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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. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Gold Fever

I headed past Historian Bill Reynolds' desk at Campus Martius Museum, bound for the coffee pot. I often stop to chat with Bill when I volunteer at the Museum. On that day, he held up several yellowed, tattered pages and said, "this would make a good blog research project for you." 

The documents were two letters written by A. G. Hovey on his way to the California gold rush in 1849. "This could be a great story," Bill remarked, "but I have found little information about it." He showed me the letters. My research took me well beyond the letters to reveal a fascinating story.

Copy of A. G. Hovey letter Oct. 14, 1849

Gold fever swept the country in 1848. Publications such as Edwin Bryant's What I Saw in California and a similar book by John Fremont were best sellers. Thomas B. Clark, Jr., in his Gold Rush Diary book, reported that Marietta area men and boys "talked of the possibilities of gathering fortunes in the California gold fields as glibly as they spoke of harvesting wheat or corn..."

Gold Mines poster: Everyone tried to cash in on gold fever. This poster promotes a "lecture" about California gold fields. The poster includes a testimonial letter of recommendation for the presenter. Source: Villanova Library, History Between the Pages, Looking at nineteenth century American through the writing of Samuel Alanson Lane, "The Gold Rush," viewed at exhibits.library.villanova.ed

There were two groups from Marietta, The Harmar Company and "Marietta Gold Hunters", who ventured to the California gold fields. We learn of these travelers' experiences through the two A. G Hovey letters that Bill Reynolds showed me and prodigous journals kept by Mariettan Elisha Douglass Perkins. 

Corporations for gold mining in California were being formed all across Ohio. Such a company, The Harmar Company, (Harmar was then a village opposite Marietta) was organized with what the Marietta Intelligencer  newspaper described as "Yankee thoroughness." 

There were two boards of directors. The "Home Board" based in Harmar was to monitor financial and administrative matters. Its members included Darwin Garner, Agent; and Henry Fearing, E.W.T. Clark, L. Chamberlain, Asa Soule, advisors.  The "California Board" included Harlow Chapin, agent; Abijah Hulet, and A.G. Hovey, advisors. These men were part of the group of twenty who ventured to California to conduct mining operations.

Each member of the party going to California was required to sign a pledge:
"I am in good bodily health, free from disease, and will, to the best of my ability, promote the harmony and discipline, and faithfully labor to advance the interest of the Harmar Company, and....abstain from all intoxicating liquors as a beverage, from all species of gambling and dissipation, and as far as practicable to observe the sabbath...."

 The "Marietta Gold Hunters"was an informal group which included Elisha Douglass Perkins, J. Quincy Cunningham, Zeb Chesebro,  John L. Huntington, a visitor from New Orleans, Joseph L. Stephens, Samuel E. Cross, recently arrived in Harmar from New York. Others, such as George Hildreth, Douglass Perkins' brother-in-law, and Dwight Hollister were also were part of the group at various times.

Postage stamp image painted by John Berkey, based on research of artwork and actual photos. The man on the left depicts a free black man, many of whom were part of the gold rush. The stamp was issued June 18, 1999. Viewed at

There was elaborate preparation for the long arduous journey to California. The Harmar Company's gear and provisions filled five large wagons. 3600 pounds of pilot bread (aka "hardtack", a type of long-lasting biscuit) and a large supply of beans were among the food staples they took. The Gold Hunters - the smaller of the 2 groups - started with two wagons.

The Harmar Company departed Marietta on April 25, 1849 by steamboat. On board they organized supplies, made a few stops, and enjoyed life on the river, living like "Pigs in clover." They transferred at St. Louis for St. Joseph, MO, the usual starting point for the wagon trip west.

Soon disaster struck - in the form of cholera.  Several of the men - and hundreds of others in the region - were stricken with the deadly infection. Hovey reported in his May, 1849 letter that Gage Drown and Abijah Hewlett died at St. Joseph. Others became ill but recovered. The disease experience was traumatic. Hovey used terms such as "horrid," "I cannot give an adequate description," and "it's a miracle that cholera did not take us all." Click on cholera to learn more about the disease, if you dare.

The Marietta Gold Hunters left Marietta May 8, 1849. They rolled two wagons on to the Steamer DeWitt Clinton bound for St. Louis where they boarded the Highland Mary II for the trip up the Missouri River to St. Joseph.  

