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Friday, February 17, 2017

Marietta College and the Floating Dormitory

Colleges are struggling to maintain enrollments these days, primarily because of fewer college age students in the population. Marietta College ("MC"), for example, has seen its enrollment decline in recent years. That forces a grim balancing act - cutting back and conserving resources while maintaining a quality experience for students.

Imagine the exact opposite occurring - a quintupling of enrollment and a frantic search for more resources - in just a year's time. It actually happened at Marietta College and colleges across the nation. The year was 1946 when millions of veterans returned from World War II. Many had postponed college and wanted to return. And the GI Bill provided incentives with education and training benefits. 

MC enrollment had dropped to 200 students during the war as most men were on active duty. By late 1946, enrollment surged to 1,000. That was good news....but where would they be housed? Who would teach them - and in what classrooms? Dormitory space at the time housed only 95 students. MC began an aggressive campaign to find housing and administrative space.

Fortunately there were multiple sources of help available: temporary buildings provided by the government, purchase by MC of some nearby homes for housing, and opening of private homes for students. Then there was The Pioneer, a floating dormitory purchased from the Coast Guard. More about that novel set-up later.

The Federal Government made available a variety of temporary buildings at no cost for housing and educating veterans. Marietta College was the first institution in the country to apply for such facilities through the Federal Public Housing Authority (FPHA).

The community also assisted. Area churches, civic groups, and the American Legion worked to locate homes that would take in students. There was also a Citizens Committee headed by Eloise Grafton and Silas M. Thurlow. A Marietta College report stated that a "large number of men were placed in private homes in the city."

As part of the student housing solution, 23 men were able to live it up on a houseboat. Well, it wasn't an actual houseboat. MC purchased a 111 ft. long U. S. Coast Guard barracks boat and converted it to a dormitory. It was christened The Pioneer, in deference to MC's being the first to use this innovative type of housing - and recalling Marietta's pioneering settlers. The Pioneer was moored in the Muskingum River at the base of the "Start Westward" monument. 

Copy of article from Columbus Dispatch Magazine July 14, 1946, courtesy Marietta College Special Collections

The "shipmates" were from 11 different states. 20 of the 23 were veterans. The second deck had been a barracks room which would hold 50 men. MC knew that veterans would prefer to avoid a barracks-style setting, so The Pioneer second deck was remodeled into 14 two-man rooms. Dorms at that time were unisex - men or women only. The Pioneer was a men's dorm, though a photo shows women being invited on board for a dance.

The first deck included a kitchen, dining hall which doubled as a lounge, showers, and quarters for the dorm master, John E. Sandt, who happened to have been in the Army.

Life on The Pioneer was a little different from conventional dorm living. The guys living there at the time said they notice "a bit of rocking" when a boat passed in the river. They could fish if they wanted to, but college life and studies left little time for that. MC policy prohibited swimming. In warmer weather, some lounged in the sun on the roof, studying or just hanging out.

Some of The Pioneer's resident men were interviewed at the time by the Marietta Daily Times. James L. Stolberg of Williamsport, PA was glad to return to MC. He attended earlier as a member of the 25th College Training Detachment, U.S. Air Crew, which was stationed on campus. Ex-Marine James M. Bossert of Oakmont PA had not heard of Marietta College as he hitchhiked through Ohio. A Marietta man gave him a ride. Bossert mentioned how hard it was to get into the larger universities. His "driver" said, "Try Marietta (College)." Bossert diverted from his trip and headed directly to MC.

The Pioneer chapter at Marietta College ended when the vessel was sold after the housing crisis ended. It remains an amusing footnote in Marietta College history. The pioneering spirit of resourcefulness which it evidenced lives on. 

Image of The Pioneer from The Tallow Light publication of the Washington County Historical Society, Vol. 27, No. 1, Summer 1996; original photo courtesy of Marietta College Special Collections.

There is an interesting sidebar to The Pioneer story: The Pioneer is said to have inspired the concept for a 1960's NBC TV series It's a Man's World. That series portrayed the life of four teenage guys attending a midwest college and living on a houseboat named The Elephant. The setting for the show was a fictional town on the Ohio River, loosely based on Marietta, Ohio. Some background scenes for the series were filmed in Marietta.

The series was itself a pioneer: It introduced more real-life characters and situations involving teenagers coming of age in the emerging unrest of the early 1960's. Other programs of that period featured idealized family shows like "Ozzie and Harriett." Kerry Pechter, wrote about the show in a 2001 New York Times retrospective column about the show. "The show's co-creators Peter Tewksbury and James Leighton, set out to capture the rootlessness, idealism, and iconoclasm....of the early 1960s. And their themes - premarital sex, tragic loss, and the gulf between adults and adolescents - were at times treated in a startlingly candid way."

Critics were excited about the innovative dramatic formula of the new series. With great anticipation It's a Man's World premiered in September, 1962. Unfortunately, the show failed to catch on with viewers. Ratings dropped and reviews were mixed. Sponsors - critical to the financial success or failure of television programs - were restless about the edginess of some episode situations. NBC decided in late November to cancel the show.

Tewksbury, cast members, and fans of It's a Man's World mounted a furious publicity campaign to save the show. The controversy gained national media attention. Cast members Ted Bessell (later starred in sitcom That Girl) and Randy Boone began a cross-country drive in a battered jeep used on the show to generate publicity. They contacted local media outlets along the way and organized protest events. They stopped in Marietta on December 18 and appeared in a demonstration at he Parkersburg WV NBC affiliate WTAP TV with students from Marietta College. A photo of that event included signs saying "Viewers of the World Unite" and "No Cancellation without Representation." The network received thousands of letters protesting the cancellation.

But, all the effort did not change NBC's mind. The show's broadcast on January 28, 1963, was it's last. The pioneering series faded into obscurity, though 50 plus years later, some video clips and details still survive. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

WPAR, Radio Pioneer

My tennis friend Stev Pitchford sent me a photo he took as a photographer for WTAP TV news in the mid-1950s. It was a fire in downtown Parkersburg: WPAR studios were engulfed in flames. His photos (seen later in this blog post) prompted me to research WPAR history.

