Join the Conversation

Join the Conversation.
I invite your comments, suggestions, and additional information about any topic mentioned.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Ohio Company: A Developer with Heart

Note: quotations (including spelling and grammar) unless otherwise noted are from the Ohio Company of Associates' documents, primarily minutes of Directors' meetings.

Marietta, Ohio was the first settlement (1788) in the first United States territorial expansion (Northwest Territory, 1787) beyond the original thirteen states. It was a gateway to western expansion of our nation. You knew that, right?

It is easy to overlook that this complex and risky project was undertaken by private enterprise. The Ohio Company of Associates ("Ohio Company") was a group of investors who put up their own money. They purchased 1.5 Million acres from the Continental Congress in what is now southeast Ohio - worlds away from their native New England. The land purchase was negotiated in a weekend by the affable and shrewd Manasseh Cutler. But that's a story for later.

Map of the Northwest Territory with detail showing the Ohio Company purchase in what is now Southeast Ohio. CLICK TO ENLARGE. There were no states at the time (1787); dates show when states were later admitted into the Union. Map is from Encyclopedia Britannica, viewed at

Many early land development companies were focused mostly on profits for wealthy investors. For example, the Connecticut Land Company was formed in 1795 to generate profits to investors from land sales in the Connecticut Reserve lands in what is now northeast Ohio. Investors included 57 of the wealthiest and most prominent men in Connecticut. 

Speculation with borrowed money, fraudulent claims, and inept management were common with many land companies. One shameful example was the Scioto Company which sold land it did not own to French settlers in 1790. Purchasers of land and others, including the Ohio Company, suffered losses. The Yazoo Land Scandal in Georgia involved outright fraud in a massive land sale to politicians at preferential rates. There was a public outcry and years of legal proceedings. The Federal government eventually settled claims of purchasers. 

The Ohio Company was indeed a developer with heart. It was founded on ethical principles with genuine concern for the well being of investors, war veterans, employees, and residents. It also went far beyond selling land and actively helped manage the settlements it began. President Franklin Roosevelt nailed it in his 1938 Marietta speech when he praised the Ohio Company as ..."an organized society, unafraid to meet temporary adventure, but serious in seeking permanent security for its (settlers)."

The benevolent concept was evident in the original newspaper advertisement about formation of the Ohio Company on January 25, 1786, titled "Information." Essentially, it invited everyone, including "...All Officers and Soldiers who have served in the (Revolutionary) War....and also all other good Citizens who wish to become adventurers in (the Ohio Country)."

Rufus Putnam Portrait from Wikipedia
Rufus Putnam was Superintendent of the Ohio Company. He had an impressive background: self educated, apprenticed as a millwright, served in the French and Indian War (nearly died when his unit became lost), became a surveyor, was an engineer in the Revolutionary War. Putnam was an effective leader who started the Ohio Company and established the settlement at Marietta. He later served as Surveyor General of the United States, Judge of the Territorial Court, and a trustee of Ohio University.

The Articles of Agreement of the Ohio Company provides further indication of its nature. 
  • Concentrations of ownership were to be avoided. No person could own more than five shares of the company. The minimum share ownership was one, though a share could be owned by more than one person. 
  • Agents were appointed to represent individual subscribers. Each agent "shall make himself accountable to each subscriber for certificates and monies..." 
  • Land parcels received by each subscriber would be drawn by lot to prevent any one person from gaining an advantage over others.
  • Subscribers could be represented at meetings by proxy - for those who could not be physically present.
  • A portion of money raised from subscribers was earmarked for "assisting those who may otherwise be unable to remove themselves thither..." 

The minutes of Ohio Company proceedings refer to many other actions to encourage participation and assure fair treatment of all.

Investing in the Ohio Company
  • Continental currency specie certificates could be applied at full value for the purchase of shares. This was a major benefit since the currency had an open market value far less than the face amount.
  • Army bounty rights (land awarded for service in the Revolutionary War) were allowed as partial payment for shares in the Ohio Company at the rate of one dollar to every acre of land in their entitlement. For example, a 200 acre warrant would be counted as $200 towards the purchase of a $1,000 share.

Departure of Ohio Company pioneers bound for Ohio from Manasseh Cutler's parsonage at Ipswich MA on December 3, 1787. Cutler had the wagon prepared and the lettering placed on the side. When the party reached Sumrill's Ferry, PA, the wagon was dismantled and boats were built for floating the party down the Ohio River to Marietta. 
Photo is from a book by Edwin Erle Sparks: The United States of America, Part 1 

Protection of residents
  • On July 2, 1788, a Board of Police was established "for the regulation of the settlement."
  • "For the safty and well being of the people constituting this settlement," lots were laid out to make the settlement more compact (and therefore more secure).
  • In September 1790 Indian hostilities became more likely. The Ohio Company employed  30 "guards": "Resolved unanimously, that in the current defenceless State of the settlements, It is Expedient that at least 30 men be engaged for guards...". 
  • In January, 1791, after the massacre at Big Bottom, the Ohio Company Directors took further aggressive steps to beef up defenses.  They requested 60+ militia soldiers for garrisoning Marietta, Wolf Creek, and Belpre settlements, with pay and rations to be the same as federal troops. They also addressed an impassioned and angry plea for federal military help to the Territorial Court. They asked the Court to present their plea through the Territorial Governor to the President of the United States. 
  • The Ohio Company expected reimbursement for the militia expenses from the Territory or federal treasury. No help was ever forthcoming, placing a strain on Company finances.

Priority for building critical facilities
  • The Ohio Company minutes of July 21, 1788 expressed urgency of completing two priority tasks: surveying of lots and building the stockade blockhouses at Campus Martius (see image below). 
  • In September 1788 there were further orders to acquire materials for Campus Martius blockhouses and completion of a road and bridge to Campus Martius. 
  • Surveyors, carpenters, and other workmen were to be employed as needed. They were paid a wage and received a ration per day. A ration consisted of  "1 1/2 lb of bread or flour, 1 lb. or pork or beef, venison, or meat equivalent, 1 gill of whiskey, Vegetables when to be procured." A gill of whiskey was about 4 ounces. It might be diluted well below today's 86 or whatever proof, but it would "keep spirits up," so to speak. Imagine a job today that provided that kind of benefit. 