They missed most of the cholera outbreak. But Perkins' diary reported the grim sighting of the abandoned steamer Monroe at Jefferson City which lost 97 of 100 passengers to cholera. Those included a group of 27 from Indiana headed west, "only two of whom were spared to tell the sad tale to relatives & friends, whom they left only two weeks before in good health and spirits. How many broken hearts & widowed wives and fatherless children are made. God only knows."

St. Joseph was a bustling staging area for the overland trip west. The Gold Hunters were delayed in St. Joseph waiting for mules to become available. The demand for pack animals for wagons going west was phenomenal. Animals were hard to find  - and expensive. The St. Joseph Gazette on July 4, 1849 estimated that about 5,000 wagons, 34,000 mules and oxen, and 27,000 people were on the way west.

Starting out on the trail, there was the pervasive optimism and anticipation of "seeing the elephant." This was a nineteenth century expression referring to peak life experiences achieved by great effort or thwarted by adversity. In the gold rush, seeing the elephant usually referred to exciting high points of the adventure or to low points of hardship and disappointment. 

There were numerous elephant "sightings." Dramatic scenery was a frequent topic.In Wyoming, Perkins noted that "our present camp is by far the most beautiful I have seen since leaving St. Joe. The mountains tower above us with its dark ravines and banks of snow while below is the valley through which runs a fine creek of pure cold water fringed with water willows..." He marveled at a valley of huge boulders in Idaho. On one, there were nests of hawks which "have been whistling at us all the a state of great excitement and commotion far exceeding...our presidential elections."

Hovey's letter reports the scenery approached the Sierra Nevada from the Carson River as the "handsomest I ever saw in state of nature..." Yet the difficulty of the steep mountain passages was intimidating as they struggled over one peak, only to see another looming ahead. Hovey proudly compared the experience to Napoleon Bonaparte's epic passage with his army through the Swiss Alps. 

In Hovey's October 14,1849 letter from California, he was truly excited by the potential in California. He mentions a Mr. Conway who is reported to have made $1,500 (nearly $40,000 in todays dollars) in mining in the three months since he arrived.

Yet the "elephant" highs were inevitably mingled with lows: setbacks, disappointment, even desperation at times. Life on the trail was arduous and often monotonous. Sickness was a common complaint; many died from illnesses and rigors of travel. One source reported 500 graves between St. Joseph and Laramie.

Changed appearances reflected the strain of the trail. Hovey reports meeting two of the Marietta Gold Hunters group along the trail, "Met up with Zeb Chesebro and Joseph Stephens, part of the Argonauts group from Marietta. They were so altered in appearance...that I hardly (k)now them nor they us."

Logistics of wagon transport were a continuous challenge. Overweight wagons were a universal problem, as the Gold Hunters soon found out. Before they had gone the first mile, one wagon was too heavy to ascend a steep hill. They had to unload part of the wagon to get up the hill; then reload. Whew! On May 30, they discarded 300 pounds from their wagons. The trail west was strewn with baggage, equipment, food, and other goods which were left behind to save weight. 

                                  Wagons photo:
                Image from State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia, illustrating the trip west to California by two

Wagons broke down. Draft animals required forage, yet grass was often unavailable or worn down by grazing of passing livestock. Hovey mentions that their teams once went without grass for five days. They resorted to cutting oak trees, so the livestock could feed on the leaves. Some animals became ill or wore down from the relentless travel. Healthy, reliable livestock were essential for travel, even for survival. 

Hovey proudly stated at the end of their trip..."But Ah; we had 'the Teams.' The Harmar Company has been celebrated the whole way for having the 'Star Teams and Waggons' on the trip..." Perkins also took note of the Harmar Company teams when he met up with them on August 19, 1849, "Their cattle are in better order than any I have seen on the road."

Both the Harmar Company and Gold Hunters groups experienced personality clashes and disagreements. The Gold Hunters decided to split up and travel in pairs when they reached Fort Laramie in Wyoming. Perkins and John Huntington traveled together, foregoing wagons for mules as pack animals. They were able to achieve 20-30 miles per day until reaching California September 26. 

The Harmar Company dissolved on December 22, 1849, after a few months in California. Personality clashes were reported to be a primary reason. The California group bought out the Home Board investors for $100 per share - double the $50 original investment - and then owned all the stock.