First, some radio background: The radio phenomenon exploded on the scene in the 1920's. Radio wave experiments began in the 1880's. Guglielmo Marconi is generally credited with inventing a radio system for communication in 1895. By the 1920's, technology advances made it more practical for mass audiences. It soon became a societal game changer, just as television, the internet, and smart phones have been in succeeding generations. Radio brought news, music, entertainment, and sports to the nation. Advertising became big business, allowing companies to mass promote their products - and making radio itself financially feasible. 

The first commercial radio station was KDKA in Pittsburgh which went on the air on November 2, 1920. The first major news broadcast on KDKA was the 1920 presidential election. The few thousand KDKA listeners were the first to learn that Warren Harding had defeated James Cox. By 1930 there were 100 million radios in use in America. The stock market was booming; radio stocks like RCA (Radio Corporation of America) were the market stars of that era.

WPAR was the first radio station in the Parkersburg-Marietta area, going on the air July 11, 1935 from a temporary studio in the Chancellor Hotel.  The "studio" was the end of the wide second floor hallway, according to employee Frances Inslee. The station began broadcasting at 100 watts at AM 1420 from a  179 foot transmitter tower on Gihon Road. In 1936 the station moved to new studios in the Grinter Building at 701 1/2 Market Street in Parkersburg. In 1937 it affiliated with the CBS network for expanded news and programming. 

But soon regular radio operations were preempted by a local emergency - the devastating Ohio River flood in January, 1937. This type of community service was new to the industry - and to the fledgling WPAR, then less than two years on the air. The station suspended regular programming and broadcast 24 hours a day through the crisis. It provided warnings, updates, and sources for aid. It also acted as a de facto emergency center, coordinating messages, needs, and resources between area agencies and the community at large. 

Radio stations were acclaimed across the nation for their role in the flood disaster. Harold McWhorter, then President of WPAR, documented the station's flood experience in an article to Broadcasting Magazine published in the February 15, 1937 edition. Here are some excerpts - in his grandiose wording:

"WPAR prepared for a service (the flood emergency) to be continuous until any threat to life and property might be dissipated."

"WPAR cast aside all other phases of broadcasting activity and dedicated its available 24 hours a day to the service of humanity in general. Throughout the night our agents not only stood by for warnings and reports, but also gave every assistance to local authorities, organizations, and agencies, humanly possible."

"On Saturday, WPAR began the job of raising money for the various relief agencies, and by midnight almost $1,400 ($23,300 in 2016 dollars) had been paid, or pledged."

WPAR became part of the West Virginia Network in the late 1930's, along with WBLK in Clarksburg, WCHS in Charleston and WSAZ in Huntington. In 1941, WPAR built a new transmitter off  Emerson Avenue in North Parkersburg, raised its power from 100 to 250 watts, and changed to AM 1450. 

World War II brought changes across the country to media and civic activities. Many stations produced a booklet with patriotic-type promotional information and details about the station itself. Local programs included wartime civic activities - such as war bonds. Click the link below to see the publication for WPAR. Scroll through to page 15 to see WPAR station photos and information.

Below are some photos of WTAP staff and activities from the booklet. Unless noted, all photos and captions (including spelling and punctuation irregularities) are exactly as they appeared in the "Radio at War - WPAR" booklet, circa 1942, viewed at website listed above.

Wartime booklet

Front Row, left to right, Len Carl program director, Marilyn Pickering Controll operator and announcer, Francis Inslee Sales Dept., Paula Carr Writer and announcer, Ken Blain Sports announcer and sales dept., Back row left to right, Geo. H. Clinton station director, Margaret Shedan secretary, bookkeeper, Charles Carroll announcer, Bill Sherman announcer and newsman, Boob Cook announcer and special events man, Hazel Lou Chapman Sales Dept., Tom Garten promotion director and sales

Transmitter at Emerson Avenue site

Radio station programming in the 1940s and 50s consisted of network programs (comedies, drama, new, special events), local news, sports, live studio music events, and occasional recorded classic and big band music. WPAR followed this formula. There was no competition for WPAR until 1947 when two new stations started up - WCOM (later WTAP) and WMOA in Marietta. It also broadcast local music programming, including the The Farm Home Hour Trio, The Burroughs Trio, and The WPAR Hillbilly Jamboree Show (then the largest such program in West Virginia). See photos below from the wartine booklet. Details in the captions about these groups are fascinating. 

WPAR Hillbilly Jamboree Show. Each Friday night from 1000 to 1500 people attend the Coliseum in Parkersburg to see West Virginia's largest Jamboree show. The show gets under way at 7:30 P.M. with a half hour broadcast from the stage then continues until 9:30. WPAR features Hillbilly acts from all sections of the United States.

The "Burrough's Trio" - actually six people - is a favored morning feature for many WPAR listeners. Although the oldest WPAR program from the point of continuous broadcast, it is "the youngest" in the ages of those who perform. "Billy" Jean Burroughs, whose illness prevented her presence for this picture, is the 17-year old director, singer, and "business head" of the crew. The program is nearing its 800th broadcast.

 The Farm Home Hour Trio. From left to right, Billy Jean (Burroughs), Betty (Burroughs), Brother Charles (Charles Carroll, and their sponsor Sid Ardman (was this the Sid of "Sid's the Big Store"?). This popular Trio has set a record of 1769 consecutive broadcasts. 

One of the disc jockeys in the early 1940s was 14 year old Jim Dukes, who later became an actor and was featured in many films, including Coogan's Bluff (with Clint Eastwood) and Ironweed (with Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep). 

The station moved to new studios at 211 Fifth Street in the late 40's. A fire burned out the studios - photos below - in 1956. The station retreated to Seventh and Market Streets (Chancellor Hotel?) while the studio was rebuilt.

Firefighting viewed from Fifth Street. Ruth's Furniture store is building on the left. Photo by Stev Pitchford

Interior of studio. Shelving holds melted record library. Photo by Stev Pitchford.

