Join the Conversation

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

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Lillian Cisler, Personal Recollections

Below are very special, and personal, recollections of two people who knew Lillian E. Cisler well. As a brief introduction (see also the “Thomas Cisler Family“ post on this blog), Lillian (1903-1993) was the third generation of Cislers to live at the Cisler Terrace home. Her grandfather Thomas Cisler (1838-1920) started the Cisler Brick company; her father Thomas H. Cisler (1869-1950) continued the brick company. Both were civic and religious leaders as well.

These include stories and facts that are amusing yet also poignant, testimony to the many aspects of this remarkable lady. I thank Mary Antons and Bob Kirkbride for taking time to write down their memories about Lillian.

Recollections of Mary Hoye Antons

Lillian liked children.  As mentioned to you, she took such an interest in my sister and I when we were growing up.  This interest carried on to our children as they grew up.  I have early memories of her nice Christmas gifts to us; milk chocolate little Dutch shoe candy and very nice books---both from Sudgens (Book Store). 
I still think I have a book she gave us titled,"Christmas Around the World".

We moved to our house in 1951.  This was in the summer and her father, Thomas, died during the blizzard in November of 1950.  She used to tell us how difficult it was for the funeral home to come up her driveway in the snow after he died.  She began wearing black after his death and continued to wear it for the rest of her life.  I did see her once in a cotton tan suit maybe for a Bach concert and I remember complementing her even as a very young girl that I was.

Human Chain
Our house was originally a part of the Goebel  family estate..  The Goebel home sat on a hill where the Arbors sits now.  There was a long gravel driveway that went from 7th Street, past our house and continued up the hill to the Goebel home.  Mr. Goebel built our house for two of his sisters who never married and I think that was in the late 1920's.  To the right of the driveway, past our house and where the shopping center stands today, there was a big field which once was a tennis court--probably clay because it was all grass when we moved there.  My family had permission to use the field for playing volleyball, having picnics and parties etc.  My father kept it mowed.  We had heard rumors(in the late 50's) that there was going to be a grocery store built down over the hill from "our" tennis court but we had no worries because we felt that it wouldn't interfere with the field.  I remember waking up one summer morning to the cries and shouts of Miss Cisler.  My sister and I looked out the window and saw her going up the gravel driveway in her black dress and high heels waving her arms and yelling.  My mother yelled to us and told us to follow Miss Cisler up our driveway.  She had already reached the court and was standing in front of a very large bull dozer waving her arms and motioning the driver to stop .  He stopped and she told him that he could not destroy the area because it was a play area for the children.  She came to my sister and I, our mother also and told us to hold on to her arms to form a human chain to prevent the bulldozer from destroying the court.  I don't remember what happened then but I do remember returning to our house in tears.  Gone was our playground!  I remember discussing the incident later with my family and we all determined that it certainly wasn't necessary for that area to be destroyed just to get a little extra dirt for the construction of the store.  We weren't aware that any sale or permission was obtained from the Goebels to obtain that property.  It was a sad day!

Sleigh Riding
Many people in Marietta remember her letting us, as children, sleigh ride on her property.  She woul also invite us in to her house to get warm and dry off in front of her fireplace in the little room which had been her father's study at one time.  She also served us hot chocolate.  She loved to talk about the history of Marietta and the map on the wall above the fireplace which depicted the very early settlement of Marietta.  I also remember that she had nice large lights on the edge of her driveway which lit up the sleighing trail at the top of the hill.  One year one of the lights burned out and she was upset about it because it wouldn't give us any light.  She eventually had someone fix it.

Bach Concerts
I always found the excitement surrounding her preparation of them, each July,(the anniversary of Bach's death) rather fun hearing her discuss it..  My family did not particularly like Bach as a composer, but I found his music very mysterious.  The words of some of the compositions were about death mostly.  We attended some years but for the most part, we could hear the music from the organ and brass choir at our house.  She served a special punch to the guests and for many years, Bertha Brown prepared it in our basement which had a door from it with easy access to her house.  It was a recipe which had been in her family for many years and included a special brand of pineapple juice, freshly squeezed lemons, lime sherbet, and maybe gingerale.  I loved it---it was very sweet and we always got pitchers of it which were left over after the event.

I remember she invited my sister and I to her house to meet her dog,"Princess" when we first moved into our house.  Princess was a black Cocker Spaniel given to her when the previous owners of our house moved away.  They were the Andrew Cline family and Mr. Cline had oil interests in Texas.  I guess Lillian really loved their dog so they gave her to her.  She also loved all of our dogs.  Annually she had a birthday party for Princess---I remember it was in the spring.  Days before the party she would lay out a white satin ribbon in the hallway on a little table which Princess wore the day of the party.  My sister and I, with our dog would attend.  Brownies bakery would make an angel food cake and we would have vanilla ice cream--the dogs would also.  Occasionally the dogs would get into a little argument underneath the dining room table!  Princess lived for at least 20 years---she had to be a very healthy dog--rarely got any exercise and was a bit overweight as the years passed by.  She had a special casket made for her when she died.  I am not certain where Princess was buried.

Funeral Committee
When she became a patient at the Arbors, she formed a committee for the purpose of planning her funeral.  My father relinquished that honor to me in his place.  I remember a few of the members--her minister, Mr. Fields, her attorney, Mrs. Green from Williamstown.  Unfortunately we only met a couple of times and the details of her plans were not carried out when she passed away. The minister of her church gave a wonderful eulogy depicting her life, history and personality at her funeral.

I feel very fortunate to have known her.  I feel even more fortunate in having a family who was so accepting of her and her eccentricities  and had compassion for her.  As I mentioned to you, my mother took her dinner every night for 13 years out of concern for her overall health and well being.

I may have told you that after my prompting and criticism, the Marietta Brewery removed a caricature painting they had on a wall when they first opened---and named a beer after her.  She was devoutly religious and was against drinking alcohol.  I was appalled when I saw it.  There was so much more to this lady who always dressed in black and begged for rides on 7th Street.

