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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Tale of Two Country Clubs

I have often heard stories about the original Marietta Country Club ("MCC"). There are still traces of the facility along Chamberlain Drive in Devola where the course was located, along with other reminders, such as the street name "Country Club Drive." I learned in my research that there were two country clubs in Marietta in the late 1920's with fascinating histories.

S. Durward Hoag was original owner of the Lafayette Hotel, local historian, and civic booster (he was a prime mover in the successful effort to have Interstate 77 routed through Marietta). He was a member of the original club and recalled many details. The original MCC was formed in 1900 by local citizens including Col. John H. Mills, A. Dewey Follette, Fidelio Henry, C. Fred Moore, Charles A. Ludey, Frank Penrose, William T. Hastings. These men raised money to build a clubhouse, lease 24 acres from the Devol and Chamberlain farms, and build a 9-hole golf course.

The Marietta Register of March 21, 1901 effusively announced the construction of the clubhouse. News articles in those days about new improvements often sounded like advertising promotions of today. The headline proclaimed "The Marietta Country Club will have Most Delightful Quarters." Some of the narrative is reproduced below:

"The grounds are well ideal spot for the indoor and outdoor sports to be carried on by the Club." The building would be "old Dutch Colonial style of architecture. With its wide verandas extending all 'round the building, mostly covered by a long sweeping shingle roof, the very thought of its shelter creates a pleasant anticipation of comfort to its members, during the warm summer days and evenings....On entering the are ushered into the Great Hall,....which is the general living and reception room of the club." The dining room connected with the Great Hall would have a "commanding view of the beautiful Muskingum River and hills on the opposite side... Back of the Clubhouse will be located tennis courts and other outdoor games of a similar nature...The Golf Links...will occupy a very large area...This game (golf) is one of the most fascinating and is gaining national prominence in this as well other countries."

The author presciently noted that "The Club is in fine financial condition and will start off ...with no indebtedness...This is an important matter with all newly organized clubs." The membership was listed as 160 with more to follow. The article concluded that "the success of the Marietta Country Club is well assured." Can I get an amen?

It seemed counter intuitive that a small rural town in the early 1900's would have enough affluent citizens to support such a club. But Marietta was prosperous then, probably more so than today. There were dozens of major industries thriving at the time. The Century Review Board of Trade edition published in 1900 listed more than two dozen manufacturing firms. Several enjoyed national reputations -such as the Marietta Chair Company, Stevens Organ, stove manufacturer A. T. Nye and Son, and Strecker Brothers leather goods. There were three brick yards. Oil and gas activity was intense. The Century Review reported that "Within fifty miles of Marietta there are 8,000 wells, giving forth above a million barrels per month." 

MCC became the social center of Marietta as members enjoyed the many activities at the club. The clubhouse was enlarged in 1908. Below are photos of that period, including an activity schedule in 1923.

Marietta Country Clubhouse. Photo from S. Durward Hoag Marietta Times article in 1974 shared by Julie Lambert on Marietta Memories Facebook page. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

Stag Night 1907
Photo with caption from S. Durward Hoag Marietta Times article in 1974 shared by Julie Lambert on Marietta Memories Facebook page. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

Scene at Marietta Country Club. Lew Peddinghaus was a jeweler whose business was purchased in 1918 and became Baker and Baker Jewelers. Photo from S. Durward Hoag Marietta Times article in 1974 shared by Julie Lambert on Marietta Memories Facebook page. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

1923 activities schedule. Note the names of many prominent citizens of  that time.
Copied from a booklet viewed at Washington County Public Library, Genealogy and Local History Library. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

There were lots of anecdotes about the old country club; one such was told by Mr. Hoag. It seems that there was a chicken coop on a neighboring farm located along the fairway of the third hole. One day Hoag caught one of the chickens and gave it to his caddy. Upon finishing the hole, he then carefully placed the chicken on the green laying down with its head folded under its wing. Doing that quieted the bird into hypnotic-like state. Your author researched this phenomenon and discovered that some chickens do sleep like this; and some can be hypnotized in other ways.