Campus Martius (Latin name given by the Ohio Company meaning "Field of Mars," perhaps named for a sector in ancient Rome or invoking reference to Mars, Roman god of war). It was a fortified residential community. Image from

Protection of owner interests
  • Surveyors were required to take an oath of honesty and to submit full reports for safekeeping and later reference.
  • Authority was granted to make adjustments for those owners whose land awarded by lot was of poor quality.
  • Books of the Ohio Company were to be open to Directors and Agents representing owners.

Help for the those in need
  • July 31, 1790, the Directors took steps to help those who were sick or in need of help: "It appearing that Several Persons in the City are Sick & in absolute need of Relief.... that Griffin Greene esquire shall be appointed to make inquiry, and advance such Sums as are needed for their Relief and recovery...."
  • A "Justice Lord" (probably Thomas Lord who trained in ministry at Yale University) was referred to as "Overseer of the Poor" for Marietta. He was authorized in September of 1791 to provide assistance to a Grisham Flagg.
  • The Directors paid the expenses of a workman injured in a fall while building a blockhouse.

A teacher and preacher
  • Even before the settlement was started, Ohio Company Directors expressed concern about the "Education of Youth and the Promotion of public Worship among the first Settlers..." The Rev. Daniel Story was employed as a preacher and arrived from Massachusetts in the spring of 1789. He held regular religious services in Marietta and surrounding settlements. During periods of Indian unrest, he was accompanied by armed guards. 
  • The militia attended church, too. The men were mustered every Sunday at 10 am. A roll was called and arms inspected. They then marched with fife and drum to the religious service. It was a pretty impressive way to start a church service. There was no mention of the troops' reaction to being rousted out and made to attend church every Sunday.
  • School was taught in Campus Martius and The Point in Marietta and also at The Castle in Belpre. The Ohio Company provided the space, typically in one of the blockhouses. Funding was mostly provided by donations.

Preservation and beautification of Hopewell earthworks
  • "Public Squares" were designated to preserve the Indian Mounds ("Ancient works"). A committee was appointed on March 2, 1789, to "point out the Mode of improvement for Ornament and in what manner the Ancient works shall be preserved."
  • Nearly two years later (yes, even then it took a while to get things done), a very detailed plan beautification and protection was adopted. There was a plan for each square which included planting of elm, mulberry, honey locust, and evergreen trees in a specific arrangement; planting of grass; and "a good Post and rail fence."

Encouragement of necessary businesses and services
  • The Ohio Company donated ground for a blacksmith shop, brickyard, tannery, wharf, grist mill, pottery, and brewery. Other similar provisions were made to encourage needed services for the new settlement.

Grant of land to Seneca Indian Chief Cornplanter
  • The Ohio Company awarded Seneca Chief Cornplanter one square mile of land. This was in gratitude for his assistance with treaty negotiations. The Ohio Company noted his "great service to the United States - And the Friendship he has manifested to the...Ohio Company." He never occupied the land granted to him. 

There was much more that the Ohio Company did to help its stakeholders. Archer Butler Hulbert, Professor of American History at Marietta College, edited The Records of the Original Proceedings of the Ohio Company. He captured the essence of The Ohio Company's role: "The relationship of the Ohio Company of Associates to the first men and women of Ohio was uniquely unselfish and thoroughly American. No land Company in America can match its record as a public servant in laying the foundation of an American State."

Hildreth, Samuel, Pioneer History: Being an Account of the First Examinations of the Ohio Valley and the Early Settlement of the Northwest Territory, Cincinnati, H. W. Derby & Co., 1848, Pages 162, 214-215, 505

Hulbert, Archer Butler, Editor, Marietta College Historical Collections, Vol 1, The Records of the Original Proceedings of the Ohio Company, Volumes I and II, Marietta, Ohio, Marietta Historical Commission, 1917.

Wikipedia, Early American Land Companies, viewed at

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Stopping by the Woods on Snowy Afternoon

This Early Marietta blog is usually about events decades or centuries ago. But history is made every day. This article is about history made on January 12, 2018 - nothing exciting or earth-shaking - just a mostly ordinary day. 

It was time for the afternoon dog walk with our two Old English Sheepdogs. Sophie is technically a puppy at 7 months, though she now weighs 50 pounds. Tess is the veteran, a spry 11 year old. We walk them on trails in the woods on our property. 

It's normally pretty routine, but not today. The temperature is 19 degrees and there is 6 inches of fresh snow on the ground. It reminded me of early settlers who survived winters without central heat, heated vehicles, down coats, and high tech boots. It also brought to mind Robert Frost's famous poem "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening," though it was not yet evening.

The day before it was 65 degrees, and it seemed as though flowers would literally shoot up out of the ground. Old Man (Lady?) Winter said Bah! Humbug! Back to the deep freeze. 

I bundled up with several layers, hats, and boots. The dogs paced around impatiently. We stepped out into the powdery snow. It was beautiful despite the cold and difficult walking. Some dark-eyed juncos and a bright cardinal flitted around the bird feeder. Otherwise it was quiet, possibly because I couldn't hear anything with all of the head gear I had on. 

The dogs (I refer to them as "the girls") lead the way as usual. Suddenly Sophie took off running, spinning up clouds of powder in her wake. I scanned the woods ahead and immediately saw two white tails up. Deer. They bounded gracefully out of sight. Sophie soon broke off the chase and resumed a more normal pace. She scampered into a brushy area and left a solid waste deposit.

Snow highlights everything. The hillside opposite the creek is normally a muted gray and brown color in winter. Today the hill stood out in bright contrast. Tree trunks and a thousand branches from leafless underbrush stood out clearly. A bench offering a snowy vista beckoned. Maybe later.

This and other photos by the author

In the black and white scene, even bland colors like leaves on a holly tree and a beech tree stood out.

We walked down along the creek. It gurgled softly with runoff from rain and earlier snow melt. We passed the bridge to the opposite trail; it was studded with animal tracks. 