Jack See, a West Virginia radio veteran of more than 50 years, began his career at WPAR in 1943 as a disc jockey while still in high school. See remembers WPAR playing mostly CBS network programs, mainly soap operas and dramatic shows. For a few hours each day, disc jockeys played popular Big Band music. "Every station played about the same music back then. There was no great competition," See said, quoted in a 1996 State Journal article by Paul LePann, "It wasn't until the 1960s and '70s that stations went after 'fragmented audiences.' " 

Frank S. Dodd, another former WPAR employee mentioned in LePann's article, remembers the station playing contemporary and classical music, but no rock-n-roll in the 1960s. CBS network shows filled most of the time slots. National bowling tournaments were also broadcast live on WPAR from Parkersburg bowling alleys during the 1960s, Dodd said.

WCEF (its call letters were the initials of owner Calvin E. Franklin) changed the local competitive radio market dynamics when it signed on in 1954 playing rock and roll music at AM 1050. It transmitted at 1,000 watts, and soon after 5,000 watts, giving it a broader reach over the area. It was a "day timer" station that signed off at dusk. It soon became the most listened to station in the area. 

Adam Jones, WCEF DJ "Bob Franklin" in 1959-60, recalled that WCEF Hooper ratings were 60-70% - very high for a small market and daytime only broadcaster. But Jones said that he was unaware of the high ratings. He later asked GM Gene Snyder why he was never shown those numbers at the time. Snyder responded, "You would have asked for a raise. Frank (the station owner) would have said no, and you'd have gone elsewhere!" 

The WCEF sidebar is included here to illustrate how AM radio became more competitive beginning in the 1960s and 70s. Stations began to specialize their programming ("format") and on-air personalities to maximize their listening audience. For WCEF, the winning formula was rock and roll music all the time.

In the early 1960s, WPAR started playing rock and roll music - at night. Mark Aulabaugh, a former WCEF DJ, recalls this programming change because it was suggested to the WPAR General Manager by Mark's mother. WCEF was off the air after dusk each day, leaving a rock and roll void. And, most radio network programming was gone by then, having migrated to television. The name of the WPAR evening show was Partown USA. It was hosted by John Potts, whose on-air name was Jim Dandy. Another local radio personality Calvin Daily, Jr. (on-air name "Randy Jay") was listed as General Manager of WPAR in the late 1960s. 

Starting in the early 1970's, the station entered a period of multiple ownership, management, and station format changes, grasping for traction in the fading AM radio market. In the early 1970's, WPAR dropped the CBS network and was playing a Top 40 music format. On September 1, 1975, WPAR joined the NBC network and adopted a middle of the road beautiful music format. The station was sold in 1983 and the call letters changed to WIKS, and three years later, to WLTP. By that time, radio station call letters often changed to reflect new ownership or format. WLTP tried oldies music in early 1990s and later adopted 24 hour country music programming.

By 1996, it had settled on a 24 hour talk and news format, which included talk show heavy hitters like Rush Limbaugh. Sports Byline U.S.A., a national sports call-in show ran through the night from 10 pm to 6 am. There were many local and regional sports broadcasts. Talk radio seemed to be a good formula at the time for the station - and AM radio in general. John Chalfant, Program Director at WLTP said in 1996, "After a slow start, the Parkersburg community is finally tuning into talk radio."

In 2004, the station changed to WHNK ("Hank1450") and was playing classic country. WHNK went off the air on April 28, 2014 when its transmitter lease was not renewed. The transmitter tower, long a landmark in Parkersburg off Emerson Avenue, came down in May, 2014. (see Youtube video: According to, WHNK remains off the air. The current owner is listed as Fellowship Baptist Church in Vienna, WV. The current FCC license expires October 1, 2019.

WPAR/WIKS/WLTP/WHNK, a proud radio pioneer and long time Parkersburg-Marietta community fixture, is now silent -  mute testimony to the decline of AM radio and impact of changing times.

History of WPAR/WIKS/WHNK, Parkersburg, no author given, viewed at

Jones, Adam, "Stand-Up-Sit-Down and the Mop Sink," The Adam Jones Show website,

LePann, Paul, "Parkersburg's Oldest Station Still Going Strong After 60 Years," State Journal, November 6, 1996, viewed at the History of WPAR etc. web site above

United States History for Kids, "1920's Radio," viewed at

Parkersburg, West Virginia, A Vintage Portrait - WPAR, various authors some not named, viewed at

Wikipedia - WHNK, viewed at

"AM 1450 Off the Air," The News Center, reported by Jillian Risberg and Abbie Schrader, April 29, 2014, viewed at

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Ivan Was Here - Flooding in 2004

The recent flooding in North Carolina from Hurricane Matthew was an unpleasant reminder of a similar event that devastated our area in 2004. By Friday, September 17, 2004, the remains of Hurricane Ivan had dumped five inches of rain over two days in Marietta. Seven inches of rain inundated western Pennsylvania in just a single day. The Ohio River was already swollen from heavy rain from Hurricane Frances the week before. Mariettans in flood-prone areas were on edge.

That day the National Weather Service (NWS) posted a flood warning for a crest of 38 feet, 3 feet over flood stage but not serious flooding. Locals were vigilant but hoping that major flooding could be averted. Surprisingly, NWS lifted the flood warning entirely on Friday afternoon, predicting a crest below flood stage. There was relief. Flood preparations stopped. People went home, believing there was no threat.

As torrential rains fell over Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia, NWS updated their river forecast models. At 11:00 pm Friday, the issued a new flood warning for a crest of 41.5 feet. That was a double whammy. Flooding would be severe. And the late hour of the warning left many unaware of the impending disaster as they slept.

The Ohio River rose at the fastest rate ever recorded through the night into Saturday morning, September 18. Some said they could literally see the water rising minute by minute in their basements or approaching their buildings. 

Marietta Times front page September 20, 2004.

I drove into work at Peoples Bank Saturday morning around 8:00 am and was shocked to see water on Third Street. Incredible. That meant the river level was already at 40 ft, well over flood stage. Most areas in lower Marietta and Pike Street were under water. I felt a knot in the pit of my stomach. This was going to be a tough ordeal for our community.

Stacy Frederick, then a Marietta College student, recalled a campus jolted in action early Saturday morning as flooding became imminent. A 5:45 a.m., water covered Don Drumm Stadium field and would soon flood campus buildings along Fourth Street. Students were marshaled to move items up or into other buildings.

