“My brother was ambitious, but poor, and wanted, as many other young men do, to make a strike for himself; and with that desire uppermost in his mind, he made up his mind to go to Michigan territory, get a hold and grow with the country” (Coffinberry 57). The two brothers from the first personal story in chapter five, were not the only people to travel to Michigan looking for a better life. Michigan offered promises of new land, a chance to make something of themselves, the opportunity to provide better for their families. To be perfectly honest, being a pioneer in Michigan sounds awful. Not having any of the luxuries that there are today seems daunting. Sleeping on cold ground, only being able to bring what you could carry, having little money, having to interact with “scary” Indians all sounds terrifying. Reading the stories of the earlier Michigan settlers, doesn’t give the impression that they found it terrifying though. To them it was an exciting opportunity that they were grateful for. At times it was tough and they weren’t oblivious to that like in “Reminiscence of Travel to West Bloomfield” where the writer says “and I have heard my father say he did not know how he was going to get through the winter” (Whitehead 62). Luckily for that family they had a good support of neighbors that all helped each other in tough times. In “Pioneer Days” the family traveling from Ohio to Michigan and then back to Ohio had to sleep on cold ground, and wade through cold water to get to a house about a mile away. Life was hard for these settlers, but they were ambitious and motivated people.
Reading how the pioneers felt about the Indians was very eye-opening. Some were terrified, others accepted them. Some treated them like bees in a “don’t mess with them, they won’t mess with you kind of thing.” It was very funny to find out that Indians would just walk into homes, like on New Years Day, “My mother was told the first New Year’s that we were here, that the Indians would come for fried cakes, and sure enough, every New Year’s day they would come, saying “Happy New Year, Happy New Year” (Dewey 63). Of course not everyone felt that way, some of the children were very terrified of the Indians and kind of panicked every time they saw them (Nowlin 65). Having that kind of outlook on the Native Americans created a kind of distance between them. As one writer put it, “If the whites would always be honest, fair and kind with them; if half the money spent in fighting them, were spent in providing for them, and in being just and generous with them; there might be very little trouble with the Indians, and much in might be done to advance them in the road to civilization and happiness” (A.H. 69)
These settlers paved the way for Michigan to become what it is today. These settlers wanted to find new life, new opportunities and for years that is what Michigan has been.
Thick, Matthew R. The Great Water: a Documentary History of Michigan. Michigan State University Press, 2018.