Free biographies and memoirs of famous people, leaders & notable people, Native American biographies
Daniel Boone, George Rogers Clark, Chief Tecumseh, Chief Joseph Brant, Samuel de Champlain, Sile Doty, Chief Pontiac, Simon Girty, George Washington, Simon Kenton, Lewis Wetzel, Chief Logan, Chief Cornstalk, General Arthur St. Clair, Robert Cavalier de la Salle, Father Marquette.
Thwaites, Reuben G.
New York: D. Appleton 1902
Lyman Draper (1815-1891), the first director of the Wisconsin Historical Society, carried out research for years on Daniel Boone with the aim of writing his biography, but never completed the project. Reuben Thwaites, who succeeded him at the society, drew upon Draper’s notes and collected documents, as well as works by others, for this biography of the famous frontiersman.
Boone, Daniel (1734-1820)
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White, Stewart Edward
NY: Doubleday, Page 1922
Stewart Edward White was a very popular novelist who set his outdoor adventures in such places as frontier forts, lumber camps, and the camps of the California gold miners. In this book for young people he deployed his knowledge and experience as an outdoorsman to convey the life of the legendary frontiersman Daniel Boone.
Boone, Daniel (1734-1820)
Brackenridge, Henry Marie
Philadelphia: Kay 1834
H.M. Brackenridge (1786-1871) was born in the frontier town of Pittsburgh, practiced law for a time in St. Louis, served in the diplomatic service during the Jackson administration, and was appointed a judge in Florida. He returned to Pennsylvania in 1832, and later served briefly as a congressman. He authored several histories, as well as books on other topics. Recollections of Persons and Places in the West covers his early life, to his mid-20s.
Brackenridge, Henry Marie (1786-1871)
Life of Joseph Brant-Thayendanegea: Including the Border Wars of the American Revolution, and Sketches of the Indian Campaigns of Generals Harmar, St. Clair, and Wayne, Vol 1
and Other Matters Connected with the Indian Relations of the United States and Great Britain, from the Peace of 1783 to the Indian Peace of 1795
Stone, William L.
New York: A.V. Blake 1838
“Thayendanegea or Joseph Brant was a Mohawk military and political leader, based in present-day New York, who was closely associated with Great Britain during and after the American Revolution. Perhaps the Native American of his generation best known to the Americans and British, he met many of the most significant Anglo-American people of the age, including both George Washington and King George III. While not born into a hereditary leadership role within the Iroquois League, Brant rose to prominence due to his education, abilities and his connections to British officials.” -Wikipedia
Brant-Thayendanegea, Joseph (1743-1807)
embracing a period of over seventy years, written by himself
Cincinnati: Hitchcock and Walden 1897
Reverend Alfred Brunson was born and raised in Connecticut. His father drowned in an accident when Alfred was a boy, so he left school to help support his family. He served as a soldier under General Harrison from about 1810-1815; then entered the Methodist ministry. He was active as a minister for 67 years, estimating in his autobiography that he preached about 10,000 sermons. He also served as a member of the Wisconsin legislature, and as an Indian agent on Lake Superior.
Brunson, Alfred (1793-1882)
New York 2003
Champlain’s search for fruitful areas of the New World to colonize for France is the foundation for this biography. An accomplished cartographer, author, and navigator, Champlain created some of the most valuable maps of the New World. He eventually discovered the lake that bears his name and founded the Canadian city of Quebec. Richly illustrated with the explorer’s own drawings, maps, and words, this title brings Champlain’s world to life.
Champlain, Samuel de (1567-1635)
General commanding the Virginia military forces in Kentucky and the Old Northwest Territory during the American Revolution
Jillson, Willard Rouse
Frankfort, KY: Perry 1958
See the note at James A. James, ‘The Life of George Rogers Clark’ on this web page. The sources are listed in chronological order, beginning in 1775, and include unpublished manuscripts by contemporaries as well as later published materials. Many entries include background information.
Clark, George Rogers (1752-1818)
James, James A.