The girls ambled along the trail. Tess, as she often does, took a different trail which runs just above where Sophie and I were. The two spy out each other, turning it into a game. At the waterfall, a lone log washed there in a recent downpour perched on the edge. The roar of the falling water behind the ice could be heard a long distance. Impressive.

On the return trail, things were pretty tame. Snow is new to Sophie; she likes to push through it with her nose. 

Both dogs ambled along together, pausing for scents real and imagined. They reminded me of two panda bear cubs foraging along the trail. 

I had my phone with me to take the pictures shown here. Near the end, the cold shut it down. The battery level showed 10% before the screen turned red then blacked out. My hands were were reacting to the cold about the same way even with liner gloves and heavy ski gloves.

The girls went through their usual playful run-around with each other as we approached the house. I ducked inside for warmth and a costume change. Soon they were in, de-iced, dried off, and resting near the glowing fireplace. The locust logs that my grandson Connor had cut before Christmas were burning like coal - slow and hot.

Life was mostly good that day, even with the annoyance of shoveling and the cold. This few minutes of history will linger pleasantly and be recollected often if I can remember how to transfer the photos to my digital picture frame. I make a point of recalling these extreme weather moments when conditions are at the opposite extreme - such as next summer on a humid 95 degree day.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Silver Bridge Disaster

December 15, 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of the Silver Bridge collapse in 1967. The iconic 1760 foot long suspension bridge, built in 1928 on the Ohio River, connected Gallipolis, OH and Point Pleasant, WV. Its aluminum paint earned it the “Silver Bridge” moniker. 

Early photo of the Silver Bridge from Wikipedia

The bridge was almost like family to the communities. It was an elegant landmark, the pride of the region promoted as a tourist attraction (see image below), and a vital transportation link. Suddenly, at 5:00 that afternoon in 1967, it was.....gone. Forty-six people died in the tragedy which attracted national attention. 

Photo by author of 1930s tourist brochure extolling the virtues of the Silver Bridge - and encouraging travelers to use it. CLICK TO ENLARGE

The greatest legacy of the tragedy was loss. It forever changed the lives of hundreds of victims' loved ones. Witnesses and first responders suffered nightmares, fear of water, and anxiety about crossing bridges. Most recall details vividly, decades later. Christmas season was difficult for many years. 

A positive legacy was a series of actions leading to improved bridge safety nationwide. An early safety impact was the closing of the similarly designed Hiram Carpenter bridge in St. Marys, WV. The Interstate 77 bridge in Marietta was opened a few days early because of the St. Marys bridge closing.

The Collapse
At 4:55 on December 15, 1967 rush hour traffic crossing the Silver Bridge was slowed by balky traffic signals. Dozens of cars and trucks backed up bumper to bumper on the aging bridge. Witnesses reported swaying, loud noises, then violent lurching. The bridge began falling apart, domino-like, toward the West Virginia side. The bridge deck flipped over tossing vehicles into the water “like children’s toys.” The superstructure then plunged into the river, crushing many of those vehicles.

Several survivors were rescued from the water and mangled steel on the Ohio side river bank. A large truck floated downstream. After that, the scene was eerily quiet. Hundreds of onlookers gathered, but there was little to see. The Ohio River - more than 30 ft deep - had swallowed up everything. 

A few Marietta area people were soon present at the scene. Then Sheriff Richard Ellis and a few deputies hurried down to the site to help with emergency crews. Ellis's vehicle was one of a very few that had a public address speaker. They used that for crowd control and other activities. In a Marietta Times article, Ellis described the devastation he saw on the Ohio side as "unbelievable." 

Don Yoho, Larry Barnes, and Guy Meeks from Washington County were employees of Hocking Valley Steel working on a job just north of Gallipolis. They helped extract a trapped man from a truck and brought a truck crane from their job site to help if needed.

Cliff Winstanley, Jr., the Game Warden for Washington County, was on law enforcement duty there the day after the tragedy. He was assigned  to keep unauthorized persons away from the scene on the Ohio side. There also was concern for looting; one of the damaged trucks was loaded with cartons of cigarettes.

Headline of tragedy from local newspaper. From Pinterest at

Recovery of victims, vehicles, and bridge structure elements went on for weeks. Divers braved treacherous currents, low visibility, cold water, and a jumble of steel. A morgue was set up. The communities were flooded with reporters. Planes buzzed overhead taking aerial photos for news outlets. Interviews of witnesses and victims’ families evoked the wrenching trauma of the event. Recovered bridge parts were laid out in an open field for analysis to determine what happened. Dozens of funerals honored those lost. Hundreds of their loved ones and friends were left to carry on as best they could.

What happened and why?
The Silver Bridge had been showing signs of age. It swayed up and down when traffic loads were heavy. Jack Fowler, Director of the Point Pleasant River Museum, said in an interview that ".....(the bridge) was always swaying. It had the up-and-down motion from so much weight on it, and everybody always said wow this bridge is going to fall someday." People were unnerved by the motion. Yet many accepted it as an aspect of the bridge’s unique design. The Mayor of Point Pleasant had expressed concerns to state officials and had imposed traffic limits at times.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a report on the bridge collapse on December 16,1970. The proximate cause of the bridge failure was the fracture of an eyebar link in the suspension chain. It was weakened by “stress corrosion and corrosion fatigue.”

This resulted from a combination of wear and much greater traffic loads than anticipated in the design. The Silver Bridge was designed in the mid-1920s. The NTSB report noted that long term effects of corrosion, stress, and much heavier traffic loads were not foreseen then. Unfortunately, the increasing traffic load had not been compensated for: there were no load limits in place on the Silver Bridge.

The design of the bridge made it vulnerable to a failure of even a single suspension structural element. The suspension support came from a series of side-by-side 55 ft long steel eyebars linked together to form a chain. One of the Silver Bridge eyebars fractured at a point of stress. The companion eyebar could not bear the load and was torn apart. That was it; the suspension chain was separated, and the bridge fell apart.

The Hiram Carpenter Bridge closes, I-77 Bridge opens
Only three bridges of this suspension design were built. One was in Brazil. The other, known as the Hiram Carpenter Bridge, was only seventy miles upriver at St. Marys WV.  This bridge was closed as a precaution three days after the Silver Bridge collapse. 