Student Bethany Dykstra recalled the Resident Assistant in her dorm "pounding on my door at 8 am yelling for me to move my car because the Hermann lot was flooding....I got up, threw on some shoes, and moved my car to Fifth Street. As I walked down the mall (back to the dorm), I saw that cars were already under water..." 

Eventually water rose 5 feet in the ATO and other houses on Fourth Street. Fayerweather and Mary Beach Halls suffered flood damage. For perspective, at the crest of 44.97 feet on Saturday, the Ohio River lapped at the cross bars on the goal posts at Don Drumm Stadium. Kin Brewer, owner of the Food for Less grocery store, was rowing past the stadium ferrying a relief security guard to the store. He remembers seeing students in a boat taking turns climbing on to the goal post cross bars to take pictures.

Marietta College dorm water taxi. Photo by Jake Mecklenborg from

In the downtown area, activity was frantic. Water was already in most buildings along Front Street by daybreak Saturday. Desperate merchants and residents waded through flood water to remove what they could. Many helped each other; volunteers appeared out of nowhere.

Becky Pritchett, co-owner of Twisted Sisters Boutique at 197 Front Street, said they moved things out of the basement on Friday. "But then they called the flood warning off, so we went home." She returned Saturday morning. Ominously, she could see that roadways into town were flooded, a clear sign that the waters were rising rapidly. "We had 5 feet of water in the basement but went to help other merchants....Later volunteer firemen from Oak Grove came and helped us move items from the store up into the small apartment upstairs."

Front and Putnam Streets. Photo by Jake Mecklenborg from

Karen Briley with Schafer Leather on Front Street also recalled the rapid rise of the water on Saturday morning. There was 3 feet of water which lapped at the tables holding their displays of boots and leather goods. "We called family, friends, and anyone to help us move everything upstairs," she said. "We formed an assembly line and passed items hand-to-hand."

Schafer Leather was started in 1867 and has been through dozens of floods. A plaque on the front of their building marks the crest of the 2004 flood with arrows and the inscription "Ivan was here." Photo by author.

Business owner Glenn Newman said that "some people who saw my web site that I was about to lose a piano that my mother saved from the 1937 flood came to help lift it above the water. His voice hesitated with emotion. "I didn't even find out their names."

Dozens of vehicles were lost to flooding because of the rapid rise and short warning period. But one vehicle was spared in a creative, unconventional way. Harry and Ilene Barengo lived at the Hart Street condos, and the Barengo Insurance office was nearby. Both locations are in the flood plain. For this reason, sons Jim and Randy Barengo had become vigilant river watchers. They were prescient in not trusting the NWS river forecast and stayed up through the night into Saturday morning. 

One of Harry's vehicles was in the garage but trapped as flooding sealed off road access. Water crept in on the floor. Jim and Randy figured a way to save the vehicle - by moving it up, not out. They asked their wives to purchase 8 concrete blocks from Pioneer Masonry. The wives met the guys, who arrived in a row boat, at Fourth and Butler Streets. Jim and Randy rowed the concrete blocks back to the condo garage, occasionally scraping bottom under the weight of the blocks. They jacked up the car enough to place a concrete block under each wheel, one at a time. They repeated the operation with the 4 other blocks. The "carjacking" worked. They car was saved from a watery grave.

The Harmar area was almost entirely submerged, but residents are used to flooding. The late Jim Badgett had been in floods before and prepared to ride out the flood at his Maple street home. But he did not plan on his ailing father having to be transported by Marietta Fire Department EMTs through the flood water to the hospital. He said,"I wasn't scared until they took Dad out and I drove through the water."

Dave Moyers, a neighbor of Badgett's on Maple Street was observed fishing from his front porch. He didn't catch any fish but did a lot of people and river watching. "It's pretty wet over here...but I'm dry in the house." Former Marietta Mayor Brooks Harper is restoring a home on Maple street. He had recently found river mud in the kitchen ceiling, probably from the 1913 flood, the worst flood to strike the Ohio Valley.

The flooding attracted national news attention as part of the Hurricane Ivan coverage - and because of the severity. Marietta was the epicenter of that coverage. Satellite trucks showed up on second street. Video footage of flood areas and local officials appeared on many regional stations and national outlets.

Governmental officials showed up to view damage and to show support. Governor Robert Taft visited on Monday, the day after the flood crest and vowed support from Ohio resources. Congressman Ted Strickland visited his flooded office in Marietta on September 21, stepping over dead fish and around an upturned refrigerator. "It's a tragic happening for so many. Just seeing my own office, it's heartbreaking."

FEMA director Michael Brown visited Marietta on Sept 22. After meeting with community members, he was impressed, "...they're upset, mad, angry. But at the same time they're pumped up to rebuild. That's the great American spirit. It's wonderful." His view accurately captured the community spirit. This is the same Michael Brown who came under fire for FEMA's bungling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster in a year later in 2005. A FEMA office opened at the courthouse on Friday, September 24, for local residents to apply for assistance.

By Friday, September 24, local, state, and National Guard crews were working 16 hour days to remove millions of pounds of flood debris from area streets, roads, and bridges. On Tiber Way at the Brighter Day Natural Foods store, the pavement collapsed on September 21 revealing a 10' wide and 15' deep sink hole. No one was hurt and it was expected to be repaired quickly.

Pumping out flood water on Second Street. Photo by Jake Mecklenborg from

Within a week of the flooding, most major streets, many businesses, Marietta College, and local schools re-opened. Almost all businesses, many of whom suffered major losses, pledged to re-open. Pi Chen, owner of Austyn's Restaurant on Front Street, was open within a week after 3 feet of water flooded the restaurant. "I have employees that can't afford to be out of work, and I can't afford to keep closed. We've been working non-stop...This has been really hard to deal with." East of Chicago Pizza on Pike Street reported losses exceeding $100,000; Apex $300,000. There many others affected similarly.