Chicago: University of Chicago 1929
George Rogers Clark was an American surveyor, soldier, and militia officer from Virginia who became the highest ranking American military officer on the northwestern frontier during the American Revolutionary War. He served as leader of the militia in Kentucky (then part of Virginia) throughout much of the war. He is best known for his celebrated captures of Kaskaskia (1778) and Vincennes (1779) during the Illinois Campaign, which greatly weakened British influence in the Northwest Territory. The British ceded the entire Northwest Territory to the United States in the 1783 Treaty of Paris, and Clark has often been hailed as the “Conqueror of the Old Northwest”. His younger brother was William Clark who, with Meriwether Lewis, explored the Louisiana Territory for President Jefferson. -Wikipedia
The author was a professor of American history at Northwestern University. This book was the result of many years of research by Dr. James on General Clark’s papers, as well as on the history of the Revolutionary War in the west. Dr. James also drew upon the notes of Lyman Draper at the Wisconsin Historical Society, who spent 15 years researching Clark for a biography that he never completed.
Clark, George Rogers (1752-1818)
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Narrative of the Life of General Leslie Combs of Kentucky, Embracing Incidents in the Early History of the Northwestern Territory
Washington: Towers 1855
General Combs was a lawyer and leading political figure in Kentucky, who served as an army officer during the War of 1812 and afterward.
Combs, Leslie (1793-1881)
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Ohio History XXI, April-July 1912/Numbers 2 & 3, 245-262
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society
Cornstalk was a respected Shawnee chief who played an important role in Dunmore’s War in 1774 in Ohio country. When the American Revolution began, he tried to use his influence to keep Indians from siding with either the British or Americans, and in 1777 was invited to Fort Randolph on the Ohio River to negotiate with American military leaders. While there he was murdered by militiamen.
The Draper Manuscripts are an enormous quantity of documents, papers, correspondence and notes accumulated by Lyman Draper (1815-1891), who spent his life researching frontier history. This profile was likely written by Draper and left among the papers.
The Leader of a Gang of Counterfeiters, Horse Thieves and Burglars of the New England, Middle and Western States. The Terror of Mexico During 1849
Colburn, J. G. W., comp.
Toledo: Blade 1880
Doty, Sile (1800-1876)
Finley, James B, and Strickland, W.P.
“Mr. Finley was born in North Carolina, 1781, died at Eaton, Ohio, 1857. He entered the Ohio M. E. conference in 1809; was missionary to the Wyandot Indians from 1821 to 1827; Chaplain of the Ohio penitentiary in 1845-9, and subsequently connected with the Methodist Church in Cincinnati. In this volume, the author recounts the principal events of his itinerant life, including, also, many of the tragical events of border warfare as narrated to him by the survivors.”
– Peter G. Thomson, A Bibliography of the State of Ohio (1880)
Finley, James B. (1781-1856)
Ranck, George W.
Fort Wayne: Public Library of Fort Wayne and Allen County 1955
See the description under ‘History of the Girtys’ by Consul Butterfield, on this page.
Girty, Simon (1741-1818)
History of the Girtys: Being a Concise Account of the Girty Brothers, Thomas, Simon, James and George …
and of Their Half-Brother, John Turner; Also of the Part Taken by Them in Lord Dunmore’s War, in the Western Border War of the Revolution, and in the Indian War of 1790-95 : with a Recital of the Principal Events in the West During These Wars, Drawn from Authentic Sources, Largely Original
Butterfield, Consul W.
Cincinnati: Robert Clarke 1890
The Girty brothers, Simon in particular, were infamous on the frontiers of Pennsylvania and Kentucky during the American Revolution and following years. The brothers were the sons of an Irish immigrant to Pennsylvania, who as boys were taken prisoner by Indians and lived among them for a time before settling in the Pittsburg area. When the Revolution began they were at first on the Patriot side, but then went over to the British. Simon worked for the British commander in Detroit to plan and lead Indian attacks against settlers in western Pennsylvania and Kentucky.
Girty, Simon (1741-1818)
Whittles, Thomas D.
Chicago: Winona 1908
Memoir of a minister who worked with lumberjacks in the north woods.