The Interstate 77 Ohio River Bridge at Marietta, had been completed and scheduled to be opened on Monday, December 18, 1967. But closure of the Hiram Carpenter Bridge prompted officials to open the I-77 bridge early. Ohio Governor James Rhodes and West Virginia Governor Hulett Smith conferred Friday evening. They decided to open the new bridge that night. The Ohio Highway Patrol notified Marietta Police  at 9:06 p.m. Road crews began moving barricades and uncovering signs. Marietta leaders sprang into action. 

S. Durward Hoag was given the honor of being the first to cross the new bridge. Hoag was the owner of the Hotel Lafayette and a tireless civic booster. He was credited with influencing the decision to add I-77 to the Interstate system. He drove across at 10:19, only 73 minutes after the notification from the Highway Patrol. He was accompanied by Marietta Mayor John Burnworth and Williamstown Mayor Aubrey Rymer. Other officials were also on hand for impromptu ceremonies. Highway crews also worked to open the Interstate highway section from New Years Hill to Macksburg on the following Monday.

The Hiram Carpenter Bridge was a carbon copy of the Silver Bridge - built in 1928, just months after the Silver Bridge, by the same company, according to the same design. It, too, was a beautiful span across a scenic section of the Ohio River. However, it carried far less traffic. Walter Carpenter, a son of Hiram Carpenter, spoke about the bridge closing in an interview. He said local residents were convinced by the Silver Bridge collapse that  "the (Hiram Carpenter) bridge could fall at any time." That feeling "...sealed the fate of the bridge. The NTSB condemn the bridge because they could not prove it was safe."

Photo of the original Hi Carpenter Bridge in 1970. The ferry in the foreground was used after the bridge closed in 1967. CLICK TO ENLARGE

The bridge was closed for further assessment and finally condemned June 18, 1969. A new bridge would be built. Hundreds witnessed demolition of the old bridge on June 29, 1971. Only five pounds of explosive on two sections of the eyebar suspension were required to bring it down - testimony to the design vulnerability that brought down the Silver Bridge. A new bridge was built and dedicated November 19, 1977. 

The tragedy spawned an outpouring of curious folklore. More than a dozen songs were written. Some were recorded. One song attributes the disaster to Indian Chief Cornstalk's curse, supposedly uttered after he had been mortally wounded by soldiers at Point Pleasant in 1777. John Keel in his 1975 book The Mothman Prophecies linked the tragedy to paranormal events in the area, including alleged sightings of the Mothman.

Statue located in Point Pleasant WV of the legendary Mothman - from Wikipedia

Increased emphasis on bridge safety
One positive Silver Bridge legacy was a new emphasis on bridge inspections and safety. On December 20, 1967, only five days after the Silver Bridge tragedy, President Lyndon Johnson appointed a task force to study bridge safety. The Highway Safety Act of 1968 passed on August 24, 1968 included a provision for the Department of Transportation to establish a formalized program for bridge inspection. It was also to train personnel needed to perform the inspections. States began to review their bridge inspection programs. Only 17 states were found to have adequate such programs. Fifteen months later, 10 more states had revised their standards and 24 states initiated new programs. 

Ironically, the NTSB report stated that the flaw that caused the failure ..."could not have been detected by any inspection method known in the state of the art today (1970). To paraphrase one observer: "The fatal flaw which spawned better bridge inspection procedures could not have been detected, no matter how good the inspection (at the time)."

The bridge task force issued its report in March, 1969, finding that of 563,000 bridges in the country, about 70% were built prior to 1935. Many of these "would need repair or replacement in the intermediate future." The report concluded that there were about 24,000 “critically deficient” bridges on the Federal-aid system and that repair or replacement of the bridges would cost $6 billion. Another 64,900 critically deficient bridges were not on a Federal-aid system and would cost state and local governments an additional $8.8 billion to repair or replace. Bridge concerns became a major infrastructure focus which persists to this day.

Silver Bridge Survivor stories
Survivors and witnesses have told and retold their poignant Silver Bridge stories over the years. Frank Wamsley was a 28 year old truck driver headed home to Point Pleasant in a gravel truck with a friend. His cousin Barbara and her husband Paul Hayman were crossing the bridge towards Ohio. He passed them and waved. Frank's uncle, Marvin Walmsley, was also on the bridge with two friends. Frank's truck sank with the bridge; he managed to escape and was rescued. His passenger and everyone in Marvin Wamsley's car died. His cousin Barbara and her husband made it across.

Howard Boggs was on the bridge with his wife and their 18 month old daughter. He commented, "The bridge is sure bouncing around today." Minutes later he found himself on the bottom of the river outside of his car. Somehow, he does not remember, he surfaced and was rescued. His wife and daughter perished.

Tractor trailer driver Bill Needham, then 27 years old, of Ashboro, NC, was grumbling about the traffic back up.  Soon he was in the water. "It (the bridge) just went. We hit the the water and sank like a rock." He managed to escape, surface, and cling to a floating box until rescued. His driving partner, Robert Towe, married with three small children, did not make it out of the truck. Needham is now retired and recalled the event in a recent Associated Press article about the event. "I expected to be killed. I really did."

Point Pleasant resident George Byus came home from work. His wife wanted to go to the Bob Evans restaurant on the Ohio side to eat. He protested that he was too tired. His wife and two daughters went across the bridge to get take out food. They never returned. One of the daughters was never found.

The day of the collapse Steve Darst had driven his uncle across to the Ohio side. Traffic on the bridge was backed up because of a faulty traffic light. He sat uneasily on the bridge. He recalled, "I didn't like the feeling....I told my uncle, 'Hang on, I'm going to fly this bridge.' I passed 40 some cars and went through the red light..I probably hit 90 (miles per hour)." Later he hustled back across the bridge to Point Pleasant - just before it went down.