Once in California, success was elusive. Gold mining produced mediocre results, at best. Since leaving Marietta, most endured privation, hard work, loss of much of their property and equipment, and poor health. Several died. Among the Gold Hunters, Samuel Cross and Zeb Chesebrough died soon after arriving. The Harmar Company lost several men, mostly to cholera, before they left St. Joseph.

Perkins said that his group all arrived in good health. Yet he said, "I have hardly met a man who is not disappointed and dejected and wished themselves back (home)." Most who endured the very hard work in the mines could barely make their expenses.

California Gold Diggers - A Scene from Actual Life at the Mines. Painting from University of California Berkeley, Bancroft Library, created by John Andrew, a British engraver. Viewed at

George Hildreth observed in a March, 1850 letter to his father Samuel P. Hildreth that "not one in a hundred will make a fortune." He experienced frequent sickness, lamented high prices, a lack of decent housing, and was generally discouraged. "Great delusion prevails with respect to this country (California)."

A. G. Hovey remained in the west, eventually settling in Oregon. He became a successful businessman and revered politician in Eugene, Oregon. Harlow Chapin returned to Harmar, eventually retiring there after serving as mayor of the village.

Douglass Perkins, whose journals provided the details of the trip west, was a particularly poignant figure. He struggled to find his way in California. Mining was a failure. He eventually became a steamboat pilot, apparently unable or unwilling to return home to the wife (Harriett Hildreth) and young child he had left behind in Marietta. His four year old son died in August, 1849; it is possible he never knew of it. Douglass Perkins died of dysentery in 1852. His dreams, like those of thousands of gold seekers, went unfulfilled. 

His wife Harriett remarried and later journeyed to California with her daughters to find Douglass Perkins' grave. She was unsuccessful. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Blackberry Winter

Snow in New England, temperatures in Marietta below freezing on May 16? Huh? That's the way it goes with weather. On that day we were in Hilton Head for a few days enjoying 80s and sunny weather. I stared in disbelief at an email weather alert. It was a freeze warning - overnight lows in the upper 20s or low 30s - for Marietta, OH. At first thought it was a mistake or that I was seeing an old email from February. No. The date was May 15. We had to call Theresa, our house and dog guardian back in Marietta, to ask her to move plants indoors and cover others.

It brought to mind an Appalachian area term for this kind of cold snap: "Blackberry Winter." I first heard this from a client and friend, Paul Rich. At one of our meetings, conversation turned to the weather. It was early May but unusually cool and rainy at the time. "This is a blackberry winter, Dave," Paul explained nonchalantly. "It happens every year at about this time, when the blackberry plants bloom." 

This year I decided to research this further. Blackberry Winter is indeed a colloquial term common in Appalachia and the Midwest for a cold snap in May. The origin of the term is not clear; some believe that the cold weather somehow stimulates the growth of the plant or fruit.

                                                                                           Blackberry blossoms 

I found that there are other "winters" in spring besides blackberry winter, named for other trees in bloom at the time. These are, in order of the dates when they occur, locust winter, red bud winter, and dogwood winter. Then there was "linsey-woolsey winter," named for material once used in long underwear - clothing that had been put away too soon, believing that cold weather was done. Probably more than you wanted to know?

Weather has been a factor in human lives forever. Settlers of Marietta and residents in early times were especially sensitive to weather changes. Many had no shelter at first. Those that did had no heat, air conditioning, or other comforts that we enjoy today. And there was little weather forecasting that we take for granted today. So, they had to cope with whatever came their way. Cold snaps in May, when everyone had become used to warmer weather, was probably just as much a nuisance then as it is today.

James Backus lived in Marietta in 1788-89. His journal mentions the weather most days. May of 1789 had two possible blackberry winters. May 5,6,7 were reported as "cool weather, cool mornings, respectively. The weather two weeks later sounds more like our current weather: May 20 "cool, clear day." May 21 "cloudy, cool day." May 22 "cold, chilly."

So, enjoy this cold snap. Soon everyone will be complaining about how hot and humid it is. Or, as the early frontier settlers would have said using today's lingo: "deal with it!"

