exhibit was inspired by the research of Pulitzer-Prize-winning author David McCullough, who consulted the Legacy Library’s collections while writing his most recent book, The Pioneers.

Mr. McCullough has explained how he was inspired to write about Ohio’s earliest settlement. He had been asked by his alma mater, Yale, to write biographical sketches about successful, but relatively unknown, Yale alumni for a fundraising campaign. He remembered a commencement speech he had delivered at Ohio University in 2004, at the time of the school’s bicentennial, during which he mentioned the school’s founder, Manasseh Cutler, a Yale graduate.

Cutler was a Massachusetts clergyman, physician, botanist, lawyer, and teacher, who served as a chaplain during the American Revolution. He also was a director and agent for the Ohio Company of Associates, and it was he who negotiated with Congress in 1787 to purchase the Company’s land in Southeastern Ohio. While meeting with Congress, Cutler assisted with writing the Northwest Ordinance, a set of laws that governed activities in the Northwest Territory, and was crucial to the settlement of the Ohio Country.

McCullough was fascinated with Manasseh Cutler’s story, and he was curious about the pioneers who had left New England to settle in the Northwest Territory. After reading the biography of Manasseh Cutler, he read the biography of Manasseh’s son Ephraim. Then he read Samuel P. Hildreth’s Pioneer History, about the early settlement of Southeastern Ohio, and when he finished that, he was hooked. He had found the subject of his next book!


This exibit was made possible by generous grants and gifts from:

The Ohio Humanities Council

Edward Parish Chapter of Colonial Dames XVII Century

David and Rosalee McCullough

Panel 1

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Ohio Pioneers Exhibit Panel 1