A pregnant Charlotte Wood started over the bridge from Point Pleasant. She had visited her parents and was headed home to Gallipolis. The bridge began shuddering. She recalled her riverboat captain father talking about barges striking bridge piers. Immediately she started backing off the bridge. Her car stalled. It coasted back and stopped just beyond the edge where the bridge dropped off. She was helped off the bridge in shock by State Trooper Rudy Odell and Robert Rimmey. "It wasn't my time to go," she said later, "The Lord had something else for me to do. I had twins in (the following) April, a boy and a girl. I didn't know I was going to have twins at the time. The Lord left me here for that, I'm sure of it."

"Hi Carpenter Memorial Bridge," excerpt from History of Pleasant County, West Virginia to 1980 by Walter Carpenter, viewed at

Keel, John, Mothman Prophecies, New York, Tom Doherty and Associates LLC, 1991

Marietta Times editions, December 16,18,19, 1967 and April 27, 2002

"Point Pleasant, WV, Silver Bridge Over Ohio River Collapses Dec 1967,"

"The Silver Bridge Disaster," Stresses and Strains, The Collapse,  two of a series of video productions at Open University viewed at

"A Vow Never Forget the Silver Bridge," MetroNews, December 15, 2017, viewed at

"Silver Bridge,"

"Silver Bridge Tragedy Still Haunts River City Residents," Charleston Gazette-Mail, December 11, 2012, viewed at

"Silver Bridge Collapse: 40 Years Later,", retrospective articles on the 40th anniversary in 2007 of the bridge collapse.UIKEYINPUTUPARROW

Monday, November 27, 2017

Brickmaking in Marietta: The Captain, The Doctor, and Miss Lillian

Brick streets and stately brick buildings are one of Marietta's defining characteristics. Brickmaking began in 1788 and continued almost without interruption until the 1930's. Native clay soil made the area a natural for brickmaking. The Ohio Company in 1788 authorized purchase of supplies, including bricks, for the block houses at the Campus Martius fortified stockade in Marietta. Bricks were used to build chimneys and beautiful homes as the new settlement grew. We'll explore the history of brickmaking in Marietta and some of the fascinating personalities involved. Brick streets will be discussed in a later blog post.

The first bricks were "burned" by The Captain, Captain William Dana in 1788. Dana was a Revolutionary War officer who served with the Minutemen at Lexington in 1775 and commanded an artillery company. He suffered a financial loss due to the devaluation of continental currency and eventually relocated to Marietta in May of 1788 with his two sons. He was given permission to build a cabin near what is now Putnam and Front Streets. Captain Dana's son-in-law Joseph Barker paints the picture in his Recollections of the First Settlement of Ohio: "As it was too late to plant, he & the boys cleared a small piece...and made a small Kiln of Bricks which were probably the first Kiln of Bricks burnt in Ohio." Barker used the bricks to build a chimney for Captain Dana in Belpre and later transported some of the same bricks to build his own home up the Muskingum River at Wiseman's Bottom in 1795. Major Ezra Lunt also made bricks in the same location in 1789 and 1790.

The Doctor was Nathan McIntosh was another adventuresome early leader with a connection to brickmaking. He was trained as a doctor in Boston and admitted to practice in 1786. In 1788 he decided to head west and set off for Marietta on horseback, only to fall ill with smallpox in Pennsylvania. He practiced medicine at Waterford, then Clarksburg, VA (now WV). The trip to Clarksburg was a challenge. The doctor travelled there with his wife and infant son, escorted by 15 militiamen. There were no roads or inns along the way, so they had to camp out at night. To keep the baby's crying from attracting Indians, it was dosed with paregoric and muffled with a handkerchief to suppress its cries.

Dr. McIntosh built a large practice there and also embarked on a business venture to build a bridge across the Monongahela River. Soon after completion, the bridge was swept away in a flood, resulting in a large financial loss. He returned to Marietta and continued practicing medicine. He was renowned for his caring manner and surgical skill. He was also held strong religious views which he expressed in lectures and writing. In 1806 he started a brickyard and building brick houses.

Dr. McIntosh's baby son - the one sheltered from the Indians - was named Enoch. He was born in 1793 and began working as a laborer in the brickyard at age nine and at age twelve began laying brick. Williams' History of Washington County, Ohio noted that "He thus early began a life of severe and unremitting toil, which occupied all his time until fortune rewarded his labors." and that "his capacity for work....was phenomenal." He build many beautiful brick homes in the area, including for Benjamin Putnam and Colonel John Mills in Marietta, Benjamin Dana, and Dr. John Baptiste Regnier. Regnier was one of the French immigrants who first settled at Gallipolis and later became a prominent doctor in Marietta.

Image of Enoch S. McIntosh copied from H. Z. Williams' History of Washington County, Ohio

Enoch McIntosh left the brick trade in 1813 and became a successful businessman in the Beverly-Waterford area, operating a store, mill, and founding The First National Bank of Beverly. He lived to age 96 and was characterized in Williams' History as a "man of strong vital and moral force.......strong, robust......(who) in all his years never tasted intoxicating liquor or tobacco in any form." Brickmaking was apparently a good foundation, so to speak, for a long and productive life.

Brickmakers in the mid-1800's are not well documented. But there was one infamous brick-related episode in the mid-1850's involving the Sacra Via Hopewell earthworks. Sacra Via (Latin for Sacred Way) is the graded pathway from Quadranaou platform mound to the Muskingum River. It was to be protected..."never to be disturbed or defaced, as common ground, not to be enclosed." But the dramatic boundary walls were destroyed due to 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 used in the construction of the Unitarian Church. If those bricks could talk......

Political song writer John Greiner of Zanesville spoke to the Oddfellows Lodge in Marietta on May 12, 1869, and sang a song he composed for the occasion. I was surprised to find a verse which laments the desecration of Sacra Via:

Proudly thought the ancient builders
Of these Mounds and Way and Plain
Monuments of skill and labor
Should forever here remain.
Vain! - for hands so sacrilegious, 
Clay upheaved so long ago,
Make the bricks for Marietta,
On the river Ohio.

Brickmaking became a boom industry in the late 1800's. Brick possessed much more strength and durability than other construction materials available at the time - and was fireproof. Demand surged for brick construction for residential, institutional, public works, and industrial buildings. A single large building could require a "ton of bricks." Construction of the state mental hospital in Athens, Ohio, for example, required 12 million bricks. In 1893, about 44 brick plants in Ohio alone were making 290 Million bricks per year.