Recollections of Robert E. Kirkbride

It was my privilege to know Lillian Cisler.  I learned a lot from her.  She was a brilliant woman with vast knowledge, but she was particularly knowledgeable about Marietta's history, Bach's music, and astronomy.

My association with her began by my being her lawn boy for five years during the 1950's.  She was also a customer on my brother Jim's "Marietta Times" route.  After he graduated from Marietta High School, I added his route to my Washington Street route for two years until I graduated from high school.

I have countless interactions with Lillian that I could share.  I will set forth a few here and I will certainly be willing to answer your questions and/or have a rambling discussion with you as you move forward.

During the years that I mowed Lillian's grass she had a large black poodle named Princess and a tabby cat named Tiger.  I loved them both and paid a lot of attention to them.  In the early 1960's I was an officer in the United States Air Force baby sitting a nuclear bomb on the tip of an Atlas F Missile in an underground silo near Abilene, Texas.  The command post contacted my silo late one night on the hotline that connected all of the missile silos in the Western United States with a report that they had a telegram for me.  They asked if I wanted them to read it to me or if I preferred to wait and pick it up the next morning.  Since my father was in ill health, I responded that they should read it.  The telegram reported the death of Princess.  It went into great detail about how she had been embalmed by the Doudna McClure Funeral Home and was lying in state in a casket in the living room at Cisler Terrace for viewing by friends.  If there had not been a reference at the end of the telegram revealing that Princess was a dog, I could have escaped unscathed.  As it were, I suffered severe ribbing by my Air Force buddies for several weeks, all because of my friendship with Princess.

Lillian invited Frank Flanders of Flanders Brothers Insurance and husband of Lillian's cousin Fran Flanders to view Princess.  Frank demurred, stating diplomatically that he preferred to remember her as she was.

After Lillian's father died she carried on his long time tradition of celebrating Bach's birthday every year by hosting a Bach Music Festival at Cisler Terrace.  Many a local resident over the years participated and Lillian always played the pipe organ that was a feature of the living room.  This event became a significant event for me because Lillian expected her lawn boy to have the grounds in pristine condition.  One specific requirement was to dig every living plant from the spaces between the bricks in the brick sidewalk that encircled the house.  There was no "Roundup," of course, and Lillian wouldn't permit the use of rock salt.  Everything was dug out by hand with a little hook tool that she had.

When I returned from Houston to Marietta in 1974, I became concerned that Ohio Bell had cancelled Lillian's phone service because of unpaid bills and that left her with no means of contacting emergency services. Lillian did not manage her finances very well.  Regarding the phone service, Lillian ran up substantial charges by calling long distance and internationally.  Among other parties, she placed numerous international calls to Albert Schweitzer.

Lillian's cousin Walker Cisler, former Chairman of Detroit Edison, Hayward Strecker and  I agreed to cover her phone bills so she would have police and fire access if I could find a way to block long distance and international calls.  I pressed Dr. Lester Anderson, Chairman of the Marietta College Physics Department, into service.  We purchased a phone with an automatic dial feature on it and Dr. Anderson altered the internal wiring so that the only calls Lillian could make were the 10 numbers that I entered on the automatic dial feature. By the time I loaded the Police and Fire Departments and Lillian's close friends, there was no room for my own number.  That has been on my conscience ever since....

The Thomas Cisler Family

A stately thirteen room brick home sits nestled in the trees, mostly hidden from view. Many are unaware of its presence along Seventh Street in Marietta - and its rich history. Three generations of the Thomas Cisler family lived at the “Cisler Terrace” home built in 1886.

Cisler Terrace home, restored by current owners Dr. Jesse and Laurie Ada. For more information about the home and the restoration click here

Heinrich and Anna Zeissler* were natives of Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany, who moved to Marietta from Baltimore with their family in 1838. They lived on a 1,000 acre farm outside of town, near the intersection of today’s Colgate Drive and Glendale Road. The tract of land stretched from Glendale Road to Duck Creek. It was purchased in Baltimore from an agent of the Ohio Company of Associates, the original founders of Marietta. The farm became known as “Home Farm.” 

The family grew to include ten children - seven sons and three daughters. The family name was changed to “Cisler” because of confusion about the pronunciation and spelling of “Zeissler.”

Thomas Cisler
Son Thomas Cisler (1836-1920) began the Cisler Brickyard in 1856 - at age 20. It was located where Frontier Shopping Center is today. Cisler Brick provided brick for Marietta buildings and streets and was also a major economic force in Marietta. It was the largest of several brick makers and employed hundreds of people during its 70 year existence. 

Circa 1900 Photo of Thomas Cisler and Son brickworks, copied by author from Century Review of Marietta, Board of Trade Edition. The home appears in the upper right of the photograph. 

Wider view of the brickworks area. Photo courtesy Mike Tewkesbury from Memories of Marietta, Ohio Facebook page. CLICK TO ENLARGE

Thomas Cisler was active in the community. He was described by one historian as "a true and able champion of the democratic party, (who) is held in the highest esteem...., both in commercial and social circles." Thomas was a person of deep faith and prominent in St. Luke's Lutheran Church. He served as Chairman of the Church Council for 25 years.

His obituary noted that he “has always been identified with everything that was for the best interests of the city.” One such action to help the city: He donated a 40 foot wide strip of land through his property to allow Seventh Street to be extended from Putnam Street to Tupper Street.

Walter Dow, a Marietta postman, was an astute observer of community people and events in the early 20th Century. About Cisler he wrote:

“Grandpa Cisler was low in voice.” He was “pleasant, would answer your questions, but was of a quiet nature. Gossip was not a major topic of his.”

“He would show an employee how do (a task) by actually doing it before him.”

“He was slightly built and nearly six feet tall. His eyes were deep set, forehead high. His hair had a tendency to lay over his shirt collar int he back. He always wore a blue shambry shirt starched to a high degree. His shirt was buttoned clear to the top but no tie. His trousers were of a tough material....and they drooped over his stretch canvas-sided shoes.”

“The Cislers were frugal and small things were given wide consideration.”