Higgins, Francis Edmond (1865-1915)
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Parish, John Carl
Iowa City: State Historical Society of Iowa 1912
“George Wallace Jones was always an interesting character, whether in the halls of Congress or on the frontier. His varied experiences as “farmer, country merchant, lead miner and smelter, clerk of court, judge, soldier, land speculator, politician, and diplomat” suggest the kaleidoscopic career of the early middle westerner who was able to raise himself above the commonplace. This volume is both biographical and autobiographical. The autobiography and personal recollections of Jones have been supplemented by a comprehensive biographical sketch by Doctor Parish.” -Editor’s Intro
Jones, George Wallace (1804-1896)
Garden City: Doubleday, Doran 1930
Simon Kenton was a living legend on the frontier in Kentucky and the Ohio country, as famous in his time as Daniel Boone and George Rogers Clark; both of whom he knew well. He was an army scout, soldier, hunter, Indian fighter, farmer, and land speculator, and a friend to numerous families on the frontier. This biography was written from an enormous collection of documents, letters and interviews assembled for decades by the 19th century historian Lyman Draper, who never got around to writing the biography of Kenton that he planned.
Kenton, Simon (1755-1836)
Hopkins, Thomas M.
Bloomington: Whitaker & Walker 1866
John Ketcham was a Colonel of the 20th Regiment of the Indiana state militia, surveyor, contractor, and politician. Born in Washington County, Maryland, he moved to Louisville, Kentucky as a child. In 1811, his family moved to land in what is now Jackson County, Indiana. He served in the U.S. Army during the War of 1812, and was discharged in 1815, at which time he sold his land and moved to what is now Bloomington. He built the first water mill in the county, and also built the first courthouse in Bloomington. He was appointed County judge in 1816-1817, and served two terms in the Indiana legislature. -Bloomingpedia
Ketcham, John (1782-1865)
Leeth, John; Thwaites, Reuben Gold, ed.
Cleveland: Burrows 1904
Originally published in 1831. “The story is on the whole an accurate, matter-of-fact recital of the often thrilling personal experiences of a typical trader and hunter in the then Indian country of Pennsylvania and Ohio – his numerous expeditions, his intimate relations with the savages, his captivity and life in their camps, chiefly during the stirring period between 1774 and 1790.” -Introduction
Leeth, John (1755-1832)
Ohio History XX, April 1911/Number 2, 137-75
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society
Logan was an Iroquois warrior and leader in Ohio country who, in revenge for the murder of members of his tribe and family in April 1774, led attacks on settlers along the Ohio River. Royal Governor of Virginia Lord Dunmore responded with an expedition against the Indians in Ohio country, termed “Dunmore’s War”.
The Draper Manuscripts are an enormous quantity of documents, papers, correspondence and notes accumulated by Lyman Draper (1815-1891), who spent his life researching frontier history. This article was produced from Dr. Draper’s notes and papers.
containing an account of the most interesting incidents connected with the settlement of the West, from 1755 to 1794; with an appendix. Also, additional sketches of adventure, compiled by the publishers, and a biography of John A. M’Clung, by Henry Waller
McClung, John A.
Covington, KY: Collins 1872
This was first published in 1832. “It is the most complete collection of captivities and early adventures ever published in one volume. Daniel Boone had been a resident of Maysville only a few years before Mr. McClung settled there. Simon Kenton, William Kennan, James Ward, Charles Ward, Major Hugh McGary, Thomas Marshall, and other heroes of the “Adventures,” were acquaintances or personal friends of the author, some of them as early as 1806; and he had every facility to verify, and was himself thoroughly assured of the accuracy of the sketches.”
– Peter G. Thomson, A Bibliography of the State of Ohio (1880)
McClung, John Alexander (1804-1859)
NY: Putnam 1852
“Roughing It in the Bush, first published in 1852, helped to destroy British illusions about life in Upper Canada. Susanna Moodie described a life of backbreaking labour, poverty, and hardship on a pioneer farm in the colonial wilderness. Her sharp observations, satirical character sketches, and moments of despair and terror were a startling contrast to the widely circulated optimistic accounts of life in British North America, written to entice readers across the Atlantic. The spontaneity, wit, and candour of Moodie’s account of life on a backwoods farm give Roughing It in the Bush enduring appeal.”
– Open Library Summary
Moodie, Susanna (1803-1885)
Life and Letters of Samuel Holden Parsons Major General in the Continental Army and Chief Judge of the Northwestern Territory 1737-1789
Hall, Charles Samuel
Binghamton, NY: Otseningo 1905
Samuel Holden Parsons was an American lawyer and jurist who served as a general in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He was an early settler in Ohio, arriving in 1788, but died the following year.