By 1900, there were several brick plants in Marietta, making that industry the area's largest employer. The Century Review Board of Trade Edition lists four brick companies:
  • Thomas Cisler and Son located where the Frontier Shopping Center is today, just beyond the intersection of Seventh and Putnam Streets.
  • Sterling Brick spread out along Montgomery Street between Seventh and Eighth Streets.
  • Acme Brick in Norwood, along Acme Street near the rail line
  • City Brick Co., at Montgomery and Sixth Streets 

The City Directories in the 1890's also listed brick makers Simon Zoller at Second and Montgomery Streets, L. W. Phillips at Eighth and Warren Streets, and James Cameron on Lord Street in Harmar. All except Zoller appear on the 1902 Atlas of the City of Marietta, Cram and Roe.

More is written about Cisler than the others. Thomas Cisler was a first generation immigrant from Germany; the family name of Zeissler was later Americanized to Cisler for convenience. He started the brick works in 1856, and it grew into the city's largest by 1900. The expansive yard was spread over 25 acres. 

Cisler Brick complex copied by author from Century Review of Marietta, Ohio, Marietta, Ohio, Marietta Board of Trade, 1900. The Cisler home is in the background.

He built an iconic home in 1886, which remains today, on a knoll overlooking the former site of the brick plant. The home featured terraced grounds, intricate woodworking, and ten rooms. It was the first in the area to have indoor plumbing and gas lighting. Click here to read an early account about the home just after it was built.

Cisler Terrace home as it appears today, viewed at

Thomas Cisler was interviewed by the Marietta Times in 1890, just after he had installed a pressed brick machine. This machine compressed the bricks under 300 tons of pressure before they were placed for firing in the kiln. Clay for the bricks was taken from "College Hill" (site of the current middle school) which he had recently purchased from Marietta College.

The 1902 tornado destroyed most of the Cisler brickworks (and Acme Brick in Norwood), though it apparently rebuilt the operation. The company closed for good the 1930's, after having been re-opened to make bricks for the "new" Marietta High School. It was built on the hill which also supplied the bricks for its construction.

Thomas's son, Thomas Henry, also lived in the family home and had three children, one of whom was Miss Lillian E. Cisler. Miss Lillian was an eccentric spinster who lived in the home after her father's passing in 1950. She wore all-black clothing all the time as a sign of mourning for her late father, lived in spartan conditions (no car, no phone, utilities sometimes shut off) because of poor money management, was obsessive about continuing the traditions of her father - including an annual Bach music festival at the home, and became legendary for brazenly jumping into cars of people she knew while they were stopped in traffic and "asking" them to take her home. But she had a softer side, was intelligent and deeply religious. More about Miss Lillian in a future post.

Sterling Brick was incorporated in 1899, owned by Marietta investors. It claimed a capacity of 30,000 bricks per day. Directors included D. R. Rood, T. H. Sugden. C. W. Sugden, F. P. Morse, C. L. Flanders, and Wm Morse.

Sterling Brick, along with narrative from, copied by author from Century Review of Marietta, Ohio, Marietta, Ohio, Marietta Board of Trade, 1900

Acme Brick was given the longest write-up of the brick plants in the 1900 Century Review Board of Trade Edition. It was not yet in full operation at the time, but claimed capital stock of $50,000 ($1.2 Million in today's dollars), the latest equipment, and "indefinite" supply of shale and clay from soil at the site, a daily capacity of 30,000 brick and 25,000 shale shingles for roof tiles, and "six, tunnel dry houses...which will make.....production a success in rainy weather as well as sunshine." The roof shingles were superlatively described as "the most economical and as well as ornamental roofing that has been bought to us in modern times. The ruins of Pompeii is said to have disclosed it as a revival of a lost art." It's not clear whether the roof tiles and bricks lived up to the hype.

Acme Brick: Symbols on the map show its location along Acme Street, which is not named on the Atlas map. Could it later have been named after Acme Brick or was Acme Brick named after the Street? 1902 Atlas map viewed at: 

L. W. Phillips operated a brick plant at Eighth and Warren Streets. His facility was not listed in the Board of Trade publication - maybe because he was not a member of the Board of Trade (predecessor organization to the Chamber of Commerce). But he did make the April 12, 1894 Marietta Register newspaper under the unflattering headline of "Geo. Phillips Imbibes too Freely and Raises Trouble Around His Father's House." 

George Phillips was the 23 year old son of brick operator Lyman Phillips. George got drunk and set fire to several buildings at the home and brickyard. His rampage continued into the family home where he tried to destroy more property; he was subdued by "a number of men." The Register
reported solemnly that "George Phillips is not known as a vicious or ugly man when sober, and the above occurrence is due solely to an over indulgence in liquor. It is an unfortunate affair." It was an observation as true today as then.

Brickmaking declined from its peak in the early 1900s as better alternative construction materials – such as steel – became available. The brick plants were all closed by 1930. Jobs and businesses supported by brickmaking soon faded away. Few remnants remain, having been removed by successor owners. The last feature at the Cisler plant, a stack for one of the kilns, came down more than 50 years ago when the Frontier Center was built. But thousands of local bricks remain in dozens of area homes and buildings, testimony to the once thriving brick industry. If those bricks could talk, they’d have many more stories to tell about the people who made them and used them.

Sources: (most of these were viewed in websites or digital editions)

Atlas of the City of Marietta, Washington County, Ohio etc., Fred'k B. Roe, C. E., Supervisor, Chicago, IL, Geo. F. Cram & Co., 1902, viewed at

Baker, David B., "Marietta Earthworks," earlymarietta blog, February 18, 2016, viewed at

Barker, Joseph, Recollections of the First Settlement in Ohio, George Jordan Blazier, editor, Marietta, Ohio, Marietta College, 1958, pages 44-45

Century Review of Marietta, Marietta Board of Trade, 1900, page 80-82

"Cisler Terrace a Gem in Downtown Marietta," The Marietta Times, April 10, 2015.