Despite being frugal, Cisler gave his employees a turkey at Thanksgiving 1899. The employees posted a thank-you note in the Marietta Leader newspaper. A year earlier, the employees had given Cisler a Thanksgiving turkey, also reported in the The Marietta Leader, November 26, 1898: “The employees of Thomas Cisler and Son agreeably surprised Mr. Cisler Thanksgiving morning by presenting him with a fine turkey.” CLICK TO ENLARGE

Both Thomas and his son Thomas H. persevered through business challenges. They rebuilt the brick works after major fires in 1890 and 1910 and tornado damage in 1902.

Thomas married Caroline Schneider in 1860; they had three children, Thomas H., Carolina, and Eleda S. He died May 9, 1920.

Thomas H. Cisler
Thomas H. was born in 1869. He joined the brick business in 1889 after graduation from Marietta College and continued it after his father died. He married Lillie E. Weiss on July 30, 1900. The couple enjoyed an extensive wedding trip in the western United States. They held a reception for employees when they returned:

Marietta Daily Leader newspaper article about the reception, August 25, 1900. Newspapers of the day often reported social activities in very genteel language. CLICK TO ENLARGE

His wife died in 1905; he never remarried. They had two daughters, Lillian and Grace. He lived at the Cisler Terrace home with daughter Lillian Eleda Cisler until his death in 1950.

Like his father, Thomas H. was an energetic civic and religious leader. He was an 1889 graduate with honors of Marietta College and became a lifelong supporter of the College. His donations to the College included family bibles printed in 1491 and 1641 as well as land for an astronomy observatory on “College Hill,” site of today’s Marietta Middle School. He was awarded a Doctor of Laws degree by Marietta College in 1946.

Copy of Marietta College “The Marietta Alumnus” publication shortly after Thomas H. Cisler's death in 1950 with his photograph on the cover (Courtesy Marietta College Special Collections).

Thomas H. Cisler was active in the St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, serving as organist, choirmaster, and head of the church council. He was organist for 26 straight years, missing only one Sunday - due to the death of his wife in 1905. He promoted missions of the Lutheran Church, leaving the Cisler Terrace home to the local church to foster world wide missions.

Thomas H. Cisler dressed formally (as seen in the photo above) when not at the brick works. Observer Walter Dow: “Mr. Thomas (H.) Cisler, Jr. was always dressed to perfection. In fact, he could go to a funeral or wedding or tea on short notice. He was conservatively dressed - a black alpaca suit, white shirt, black tie and shoes, and....a derby hat. He was friendly (and) spoke pleasantly...”

He founded the Marietta Bach Society in 1923 to foster interest and enjoyment of German composer Johann Sebastian Bach’s music. Concerts were held annually at the Cisler Terrace home on July 30, the date of Bach's death. His daughter Lillian E. Cisler continued the program until her death in 1993.

Cisler was intensely interested in astronomy. He founded the Marietta Astronomical Society. Discussions focused on the theme of “The Heavens Declare the Glory of God.” He donated land on the hill where Marietta Middle School is today to Marietta College for a new observatory. He invited noted astronomers to speak in Marietta. Cisler reportedly drove to the Chicago to pick up a meteorite that had fallen in someone’s backyard in the 1930’s.

The Cisler and Son brickyard closed about 1930 after supplying brick for the Marietta High School building. He became involved in oil and gas production after that.

1915 Pittsburgh Post Gazette newspaper article mentioning Thomas H. Cisler’s well in Windsor Township near Stockport in Morgan County. It was a  "5-barrel pumper well" (presumably 5 barrels per day) in the Peeker (AKA Second Cow Run) sand.

He left the City of Marietta land for what became Ephraim Cutler Street and land for a landscaped park which eventually was the site for the YMCA. He bequeathed a plot next to the Cisler Terrace home for a park. Marietta Civitan Club now maintains the park.

Dr. J. Glover Johnson, Professor of Religion at Marietta College, wrote in a tribute at Thomas H. Cisler’s death in 1950: “...Marietta will never forget Dr. Cisler, for he did so much for it and the life of its people.”

Lillian E. Cisler
For more detailed personal recollections about Lillian, refer to a separate post “Lillian Cisler, Personal Recollections.”

Lillian E. Cisler was Thomas H. Cisler's daugher born in 1903. She never married and lived at Cisler Terrace from 1947 until her death in 1993. Lillian was well educated, gifted in music, and deeply spiritual. She was well known locally for her unusual appearance (wore all black all the time), hitching rides, love of children, and the Bach festival. Her wearing of black dresses is explained by many as a memorial to her father. Others aren’t so sure. One plausible explanation was that she had limited funds for a wardrobe; black dresses were economical and could be worn for all occasions.

Lillian met Albert Schweitzer, then a renowned physician, musician, and theologian, while at Northwestern University. They shared a love for science, religion, and Bach's music. They maintained a correspondence for many years.

Lillian possessed a encyclopedic knowledge of history - about the Cisler family, brick making, and the Marietta community. The late Jerry Devol, himself an expert local historian, lamented, “How negligent we were not to have interviewed and queried Miss Cisler about her family, her church, the Cisler Brick Co., and Marietta history in general.”