Parsons, Samuel Holden (1737-1789)
New York: 1995
Pontiac or Obwandiyag was an Odawa war chief known for his role in the war named for him, from 1763 to 1766 leading Native Americans in a struggle against British military occupation of the Great Lakes region. It followed the British victory in the French and Indian War, the North American front of the Seven Years’ War. Pontiac’s importance in the war that bears his name has been debated. The war began in May 1763 when Pontiac and 300 followers attempted to take Fort Detroit by surprise. His plan foiled, Pontiac laid siege to the fort, where he was eventually joined by more than 900 warriors from a half-dozen tribes.
Pontiac, Indian Chief (d. 1769)
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Indiana Magazine of History Volume 15, Issue 3, 1919, pp 201-232
Spencer Records was born in Sussex County, Delaware; he was an early pioneer of the American Midwest, who moved with his large family as a boy, in 1766, from the East Coast over the Appalachians into the area of Fort Pitt in Western Pennsylvania (now Pittsburgh). After staying there a few years, the family moved down the Ohio River into Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois. His narrative of these travels, which he wrote in 1842 at the age of 80, is a first-hand account of the early settlement of the Midwest. -Wikipedia
Records, Spencer (1762-1851)
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Doner, Mary Frances
Minneapolis: Ross and Haines 1958
“The Salvager is a narrative history of Great Lakes shipping disasters of 1880–1950 and the life story of Captain Thomas Reid. Using the records of the Reid Wrecking and Towing Company as well as Reid’s personal letters, here are the stories of the maritime disasters and wrecking adventures that followed, and of those waiting on shore for their loved ones.” – Book cover
Reid, James Thomas (1870-1958)
with extracts from her journal and selections from her writings
Roberts, Louisa Jewett Raymond
Philadelphia: Ferris 1895
Roberts, Louisa J. (1819-1893)
Wilson, Frazer Ells
Richmond: Garrett and Massie 1944
See the description on this web page under Douglas, Albert, “Major-General Arthur St. Clair”.
St. Clair, Arthur (1737-1818)
Ohio History XVI, October 1907/Number 4, 455-76
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society
This article was an address at the annual meeting of the Ohio Historical Society in 1907. Arthur St. Clair rose to Major General in the Continental Army during the American Revolution and afterward was a Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress. He was appointed Governor of the Northwest Territory in 1787, then became Governor of Ohio Territory when it was created in 1800. In 1791 he led a disastrous military expedition against Ohio country tribes that severely tarnished his reputation.
St. Clair, Arthur (1737-1818)
Together with a Selection of Hitherto Unpublished letters from the thirties
Blegen, Theodore Christian, ed.
Minneapolis: Voyageur 1932
Henry Hastings Sibley was born in Detroit and started a career in the fur trading business in northern Michigan, relocating to Minnesota in 1834. A career in politics gradually overtook his career in business, and he became the state of Minnesota’s first governor in 1858. During the Civil War he served as a militia colonel and was involved in two engagements with Sioux Indians, and the infamous aftermath of the second one. He later served on the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota and as President of the Minnesota Historical Society. -Wikipedia
Sibley, Henry Hastings (1811-1891)
Tecumseh and the Indian Confederation, 1811-1813: The Indian Nations east of the Mississippi are Defeated
Icenhower, Joseph Bryan
Traces the events leading up to the defeat of Tecumseh’s efforts to build a confederated Indian nation in the early 1800’s.
Tecumseh, Shawnee Chief (1768-1813)
Cincinnati: Applegate 1852
Tecumseh was a Native American Shawnee warrior and chief, who became the primary leader of a large, multi-tribal confederacy in the early 19th century. He was among the most celebrated Native American leaders in history and was known as a strong and eloquent orator who promoted tribal unity. In 1808, with his brother Tenskwatawa (“The Prophet”), Tecumseh founded the Native American village the European Americans called Prophetstown, located north of present-day Lafayette, Indiana. In 1811 he led a confederation of tribes, mainly from Ohio and Indiana, into war against the Americans. -Wikipedia
Benjamin Drake was an early settler in Cincinnati and a newspaper editor, who also wrote books on Cincinnati, Black Hawk and William Henry Harrison. Although the publication date of this book was 1853, the author had finished the book in 1841 and conducted his research in the 1820s and 1830s, interviewing a number of people who were personally acquainted with both Tecumseh and the Prophet. The anecdotes he heard are included here.
