Settlers Flock to the New Frontier


Michigan was described as a peaceful land filled with untouched wilderness as described in one excerpt “.. numerous lakes swarming with fish, and the forest filled with game of all kinds.” (Whitehead, p. 60) and “One could not penetrate the woods far before a deer would be started up..” (Whitehead, p.60) Recall that this was area was intentionally left this way by the French from the Fur Trade time period. As Michigan had just entered statehood, people wanted to relocate for fresh beginnings. It was where “ambitious, but poor..” (Coffinberry, p.57) led themselves in hopes to make a successful life for themselves and their families.

Boats came loaded to Michigan with emigrants which led to crowded and dirty areas on the ships, and not ideal conditions for safe travels. They ate and slept on the deck of the boats and their beds would catch on fire from the sparks of tar and resin. (Whitehead, p.61) However, they endeavored the struggles because Michigan was a new territory for them that promised a new future. Many came here with only a few belongings and a small amount of money as illustrated by the quote “We had no chairs or tables nor much of anything else to do with, so we had to live this way for about two weeks..” (Whitehead, p.61) Upon arrival, they used horses and oxen to travel on poor roads and make multiple trips to bring back more of their things that they needed.

At first, Michigan had the reputation of a swampy land that was rather unappealing to newcomers. The harsh winters and ice were intimidating to travelers on foot who had to brave these conditions. The quote “Stories of these Pioneers are an interesting way to understand the hardships they faced in their relocation..” (Coffinberry, p.57) referring to these people as Pioneers is a considerate and accurate description.  As we made advances in transportation with steamboats and the Erie Canal, more settlers were on their way. These prejudices were soon fading away as more and more people were coming to the new State.

Early settlers came from all different areas, creating a variety in the population. The Erie Canal meant many immigrants and New Yorkers came to Michigan. Those who did settle near the Indians seemed to have gotten along with them and made friendships. The Indians learned from us, adopting some of our culture and clothing.  Another excerpt says that Indians would walk right into your house unannounced, but they never did any harm. They were curious about what was in houses. (Dewey, p.63) However, this is argued when a mother and children were afraid of the Indians that entered their house and took their bread and milk and further asked for whiskey. (Nowlin, p.65) More than likely the Indians did not mean to appear threatening, because it was of their culture to share with their neighbors.

Works Cited:

Thick, Matthew. The Great Water. Michigan State University Press, 2018.

7 thoughts on “Settlers Flock to the New Frontier

  1. We think we have it rough at times! I can’t imagine having to come to an unknown place on a boat and while you are sleeping (or trying to sleep) on the deck, having your bed keep starting on fire. When you think of all of the work that the earliest settlers did in just clearing the land to make areas for crops and roads, it is awe-inspiring. The fact that so many survived is a testimonial to their toughness.

  2. I think it is fair to say that the inventions of the 1800’s had a great deal of importance as to the rapid expansion of Michigan, in comparison to other earlier states and territories. The steam boat, Sault locks, and eventually the railroad and train; would allow Michiganders to explore and reap the benefits of the copper rich U.P., and navigate the western shores of Michigan, which rapidly expanded Michigan’s economy, population, and garnered respect of a state once referred to as uninhabitable.

  3. Swampy and cold lands would scare me away. I think it is very noble of these pioneer men to settle here in Michigan. For me, I think I would have settled near the Indians. I feel as if it were to give me more comfort to know I wasn’t in the middle of no where by myself. Then and now is so different compared to this scenario. Michigan has come so far, and it is all thanks to these men who weren’t afraid of the “swampy and unbearable winters.” Now, today we enjoy all four seasons here. The fact that these men and women were able to start with nothing and grew so much, is incredible. They would be so proud if they saw Michigan today. Very nice blog!

  4. The determination and resilience of these early settlers on their journey to Michigan really makes you wonder how bad things were for them back home! The things they endured to make a new life for themselves here were definitely not easy to overcome. I do think the relationship they had with the Indians was quite interesting. It just goes to show that if you don’t have prejudice for one another you truly can build relationships and even friendships with others, no matter their culture or way of life.

  5. I love hearing about how settelers did so much and went through such hard times to come to a new land and be able be a part of a great beginning. Despite the future being unknown and the fear they felt they were willing to risk it. It shows how much more willing people were to discover new things and have a better life. I don’t think people would be willing to move their entire family and life to somewhere new that hadn’t been settled in anymore.

  6. It is ludicrous to think how determined the settlers where during this time. They literally made something from nothing. They started as fur traders and created so much and evolved into so much. I loved your thoughts on this. It seems to help when I can understand someone else’s point of view on the subject!

  7. I also wrote about the Natives and the Whiskey, it made me giggle when I read it! I really enjoyed how you talked about the roads and the oxen, those were great points that I never thought to include in my blog. I also really enjoyed how you talked about how the advancement in technology allowed more to come to Michigan and that caused a downward shift in prejudices. Excellent points and a great read!

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