Marietta Times article about Lillian and her love of music. She is pictured in the Cisler Terrace home with the organ and piano in the background. (clipping courtesy of Marietta College Special Collections) CLICK TO ENLARGE

Miss Cisler was truly a multi-faceted personality. 
  • A deeply spiritual person. St. Lukes Lutheran Church pastor Jim Couts remarked at her death: “...Lillian could put any clergy, including (me), to shame, with her  understanding of the scriptures and...the church.”
  • A skilled and knowledgeable musician who played the organ and organized yearly concerts of Bach’s music.
  • Kind to neighborhood children, allowing them to sled ride at the house and inviting them in to warm up and for hot chocolate. Mary Hoye Antons and her sister Nancy as children were next door neighbors who were special to Lillian. She often invited them over and gave them gifts at Christmas and birthdays.
  • Loved her pets, especially Princess, a large black poodle. She held birthday parties for Princess. When she died, Princess was embalmed and placed in a casket at Cisler Terrace for viewing.
  • Lacked financial judgment. She was her own worst enemy, often spending extravagantly far beyond her means. As a result, she was often destitute. Bills went unpaid, and utilities were sometimes shut off.  A few sympathetic residents offered financial help. Next door neighbor Mrs. Hoye brought meals to Lillian daily for thirteen years. Mr. Hoye helped with household tasks. Businessman Bob Kirkbride, her yard boy as a teenager, arranged to have a phone set installed which was specially programmed to make only local phone calls. Lillian would otherwise run up long distance phone charges, including international calls to Albert Schweitzer.
  • Strong willed, impetuous, presumptuous (describing Lillian’s personality requires long words), in recruiting - or nagging - people to play for the Bach music concerts and in asking favors. She regularly asked, demanded, or cajoled bank officials for more money from the modest trust fund at People Bank which her father left her. William K. Hamer, President of Peoples Bank, when forewarned of her frequent visits, sometimes hid out in the rest room adjoining his office. Bank directors were also targeted. Lillian would station herself by the bank entrance on board meeting days and accost directors to request more money. She could be very convincing - or a nuisance, depending the situation.
  • Legendary in hitching rides (she had no vehicle or money for a taxi) by literally opening the door of a stopped vehicle in the middle of the street and getting in. She hopped in my car more than once as I drove home from Peoples Bank. Drivers were known to run a red light to avoid her.
Locals have many fond memories of her; some quotes from various people in Facebook posts: “Loved that eccentric old gal, one of a kind, one of the best story tellers, always wore black, lonely but very nice, nice but eccentric, her father’s hat and cane were on the table, gave her rides, a little creepy, pretty pushy - jumped into my car, eccentric...but I liked her, I remember general decay of that fine old home, I played for the Bach concert, quite a hoot to talk to.”

Most people respected her and overlooked or tolerated the eccentricities. Mary Hoye Antons said “There was so much more to this lady who always dressed in black and begged for rides...” Dale Wagner was a Civitan Club member who assisted in creating the public park at Cisler Terrace. About Lillian, he said “As far as I’m concerned, she was really a brilliant lady. I thought a lot of Lillian and that’s why we wanted to complete this park for her.” He hoped that the park would keep alive the memory of her and the Cisler family.

She died in 1993. The home sat vacant for several years. It fell into severe disrepair. Dr. Jesse and Laurie Ada purchased the home and restored it. It once again became the beautiful home that Thomas Cisler created in 1886. The home, grounds, and history are testimony to a remarkable family, one of Marietta’s many latter day pioneers.

*The original family name also appears in some records as “Zeiszler.”


Facebook posts on various dates

Personal recollections:
Mary Hoye Antons, Robert E. Kirkbride, David B. Baker

Marietta College Special Collections:
  • Newspaper clippings from Marietta Times 2/6/1993, 11/29/1950; Marietta Register Leader 5/10/1920
  • “Cisler Family Tree, Heinrich and Anna Zeissler” document 
Washington County Local History and Genealogical Library:
  • “One Brick at a Time,” by Phil Foreman, Marietta Times 3/13/1999, copy provided by Washington County Local History and Genealogical Library
  • Dudley, Bruce, “T. H. Cisler,” Navy Blue and White, Marietta College, 1991, copy provided by Washington County Local History and Genealogical Library
  • ”Thomas Cisler Family,” Article in unknown publication
  • Pritchard, Joan, “Looking Back on Old Friend Walter Dow,” Parkersburg News and Sentinel, 10/23/2011 web site
  • Articles from The Marietta Daily Leader 9/23/1890, 11/26/1898, 11/30/1899, 8/25/1900, 5/15/1901, 4/2/1910
  • Article from Pittsburgh Post Gazette 4/15/1915

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Rufus Putnam helps the “Dellaware Woman”

I came across a curious letter written by Rufus Putnam. It probably the shortest he ever wrote:

                                                                MARIETTA, May 17th, 1797.
Sir :—
Pleze to Deliver the Dellaware woman, widow of the murdered Indian Such goods as she shall chuze to wipe away her Tears to the amount of Five Dollars.
                                                                                    Rufus Putnam
To Griffin Green esq. or 
Charles Green

A notation by “S. P. H.” (presumably historian Samuel P. Hildreth) suggests that the Indian widow’s husband was killed by a white man in revenge for a previous act.

Rufus Putnam was the founder of Marietta, Ohio, and a prominent, courageous, and caring leader. Actions such this payment for the widow were characteristic of Putnam. It was attention to a “little thing” that could have been easily ignored. Author David McCullough noted in his book The Pioneers that when Putnam died he was “widely remembered” for this act of kindness. 

Putnam’s integrity set a standard in many ways. Under his leadership, the Ohio Company of Associates (the group that started the 1788 settlement at Marietta) helped the poor and sick, paid the expenses of an injured worker, and formed a militia with Company funds during the Indian unrest.  

He structured the Ohio Company so ordinary people and veterans could join. Limits on ownership prevented manipulation by speculators. The books and records of the Company were open to all. Company surveyors had to take an oath to be fair and submit full reports of their work.

Oil on canvas by James Sharples Sr., ca 1796-1797, viewed at Putnam was painted in uniform, though he had retired from military service in 1793

Rufus Putnam was a person of strong faith that influenced his actions and demeanor throughout his life. As a young soldier for the British in the French and Indian War he recalled that his superior Captain Ebenezer Learned “prayed regularly, night and morning with his men, and on the Sabbath read a sermon...” In 1790 Putnam brought his family and others from New England to Marietta. The trip took several weeks. The group did not travel on the sabbath and attended church. Evenings at his home in Marietta included family prayer time. He was active in establishing and supporting the First Congregational Church.

The letter about the “Dellaware woman” had another fascinating aspect: the spelling and grammar were poor for a person of his reputation. “Dellaware” is obviously misspelled. Other words were spelled phonetically - such as “pleze” and “chuze.” Capital letters appear at random. 

