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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

What do Rufus Putnam and Ohio State Football Have in Common?

Never thought I’d see Rufus Putnam, venerable pioneer and founder of Marietta, mentioned in college football playoff hype. The occasion was the build-up to the College Football Playoff  (“CFP”) semi-final game between Ohio State and Clemson on New Years Day, 2021. Ryan McGee, ESPN Sports Network Senior Writer, wrote an article for ESPN titled “Ohio State vs. the world: How the Buckeyes and their fans feed off perceived slights.”

He observed that the Buckeyes were being “disrespected” by all manner of  coaches, sports pundits, and fandom realms who questioned their selection for the 2020 playoffs. The Bucks had played only 6 games because of COVID issues. Plus, some said their schedule was weak, and they floundered at times against worthy opponents. Several major head coaches had ranked them below the top four. Most egregiously,  Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney ranked them 11th in his voting.

All of this aroused Buckeye Nation to indignation, anger, and frustration. McGee noted that this attitude towards Ohio State football - and the State of Ohio (“the fly-over state”) in general - seems be endemic in the national psyche. It also, he said, brings out passion and pride from Ohioans. He then eloquently noted the state’s pioneer heritage and proud spirit. He had indeed done his research, breaking into what I am calling an Ohio Pride cheer in this excerpt from his article:

.....This is a state that was founded by Rufus Putnam, a Massachusetts man who was so angered by the British march into Lexington and Concord that he joined the Continental Army the very next day and rose to become one of George Washington's right-hand men.

This is the state that got so fed up with the federal government in the early 19th century that it said, "We're out of here," and it moved to secede in 1820, a full four decades ahead of Fort Sumter.

This is the state that has birthed eight presidents, more than any other, including Ulysses S. Grant, who led the Union to victory in the Civil War. Not to mention, Grant's sword that cut through the South, William Tecumseh Sherman. From the Wright Brothers, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Jack Nicklaus, Paul Newman and Steven Spielberg to Gloria Steinem, Toni Morrison, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Annie Oakley ... you think this state is going to produce people who are going to sit back and take lip out of Paul Finebaum and that damnable Dabo Swinney?!

"It's pride, pure and simple. There is something about this land that it just becomes a part of who you are, so you are going to love it and you are going to defend it if you feel like it's being disrespected by someone outside of Ohio," explains Columbus attorney Alex Hastie, producer and host of the "Ohio V. The World" history podcast.

Rufus Putnam is referred to in Wikipedia as the "Father of Ohio." He was a prime mover in the initial settlement of Ohio starting at Marietta. He also a delegate from Washington County at the constitutional convention for Ohio statehood. 

Putnam was a true Renaissance guy. Here are just a few of his attributes. Full disclosure: your author is an unabashed admirer of Putnam.
  • Was largely self educated; he scrounged money as a youngster to buy books because his step father did not allow him to attend school.
  • Multi-talented: was a farm manager, millwright, surveyor, military engineer, civil servant and leader in the early Ohio settlements.
  • Served four tours of duty in the French and Indian War and for the entire Revolutionary War. He was a breveted Brigadier General.
  • A tireless advocate for veterans, donating countless hours and lengthy travel to make sure that veterans got what was due them.
  • Leader in the settlement at Marietta in 1788, the first city under American government beyond the original thirteen states.
There is more, but this gives you an idea about this remarkable man. Learn more about him at Campus Martius Museum, an Ohio History Connection site, in Marietta. You can also read The Pioneers, a book by historian author David McCullough.

Painting in Capitol Rotunda, viewed at
Surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga, New York, 17 October 1777 metal print by John Trumbull. Rufus Putnam is seen in profile, the third person to the right of General Gage in the center.

Back to the ESPN article. I really enjoyed it, especially the light-hearted tone and the “right on” comments about Ohio State, Buckeye Nation, and Ohioans pride. Rufus Putnam was a worthy example of that pride. Thanks to Ryan McGee for reminding his readers of Ohio’s rich heritage. 

The condescending comments about the Buckeyes football team, especially the Dabo Swinney put down, had a predictable effect. It helped propel the Buckeyes to a 49-28 rout of Clemson.