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Marietta Earthworks

If you have been in Mound Cemetery or walked around at Camp Tupper Park in Marietta, Ohio, you have seen a major feature of the Marietta Earthworks. They are remnants of the vast Hopewell civilization which flourished from 100 BC to 500 AD in the eastern U.S. These impressive structures were abandoned and sat dormant for centuries. The earthworks were brought back to life at Marietta in the late 1780's - this time as objects of curiosity by settlers from the eastern U.S.

The Earthworks was a system of mounds, embankments, and open paths which occupied a major portion of the original town. Below is a map of the earthworks as drawn in the 1830's. You'll notice a large square, a smaller square, the circular Conus mound, and the graded pathway to the Muskingum River. 

Map of Marietta Earthworks from; originally credited to Charles Whittlesey in Squire and Davis, Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, but which researcher William F. Romain believes was done by Samuel R. Curtis, an engineer with the State of Ohio at the time, about 1837.

Marietta earthworks were the first in America to be documented
The earthworks were, except for a sketch of earthworks at Circleville in 1772, the first to be documented in America. That they were even noticed is remarkable considering the thick forest that blanketed the entire area.

Joseph Buell, stationed at Fort Harmar, mentions them in his journal, on February 1, 1787:..."this day I took a walk with Serg't Shaumburgh, Strong Orcatt, & Munsell to view the curiosities of the mountains which afforded us great Satisfaction...." The term "curiosities" reflected early reactions at the time to the earthworks - a blend of awe, scientific enigma, and UFO-like mystery. 

Image of Heart's drawing, at Christoper Busta-Peck Flickr website:

The first detailed drawing, circa 1786, (see above) is attributed to Captain Jonathan Heart, also a soldier at Fort Harmar. General Josiah Harmar, the fort's namesake, wrote to General Thomas Mifflin of Philadelphia: "Be pleased to view the inclosed plan of the remains of some ancient works on the Muskingum, taken by a captain of mine (Heart), with his explanations. Various are the conjectures concerning these fortifications. From their regularity I conceive them to be the works of some civilized people. Who they were I know not. Certain it is, the present race of savages (American Indians) are strangers to anything of the kind." 

Heart's drawing and notes generated considerable scholarly interest in the east. General Samuel Parsons had toured the Ohio Valley, and had studied the Grave Creek Mound (at Moundsville, WV) and those at Marietta. In May 1786 Parsons sent his mound data (including Heart's drawing and notes) to Ezra Stiles of Yale University. Stiles forwarded the Marietta earthworks data to Thomas Jefferson and to Benjamin Franklin for their opinions on the their origin. In October of 1786, Parsons sent similar information to President Joseph Willard of Harvard University.

Noah Webster wrote a letter to Stiles supporting a theory, first mentioned by Benjamin Franklin, that the Marietta earthworks were built by Spanish explorer DeSoto during his 1539 expedition. Heart's map appeared in the May, 1787 edition of Columbian Magazine - shown below. To recap: Harvard, Yale, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Noah Webster and others expressed genuine interest in curious piles of earth in Marietta, Ohio. Pretty impressive.

Image of Columbia Magazine May 1787 issue which lists Captain Jonathan Heart's drawing in the index. It appears as Roman Numeral VII in the list. This image is from at

Ohio Company was proactive in research and preservation                

The Ohio Company of Associates were the organizers of the settlement of Marietta. Their leaders surveyed the earthworks, recognized their historical significance, and prudently took action to protect them. Rufus Putnam, Superintendent of the Ohio Company, conducted a detailed survey of the earthworks. Images of his work are below.

Rufus Putnam's drawings of the mounds and earthworks and notes below, from
The Memoirs of Rufus Putnam and Certain Official Papers and Correspondence

References to notes (on right side of the image above) on Rufus Putnam's drawing 

Manasseh Cutler, a member of the Ohio Company and an ordained minister with scientific training, also closely observed the mounds. He estimated their age by counting tree rings on some of the largest trees growing on them. The largest tree was 462 years old. There were other large stumps visible, indicating preceding growth of a similar length of time. From this he estimated that the mounds were at least 1,000 years old. This finding allowed him to refute Noah Webster's DeSoto theory.

The earthworks were considered part of the town. They were given Latin names by the Ohio Company: Quadranaou for the largest mound at Camp Tupper, Capitolium for the one at the Public library location, Conus for the Mound Cemetery mound, and Sacra Via for the parkway leading from Third Street to the Muskingum River.