Putnam was embarrassed by his poor spelling and grammar. He once wrote to a friend: ....”Had I been as much engaged in learning to write, spelling, etc., as with arithmetic, geography, and history I might have been much better (prepared in life).” 

Unlike many of the well educated settlers, Putnam was largely self-taught. His step father did not allow him to attend school. He had an innate interest in learning, though, and used money from waiting tables to buy books. He was a voracious learner through life experience. His life vocations included farmer, millwright, military engineer, surveyor, civil administrator, and politician.  

The words of the letter about the Indian widow were few, but the action revealed much about the character of a remarkable man.

Rufus Putnam is depicted (right) on a commemorative postage stamp issued on July 13, 1937 by the U.S. Post Office which commemorated the 150th anniversary of the North West Ordinance of 1787. The engraving on the stamp depicts a map of the United States at the time with the North West Territory between the figures of Putnam (right) and Manesseh Cutler (left).


Buell, Rowena, Editor, The Memoirs of Rufus Putnam and Certain Papers and Correspondence, Published by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in Ohio, Boston and New York, Houghton Mifflin, 1903

Cone, Mary, Life of Rufus Putnam with Extracts from His Journal, Cleveland, William W. Williams, 1886

Crawford, Sidney, Rev. Rufus Putnam and His Pioneer Life in the Northwest, Worcester, Mass., Press of Charles Hamilton, 1899, viewed at

McCullough, David, The Pioneers, New York, Simon and Schuster, 2019

Hildreth, Samuel, Biographical and Historical Memoirs of the Early Pioneer Settlers of Ohio, Cincinnati, H. W. Derby & Co., 1852

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Amos Harvey’s Tavern-Keeper License

Marietta resident Amos R. Harvey wanted to renew his liquor/tavernkeeper license in 1811. He figured it would be routine. But there was a glitch. A group of prominent citizens filed a petition recommending that his license not be renewed.

He had presumably been in the tavern business for a while. Taverns at that time were an important public institution; much more than a neighborhood bar. Taverns offered food, liquor, entertainment, and lodging. Public meetings and social gatherings were held at taverns. There were often “spirited,” if you get my drift, debates about issues of the day. The Ohio Company of Associates which founded Marietta held its initial meetings at the Bunch of Grapes Tavern in Boston. Taverns in early Marietta served locals and also visitors traveling on the Ohio River. 

The petition was filed with the Court of Common Pleas which had to approve the renewals. It stated: “...Amos R. Harvey has kept a house of such a character as is a public disgrace to the town of Marietta and such as tends to corrupt the public morals and serves only as a rendezvous for practising those vices and that species of licentiousness and laciviousness which demoralize and debase mankind and strike at the root of all decency and virtues in society...(the petitioners) pray the honorable court, the guardians of the public morals in this respect, to refuse a license to the said Harvey.

The petitioners were plainly upset with Harvey and invoked some powerful vocabulary to make their case. The original documents pictured in this article belong to Bill Reynolds, historian at Campus Martius Museum, and are used with his permission. The twenty-two signers of the petition included prominent names such as David Putnam, Timothy Buell, Gilbert Devol, Benjamin Ives Gilman, Samuel Hildreth, Ichabod Nye, Dudley Woodbridge, William Woodbridge, Griffin Greene.

Petition opposing renewal of Amos Harvey tavernkeepers license, above, signatures below. Image of original document courtesy of Bill Reynolds

There are two sides to every story. Amos Harvey had a group of supporters who also filed a petition, shown below, in his favor. It stated “ hereby recommend Amos R. Harvey as a suitable person to keep a house of public entertainment or tavern at his house in said Marietta.” Twenty persons signed that petition.

Petition in support of Amos Harvey’s license renewal. Image courtesy Bill Reynolds

The original licensing law adopted by the Northwest Territory in 1792 required the applicant to be “well qualified in person and character....”  A later version of the law in 1809-10, after Ohio became a state, dropped the character requirement per se but specified other conditions: No licensed person “shall knowingly allow...betting or gaming....or shall suffer any disorder, revelling or drunkenness therein.” Also, “All tavern-keepers and inn-keepers shall provide and furnish good entertainment and accommodations for man and horse..... ” 

The Court of Common Pleas had to approve applications and renewals for a tavern-keepers license. On the first day of each Court term, a grand jury was convened. They were given a list of all license holders and directed to “make inquiry and to give information about violations of this act...” Their report could influence the renewal of licenses by the Court.

I was not able to learn whether Amos Harvey’s license was renewed in 1811. But he was listed as a tavern-keeper by George Woodbridge* in the 1820s. So his license must have been renewed at some point. He may have toned down the alleged immoral practices in his tavern, though based on prevailing practices at the time, maybe not.

Want to know more about how a real tavern operated? Stop at Our House Tavern in Gallipolis, Ohio, a restored 1819 tavern that hosted General Lafayette when he visited in 1825. To learn more, click here.

*“Reminiscences of Hon. George M. Woodbridge” viewed in Martin Andrews’ History of Marietta and Washington County, Ohio, and Representative Citizens.


Andrews, Martin R., History of Marietta and Washington County Ohio and Representative Citizens, “Reminiscences of Hon. George M. Woodbridge,” Chicago, Biographical Publishing Company, 1902

COLLELUORI, Salvatore“The Colonial Tavern, Crucible of the American Revolution,”

The Statutes of Ohio and of the Northwest Territory from 1788 to 1833 Inclusive, Volume I, edited by Salmon P Chase, Cincinnati, Corey & Fairbanks, 1833 viewed at

Images of original documents from Bill Reynolds - petitions opposing and in favor of tavern license renewal for Amos R. Harvey dated August 19, 1811

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Epidemics: Disease, Courage, Perseverance in Early Washington County

We rarely experience serious epidemics today. That’s why the Covid-19 virus pandemic is so unusual - and traumatic. The experience will be etched into our memory and our national psyche for decades to come. The terms social distancing, apex, surge, hot spot, flattening the curve, and shelter-in-place will become part of our lexicon. 

