Marietta ready to mark 225th birthday

MARIETTA – The 225th birthday of Marietta may not be celebrated with as much fanfare as the 98th, but there will be plenty of opportunities in the days ahead to honor and learn about the first settlement in the Northwest Territory.

As it has for the last five years, the anniversary of the founding of the Pioneer City on April 7 – and Belpre on April 9 – will be marked during a series of history and genealogy-themed events comprising “14 Days with the Pioneers and Patriots of Washington County.” New exhibits will be on display at the Campus Martius Museum, authors and local historians will offer presentations and numerous people will be clad in historical garb.

It’s an extensive schedule but different from the all-day festivities recorded in an 1886 edition of The Marietta Register-Leader, said Gretchen Otto, second vice president of the Washington County Historical Society.

“The celebration of Marietta’s birthday was treated like a holiday,” she said. “There was a parade. … There were bells and whistles. There were speakers in Muskingum Park.”

But Otto doesn’t think the change means Marietta’s history isn’t still appreciated.

“I think we find other ways to celebrate Marietta,” she said, pointing to events like the Sternwheel and Sweet Corn festivals and the efforts of groups like ReStore Marietta and the Marietta-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Some of those events draw on the history of the area, and activities like those being offered over the next two weeks also draw people in, said Jean Yost, president of the Washington County Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution, one of the groups organizing the festivities.

“We’ve had real good turnout to the events over the years,” he said. “We have a lady coming from Florida (this year) whose husband, Ed Pugh, was one of the people on the 1937-38 trek from Ipswich, (Mass.), to Marietta.”

That journey recreated the original one made in 1787. The landing will be staged again on Sunday, with local historian Bill Reynolds portraying Col. Rufus Putnam, one of Marietta’s founding fathers.

Yost said the origins of Marietta matter far beyond the city limits.

“The founding of Marietta was the first stage of implementation of the Northwest Ordinance,” he said. “It preceded the Constitution by two months. It set the standard for how new states would be admitted to the union … prohibited slavery … essentially set aside ground for religion and education.”

Campus Martius, the fort that is the namesake of the museum that now sits on its grounds at Second and Washington streets in Marietta “was home of the governor, (Arthur) St. Clair, the supreme court and the laws of Ohio,” Yost said. “The laws that preceded the establishment of the state were written here in Marietta.”

The week’s activities will involve local historians – like Jeff Spear’s presentation Friday at the Ohio River Museum on the history of a family tied to the W.P. Snyder Jr. docked there and Louise Zimmer’s talk on Marietta’s early days at the local Daughters of the American Revolution luncheon Saturday – and local residents, including the students of Harmar Elementary School ringing the bell at the Henry Fearing House Museum on Friday, an opportunity that will be afforded to the public on Sunday. But people from outside the area will also share their perspective as well.

Author James Williams will debut his new book, “Blazes, Posts and Stones” on Saturday at Campus Martius Museum. The book deals with the history of surveying in Ohio, but will appeal to people beyond that subject, Yost said.

“He’ll talk to you about the man that was there surveying and a little bit about his background,” he said. “He’s winding into his (story) not only the history of the surveying of Ohio, but he’s telling you about these characters.”