Read the full article here (it may not be accessible after a certain date):

Go Bucks! OH-IO!

Sidebar notes:
  • Ryan stated that Ohio seceded from the Union in 1820. That did not happen. However, the Ohio General Assembly passed a “Nullification” law in 1820, nullifying all laws and authority of the United States in the state. It was an act of brazen rebellion against the Federal government that lasted for several years. Most of us are unaware of it because, as one historian noted, “ is a piece of buried and forgotten history.”

  • "Dabo Swinney" is not a typical name. Spell check lit up every time I keyed it in.

  • Rufus Putnam actually opposed statehood for Ohio as originally proposed. He favored a different state boundary that he thought would be better for southeast Ohio. But he was an active participant in the Ohio constitutional convention.

  • There is a football connection between OSU and Marietta, Rufus Putnam's Ohio home. The Buckeyes played the Marietta College Pioneers eight times between 1892 and 1902. The Bucks won the series 6-2. It's still impressive that Marietta won two games from Ohio State, though the game was much different then. Go Bucks! Go Pios!

  • One last poignant note: In a photo (see below) of the January 6, 2021 U. S. Capitol violence, I noticed the large painting in the background of the Capitol Rotunda. It looked familiar. It is the painting mentioned above which includes Rufus Putnam. I was not aware of its presence in the Rotunda - and relieved that it was not damaged. Putnam’s accomplishments and character make him worthy of being present and representing Ohio in the U. S Capitol.

  • Capitol Riot: Five Startling Images from the Siege BBC News
    Creator: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Saturday, December 19, 2020


Rebecca Williams was a true pioneer. Her full name, Rebecca Tomlinson Martin Williams, tells much about her. She was born in 1754 in Cumberland, MD to Joseph and Rebecca Swearingen Tomlinson. She had six brothers and two sisters. Her brother Joseph II and his son Joseph III were early Wood County WV pioneers. Rebecca married John Martin, an Indian trader, in 1770. He was killed by Shawnee Indians that same year, leaving her a widow at age 16. She married Isaac Williams in 1775; they began the community at present-day Williamstown WV (then Virginia) in 1787.

In 1771,  the Tomlinson family moved to Grave Creek on the Ohio River at present-day Moundsville WV, then the southern-most settlement on the upper Ohio River. Rebecca lived with her brothers Samuel and Joseph II, serving as their housekeeper. She was alone for weeks at at time while her brothers were out on hunting trips or scouting for the army. 

Life west of the Appalachians was difficult. Conditions were primitive. Many new arrivals felt isolated from their friends and relatives that they left behind. There was the threat of Indian hostility, disease, and criminal activity. 

Two events in 1774 illustrate Rebecca Williams’ courage and resourcefulness - at age 20, described by historian Samuel P. Hildreth:

In the spring of the year 1774, she made a visit to a sister, Mrs. Baker, then living on the Ohio river opposite to the mouth of Yellow creek. It was soon after the massacre of Logan's relatives at Baker's station. Having finished her visit, she prepared to return home in a canoe, by herself, the traveling being entirely done by water. The distance from her sister's to Grave creek was about fifty miles. She left there in the afternoon, and paddled her light canoe rapidly along until dark. Knowing that the moon would rise at a certain hour, she landed, and fastening the slender craft to the willows she leaped on shore, and lying down in a thick clump of bushes, waited the rising of the moon. As soon as it had cleared the tops of the trees, and began to shed its cheerful rays over the dark bosom of the Ohio, she prepared to embark. The water being shallow near the shore, she had to wade a few paces before getting into the canoe; when just in the act of stepping on board, her naked foot rested on the dead, cold body of an Indian, who had been killed a short time before, and which, in the gloom of the night, she had not seen in landing. Without screaming or flinching, she stepped lightly into the canoe, with the reflection that she was thankful he was not alive. Resuming the paddle, she arrived at the mouth of Grave creek without any further adventure, early the following morning.