But in the first hundred years of Marietta’s founding, epidemics were a somewhat regular occurrence. The threat of disease was always stalking the population. There was incomplete knowledge about diseases and how they were spread. Treatments were generally ineffective. Outbreaks often happened during times of other stresses, compounding their impact. An example was the first smallpox outbreak in early 1790 which was followed by a food shortage and Indian hostility.

The 1790 smallpox epidemic began when an infected man named Welch arrived in Marietta. Concerned residents approved construction of “pest houses,” rough cabins to house the sick persons away from others. It recurred again in 1793 throughout Washington County. On August 9, the Court of Quarter Sessions ordered sick persons to be quarantined at Devol Island in the Muskingum River.

Smallpox treatment at the time offered a crude but fairly effective immunization not yet available for COVID-19. It was called inoculation or “variolization.” Tissue from smallpox sufferers was rubbed into a scratch of the person to be immunized. That person would contract smallpox, usually in a less severe form, and then was immune. 

In the 1793 epidemic, the Belpre community voted to be thus inoculated, rather than face almost certain illness and death because of close quarters in the “Farmers Castle” stockade. “Farmers Castle became one great hospital,” one historian observed. Of one hundred people inoculated, all but 5 survived and were thereafter immune.

Farmers Castle viewed at
Lithograph originally published in Hildreth’s Pioneer History, with inscription “Ch W. Elliott Lith”
Farmers Castle was a stockade enclosing 13 houses built in 1791 to protect residents from Indian attacks.

Pioneers also endured periodic outbreaks of scarlet fever, spotted fever, conjunctivitis, measles, and what was then called “bilious fever,” (forms of malaria and yellow fever). Cholera was another deadly disease which periodically swept through America starting in the 1830s. 

Dr. Samuel Hildreth, noted physician, scientist, and historian, wrote a research paper, “On the Climate and Early History of Diseases in Ohio” in 1839. It documented epidemics in the early settlements, including Washington County. 

The epidemics of 1822-1823 were especially severe. The disease was malaria-like. Such diseases were thought to be caused by natural conditions - such as air polluted by stagnant water or decaying vegetation. Preceding the 1822 epidemic, Hildreth reported abnormally dry weather, stagnated rivers, and pest infestations of grasshoppers, gray squirrels, and potato bugs. Ugh. Sounds biblical. Before the 1823 epidemic, weather was unusually wet with lots of standing water. We know now that most of the malarial-type sicknesses are transmitted by mosquitoes. The conditions observed by Hildreth may have led to mosquito infestations that brought disease.

Many impacts were similar to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were hotspots: Marietta was one. In September 1822, at the peak of illness, 400 cases were reported within a square mile. There were also examples of heroic doctors and nurses like we’ve seen with COVID-19. One of these was Dr. Samuel P. Hildreth who reported on his experience:
“For four months in succession I ate but two meals a day, and spent from sixteen to eighteen hours out of twenty-four in attending on the sick. Through a merciful Providence my own health was good, and the only suffering was from exhaustion and fatigue through the whole of this disastrous season. The proportion of deaths was about six in every hundred cases, where proper medical attention was given to the sick; but so general was the disease that many lives were lost from a lack of nurses.”

Samuel Prescott Hildreth, Physician, Scientist, Historian
1923 Portrait by Aaron Corwine
Christopher Busta-Peck at

The community acted with caring support and concern. On September 15, 1822, a public meeting was held. Committees were appointed to visit the sick and give them needed supplies. Apparently there was little concern about contagion. On September 18, resolutions were adopted noting “the distressed situation of our fellow citizens and friends calls for the upmost exertions and deepest humiliation,” and that “we will exhort and encourage each other in visiting the sick....” A day of “public fasting, humiliation, and prayer” was observed on September 21. Soon after, most people were recovering, though the epidemic did not end for sure until “hard frosts came in November.” Ninety Five people died from June through November of 1822. The population of Marietta at the time was about 2,000.

Reverend Cornelius Springer’s memory of the 1822 epidemic was vivid, even decades later. He was stationed in Marietta with the Methodist Episcopal Church. He knew of only two people, Judge Wood and a Mr. Putnam of Harmar, who avoided the virus. He remembered that five members of a single family named Adams died. He attended the funeral of attorney and judge Paul Fearing and his wife who died within six hours of each other, early victims of the epidemic. Two sisters named Wells died together and were buried in the same grave.

Rev. Springer and his wife escaped the illness. But the next year in the epidemic of 1923, Mrs. Springer became ill. She ran a temperature for 24 days. He noted with gratitude that Dr. Hildreth cared for “Mrs. S. With great punctuality...and would take nothing for his services. His reply: I am disposed to do something for the Gospel, and I can do it in this way as easy as any other.” And further, Dr. Hildreth sent a load of wood and quarter of beef to the Springers at the parsonage. Rev. Springer also noted that local prejudice against Methodists (his church) dissipated during his two year stay, perhaps an unintended consequence of the epidemic.

Animals also suffered in some epidemics. Even COVID-19  has infected a bengal tiger. Rabies outbreaks in 1810 and 1811 affected wolves, dogs and foxes. Many domestic animals were bitten and died. Hildreth recalled that several people were bitten, though he did not remember anyone dying. He treated one such patient successfully with “free internal use of calomel and cantharides, producing strangury and ptyalism.” Don’t think I want to know what that was.

Chillicothe, Ohio, experienced Malaria-like symptoms in horned cattle and horses during a community-wide epidemic in 1839. There were similar illnesses in Washington County horses in 1815. 

Each epidemic is unique; some produce unexpected events. A deadly cholera outbreak in 1833 struck Columbus. There was panic; contracting cholera was often fatal. A fourth of the population fled to nearby communities. 100 people died. An 1849 a cholera recurrence decimated the Ohio Penitentiary population. Prison workshops became hospital wards. Guards deserted. Discipline was relaxed. For sixteen days, prisoners were not locked in cells, and yet order prevailed. Unfortunately, 118 Prisoners died, including 18 in one day.