The groupings of earthworks (refer to the Whittlesey drawing above) also had informal titles. The largest square enclosure was "The Town," the smaller square "The Fort," the cemetery mound was the "Great Mound and Ditch," and Sacra Via was the "Covered Way." 

Preservation efforts - success and failure
The Quadranaou, Capitolium, Conus mounds and Sacra Via parkway were set aside as protected common areas by the Ohio Company: "Resolved, That Colonel Battelle, Colonel Crary, and Major Sergeant be a committee to lease the public squares (to Samuel H. Parsons, Rufus Putnam, and Griffin Green, esqs.), the ones on which the great mound (Conus), the Quadranaou, and Capitolium,....The committee are to point out the mode of improvement for (beautification), and in what manner the ancient works shall be preserved...."

Those earthworks were thus leased to individuals for safekeeping. Sacra Via was under the informal supervision of Rufus Putnam. This system was continued over time, but there were serious lapses. Conus was set aside as a cemetery, but it was not fenced for decades. The mound suffered serious erosion from sheep and people climbing the mound - compounded by water runoff. The mound was eventually repaired and fenced.

In 1820, Quadranaou was being leased to D. Hartshorn who transferred control to Rev. Joseph Willard. Incredibly, Willard started plowing down the mound! Fortunately, there was a public outcry. A legal wrangle ensued, but courts sided with the city's control of the property. Willard was removed and citizens worked to restore the damage. 

The special case of Sacra Via
Sacra Via (Latin for Sacred Way) was the excavated graded pathway from Quadranaou to the Muskingum River. It was to be protected..."never to be disturbed or defaced, as common ground, not to be enclosed." But the large boundary walls were destroyed in a regrettable lapse in governance. A city council member, who was a brickmaker, talked the city council into selling the earthen walls to him for bricks. The bricks were reportedly used in the construction of the Unitarian Church.

The original Sacra Via earthwork was a dominant structure, quite different from the level park of today. Parallel earthen walls bounded the Sacra Via parkway for a  length of 680 feet. The rounded walls were nearly 40 feet wide and 8 ft high. The interior pathway descended uniformly toward the river, and was excavated below the surrounding terrain. The pathway was 8 ft below grade at the upper end but steepened to 18-20 ft near the river. 

The effect was dramatic. Someone standing in the lower pathway would have been looking 20+ ft upward to see the top of sidewalls. Some theorized that the below grade section was for a defensive military feature to allow an undetected avenue of escape to the river. A Charles Sullivan charcoal drawing of the scene (below) conveys some of the visual effect. We know boundary walls were used for bricks, but what happened to the graded excavation? It's barely discernible now.       

From Ohio History Connection Archaeology Blog: "It's that most wonderful time of the year", Dec 13, 2010 Ancient Works, Marietta, Ohio. Based on a painting, this lithograph shows the (Sacra Via) elevated plain with elaborately constructed fortifications. “Ancient Works, Marietta, Ohio,” in Ephraim G. Squier and Edwin H. Davis, Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley(Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1848), pl. 26, p. 73.

The challenge of protecting our heritage
Unfortunately, much of the original Marietta Earthworks network of extensive boundary walls and smaller mounds has been destroyed over time. These were on private property, not in protected areas. 

Fortunately, enough of the major features remain for us to realize their importance, uniqueness, and cultural value. But there will always be preservation challenges - from wear, erosion, and land use changes over time. It is imperative that we remain faithful stewards in protecting them and in pressing for additional research about them.