Diagram showing Rebecca’s canoe trip - an unlikely venture for a young woman traveling alone in 1774. From Williamstown WV History Facebook page

In the summer of 1774, the year before her marriage to Isaac Williams, she was kindling a fire one morning with her back to the door. She looked around, shocked to see a tall Indian close to her side. He made a motion of silence to her. She kept her cool and showed no sign of fear. He looked around the cabin, grabbed her brother’s rifle hanging over the fireplace, and left quickly. She then left the cabin and hid herself in the cornfield until her brother Samuel came in. Her calm response likely saved Rebecca and her brother from harm. 

Rebecca faced these two situations with composure and determination. These were traits were exhibited by many pioneer women, though their stories were often overshadowed by their male counterparts. 

She had some of these character traits in common with Isaac Williams whom she met during this time period at Grave Creek. They married in 1775.  Hildreth: “Their marriage was as unostentatious and simple as the manners and habits of the parties.” It was performed by an itinerant preacher.

Isaac Williams was a fascinating character. Born in Winchester, VA, he spent much of his early life in the upper Ohio valley. He was renowned for his frontier skills as a hunter, army scout, and Indian fighter. He served in the French and Indian War, Pontiac’s War, Lord Dunmore’s War, and the Revolutionary War. Isaac made money from trapping and from making land claims then selling them later at a profit. Isaac led a group that rescued a young girl who had been kidnapped by Indians near Neal’s Station on the Little Kanawha River. In 1790 he tracked unsuccessfully a band of  Shawnee Indians, including 16 year old Tecumseh, who had massacred several men driving cattle to Fort Harmar. He and Rebecca started the Williams Station* settlement at present day Williamstown WV. Isaac Williams never slowed down; in later years he operated the Ohio River ferry service and performed civic functions.

Rebecca had a role as a pioneer woman far beyond pure domestic chores. She kept the Tomlinson brothers household during their long absences. Likewise, after marriage to Isaac she managed their modest homesteads at Grave Creek and in western Pennsylvania when he was gone. She was active in the Williams Station community. It was situated on land that belonged to her. Rebecca’s brothers Joseph and Samuel Tomlinson had established land claims there in the early 1770’s. They reserved 400 acres in Rebecca’s name for her help in keeping house for them. That land ended up in Isaac’s name because of marriage laws at the time.

She managed activities there when Isaac was away - and probably helped when he was home. There was much to do. Williams Station became a busy place (it was often referred to as a plantation), with farming, twelve tenant families, slaves and their families, a barn, tavern, grist mill, blacksmith shop, and more. A Marietta resident in 1788 observed, perhaps with envy, that the Williams Community “raised 1,000 bushels of corn last season;.....they wintered without any hay, making use of the husks and stalks and some corn, between 60 and 70 meat cattle and horses; ....and a large number of swine.” Williams Station in the 1790’s was noted as a pleasant place to visit, offering “the most generous hospitality.”

Charles Sullivan painting - imagined view ca 1787 of cabins at Williams Station looking toward Fort Harmar in Ohio, Viewed at

Pioneer women often served as nurse and physician out of necessity. Rebecca was well known for her medical skills. A local newspaper retrospective in 1884 noted that “Mrs. Williams was always kind to the sick and many were the herb teas and healing lotions which, like her namesake in the story of Ivanhoe, she gave to the sick pioneer and wounded hunter.” Samuel P. Hildreth, historian and medical doctor, talked to Rebecca about the treatments she used. He was impressed with her knowledge and skills and found some of her remedies useful. “Her principal dressings were made of slippery elm, leaves of stramonium (Jimson weed), and daily ablutions with warm water.”

One notable success occurred in 1784 near Wheeling when she and a Mrs. Zane treated Thomas Mills who had suffered multiple gunshot wounds, including a broken arm and leg. He was not expected to live, and if he did would surely have lost one or both limbs. Under their treatment and caring touch, he made a complete recovery, without loss of arm or leg.

Isaac and Rebecca Williams moved permanently to Williams Station in March, 1787. Joseph Buell, a soldier at Fort Harmar across the Ohio River, made note of their arrival in his journal on March 24, 1787: “Isaac Williams arrived with his family to settle on the opposite shore of the river. Several others have joined him, which makes our situation in the wilderness a little more agreeable.” Similarly, the residents at Williams Station were pleased to have more neighbors when the Marietta settlers arrived in April of 1788.