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Raymond, Ethel T.
Toronto: Glasgow, Brook 1915
This is a sympathetic biography of Tecumseh and a history of conflict in the Ohio River Valley from 1774 to 1815 for the general reader. It is one of the 32 volumes in the “Chronicles of Canada Series”.
Ohio History XV, October 1906/Number 4, 418-97
Randall, Emilius O.
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society
Emilius Randall (1850-1919) of Columbus, OH was a Law Professor at Ohio State University and the official reporter of the Ohio Supreme Court. Appointed by the Governor as a Trustee of the Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, he also served as Secretary and Editor. He edited 28 volumes and authored several books and numerous articles for the Society.
In this 80-page biography Randall gathers information from quite a number of written sources and footnotes them. The sweeping generalizations about characteristics of the Indians or tribes seem to be his though. One of many examples: “[Tecumseh] was the embodiment and the acme of the Shawnee daring, arrogance, restless activity, resourceful cunning, innate and intense hostility to the whites.”
Tecumseh and the Shawnee Prophet: Including Sketches of George Rogers Clark, Simon Kenton, William Henry Harrison, Cornstalk, Blackhoof, Bluejacket, the Shawnee Logan …
and Others Famous in the Frontier Wars of Tecumsehs̕ Time
Eggleston, Edward, and Seelye, Elizabeth E.
New York: Dodd, Mead 1878
Edward Eggleston (1837-1902) was a popular historian and novelist who was raised in rural Indiana. No biographical information about the co-author, Lillie Eggleston Seelye, was found. Some of Edward Eggleston’s books about Indiana are available on other pages of this website. For this biography of Tecumseh that includes sketches of a number of other famous men of the Ohio frontier, the authors relied mostly upon the work of other writers, and their recommended sources for further reading are at the back of the book.
Slick, Sewell Elias
Harrisburg, PA: Archives 1947
William Trent was a fur trader and merchant based in colonial Pennsylvania. An early speculator in western lands in Ohio country, he was commissioned as a captain of the Virginia Regiment in the early stages of the French and Indian War, when he served on the western frontier with the young Lt. Colonel George Washington. Trent led an advance group who built forts and improved roads for troop access and defense of the western territory. After the French and Indian War had ended, he was the commander of Fort Pitt during Pontiac’s siege there in 1763, and is sometimes considered a founder of Pittsburgh.
Trent, William (1715-1787?)
Walker, James B.
Chicago: Sumner 1881
James Barr Walker lived in Pittsburgh with his mother as a child, working throughout childhood. He afterward became a clerk in New York, and headed west to Ohio where he got a college education and later was ordained a minister. After a number of years in various places in Ohio he joined the faculty of Wheaton College in Illinois, as a professor of Philosophy. He was the author of about a dozen books.
Walker, James Barr (1805-1887)
Embracing the Opening of the First Congress, and his tours through New England, Long Island, and the Southern States, together with his Journal of a Tour to the Ohio, in 1753
Washington, George, edited by Lossing, Benson John
NY: Richardson 1860
“Journal of a Tour to the Ohio, in 1753”, is found on pp. 203-248. Included in this section is an introduction that explains the mission he was assigned, the text of correspondence between Washington and the Governor of Virginia (including initial instructions from the Governor), the text of a letter from the Governor to the French commandant directing him to vacate the Ohio River region, explanatory notes by the editor, and a few other documents related to Washington’s mission. Washington’s ‘Tour’ was one of the events that triggered the French and Indian War.
Washington, George (1732-1799)
To Which Are Added Biographical Sketches of General Simon Kenton, General Benjamin Logan, Captain Samuel Brady, Governor Isaac Shelby, and Other Heroes of the West
Hartley, Cecil B.