Ancient Ohio Trails website:, "Marietta" page views
Barnhart, Terry A., American Antiquities, Revisiting the Origins of American Archaeology, University of Nebraska Board of Regents, 2015, pages 96-115, viewed at Google Books-
Butterfield, Willshire, Consul, Journal of Capt Jonathan Heartetc., Albany, NY, Joseph Munsell's Sons, 1885, pages x-xiv.                                                                                         Foster, J. W., Prehistoric Races of the United States of America, Chicago, S. J. Griggs and Company, 1874, pages 128-30, 351
Lepper, Bradley T, Ohio Archaeology, Wilmington OH, Orange Frazer Press, 2005, pages 164-68, 241
Lynott, Mark J., Hopewell Ceremonial Landscapes of Ohio, Havertown, PA, Oxbow Books, 2014
Maclean, J. P., "Ancient Works at Marietta," Ohio Archaeological and Historical Publications, Volume XXII, Pages 37-66, viewed at                     
The Memoirs of Rufus Putnam and Certain Official Papers and Correspondence, The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in Ohio, edited and compiled by Rowena Buell, Boston and New York, Houghton Mifflin and Company, 1903.
"Mound Cemetery (Marietta, Ohio),", viewed at,_Ohio)
Sandford, Chris, website "Marietta Earthworks" at
Williams, H. Z., History of Washington County, H. Z. Williams & Bro., 1881, Chapter XXXVI, Pages 439-443 excerpt, viewed at a website created by Chris Sandford

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Winter Solstice

I had learned just recently that certain of the Marietta (Ohio) Hopewell earthworks were built to align with sunset on the winter solstice. They formed a 2,000 year old astronomical observatory system. William F. Romain documented this with measurements in his book Mysteries of the Hopewell. The book displays a cover photo - taken by the author on December 21, 1996 - of the winter solstice sunset at Sacra Via in Marietta:

December 21, 2015, the usual date for the winter solstice, was overcast and cold. It was definitely not sunset viewing weather. Luckily for us the winter solstice for 2015 was on December 22, a sunny and clear day. I decided at the last moment to view this event for myself.

My grandson Connor was visiting with us. The two of us drove to Camp Tupper, the park where the Quadranaou mound is located. I was surprised to find a sizable group of people standing atop the flat mound. They were clustered along the axis line on the mound where the setting sun at that moment was, just as advertised, perfectly aligned. I was transfixed. It was awesome, in the true sense of that word. 

Photo by author on December 22, 2015 on Quadranaou mound. The group in the center foreground is roughly lined up on the axis pointing to the setting sun.

Folks were watching, taking pictures, gesturing, and chatting with each other. Many were talking with Wesley Clarke, a local archaeologist, who had presented a program and was now answering questions. He handed out a copy of the Charles Whittlesey map of the Marietta earthworks published in 1837, a portion of which is shown below.

Above:Photo by author of map distributed by archaeologist Wesley Clarke on December 22, 2015. The map is based on an original drawing (see image below) published in 1837 commonly attributed to Charles Whittlesey, but which author Romain believes was done by Samuel R. Curtis, a civil engineer for the State of Ohio at the time.
Below: full version of the drawing, from Squire and Davis, Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley.

The Marietta Earthworks is a group of mounds, embankments, and open paths which occupied a major portion of the original town. There were two large structure groupings (which appear as squares in the bottom drawing) and the graded pathway (Sacra Via) to the Muskingum River. There were also earthworks at other locations in the Muskingum River valley. They were part of extensive earthworks throughout the eastern U.S. credited to the Hopewell civilization which flourished from 100 BC to 500 AD.

Look at the top drawing above to visualize the sunset alignment. Find the rectangular mound with an extension on each side - marked A. That is the Quadranaou mound in Camp Tupper park. The line connecting the two side ramps pointing towards the river is the axis to the sunset. Find the mound marked B, to the right of A. That is the Capitolium mound where the public library now stands. It too lines up with the sun and so also does the Sacra Via parkway connecting the large square to the river - labeled "Graded Way" in the drawing. 

William F. Romain's solstice sunset calculations are meticulous and fascinating. He compares expected calculations of the sunset direction - based on the latitude and estimated age of the mounds - to the current orientation of the mounds today. The calculation is adjusted for the height of the opposite ridge (Harmar Hill) where the sun "sets" over the hill.

Here is his narrative: "...from Aveni's tables* we find that given a date of A.D. 250, 39 degrees 20 minutes north latitude, lower limb tangency, and a 7.0 degree horizon elevation, the winter solstice sun would have set at an azimuth of 231.3463. Recall that the azimuth of the Quad Mound's minor axis is 231.5. Accordingly, the Quad Mound is aligned to the winter solstice sunset to within two-tenths of one degree (231.5 - 231.3463 = .153 degree." Pretty, close, eh? There are similar computations for the Capitolium Mound and Sacra Via.

*Computerized calculations generated by Dr. Anthony F. Aveni, Colgate University physics and astronomy professor.