Devol, Jerry Barker, "Lillian E. Cisler, Last of a Long Line," Tallow Light, Volume 23, No. 2, Page 60

Keith930, "What Likes Beneath our Cities' Asphalt Jungles? A Mosaic of Brick," website, January 5, 2012

Marietta College Historical Collections, Volume 1, "The Records of the Original Proceedings of the Ohio Company, 1917, Marietta, Ohio, Marietta Historical Commission, pages ci and 61, viewed at

Marietta Register, "New Residence, Cisler House," April 23, 1886, viewed at

Marietta Register, "Running Cisler's Brick Plant to Its Full Capacity," November 27, 1890, viewed at

Marietta Register, "Too Much Whiskey," April 12, 1894, viewed at

Marietta Times, "John Greiner Song," May 20, 1869, viewed at

Marietta Times, "Cisler Brick Works: Industrial Center of City Now Site of City’s Frontier Shopping Center," April 8, 2013

Pritchard, Joan, "Local Brickmaking - A Business That Hit It Big But No Longer Exists," Tallow Light, Vol 22, No. 2, pages 68-69

Wikitree, Captain William Dana, viewed at

Williams, H. Z., History of Washington County Ohio, H. Z. Williams and Bro., Cleveland OH, 1881, pages 544, 407-408

1788 Thanksgiving in Marietta

I scanned through the entries of James Backus' journal in Marietta during December of 1788. It was mostly routine stuff - Ohio Company agents met, he bought a barrel of pork, warm days were followed by cold as December wore on. Both rivers froze "thick." Sunday, December 21 had an unexpected comment: "A few people assembled at Battle's Proclamation of Thanksgiving." Backus’ terse, perhaps unpunctuated, phrase baffled me.

"Battles" probably referred to Ebenezer Battelle* who arrived in Marietta in the summer of 1788. I discovered that Territorial Governor Arthur St. Clair issued a Proclamation of Thanksgiving on December 17 for observance on December 25, 1788. This is likely what Backus was referring to.

One of our nobler human traits has been the periodic public expressions of gratitude. Thanksgiving Day is an example of that. In biblical times, God directed Moses to institute the Festival of Harvest in the Bible - Exodus 23:16, "Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field." There have been many other festivals of thanksgiving, most notably in England and Europe dating from the 1500's.

In the United States, the Thanksgiving holiday tradition is said to have originated with the 1621 celebration at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts. But there was a well documented 1619 Thanksgiving event in Virginia. The 1619 arrival of 38 English settlers at Berkeley Hundred in Charles City County, Virginia, concluded with a thanksgiving celebration as dictated by the group's charter from the London Company.

That charter specifically required "that the day of our ships arrival at the place the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God." There was an annual celebration there until 1622 when an Indian attack resulted in the settlement being abandoned. Scholars have validated the Berkeley Hundred, Virginia version, yet popular belief still clings to the Plymouth Colony Thanksgiving. A Virginia Thanksgiving advocate dismisses the New England thanksgivings as merely "spontaneous and one-time events."

Painting of imagined first Thanksgiving by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, "The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth," 1914, Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts

National Thanksgiving Day proclamations were issued intermittently in those early years; the first being in 1777 after the Continental Army victory at Sarasota. There was no national proclamation in 1788. St. Clair apparently decided that a day of thanksgiving was appropriate for the new territory and settlement at Marietta. Hope for a successful conclusion of ongoing treaty negotiations with Indians at Fort Harmar may have been a secondary reason. 

Here is the wording of the proclamation:

"For as much as it is incumbent on all men to acknowledge with gratitude their infinite obligation to Almighty God for benefits received, and to implore his superintending care and Providence for future blessings, I have thought proper to set apart a day for that purpose, and do hereby ordain that Thursday, the 25th day of December, be observed as a day of solemn thanksgiving and praise that the people may, with one voice and sincere hearts, express their grateful sensations and consecrate themselves to the will and pleasures of their Divine Benefactor, and that together with their acknowledgements, they may unite in humble supplications to Almighty God, that he would be graciously pleased to prosper this infant settlement and the whole Territory in their husbandry, trade, and manufacturers, and by his own nurturing hand mature and bring to perfection all seminaries of learning, and the promotion and enlargement of piety and true religious amongst all the nations of the earth. And I do prohibit all servile labor on that day.
    Given at Marietta this 17th day of December, A.D., 1788, and in the thirteenth year of Independence of the United States.
                                                                Arthur St. Clair,
                                                Governor and Commander in Chief.

By His Excellency's command: Winthrop Sargent, Secretary."

The proclamation incorporates some of the phrases and thoughts as the 1777 national version, which can be viewed here. 

The local festivities on December 25 included a cannon salute, a sermon by General Parsons on Psalm 103:2, "Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits," and sumptuous feasts. The day celebrated both Christmas and Thanksgiving. More details about the activities can be viewed here. Participants were genuine in their gratitude for progress and relative good fortune so far in their new settlement. Their grateful sentiments are reminders to us of the true purpose of Thanksgiving Day.

*Thanks to readers Jean Yost and Bill Reynolds for identifying Ebenezer Battelle as the probable reference.

Backus, William W., A Geneological Memoir of the Backus Family, Norwich, Connecticut, Press of the Bulletin Company, 1889, viewed at

Shearer, Edgar Y., "The First Thanksgiving Proclamation of the United States," The Journal of American History, Vol 6, 1912, pages 557-558, viewed at Google Books at
Pilgrim Hall Museum web site - Thanksgiving Proclamations:

The St. Clair Papers Volume II, William Henry Smith editor, Cincinnati, Robert Clarke and Co., 1882, page 107, viewed at

Hinckley, A. Barton, "Who Really Held the First Thanksgiving in the United States?",, November 22, 2017.

Wikipedia,Thanksgiving(United States): States)

Friday, August 11, 2017

John Quincy Adams visits Marietta

Shortly before 2:00 pm on November 15, 1843, the bell tolled at the First Congregational ("Two Horned") Church in Marietta. Crowds rushed towards the church, others to the Ohio River landing. They were eager to see former President John Quincy Adams who would arrive by riverboat and speak at the church.

