Willia Cotton, the first librarian in Marietta, wrote a book on Mound Cemetery that included a great deal about Marietta. The opening page of her book began with the following paragraph: " There is no spot west of the Alleghenies of more historic interest than the old Mound Cemetery of Marietta, for in it are buried many of the Pioneers of the Northwest Territory. Sturdy and true were the men who bade 'Goodbye' to New England, and wended their way westward to establish a new home in the wilderness. Under the leadership of Rufus Putnam, the vanguard composed of 48 men, followed the Indian trail over the mountains, and in a large boat, called the 'Adventure Galley,' floated down the Ohio to the mouth of the Muskingum. Here they landed on the 7th of April, 1788, and laid out a little city, which they named Marietta in honor in honor of the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette."
Miss Cotton went on to state how much praise should be given to "that little band" as well as the other men of the Ohio Company, who actually laid the foundation of the state of Ohio. She stated many of these men were officers of the Revolution, who at the end of the war were without any funds and no longer had occupations. To find that the idea of founding a colony on the Ohio River was a great opportunity for these men, and each of these former soldiers would be presented with the amount of acreage which equaled their time of service and the titles they held.
One thing Miss Cotton mentioned was the remarkable earthworks that were in the area to be settled. No one seemed to know back then just who was responsible for the wide variety of mounds. She stated even the Indians had no knowledge of those who had created the mounds except they were the remains of an ancient people who had vanished from the earth. The settlers, of course, felt those who had created the mounds were superior to the Indians present at the time of the settlement. (In later days it was found that the mounds in Marietta were created by the Hopewell Mound Builders.)
The sides of the bulwarks and mounds were covered with large trees, centuries old. One day, in the presence of Gov. St. Clair, some of the trees were cut down and the number of circles in the wood were counted to discover the age of the trees. One of the largest, a poplar tree, contained 452 circles, which determined that tree was 452 years old. From this information Rev. Manasseh Cutler, wrote the discovery of the age of the poplar tree, with others having the same amount of circles, showed the mounds had been deserted at least more than 900 years. He stated, "If they had been occupied 100 years, they had been erected more than 1000 ago."
Miss Cotton went on to state the early settlers showed their wisdom and culture by laying out broad streets and ample lots, and by reserving some of the most perfect of the earthworks for public grounds. (It is obvious that many of Marietta's early homes were constructed on the lower mounds, and those running lengthwise.)
The settlers held an early meeting, and decided they would call the square containing the conical mound Marie Antoinette Square. It had this name until 1791, but after that was just called Mound Square. Today, the mound is just as perfect as it was when it was discovered by the settlers. It is 30 feet high, and at the base is a regular circle 375 feet in circumference. It is surrounded by a moat 15 feet wide and 4 feet deep, and protected by a parapet 20 feet thick and 585 feet in circumference. On the north side of the wall is an opening and a filling 20 feet wide in the moat. According to Miss Cotton the earth for this mound and moat were probably carried from a distance in baskets and as it rose in height, it was moulded into shape by the hands of the builders.
At the top of the mound there was a large white oak that stood more than 100 feet high. It was here near the summit of the mound that the settlers made an opening, and found under a large flat stone the bones of an adult lying in a horizontal position on thin stones placed vertically a few inches apart. According to Miss Cotton the opening was filled for fear that the contour of the mound would be destroyed by further excavation, and the search was never renewed. It was thought to be sacrilegious.
In order to preserve the mounds, they were leased to individuals for as long as they weren't needed for something else, and Marie Antoinette Square went to Rufus Putnam in 1791 for a length of 12 years. The conditions were that he would surround the entire square with mulberry trees with an elm at each corner. The base of the mound was to be surrounded with weeping willows, and evergreens were to be placed on the mound. The circular wall outside of the ditch was to be surrounded by trees. Everything inside of the Square was to remain undisturbed by plow and seeded with grass and the entire area to be enclosed with a post and rail fence.
Unfortunately on Aug. 25, 1788, Major Cushing's little daughter Nabby passed away and was buried on the south side of the present Oak Grove Cemetery, which was later a part of the Bartlett estate.
The first burial in Mound Cemetery was that of Col Robert Taylor, who died in September, 1801, and who had been a soldier in the Revolutionary War. It was May 7, 1811, that the Ministerial Trustees resolved that Marie Antoinette Square by permanently made into a cemetery.
Joan Pritchard is a longtime columnist for The Parkersburg News & Sentinel. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org