John E. Hancock of the University of Cincinnati has studied many Hopewell earthwork structures. He notes that: "Studies of the (Hopewell) earthworks indicate that the builders had a remarkable understanding of mathematics and geometry, a deep knowledge of astronomy, a common unit of measure, and reliable methods of surveying. It also indicates that the Hopewell people did not lay out their earthworks in a haphazard manner. They built them according to a predetermined plan that incorporated the cyclical movements of the sun, moon, and perhaps the planets and stars as well."

The Marietta earthworks are in a select group of structures built by civilizations around the world that marked solstice solar and lunar events. Newark Earthworks in Ohio is one excellent example among Hopewell structures. There are numerous examples from other civilizations, including Stonehenge and the Glastonbury Tor in England, the pyramids of Egypt, the Goseck Circle in Germany, Chichen Itza in Mexico, the four-handed Moai statue on Easter Island, Newgrange in Ireland, the Temple of Karnak in Egypt, and many others. Many of these involved intricate construction to measure or exhibit the event. Learn more by clicking on this website: Ancient Sacred Sites Aligned to the Winter Solstice.

The amazing thing to me is that so many different civilizations noticed the solstice/equinox cycles, considered them important, and created structures to observe them. All of this occurred independently, since many of these cultures presumably did not interact with each other.

Much of Marietta's earthworks network has been destroyed over the years. We are fortunate that some major features have been preserved. They remind us today of our unique heritage, hiding in plain sight and often taken for granted, shared with ancient cultures around the world.

Ancient Ohio Trails website:, "Marietta" page views
Lepper, Bradley T, Ohio Archaeology, Wilmington OH, Orange Frazer Press, 2005,
Lynott, Mark J., Hopewell Ceremonial Landscapes of Ohio, Havertown, PA, Oxbow Books, 2014
Maclean, J. P., "Ancient Works at Marietta," Ohio Archaeological and Historical Publications, Volume XXII, Pages 37-66, viewed at
Ohio History Connection Archaeology Blog: "It's that most wonderful time of the year", Dec 13, 2010
Pritchard, Angela and Belsebuub, Path of the Spiritual Sun, on line extract at "Ancient Sacred Sites Aligned to the Winter Solstice," copyright BelsebuubDotCom, 2012
Sandford, Chris, website "Marietta Earthworks" at
Williams, H. Z., History of Washington County, H. Z. Williams & Bro., 1881, Chapter XXXVI, Pages 439-443 excerpt, viewed at a website created by Chris Sandford

Monday, December 28, 2015

Marietta's First Christmas

The first Christmas in Marietta featured a 2 for 1 deal. No, it was not a "buy one get one" retail promotion. It was two holidays that were celebrated on the same day: Thanksgiving and Christmas were to be celebrated on December 25, 1788. 

A proclamation dated December 17, 1788 was issued by "His Excellency Arthur St. Clair, Esquire, Governor and Commander in Chief," stating that "For as much as it is encumbent on all men to acknowledge with gratitude their infinite obligations to Almighty God for benefits hereby ordain that Thursday the 25th of December be observed as a day of solemn Thanksgiving and Praise..., and I do probihit all servile labor on that day."

It is unclear why Thanksgiving was not observed at the usual time. The Governors Chart of Laws, published by Rufus Putnam on April 9,1788, included both Thanksgiving and Christmas, among other holidays: "Be it ordained that all members of the colony must celebrate 22d February, 7th April, 4th July,  annually. Also in a proper manner observe the 28th November, 25th December, and 1st day January, annually."

Christmas then was not the mega-event that it has become today. Moreover, the New England settlers in Marietta were probably not used to celebrating Christmas. Their puritan ancestors had actually banned Christmas celebrations in 1659. They believed that Christmas was not biblical, had pagan origins, and in practice was more drunken revelry than pious observance. Christmas had been reinstated but was still only loosely observed by the bah-humbug New Englanders in the late 1700's.

1788 had been an historic yet challenging year. Marietta was a new (and the first!) settlement in the newly established Northwest Territory of the United States, the first such territory outside the original 13 states. The town was being laid out, a few houses were built, a fortified community elegantly named Campus Martius (Latin, meaning "Field of Mars") was started, and Indian treaty negotiations were well underway at nearby Fort Harmar. The surrounding lands were being surveyed, and 30 families had recently moved into town. It was a "crazy busy" place.