Ivan moved on from the Ohio Valley, but the impact would linger for some time. Ivan is listed among the top 5 most costly hurricanes:

Hurricane Katrina in 2005: $16.3 billion
Superstorm Sandy in 2012: $8.3 billion
Hurricane Ike in 2008: $2.7 billion
Hurricane Ivan in 2004: $1.6 billion
Hurricane Irene in 2011: $1.3 billion
Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency

In an ironic twist, on September 23 the remains of Ivan reformed into a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the Louisiana coast. And, Marietta was struck again by a major flood only four months later in January of 2005. That time, there was ample warning, and it was more of a nuisance than a disaster.

Such is life on the river.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Council House and the Treaty of Fort Harmar

It must have been a startling sight: 200 Indians marching towards Fort Harmar in December of 1788 with an American flag. There was musket fire - a friendly salute from the Indians, followed by several minutes of a cannon and musket fire salute from Fort Harmar. The troops escorted the Indians into the fort with music playing. So began treaty negotiations at Fort Harmar. The few dozen settlers of the fledgling Marietta community were on edge.

This topic came up recently when Bill Reynolds, Historian at Campus Martius Museum in Marietta, showed me the undated photo below. The sign claims that the Treaty of Fort Harmar was signed in this building. Could this have been the original "council house" (a meeting place for Indians) built for
the treaty negotiations? 

Sign says: Log House in which Gov. St. Clair signed Treaty with Indians 1788. The photo is undated; location uncertain; probably somewhere in Harmar village. Photo courtesy of  Bill Reynolds.

In this early drawing of Fort Harmar, the council house appears at the bottom left.
Source: Wikipedia:

This photo triggered my interest in the council house. I have pored over historical texts, journals, and letters. But I have found nothing yet mentioning its construction or when it was built. 

Maybe it doesn't matter. The council house symbolizes a year-long drama on the early Ohio frontier culminating in the Treaty of Fort Harmar. Here are some of the issues and highlights of the story.

The issues and timeline
Late 1780's: There were long standing tensions between Indians and white settlers:
  • Indians sought guaranteed lands, protection against harassment, and equality with whites.
  • Settlers wanted land, room to expand, and freedom from raids.
  • The U. S. Government wanted peace and the ability to sell "Indianless" land to white settlers for expansion - and to reduce government debt.
A treaty seemed like the most practical solution to bring lasting peace. The Indians were first to express an interest in a broad treaty.

November/December, 1786: Multiple Indian tribes held a council at Brownstown, near Detroit. They sought to form a united confederation to negotiate with the Americans. Charismatic Mohawk chief Joseph Brant advised his peers that "the interests of any one nation should be the welfare of all others." The Indians asserted that the United States should consider Indians as equals and negotiate treaties with the entire confederation rather than separate tribes. After the council, Brant wrote a letter to Congress requesting negotiations.

Portrait of Chief Joseph Brant from

July 13, 1787: The Ordinance of 1787 created the Northwest Territory, the first U.S. territory outside the original 13 states. The Ordinance had language foreshadowing the Bill of Rights for its citizens: trial by jury, prohibition of slavery, religious freedom, encouragement of education, and more. There was also effusive language calling for the civilized treatment of Indians. But there were no rights given Indians nor territory set aside for them.

October 22, 1787: Congress directed Arthur St. Clair, the Governor of the newly established Northwest Territory, to pursue a general treaty with all of the tribes. "The objects of such a treaty are, the removing all causes of controversy, regulating trade, and settling boundaries." It was quite a responsibility to be thrust upon the new governor of a new territory.

Arthur St. Clair  portrait from

October 27, 1787: Congress agreed to sell 1,500,000 acres of land in the new territory to The Ohio Company for settlement. This and other land sales would bring a major influx of white settlers into areas that Indians considered their own. 

January 27, 1788. St. Clair responded to the Congressional directive in a letter to Secretary of War Henry Knox. He recommended a treaty, though he doubted that it would resolve the conflicts.  A date for a treaty meeting was set for May 1, 1788 at the Falls of the Muskingum River - about 70 miles north of Fort Harmar. Invitations were sent to Indian tribes.

Preparing for the treaty gathering was a major logistical effort. Congress set aside $20,000 ($540,000 in today's dollars) for "goods" needed. Goods included supplies to build a council house, huts for temporary lodging, food, equipment, and gifts as "incentives" (bribes, some said) for Indian cooperation.

March 1788. St. Clair writes to the United States Treasury Board, frustrated at the refusal of the State of Pennsylvania to honor a warrant for $1,000 to help pay for treaty supplies. The U.S. Treasury had no money; states were asked to provide funds when needed. Sometimes they didn't. St Clair admonishes the Board to find the money some other way, stating emphatically that "the money is absolutely necessary" to complete the treaty. 

March 9, 1788. Some treaty supplies had to be transported by boat from an outpost at the Falls of the Ohio (near Louisville KY). Ensign Spear was assigned this task, along with a complement of "one serg't, one corp'l, and 16 privates." As they approached the Falls of Ohio, Indians attacked them. Two of the soldiers were killed, and they retreated down the river 18 miles. They built a temporary blockhouse as a defense and sent a friendly trapper as a messenger requesting help from Major John Wyllys at the Falls outpost.

No help arrived. Several days later their provisions ran out. Fortunately, by chance, they met a supply boat headed downriver which was able to resupply them. They continued to the Falls of the Ohio, loaded the provisions, and returned upriver to Fort Harmar. Imagine rowing a loaded keelboat - powered only by oars or poles - upriver against the current for 400+ miles. They arrived back at Fort Harmar  in late April, nearly seven weeks after they left.

Spring 1788: The Indians were not ready for a treaty meeting in May. There was internal dissention. Wyandots wanted a separate treaty with Americans. Delawares, Potowatomies, and Hurons wanted a set boundary line. Shawnees and Miamis wanted no land give-up and opposed negotiations with Americans. A council meeting near Sandusky was planned to resolve their differences. But the date was uncertain. 

June 13. The treaty gathering at last seemed imminent. General Josiah Harmar dispatched Lt. McDowell and 22 soldiers with the treaty provisions from Fort Harmar to the Falls of the Muskingum (near present day Duncan Falls, Ohio). The party included a sub-sergeant, corporal, and 20 privates. The group began work building a council house and huts for the treaty attendees. Meanwhile a large group of Indians gathered there for the anticipated meetings.