Playing behind Hoag were three of his friends, Attorney Tom Summers, Eddie Williams, and Will. V. Hayes. They approached the green and noticed the "lifeless" chicken. Hayes gingerly jostled the chicken with his putter. They were startled as it sprang to life and scampered cackling off the green. Back in the locker room the three could convince no one that they had found a chicken "sleeping" on the green.

By the early 1920's, a separate group within MCC wanted a 18 hole golf course. That group formed the Washington Country Club ("WCC"), purchased land where the current Marietta Country Club is located on Pike Street, and installed an 18 hole golf course. The article below trumpeted the construction of the clubhouse for the new club. 

Image of  Marietta Times front page announcing Washington Country Clubhouse construction, courtesy Local History and Genealogy Department of Washington County Public Library. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

But it seemed unlikely that Marietta could support two country clubs. Both clubs had fewer members to support their respective operations than the former combined group. WCC sold one hundred $1,000 memberships but still needed multiple mortgage and bank loans for the construction. And in the early 1930's the depression put the economy in a tailspin, straining both clubs financially.

On June 11, 1933, the MCC clubhouse burned to the ground. The fire was discovered at 6:15 p.m. on a Sunday in the men's locker room. Golfers had finished in the locker room, so did not notice the fire until it had a full start. Quick action by members, employees, and neighbors saved some furnishings and equipment. Insurance paid out $10,900, likely covering most of the loss. The club continued operating for another year without a club house.

Early in 1934, WCC's heavy debt and declining revenues forced it into bankruptcy. The property was offered for sale by the Union Joint Stock Land Bank of Detroit for $12,500. MCC purchased the WCC property. Once again the two country clubs were together as the Marietta Country Club which survives today. 

The former MCC land leased from the Chamberlain and Devol farms was immediately returned to farming. Soon cabbage, corn, and tomatoes grew where a short time ago Marietta's elite had gathered for golfing and the country club life.

MCC activities calendar for June, 1955. There were lots of activities: bridge, stag night, golf, club party. Photo by author of calendar located at Local History and Genealogy Department of Washington County Public Library. 

Today Marietta Country Club continues but with reduced membership from the peak years of 10-20 years ago. This is in line with national trends of declining club membership and interest in golf, long the staple activity of country clubs. These trends are attributed to changing demographics, lifestyles, and family priorities.

But MCC has persevered and survived for more than a century, through the determination of its members and staff. Clubs like MCC must hustle to attract members with new activities, proactive marketing, and flexible financing options. Who knows, maybe country clubs can help wean our population from their electronic devices by enjoying healthy activities and interacting directly with other human beings. What a concept. It can be fun. Keep on keepin' on, MCC.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Ivan Was Here - Flooding in 2004

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

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

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

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

Marietta Times front page September 20, 2004.

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

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

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

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

Marietta College dorm water taxi. Photo by Jake Mecklenborg from

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

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

Front and Putnam Streets. Photo by Jake Mecklenborg from

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Such is life on the river.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Council House and the Treaty of Fort Harmar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Portrait of Chief Joseph Brant from

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

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

Arthur St. Clair  portrait from

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

General Josiah Harmar image from

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

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

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

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

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

Portrait of Cornplanter from

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 15, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Landon sees slump after "pump prime."
Alfred M. Landon was a former Kansas Governor and 1936 Republican Presidential candidate. He lived in Marietta for a several years during his childhood. His father was a field manager for Union Oil Company. Landon was educated at the Marietta Academy. The family moved on to Kansas in 1904, when he was 17. 
Image from the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project
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Landon was responding on national radio to a President Roosevelt "fireside chat" address which promised more economic stimulus ("pump prime", in the headline) Landon warned that the depression would continue unless the FDR administration changed it's policy. He characterized the depression as "a political depression...brought on by the methods and policies of the present administration."

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

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

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

Images from

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Magic Cicadas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image of Samuel Hildreth from Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 20, 2016

Gold Fever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Blackberry Winter

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

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

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

                                                                                           Blackberry blossoms 

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

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

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

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