Yet there were stresses. Food was short at times since the first harvest was limited. Indians seemed friendly, but the peace seemed tenuous to many. There was discord among leaders and citizens. The weather that winter was severe; the rivers froze. Ice and snow made travel - and survival - a challenge. But, life went on. 

It was an event filled December, 1788 in Marietta. The diary of James Backus - a young Ohio Company shareholder, businessman, and civic official - supplies much of the commentary. Quotes are from his journal unless otherwise noted. 

On December 13 nearly 200 Indians were reportedly present for treaty negotiations; the following day there was a parade and military inspection. On December 15, there was a ball. It was the talk of the town, "All of the conversation of the Settlers centered in the Ball." Backus himself "Went to the Ball....drank good wine & came home groggy." He reported the next day: "Tuesday, 16. Fine morning but felt no better for the Ball." Judge Parsons, in a letter to his friend, the Reverend Manasseh Cutler, mentioned the ball in glowing terms - with no mention of a hangover: "We had the first Ball in our Country at which were present fifteen ladies as well accomplished in the manners of polite circles as any I have seen in the old states."

The ball was a pleasant distraction from the rigors of frontier living. However, Governor St. Clair viewed the revelry - and the frequent drunkenness of the Indians - with concern. The Indian negotiations were too sensitive and the threat to public safety too great to risk an alcohol fueled incident - from Indians or settlers. 

St. Clair issued a warrant on December 16 for the confiscation of all "spirituous liquors" until treaty negotiations were finalized. The same James Backus, as a recently commissioned deputy sheriff, was responsible for seizing the liquor. He does not mention this in his diary. He kept detailed records and issued receipts for the later return of the liquor. 

Community activity was henceforth more sedate and, well, sober. Dr Solomon Drown arrived in Marietta on December 19 and reported "more decorum (was) observed than in the British Parliament when I was there."

On Christmas/Thanksgiving morning, locals were jolted alert by a three gun salute from Fort Harmar answered by a three shot cannon blast from Campus Martius. Later there was a church service. Judge Parsons gave a sermon from Psalm 103, verse 2. 

Dr. Drown gave an account of the day to his family in Providence, "It being Christmas, public worship was introduced by the Church Prayer Book. Gen'l Parsons read a sermon adapted to the occasion. Good singing. I dined at General Goodale's and as this is such a new country, perhaps you will like to know our bill of fare. A boiled dish, Turkey, beef and bacon, cabbage, turnips and potatoes, butter, etc., A roast turkey 17 pounds. A turkey pie, custards, wheat bread, etc." There was no mention about those disruptive spirituous liquors.

Christmas Day at Fort Harmar may have been similar to that reported by soldier Joseph Buell's journal in 1787: "This being Christmas Day, the sergeants celebrated it by a dinner to which was added a plentiful supply of wine." Backus' journal notes that on December 26 there was "another ball." New Years Eve and New Years Day were also occasions for merriment and "musick." 

The new year of 1789 began with events of note. The Indian peace treaty was signed January 9. There was a gathering of Indian chiefs, a dinner, and parade. On that same day, General James Mitchell Varnum passed away quietly of tuberculosis. An elaborate funeral including citizens, leaders, military honors, and masonic rites followed. Later in January, a son was born to the family of Nathaniel Cushing; he was named James Varnum Cushing. The cycle of life moved on in the new settlement and surrounding territory.

Phillips, Josephine E.,  "The Tide of Time, the Old Northwest Territory's First Christmas," The Tallow Light, Vol.1, No. 3, January, 1967.
Journal of James Backus, various entries, as reported in the Josephine Phillips article above.
Backus, William W., Geneological Memoir of the Backus Family, The Press of the Bulletin Co., Norwich CT, 1889, pages 37-42, accesssed at
The Week Staff, The Week, December 20, 2011, accessed at
Howe, Henry, Historical Collections of Ohio, an Encyclopedia of the State, Volume II, C. J. Krehbiel, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1907, page 803, viewed at

Note: Special thanks to Campus Martius Museum Education Specialist Glenna Hoff for sending your author The Tallow Light article after a casual conversation and to Charlotte Keim for providing The Week article about Christmas.