General Josiah Harmar image from

July 12. Unexpected trouble. Some Indians raided the treaty supplies, apparently trying to steal some of the contents. The raid was repulsed, though with the loss of two soldiers killed, others wounded. One Indian was killed, another wounded. The dead Indian was found to be a Chippewa. The next morning Delawares, disclaiming any involvement in the raid, brought in six Chippewas accused of being in the raiding party. They were taken prisoner. A servant of Major Duncan, an Indian trader and future namesake of the Falls treaty location, also died in the attack.

July 14. St. Clair's reaction to the raid was immediate. He cancelled the meeting. In a letter to Secretary of War Knox, he stated that "After such an insult, to meet the Indians at that place,...I thought inconsistent with the dignity of the United States." He ordered troops from Fort Harmar to retrieve Lt. McDowell's party and the provisions at the Falls. He sent a stern, derisive message demanding an apology to the Indians who were holding a council at Detroit. It effectively blamed the Indian tribes for the raid, though it seemed more likely that the perpetrators were a few Indians acting on their own. The St. Clair letter was taken by the Shawnees and Miamis as a clear signal that Americans would not negotiate in good faith. They increased their attacks against soldiers and settlers in Ohio country.

July 20. The Indian prisoners from the raid arrived at Fort Harmar. A few days later, two of them escaped as they were being escorted to the "necessary" (Major Ebenezer Denny's term for outhouse) outside the Fort. Four soldiers guarded the group as they walked past a corn patch. The Indians had figured out that their shackles could be slipped off. Two of them waited for the right moment, slipped off the shackles, disappeared into the corn. The guards were flogged, though ill fitting shackles were likely not their fault.

Early August. The Indians held a council at the Falls but could not reach agreement on a response to St. Clair. Delaware Chief Captain Pipe visited St. Clair seeking the release of the Chippewa prisoners, claiming that Ottawas were the real culprits. St. Clair said no way. Captain Pipe was an effective diplomat: He had conferred with General Harmar on several occasions, visited Fort Pitt, greeted the settlers at Marietta on their arrival, traded with the Fort Harmar Indian contractor, and dined at the home of Rufus Putnam. He then countered with an offer to take a single prisoner with him to Detroit to counter the inflammatory statements of the escapees. St. Clair thought that was a good idea and accepted the offer.

September 9. Seneca Chiefs Cornplanter and Halftown, along with 51 other Indians, arrived at Fort Harmar for the treaty. Historian H. Z. Williams describes Cornplanter as a "civilized savage" who was friendly to US and tried to promote good will on both sides. The Ohio Company later awarded him some land because of his efforts to promote harmony.

Portrait of Cornplanter from

Mid September. St. Clair received a message saying that "a large body of Indians may be expected here (for the treaty)," and they will be armed. He worried about a possible attack. Even if extra troops were available, it would be too little, too late, from too far away. He thought war with the western tribes (who would likely skip the treaty talks) was inevitable and even suggested a preemptive military strike to Secretary of War Knox.   

October 20. Major Denny heard of rumors being circulated to discourage Indians from attending the treaty talks. One such rumor was that the whiskey intended for the Indians was poisoned and that blankets were infected with smallpox.

November 7. A delegation of Six Nations tribes arrived unexpectedly at Fort Harmar. Chief Captain David presented a friendly message authored by Joseph Brant - who was on his way to Fort Harmar - to St. Clair. The Indian confederation offered territorial concessions and requested that the treaty meetings be reconvened at Falls of the Muskingum. St Clair refused, stating that he would negotiate only at Fort Harmar where there was protection from possible Indian attacks. This was a stinging reference to the July attack at the Falls of the Muskingum. Brant was angered and turned back. He was suspected of influencing Shawnees, Miamis, and others to also boycott the treaty meetings. Realization that the United States would not even consider Indian proposals alienated many tribes. It became apparent that a truly comprehensive treaty agreement would be impossible.

December 13. Finally - a large group of Indians arrived to the pomp described above. But it was far from a representative group of all tribes. St. Clair wrote to Secretary of Foreign Affairs John Jay that the treaty would begin soon but "would....not be a very general meeting," since many tribes would not attend.

Day to day proceedings, mostly from Major Ebenezer Denny's journal:

December 14. Indian leaders, Governor Arthur St. Clair, Indian Commissioner General Richard Butler, and officers at Fort Harmar met in the Council House just outside Fort Harmar. The symbolic "council fire" was kindled there. John Heckewelder, a Moravian missionary who had lived among the Delaware and Tuscarawas, acted as a facilitator during the talks.
December 15. Treaty discussion opened.
Deember 15-20. Extremely cold weather; river jammed with ice. Frequent meetings in the council house.
December 29. Wyandot Chief Shandotto gave a long speech on behalf of the Indians. He spoke of past betrayals by the Americans and asserted that the Ohio River must stand as the boundary for Indian lands. Governor St. Clair said that was impossible. There could be no deviation from previous treaty agreements. 
December 30-January 5, 1789. No treaty meetings. Indians met among themselves.
January 5. Secretary Knox pressed St. Clair to pursue the treaty agreement. "I am persuaded that every thing will be done on your part that can be with propriety to avoid a war, and if that event should be inevitable, the evils of it can be justly charged to the Indians."  In other words, war could be blamed on the Indians and provide an excuse to use force against them.
January 6. Governor St. Clair gave an accusatory and intimidating speech to the Indians. He explained how the defeat of the British (with whom the Indians sided) effectively ceded Indian lands to the United States. He said that America wanted peace but "if the Indians wanted war, they would have war."  He proposed renewing the previous treaty at Fort McIntosh and with a provision allowing Indians the right to hunt anywhere in American territory. He also offered gifts of money and merchandise (the "incentives" for Indian cooperation).
January 9. The Indians capitulated and accepted the terms. They no other option. There were also other provisions, including prohibitions of white settlement in Indian territories and opening of trade with certain tribes.
January 12. The treaty was agreed to and signed. Denny noted cynically: "This was the last act of the farce; the articles (treaty) were signed." Technically there were two treaties with slightly different provisions for certain tribes.
January 13 The goods were given out to the various tribes.
A few days later, the main chiefs were given a celebration feast at Campus Martius, the fortified residential enclosure at Marietta. The Indians then departed.