Adversity was part of life in the early years in the Ohio Country. That included frontier hardships, Indian threats, disease, and leaving family and friends behind in the East. Ephraim Cutler, a prominent leader, recalled his arrival at Marietta in September of 1795:  “We had landed sick, among strangers, and mourning the loss of two children to disease on the trip west to Marietta. Such was our introduction to pioneer life.” He recovered and became a successful farmer and civic leader. Sadly, he lost another child, Manasseh, in the 1822 epidemic.

Andrews, Martin R., History of Marietta and Washington County and Representative Citizens, Chicago, Biographical Publishing Company, 1902

Brush, Edmund Cone, “The Pioneer Physicians of the Muskingum Valley,”
Ohio History Journal, a Paper Read at the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Society, in the hall of the House or Representatives, at Columbus, March 6, 1890, viewed at

DeWitt, David C., History Thursday, “Ohio’s first epidemic rock star doctor, Samuel Hildreth of Marietta,” April 9, 2020,

Dickinson, C. E., D. D., History of Belpre, Washington County, Ohio, Parkersburg WV, C. E. Dickinson, 1920

Hildreth, Samuel P., 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.

Hildreth, Samuel P., M.D., “Address of S. P. Hildreth, M.D., President of the Third Medical Convention of Ohio, Delivered at Cleveland,” 1839

Williams, H. Z. et al, History of Washington County with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches, Cleveland, H. Z. Williams and Bro., 1888

“The Second Blessing: Columbus Medicine and Health The Early Years, God’s Scourge” The Ohio State University, Health Services LIbrary, viewed at:

Washington County Epidemics, Genealogy Trails History Group,

Monday, March 30, 2020

The French Celeron Plates Expedition

Perhaps you've heard of the so-called "Celeron Plates." Or, maybe not. It's not headline material for most of us. But it has been endlessly fascinating for history scholars.

Pierre Joseph Celeron De Blainville*, a French military leader, led an expedition down the Ohio River Valley in 1749. The expedition buried lead plates at major tributaries, including the Muskingum River, to establish French claim to land in the Ohio River Valley. It was a curious enterprise built on the dubious premise that burying plates could establish a land claim. Who was this Celeron guy and why were they burying lead plates? First, some background.

The French and English were vying for control of America’s interior lands in the mid 1700's. The French pursued their claim to Ohio Valley lands based on earlier explorations by LaSalle (set up link) in 1669 and 1682. The British had other ideas. They fought King George’s War from 1743-1748. The British were able to disrupt the French fur trade and undermine French influence with Native Americans in the upper Ohio River Valley. Also, Virginia colonists set up The Ohio Land Company (unrelated to the Ohio Company of Associates which later settled Marietta) intended to acquire land in the upper Ohio Valley.

CLICK TO ENLARGE. Map of colonial interests in 1750. New France was the blue area, British in red, Spanish brown. The border of red and blue lands in western PA and the upper Ohio Valley were being contested.

British inroads jolted the French into action. The governor of Canada commissioned Pierre Joseph Celeron De Blainville (“Celeron”) to lead an expedition down the Ohio Valley in 1749. Its purpose was to reassert French claims in the area, renew friendship with Indians, and chase out British traders.

Celeron was a French Canadian soldier born December 29, 1693, in Montreal. His father Jean-Baptiste Celeron was granted a lordship over Blainville, which accounts for the suffix “de Blainville.” Celeron became a cadet in the French colonial army at age 13. He was commissioned as ensign at age 20 and was a nearly a 40 year veteran when he began the Ohio River expedition. Celeron was selected in part for his “cool but tough” attitude towards the Indians in previous commands.

The expedition began near Montreal, Canada on June 15, 1749. It was an eclectic group, about 250 strong. There were French soldiers, Canadian militia, and a few dozen Indians. Randall and Ryan’s History of Ohio Volume I offers a colorful imagined description: “The flotilla ....formed a bizarre but picturesque outfit, the French soldiers and Canadians, in their gay costumes and semi-medieval armour, the half naked, copper-skinned savages (Indians) with their barbarian weapons, the flying banners of France, all crowded in frail white birch canoes, that floated on the blue waters of the river like tiny paper shells; it must have seemed like a tableau vivant (a static, posed group of actors) rather than an army...”

CLICK TO ENLARGE. Map of the route followed by Pierre Joseph Céloron de Blainville along the Ohio River in 1749, drawn by Father Joseph Pierre de Bonnecamps, viewed at

A priest, Father Jean Pierre de Bonnechamps, was chaplain and also the dutiful navigator for the expedition. He used a sextant, drew maps, and made notes on the expedition. Their Indian diplomat/envoy was Phillips Thomas Joncaire, a French officer of Seneca Indian ancestry. He was often sent ahead to assuage Indians, who were predictably alarmed by such a large force of mostly white men.

It was a strenuous journey at the start for the expedition’s canoe flotilla. They had to paddle the length of Lake Ontario, portage around Niagara Falls, paddle further on Lake Erie, and portage again to Lake Chautauqua. A portage - moving men, canoes, and supplies across dry land to the next waterway - is an exhausting and time consuming task. From there they followed Conewango Creek to the Allegheny River and eventually to the Ohio River. 

Their primary mission was to bury lead plates designating French land claims. They did this at major tributaries of the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers. Each plate burial was accompanied by a ceremony. Soldiers lined up in formation. King Louis XV was proclaimed lord of that region. There were songs, cheers, and musket volleys fired. A tin plate erected on a tree gave notice of each buried plate which was placed near that tree.

12 x 20 foot mural at the Wheeling Civic Center - “French exploration of the Ohio Valley,” by Mark Missman. This painting illustrates the ceremony that accompanied the burial of each lead plate. The mural was designed to commemorate the presence of the French explorers and their Jesuit companions in the Upper Ohio Valley. One of the lead plates was buried at the confluence of the Ohio River and Wheeling Creek.

The burying of plates seems today like a curious way to make a land claim. This technique was a common method used in medieval Europe for land claims. But realistically, who would ever see them - after all, they were buried? And if the plates were found, their purpose and validity would surely be questioned. But the French were committed their mission.

