Reenactors celebrate Marietta’s founding
MARIETTA – The weather on the 225th anniversary of Marietta’s founding Sunday was apparently quite a bit better than the cold, gray mist that greeted Gen. Rufus Putnam and 47 other Revolutionary War veterans when they landed at the confluence of the Muskingum and Ohio rivers on April 7, 1788.
“It was not a nice day when they arrived – it was so dark and rainy they initially sailed right past the confluence of the two rivers,” said Nancy Putnam Hollister, a descendant of Rufus Putnam’s cousin, Col. Israel Putnam, and member of the Campus Martius/Ohio River Museum Board.
She described Sunday’s event marking the Pioneer City’s birthday as a fantastic celebration.
“We want people to come together and be proud that we’re the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory of the U.S.,” Hollister said.
The sun was shining and temperatures had climbed into the mid-60s as local historian Bill Reynolds, dressed as Putnam, led a group of reenactors from the landing site along the Muskingum River to the base of the Start Westward Monument in East Muskingum Park where a crowd of about 50 people awaited.
He noted those 48 men who arrived 225 years ago – known as the Ohio Company of Associates – had little money in their pockets, and were representing a fledgling country of 13 colonies that was in debt to France and other foreign nations.
All they had was the promise of land as payment for service to their country, Reynolds said.
“And the sale of this land was a way to help repay the debt they were owed,” he said, adding the property was surveyed and laid out in plats that eventually became the city of Marietta.
Gesturing to the statue of three of those pioneers on the Start Westward Monument, Reynolds said “this monument is to their courage and endurance, but we are also living monuments to those who founded this territory.”
Former Marietta mayor Michael Mullen noted Sunday’s crowd was thinner than the 100,000 or so who showed up for the 150th anniversary of the city’s founding.
“Our numbers are a bit down from the Sesquicentennial celebration when President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke in this park,” Mullen said. “But what a wonderful thing to think about the bravery and courage of those who came here in 1788.”
Mary Alice Pugh, widow of Ed Pugh who was a member of the famous “Pioneer Caravan” that traced the Ohio Company’s original route from Massachusetts to Marietta in 1937 and 1938, also attended Sunday’s 225th anniversary event with her son, Ed.
“We wrote a book about that experience,” she said. “The men on that government-funded expedition in 1937 and ’38 were paid $1 a day to make the trip.”
John Shriver and his wife, Lucille, traveled from Hocking County to attend Sunday’s event in Marietta. Shriver said his family has a special connection to the veterans of the Revolutionary War.
“I just joined the Sons of the Revolution chapter in February after discovering my grandfather, three generations back, was a personal bodyguard for George Washington,” he said.
Deanna Roshong, a member of the Elizabeth Sherman Reese Daughters of the American Revolution Chapter in Lancaster, Ohio, also traveled some distance to take part in the Marietta celebration.
“My husband, Carl, is chapter president of the Hocking Valley Sons of the American Revolution,” she said. “He’s part of the color guard for this very special occasion.”
As a teacher, Roshong said history has always been important to her.
“But they don’t teach Ohio history like they used to when I was in school,” she said. “And that’s a big shame. I remember coming (to Marietta) as a young person after we had learned about the history of this area and just being awestruck about what happened here.”
Sherri Saines, from Logan, Ohio, agreed.
“I have a great love of 18th Century history, so all of this is very fascinating to me,” she said.
Following the ceremonies in East Muskingum Park, the SAR reenactors marched north on Front Street to the Ohio River Museum where one member of the group, Washington County Commissioner David White, had set up a model Revolutionary War encampment where he answered visitors’ questions about the city’s history throughout the afternoon.
A block away, at the Campus Martius Museum, visitors toured the Ohio Company House, built in 1788, as well as the Rufus Putnam House that was part of the original Campus Martius fortress.
Also at the museum Sunday afternoon, Andrew Cayton, a Distinguished Professor of History at Miami University of Ohio, gave a presentation on the personal and professional lives of Marietta’s founders.
The Annual Pioneer Day Dinner, sponsored by the Washington County Historical Society, was held at the Lafayette Hotel Sunday evening with keynote speaker and historian Dave McKain, who gave a presentation on the relationship between the ladies of the Henderson Hall plantation across the Ohio River in Wood County and the citizens of Marietta.