The Legacy of the Treaty of Fort Harmar:
Marietta residents were grateful for the peace promised by the treaty and forwarded a letter of congratulations to Governor St. Clair for his effort. But success short lived. Indian hostilities soon broke out and continued for several years, ended finally by the Treaty of Greenville in 1795.

Denny's assessment that the treaty was "a farce" was harsh but not far from the truth. Historians agree that despite good intentions the treaty resolved nothing new for some of these reasons:

  • Most of the treaty language was a restatement of earlier treaties. 
  • Many tribes were absent and did not accept the treaty as valid. Some cited an earlier 1788 Indian council decision that no agreement would be valid unless all tribes agreed.
  • Others said that their representatives who signed the treaty were not authorized to act for the tribe.
  • As with earlier treaties, some claimed they did not understand what they signed. A Chippewa    who signed at Fort Harmar later said that interpreters did not adequately explain the provisions.
There was a council house at Fort Harmar. But like the treaty and the Fort itself, it is largely lost in time. But I still want to find out what happened to it.

Bond, Beverley Bond Jr, The Foundations of Ohio, A History of the State of Ohio Volume 1, Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, Columbus, Ohio, 1941, pages 312-16  viewed at
"A Description of Fort Harmar" (author not identified), The National Magazine, A Monthly Journal of American History, Volume 1, page 26-31, viewed 9/29/2016 at
Hurt, R. Douglas. The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996., pages 101-104    
Military Journal of Major Ebenezer Denny, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, J. J. Lippincott and Company, 1859, pages 109+, accessed 9/29/16 at
O'Donnell, James H., Ohio's First Peoples, Athens OH, Ohio University Press, 2004, pages 74-84      
Outpost on the Wabash, 1787-1791. Edited by Gayle Thornbrough. Indiana Historical Society Publications, Volume 19. (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1957., pages 32-147
The St. Clair Papers, The Life and Public Services of Arthur St. Clair, William Henry Smith, editor, Cincinnati, Robert Clarke and Co., 1882, pages 36-104, viewed 9/29/2016 at
Treaty of Fort Harmar (1789), Ohio History Central,, accessed 9/29/16
Williams, H. Z., History of Washington County Ohio, H. Z. Williams and Bro., Cleveland OH, 1881, pages 59-62, accessed 9/29/16 at;view=1up;seq=7

Friday, July 15, 2016


The Marietta Times newspaper on July 7 and 8, 1938 was filled with details of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's visit. He spoke in Marietta on July 8 as part of the 150th anniversary celebration of Marietta's settlement. You can learn more of his visit here

I am fascinated by articles, photos, and advertisements in old newspaper editions. They offer a window into the fabric of life in their time period. My research about FDR's visit concentrated on the Marietta Times editions. I was often distracted by articles on topics other than the presidential visit. 

Here are a few of the headlines and advertisements that caught my eye. It is surprising how many themes recur in any period of history - political carping, love affairs, the economy, and oddities of human behavior. 

July 7 page 1:
New three cent postage stamp originates in Marietta - again. The new stamp commemorated the 150th anniversary of 1787 ordinance. A Postal official visited Marietta; he estimated that 250,000 covers would be given first day cancellation at the Marietta post office. Marietta was the only city besides Philadelphia where first day covers were issued in 2 successive years.

Marriage veteran will wed spinster. An 84 year old Abner Welch of Columbus, 4 times a widower and twice divorced, will marry Kate Austin, who has never been married. Welch was the oldest person to ever apply for license in Columbus.

Page 16
The Armory in Marietta was a busy place. See ad below. Notice the reference to "park plan" for the afternoon dance. Not sure how that worked. Cost was 5 cents a dance. 

Click to enlarge

Cut off his own hand. Carl Winkler, 24, of Detroit wanted to quit the Michigan National Guard. Thinking there was not other way out, he severed his right hand with five blows of a hatchet.

Dr. Morgan seeks back salary, job. Dr. Arthur E. Morgan sued the Tennessee Valley Authority for reinstatement to the chairmanship and back pay. He was ousted by President Franklin Roosevelt for "contumacy" (insubordination). Morgan's suit claimed that his firing by the President was illegal, since such action can be taken by Congress. Imagine that - claiming that a President did something wrong.

Landon sees slump after "pump prime."
Alfred M. Landon was a former Kansas Governor and 1936 Republican Presidential candidate. He lived in Marietta for a several years during his childhood. His father was a field manager for Union Oil Company. Landon was educated at the Marietta Academy. The family moved on to Kansas in 1904, when he was 17. 
Image from the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project
Click to enlarge

Landon was responding on national radio to a President Roosevelt "fireside chat" address which promised more economic stimulus ("pump prime", in the headline) Landon warned that the depression would continue unless the FDR administration changed it's policy. He characterized the depression as "a political depression...brought on by the methods and policies of the present administration."

Police Ponder Widow's Death: "....Mary Britton, 29, an attractive widow, ....was found shot through the heart last night on the bedroom floor of an expensively furnished Centralia (Illinois) home...A note addressed to Elvin Satterlee, 40, owner of the home and head of an automobile agency, was crumpled beneath her body. It accused him of having fallen in love with another girl......Satterlee admitted having provided a home for Miss Britton for three years and had told her yesterday that 'we can't live here like we have been.'" This was definite tabloid material.

Says Much Smoking May Cause Cancer
This warning came from Dr. William H. Schultz in a talk before the American Osteopathic Society in Cincinnati. But his comments addressed only inflammation of the mouth and tongue, referred to as "leukoplakia" - which could become cancerous.

There was no mention of other cancers or health concerns from smoking. Certainty about those smoking risks was decades away. Some ads in that time period actually claimed or implied that smoking was part of a healthy lifestyle. Below are two such print ads for cigarettes from magazines of that era. 

Images from

July 8, Page 12
Love Strike Okay: Here is another love situation gone oddly awry. Mrs. Heidi Heusser was on a "sitdown strike" at the home of wealthy sportsman Rollo K. Blanchard protesting his decision not to marry her. He allowed her use of his "palatial" Irvington, NY home for her "strike" and retreated to his yacht.

