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Retrace History with Pioneer Guidebooks for Great Lakes States

Pioneer Guidebooks for Great Lakes States

Follow the footsteps of 19th-century pioneers in the Great Lakes States with the guidebooks they used! Explore history and get insights.

Guidebooks Used by the Pioneers of the Great Lakes States

If you are looking for insights into the lives of the pioneers in the the Great Lakes states in the 19th century, you can find it in pioneer guidebooks. These books were created to help people traveling to the region during that time period, and they offer valuable insight into what life was like back then. Many of these travel guides have now been made available online, offering a free glimpse into our past!

The Emigrant’s Hand-book, or, A Directory and Guide for Persons Emigrating to the United States of America …

containing advice and directions to emigrants, but especially to those designing to settle in the Great Western Valley. And also, a concise description of the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri and Iowa, and the western territories, and including a statement of the modes and expenses of travelling from New York to the interior, and an extensive list of routes in each state by steamboats, railroads, canals and stages. Accompanied with a correct travelling map of the United States

Author Unknown
NY: J. H. Colton 1848

See the Menu at the top of every page for Directories of Free Online Fiction and NonFiction Books, Magazines, and more, on 400 pages like this at Century Past

A Geographical, Historical, Commercial, and Agricultural View of the United States of America …

forming a complete emigrant’s directory through every part of the republic, particularizing the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Illinois; and the territories of Alabama and Missouri…east and west Florida, Michigan, and North-western. …likewise, an account of the British possessions in Upper and Lower Canada… Compiled by several gentlemen from a variety of original manuscripts, and from the latest and best authorities

London: Edwards & Knibb 1820

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“Geographical, Geological and Statistical Chart of Wisconsin and Iowa …

designed especially for the use of Emigrants and Travellers, and as a Document of Reference for the citizens of those Territories; as well as for those who may feel interested in the prosperity of this new but rapidly improving portion of the “Great West

Abel, Henry J.
Philadelphia: 1838

Printed as a large one-sheet chart, this is packed with information and advice for people considering moving to Wisconsin or Iowa. It also contains a number of stories that are meant to be illustrative of life there, but seem overly optimistic. Here’s an example: “It is customary in Wisconsin, when an emigrant arrives in a settlement, that his neighbors assist him in building a house, (“which can be done in less than three days”) without any charge whatever. The way they do business here may be seen from the following [newspaper article]: “Not long since a young man reached a settlement on Monday, surveyed his ground on Tuesday, built a house on Wednesday, got married on Friday, moved home on Saturday, and with his wife, like the rest of the settlers, went to meeting on Sunday.”

See our post on Early Western Travel Accounts in 32 Volumes

View of the Valley of the Mississippi, Or, the Emigrant’s and Traveller’s Guide to the West …

Containing a General Description of That Entire Country: and Also Notices of the Soil, Productions, Rivers, and Other Channels of Intercourse and Trade: and Likewise of the Cities and Towns, Progress of Education, &c. of Each State and Territory

Baird, Robert
Philadelphia: H.S. Tanner 1834

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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

See our post on Pioneer Life on the Michigan Frontier in Diaries & Memoirs

The Emigrant’s Instructer on Wisconsin and the Western States of America

Description of the Wisconsin Territory and some of the states and territories adjoining to it, in the western parts of the United States of America

British Temperance Emigration Society and Saving Fund
British Temperance Emigration Society and Saving Fund, 1844

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The Western Tourist or Emigrant’s Guide Through the States of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri, and the Territories of Wisconsin and Iowa …

being an accurate and concise description of each state, territory, and county: also, describing all the principal stage routes, canals, railroads, and the distances betwen the towns: accompanied with a correct map, showing the township lines of the United States’ surveys, the boundaries of counties, position of villages, etc

Colton, Joseph Hutchins
NY: J. H. Colton 1847

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Western Portraiture, and Emigrants’ Guide: a Description of Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa …

with remarks on Minnesota, and other territories

Curtiss, Daniel
NY: Colton 1852

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The Emigrant’s Guide to the Western and Southwestern States and Territories …

Comprising a Geographical and Statistical Description of the States of Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio; the Territories of Alabama, Missouri, Illinois, and Michigan; and the Western Parts of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New-York … Accompanied by a Map of the United States, Etc

Darby, William
NY: Kirk & Mercein 1818

See our post with Selected Books about Pioneer Life in Early Illinois

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

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

See our directory of Great Lakes books and articles on this site

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.

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

See our post on Memoirs and Diaries from the Indiana Frontier

The Farmer’s and Emigrant’s Hand Book

being a Full and Complete Guide for the Farmer and Emigrant, comprising the clearing of forest and prairie land – gardening – farming generally – farriery – cookery – and the prevention and cure of diseases, with copious hints, recipes and tables

Marshall, Josiah T.
Boston: Wentworth 1852

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New States and Territories; or The Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, North-western, Missouri, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama …

in their real characters, in 1818. Printed for the benefit of emigrants, and others, intending to visit the western country

Miller, Andrew

See our post on Books in Which Foreign Visitors Interpret America 1800-1867

A New Guide for Emigrants to the West …

Containing Sketches of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, with the Territory of Wisconsin, and the Adjacent Parts

Peck, John Mason
Boston: Gould, Kendall & Lincoln 1837

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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

The Emigrant’s Guide to the United States of America …

including the Substance of the Journal of Thomas Hulme, Esq.

Smith, Thomas
London: Sherwood etc. 1818

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

Appleton’s Southern and Western Travellers’ Guide…

with new and authentic maps illustrating those divisions of the country

Williams, Wellington
NY: Appleton 1853

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

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