Philadelphia: G.G. Evans 1859
Lewis Wetzel (1763-1808) was known throughout the frontier area during his own lifetime as one of the most famous and feared Indian-fighters in the Ohio River valley. He grew up not far from what later became Wheeling, WV, and was very frequently in action against Indians as a teenager during the Revolutionary War and for years afterward. Simon Kenton (1755-1836) was located further down the Ohio in Kentucky, and was famous for the same reason. However, they are normally portrayed quite differently. Kenton warmly supported settlers in Kentucky and often took the lead against Indian warriors who attacked them. He distinguished between combatants and non-combatants, and between friendly and hostile Indians. Wetzel seems to have had a ruthless and undiscriminating hostility toward all Indians.
Wetzel, Lewis (1763-1808)
Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress
This collection of life histories consists of approximately 2,900 documents, compiled and transcribed by more than 300 writers from 24 states, working on the Folklore Project of the Federal Writers’ Project, a New Deal jobs program that was part of the U.S. Works Progress (later Work Projects) Administration (WPA) from 1936 to 1940. Typically 2,000-15,000 words in length, the documents vary in form from narratives to dialogues to reports to case histories. They chronicle vivid life stories of Americans who lived at the turn of the century and include tales of meeting Billy the Kid, surviving the 1871 Chicago fire, pioneer journeys out West, grueling factory work, and the immigrant experience. Writers hired by this Depression-era work project included Ralph Ellison, Nelson Algren, May Swenson, and many others. The documents often describe the informant’s physical appearance, family, education, income, occupation, political views, religion and mores. Pseudonyms are often substituted for individuals and places named in the narrative texts. The life histories comprise a small part of the larger Manuscript Division collection titled United States Work Projects Administration Records.
– From the Collection’s Website.
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Biographical sketches of General Nathaniel Massie, General Duncan McArthur, Captain William Wells, and General Simon Kenton: who were early settlers in the western country
“The first biographical sketch is of General Nathaniel Massie, and occupies some 70 pages of the volume. The second is of General Duncan McArthur, and takes up about 112 pages. Following this, is some account, made up principally of interesting anecdotes, of Captain William Wells, one of the active spirits of Wayne’s army, 1794. Then comes a sketch of the life of General Simon Kenton, filling about seventy pages, and closing the volume. Of all these men, Mr. McDonald was a contemporary; a young adventurer under Massie, an intimate of McArthur, an acquaintance of Wells, and a companion of Kenton. He was an actor in many of the scenes which he describes; and the incidents detailed in his volume, which he did not witness himself, were communicated to him by the actors soon after they had taken place. He is thus original authority, and the fullest reliance may be placed in his statements.” – Peter G. Thomson, A Bibliography of the State of Ohio (1880)
Pepper, Mary Sifton
Toronto: Morang 1902
Chapter headings are:
First Period: Pioneer Women of Acadia
1. Marguerite de Roberval, the Heroine of the Isle of Demons
2. The Marchioness de Guercheville, First Patroness of American Missions
3. The Lady de la Tour, a Fair Chatelaine of Acadia
Second Period: Pioneer Women of Quebec
1. Dame Hebert
2. Madame de Champlian, the First Lady of Canada
3. Madame de la Peltrie, Foundress of the First Girls’ School in Canada
4. Mother Marie Guyard of the Incarnation
5. Some Dainty Nurses of Long Ago
Third Period: Maids of Montreal
1. The Founding of Montreal
2. The Work of Jeanne Mance and Marguerite Bourgeois
3. Judith de Bresoles and her Companions
4. Jeanne le Ber, the Recluse of Montreal
5. Madeleine de Vercheres, the Heroine of Castle Dangerous
Fourth Period: Advent of the Carignan Regiment
1. Coming of the King’s Girls, or Marriages and Social Life in New France
2. Women in the First Siege of Quebec
3. The Two Pompadours, or Women in the Downfall of New France
Peck, John and Sparks, Jared
NY: University Society 1904
embracing adventures among the Indians, feats of the wild hunters, and exploits of Boone, Brady, Kenton, Whetzel, Fleehart, and other border heroes of the west
Watson, Henry C.
Philadelphia: Lippincott 1856
“This is a made up book. The scene is a block-house on the Scioto River near James’ settlement. The characters introduced are generally fictitious in name and deed, but are intended to be truthful in their qualities. The work is written in the form of a novel, and possesses some historical value, as many of the narratives of captivities and adventures are copied intact from other works of undoubted accuracy.” – Peter G. Thomson, A Bibliography of the State of Ohio (1880)