Rose Bowl Club in Boaz 
Below is an advertisement for the Rose Bowl Club in Boaz, WV. Locals used to ride the interurban train to the club. Business was brisk when certain other areas were "dry," meaning alcohol could not be purchased. I tried to find the club location recently. It may have been torn down, but there is a nondescript concrete block building that could have housed it.

Click to enlarge

Sohio Service Center Official Opening Saturday.  An advertisement announced the opening of a new "Sohio Servicecenter" gas station at Putnam Ave. and Gilman Ave. in Harmar. The ad included a photo of four uniformed, bowtie wearing dudes described in a caption as: "Friends of Yours - this staff of well-trained, well known, local men is all set to give you the finest service you've ever known." They were identified as Guy E. Beardmore, Manager, and Emearl E. Stanley, James S. Ferguson, and James H. Warren. There were no self service gas pumps in those days.

Dime Savings Society Bank Statement. Banks were required to publish periodic financial statements. This statement reported total assets of $1,665,662 on June 30, 1938. Banks had a difficult time (many failed) in the early 1930's. The Dime Savings Society had weathered that period and was starting to grow again. 

On July 7 and 8, 1938, there was no TV, internet, interstate highways, or smart phones. Hitler menaced Europe and the Great Depression lingered. But life was (mostly) good.

All references and images are from the Marietta Daily Times July 7 and 8, 1938 editions unless otherwise noted.
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, Teaching Eleanor Roosevelt Glossary, "Alfred M. Landon, 1887-1987)", viewed at

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Magic Cicadas

Eastern Ohio is abuzz, literally, with the haunting sounds of the periodic cicadas. Billions of them emerge on schedule after 17 years of slow underground incubation. Their buzzing, whirring din echoes through the area. 


Video by author June 18, 2016, near Marietta OH. 

They have fascinated Americans since first observed in 1633 in Plymouth Colony. Governor William Bradford reported that "they made such a constant yelling noise as made all the woods ring of them.” The pilgrim colonists incorrectly called the cicadas "locusts," referring to their similarity to biblical plagues. 

The periodic cicada has the scientific name of magicicada septendecim. The name captures its "magical" reappearance. The second word in Latin denotes the 17 year cycle. There are multiple populations of these critters in the eastern U.S. This group is referred to as Brood V which emerges in eastern Ohio, parts of West Virginia, and patches of Virginia and Maryland.

Pehr Kalm, a Swedish naturalist, observed a cicada emergence in 1749 while visiting Pennsylvania. He opined about the 17 year cycle after hearing and reading of cicada appearances in 1715 and 1732. Thomas Jefferson also wrote about the cicada in his "Garden Book. He noted the apparent cycle after hearing from an acquaintance about "Great Cicada" years in 1724 and 1741. 

I was surprised to learn of a Marietta connection to the periodic cicadas: Physician and scientific observer Samuel P. Hildreth was one the first to verify their 17 year cycle with a scientific observation. 

About Hildreth: He was an intrepid observer of all aspects of life in Marietta - local history, agriculture, wildlife, geology, and weather. Hildreth was born in Massachusetts in 1783, was educated at Philips Academy, and became a doctor after studying under his father and Dr. Thomas Kittredge. 

Image of Samuel Hildreth from Wikipedia

He journeyed by horseback to Marietta in 1806 (at age 23) to satisfy a lifelong curiosity about the Ohio Country, then the unsettled area west of the Ohio River. He permanently moved to Marietta in 1808. Samuel Hildreth was a true renaissance man. He served as the town doctor while continuing his local history research, scientific studies, and prodigious writings. 

Back to the cicadas and the 17 year cycle. Hildreth observed cicada appearances in 1812, 1829, and 1846. He studied them with far greater concentration than your attention span-challenged author could ever muster. Here is just a small portion of his observations in May-June 1812:

"From the 24th of May to the 3rd of June, their numbers increased daily, at an astonishing rate. The cicada,...when it first rises from the earth, is about an inch and a half in length, and one third of an inch in thickness....has the appearance of a large worm or grub...When they first rise from the earth, which is invariably in the night, they are white and soft. They then attach themselves to some bush, tree, or post and wait until the action of the air has fried the shell with which they are enveloped: the shell then bursts on the back for about one third of its length, and through this opening the cicada creeps, as from a prison."

Newly emerged cicadas. Image from the Mount St. Joseph University website "MSJ Cicada Web Site, viewed at 

Hildreth kept a diary; here are just a few of his notes: 
May 27, 1812: ...the cicada is beginning to appear in vast quantities on the trees and bushes in the woods...The hogs are very fond of them and devour all they can find."
June 4: The cicadas begin begin to deposit their eggs in the tender branches of...trees...; and when anyone passes near, they make a great noise, and screaming, with their air bladders, or bagpipes...indeed I suspect the first inventor of the (bagpipe) borrowed his ideas from some insect of this kind."
June 12:...The cicadas still very busy depositing their eggs...The female instrument in the center of her abdomen with which she forms the holes to deposit her eggs - at the instant the hole is cicada will lay an immense number (of eggs) least one thousand. 

In 1812 he determined ("I have learnt to a certainty") that the cicadas last emergence was in 1795 - 17 years before. This was based on observations of a Mr. Wright, a landowner along the Muskingum River. 

Wright had cleared his land in phases during 1795 to plant an orchard. Part was cleared before the cicadas emerged. The other portion was cleared later, after they were gone. In 1812, Wright noted that cicadas did not appear on the land cleared early in 1795. But they did emerge from the land cleared later in the year wherever a tree had stood before (and where the newly hatched cicadas would have burrowed into the ground for their 17 year "gestation"). 

Hildreth was also an accomplished artist, producing life-like detailed images of cicadas, such as the one below.

Image by Hildreth from Notices and Observations on the American Cicada, or locust, published in the American Journal of Science and Arts, 1830, reproduced from Derek Hennen's blog at

Soon the 17 year cicadas in Eastern Ohio will vanish - until magically reappearing in May of 2033 - continuing a cycle that has repeated over millions of years.