"JQA" (Adams referred to himself this way) was stopping on his way to Pittsburgh from Cincinnati. He  had spoken at the cornerstone laying of the Cincinnati Observatory on November 10. This was reported as JQA's last public speech, though he spoke in Marietta a few days later.

John Quincy Adams Portrait -copy of 1843 Philip Haas daguerreotype viewed at

Citizens of Marietta had invited JQA to visit after hearing that he would be speaking in Cincinnati. He accepted the invitation, at least in part because he knew of Marietta's history and settlers, many from his native Massachusetts. 

There was no time set for his arrival in Marietta. The tolling of the church bell would be the signal. Observers closely monitored river traffic, looking for the steamboat Ben Franklin. JQA arrived around 2:00 pm. His journal reports that he received "...demonstrations of welcome - a great crowd of people, guns fired, bells rung, and a procession to"

Steamer Ben Franklin docked at Cincinnati
Image from Northern Kentucky Views at

He was escorted to the church by civic leader Nahum Ward. There was heavy rain during his visit, though JQA does not mention that in his journal. It did not seem to dampen the enthusiasm for the former president.

The church was crowded with people eager to see the former president.  Judge William Rufus Putnam, son of Marietta founder Rufus Putnam, gave a welcoming speech and introduced the former President.

First Congregational Church
Church image from website

JQA spoke without notes for about half an hour, praising the founders of Marietta, including Rufus Putnam. Those present were surprised by his detailed knowledge about the original settlers, their families, and their experiences in early Marietta. He praised Commodore Whipple, who "fired the first gun on the sea at the British, in the opening of the Revolutionary War." He mentioned many familiar names of original settlers, such as Tupper, Meigs, Varnum, Parsons, Devol, Green, Fearing, and more.

JQA explained that his interest in Marietta began when he visited Manasseh Cutler at Ipswich MA in 1788, shortly after Cutler had returned from Marietta. He said, "...from the time of that conversation I had taken a deep interest in the whole West, and watched its progress, step by step, to its present great and flourishing condition." 

He may have read about the early Marietta area residents from their letters published in Massachusetts newspapers. Life on the western frontier was a curiosity to easterners.  Whether he actually recalled details from 50 years earlier or refreshed his knowledge before the Marietta visit, he had a firm command of the topic as he spoke. 

After the speech, he greeted citizens at the church. Many ancestors of the original settlers whom JQA had referred to were present. One observer noted: "It was a singularly impressive sight to have the children and grandchildren of the very men Mr. Adams had been speaking of, come up and shake his hand." 

George Dana, a descendant of Captain William Dana, brought his young son, John Quincy Dana, to meet the former president. Dana said, "Here is my youngest son, whom I have named to show my esteem for you." JQA placed his hand on the boy's head and pronounced "God bless you my son."

After leaving the church, he toured the Marietta Earthworks, the extensive system of Hopewell and Adena mounds, embankments, and pathways. Marietta's founders wisely took steps to protect these structures. JQA wrote about these in his journal entry of the Marietta visit, recording detailed measurements of one mound and referring to an article about them by Manasseh Cutler.

He then returned to the boat. Marietta leaders Ephraim Cutler, Caleb Emerson, and Joseph Barker accompanied JQA to Pittsburgh. Cutler observed that JQA "conversed with great ease and freedom on the many topics introduced, 'opening the rich store-house of his mind, and pouring forth its well assorted treasures.' " 

Ephraim Cutler's journal mentions two topics that he discussed with JQA on the trip. He told the former president that the nation was indebted to his father, John Adams, and to John Jay for their efforts in securing all lands west to the Mississippi River for the United States in the Treaty of Paris. Without this land, the Northwest Territory - which included Marietta and later Ohio and five other states - could not have been created. Tears welled up in the the former president's eyes, and his voice hesitated. He expressed gratitude that Cutler had remembered his "beloved father."

Cutler also mentioned the issue of slavery. The former president was a lifelong opponent of slavery, often speaking out on the matter. Just prior to this trip, JQA recorded in his journal: "Before my lamp is burnt out, I am desirous that my opinions concerning the great movement throughout the civilized world for the abolition of slavery should be explicitly avowed and declared."

Ephraim Cutler told him of the state constitutional convention in 1802 which voted to exclude slavery in Ohio. Cutler was a delegate and fought hard at the convention for a total prohibition of slavery. An alternate provision - authored by Thomas Jefferson -  would have allowed a limited form of slavery. JQA emphatically responded, "Slavery must and will soon have an end." He presciently stated that allowing slavery to continue would lead to national conflict. 

Other observations about John Quincy Adams and his visit to Ohio:
  • JQA was an introvert who may have suffered from depression. His public demeanor was austere. However, Marietta treated him like a rock star and "(cheered) him most heartily."
  • His trip to Ohio was a lengthy one, beginning on October 25 and lasting over a month. It was tiring. His journal records meetings, receptions, tours, and visits each day. He was ill with a bronchial infection for several days but did not miss any events. 
  • Travel modes on the trip included rail car, lake steamer, canal boat, coach, and river steamer. 
  • He delivered lengthy speeches, as was the custom at the time. His plan for the Cincinnati Observatory speech was bold: "I want to compress the history of astronomy into a discourse of three hours delivery. My task is turn this transient gust of enthusiasm for the science of astronomy at Cincinnati into a permanent and persevering national pursuit." He fretted about being pressed for time to write this speech. 
  • JQA was a lawyer, statesman, and politician. He served as ambassador to several countries, US Senator, Secretary of State under President Monroe before being elected president in 1825.  
  • After leaving office as president in 1829, he served in the US House of Representatives until his death in 1848. 
  • He married Louisa Catherine Johnson in London, the only president to have a foreign-born First Lady until President Trump. 
  • He liked to skinny-dip in the Potomac River
  • First president to be photographed by Phillip Haas in 1843. The finished image was a daguerreotype; a digitized copy appears above in this blog post.
  • I1779 at age 12, JQA began a diary which he kept until just before he died in 1848. It comprised an unprecedented 14,000 pages in 51 volumes. It is digitized and be viewed in his original handwriting or in transcribed and searchable format.