The First Frontier
The Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery, & Endurance in Early America
“Excitement abounds in Scott Weidensaul’s detailed history of the first clashes between European settlers and Native Americans on the East Coast.”—Nancy Marie Brown, author of The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman
Frontier: the word carries the inevitable scent of the West. But before Custer or Lewis and Clark, before the first Conestoga wagons rumbled across the Plains, it was the East that marked the frontier—the boundary between complex Native cultures and the first colonizing Europeans.
Here is the older, wilder, darker history of a time when the land between the Atlantic and the Appalachians was contested ground—when radically different societies adopted and adapted the ways of the other, while struggling for control of what all considered to be their land.
The First Frontier traces two and a half centuries of history through poignant, mostly unheralded personal stories—like that of a Harvard-educated Indian caught up in seventeenth-century civil warfare, a mixed-blood interpreter trying to straddle his white and Native heritage, and a Puritan woman wielding a scalping knife whose bloody deeds still resonate uneasily today. It is the first book in years to paint a sweeping picture of the Eastern frontier, combining vivid storytelling with the latest research to bring to life modern America’s tumultuous, uncertain beginnings.
“Exciting and revealing . . . a stirring panorama of the land and the peoples who made their mark on it from the late sixteenth to eighteenth centuries . . . This is a rich tableau that both excites and informs about the forging of early American society.”—Booklist
“Weidensaul’s delightful storytelling brings to life the terrors and hopes of the earliest days of America.”—Publishers Weekly
In this charming and fascinating chronicle, historian Weidensaul points out that the earliest frontier in America stretched from the Atlantic coast inland to the high, rugged ranges of the Appalachians, and from the Maritimes to Florida. By telling the stories of the numerous inhabitants of this "first frontier," Weidensaul uncovers the terrain of this lost world where Europeans and Native Americans were creating a new society and a new landscape that was by turns peaceful and violent, and linked by trade, intermarriage, religion, mutual dependence, and acts of both unimaginable barbarism and extraordinary tolerance and charity. For example, Weidensaul recounts numerous stories of Indian captivity. In 1689, Maliseet Indians captured and carried 10-year-old John Gyles from his village in Maine into Canada, where he endured severe winters and a case of frostbite that almost killed him. By the time he was 16, his Indian mistress traded him to a Frenchman, who put Gyles in charge of a store in his trading post. While he was with the Indians, the young Gyles learned loyalty and refused to try to escape; when he had the chance to escape his French masters during a battle between the English and the French, he remained loyal to his French owners, even helping them avoid possible capture by the English. Weidensaul's delightful storytelling brings to life the terrors and hopes of the earliest days of America.
The First Frontier
Incredibly well researched. Possibly the best comprehensive book on this period written.
One would expect, with this level of detail, to have to slog through a bit of tediousness. It is beautifully avoided with diary inserts, actual conversations recorded in varios legal records, and a very real sense of watching events unfold in front of you.