One of the plates was buried at the mouth of the Muskingum River on August 15, 1749. A metal sign was posted on a tree to mark the location of the buried plate. The narrative on the sign was very formal; brevity was not part of the French communication style:

The 15th of August, 1749, we, Celoron, Knight of the Royal and Military Order of St. Louis, Captain commanding a detachment sent by the orders of Monsieur the Marquis de la Galissoniere, Governor-General of Canada, upon the Beautiful River, otherwise called the River Oyo, accompanied by the principal officers of our detachment, have buried at the foot of a maple tree, which forms a triangle with a red oak and an elm tree, at the entrance of the river Jenuanguekouan (Muskingum), at the western bank of that river, a leaden plate, and have attached to a tree on the same spot, the arms of the King. In testimony whereof we have drawn up and signed the present official statement, along with the Messrs. the officers at our camp, the 15th of August, 1749.

In 1798 a flood had washed away part of the Muskingum River bank, exposing the plate. It was discovered by boys swimming there. Not realizing its importance, they melted much of the lead plate for musket balls. Paul Fearing became aware of it. William Woodbridge, then of Marietta, had recently been to Gallipolis and knew some French. He was able to decipher enough of the plate to realize that it was deposited by the French as a land claim. The probable inscription, reconstructed based on other plates, is given below:

In the year 1749, in the reign of Louis the XV, King of
France, we Celoron, commander of the detachment sent by M.
the Marquis de la Galissoniere, Governor-General of New
France, to reestablish peace in some villages of these Cantons,
have buried this plate at the confluence of the Ohio and the river 
Yenanguekouan (Muskingum), the 15th of August, for a monument of the renewal of possession which we have taken of the said river Ohio, and of all those which fall into it, and of all the territories on both sides as far as the source of the said rivers, as the preceding
Kings of France have possessed or should possess them, and as
they are maintained therein by arms and by treaties, and 
especially by those of Riswick, Utrecht and of Aix la Chapelle

Image of the Celeron plate buried at the Muskingum River. Over half of the original plate was destroyed to make musket balls. From the American Antiquarian Society where the plate resides. About halfway down, note the word “Yenangue”, part of the hyphenated Yenanguekouan, an early Indian name for Muskingum. In the next line down, see “Rivière Oyo,” French for Ohio River.

The wording on the plates was somewhat confusing to historians and not always consistent. Charles B. Galbreath, an editor of the journal kept by Celeron, wryly observed that "The artist (who engraved the plates), Paul De Brosse, like Celeron himself, had evidently not taken first prize in spelling words of his native tongue and was somewhat careless..." Another author noted that “the French (wording) is none of the purest and the accents, apostrophes, and punctuation are wanting...”

Celeron’s expedition also sought to placate the region’s Indians and remove British traders. Neither goal was realistic and ultimately failed. On August 6, at the Indian village called Logstown northwest of Pittsburgh, Celeron found six English colonial traders present with large bundles of furs bound for Philadelphia. He ordered them out of the area and wrote a note to Governor Hamilton of Pennsylvania asking that he keep traders from trespassing on French land. Other British traders near Indian villages at the mouth of the Scioto River were asked to leave. Those requests and other actions to dislodge the British were largely ignored.

The expedition held numerous discussions with tribes in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Each exchange had an elaborate protocol, typical of communication between Indians and whites in that time period. A speech by one party was preceded by a gift of wampum belts to convey the importance, sincerity, or urgency of the topic. A similar speech was made when the other party responded, often on the day following. 

Robert Griffing painting of imagined expedition stop near Logstown in western Pennsylvania. Notice Indians present; there were Iroquois Indians in the expedition. The large tree was a cottonwood tree. From the diary of Father Joseph Pierre Bonnecamp: “We dined in a hollow cottonwood tree in which twenty-nine men could be ranged side by side.” 

Language used was flattering, deferential, and endlessly courteous, though often insincere. The speeches followed a common pattern. Celeron alternately scolded and cajoled the Indians to reject the British and embrace the French. The Indians usually demurred, sometimes feigned compliance, occasionally disagreed with him. 

Celeron invested hours and hours in communicating with the Indians - listening, composing speeches, enduring tedious ceremonies - mostly for naught. The Indians viewed Celeron’s intentions with contempt. They were too closely tied in with the British who offered them cheaper goods, trusted friendship, and rum - which Indians thought offered a quicker high than the whiskey supplied by the French.

The expedition continued down the Ohio River to the Great Miami, then northward to Lake Erie and eventually back to Montreal. Celeron Pierre Joseph DeBlainville was awarded a command in Detroit. The French and British continued as adversaries. The French and Indian War (1756-1763) eventually resolved the issue in favor of the British. The Treaty of Paris in 1763 awarded land from the Mississippi River east to the Appalachian mountains (which included the Ohio Valley) area to the British.

One of the expedition’s lead plates was buried at the Kanawha River near present day Point Pleasant WV. A boy discovered that plate in 1846, a curious reminder of the futile French claim made nearly 100 years earlier.

*His name also appears as “Celoron” and the title part of his name as “De Bienville.”


Bumgardner, Stan, “Celeron de Blainville,”

Biography – CÉLORON DE BLAINVILLE, PIERRE-JOSEPH – Volume III (1741-1770) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography, viewed at

Galbreath, C. B., Expedition of Celeron to the Ohio Country in 1749, Columbus, Ohio, F. J. Herr Publishing Company, 1921

Hulbert, Archer Butler, The Ohio River, a Course of Empire, New York, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1906

Howe, Henry, Historical Collections of Ohio, an Encyclopedia of the State, Volume 2, 1907

Ohio History Journal Vol 29, “Celeron’s Journal, edited by A. A. Lambing” and
"Account of the Voyage on the Beautiful River in 1749 Under the Direction of Monsieur de Celeron, by Father Bonnecamps.”

Vanderwerth, W. C., and Carmack, William R., Indian Oratory, Famous Speeches by Noted Indian Chiefs, University of Oklahoma Press, 1979.