The Williams’ plentiful crop supply and charitable spirit prompted them to help the new Ohio settlers when a food shortage occurred in 1790. They made available their crops at a discounted price. One such episode stood out to me. The community at Belpre was facing starvation, in addition to disease and Indian threats. Belpre resident Charles Devol came up to Williamstown hoping to buy needed crops. He walked to Fort Harmar - at night to avoid Indian attacks - because the swift current in the Ohio River made canoe travel up river impossible. He was ferried across to Williams Station.

George M. Woodbridge recalled the event in his writings, stating that “Isaac gave Devol a warm welcome and Rebecca gave him a warm breakfast.” Devol was there all day. Isaac filled the Williams’ only canoe “to the gunwhales” with corn and directed Devol to set off for his home. Devol protested because he could not pay for that much corn and did not want to take their only canoe. Isaac told Devol, “return the money to the senders, this load of corn is the Lord’s; it is for the poor, the aged, the women, the children -  my command to you is to paddle out in the middle of the river....Good bye.” As Charles Devol pulled from shore, Williams shouted, “young man, have you a mother? Give her the love of Rebecca Williams.” Williams and Devol became good friends in later years.

Williams Station viewed from Ohio side with Fort Harmar in the foreground. Painting attributed to Sala Bosworth, viewed at, “David McCullough ‘The Pioneers’”Image cropped by author. The original of this painting is at Marietta College.

Rebecca’s life changed when their daughter Drusilla was born on January 28, 1788. She was the first white child born in the area, perhaps named after her sister Drucilla Tomlinson Carpenter or her aunt Drusilla Swearingen Cresap. Rebecca focused on raising Drusilla and Mary Nancy Davis, an orphan niece. A family acquaintance recalled Drusilla as a “pretty daughter.” Drusilla married John Glassford Henderson (one of three Henderson brothers who moved to Wood County from Dumphries VA in the late 1700s.) They lived near or with the Williams family at Williams Station. Sadly, two (or three?) of their children died in infancy and Drusilla herself passed away in 1810 without children. Her death left a huge void in Isaac and Rebecca’s life. 

Ephraim Cutler claims that Hamilton Kerr, “tall and handsome and fleet of foot” as the deer he hunted, was actually the father of Drusilla. Kerr was a well known frontiersman and also a friend and hunting companion of Isaac Williams. Williams was reportedly enraged to find an infant in Rebecca’s arms after he returned from a year-long hunting absence. He swore he would disown the child. She grew up “amicable and surpassingly beautiful.” His vow was soon forgotten.

Rebecca Tomlinson Williams had a strong and occasionally eccentric personality, as indicated by some anecdotes:
  • She selected hers and Drusilla’s burial sites at an open area on a rise, not far from the Ohio River. “I want to be buried here where I’ll have plenty of room....I don’t want to be jostled at the resurrection.” The site was visible from the Williams’ cabin. But for Rebecca it became a depressing reminder of Drusilla’s loss. So, Rebecca and Isaac built a new home farther away from the grave.
  • Rebecca formed definite opinions about people she met. A 1884 newspaper article that featured an interview with a Nathan Ralston: “ ‘She was a fine woman’, he said, ‘to anybody she took a liking to, a fine woman, but if she didn't take a liking’ - an expressive grimace finished the sentence.”
  • She was a woman of faith. One of her books was  A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians,...Contrasted With Real Christianity, by William Wilberforce. It challenged Christians to live their faith actively, not just go through the motions. 
  • Rebecca left a note in the Wilberforce book:  “Steal not this book, for if you do, it will cause a great deal of woe,” followed by her signature. Without context of the situation, it is difficult to tell if this was humorous or serious.

Replica of Isaac and Rebecca’s cabin built by Williamstown Women’s Club at Tomlinson Park in 1938, since demolished. Viewed at Williamstown WV History Facebook page

Isaac and Rebecca were savvy about land ownership - partly of necessity. Every one of the land claims that both of them owned were contested by others over many years. This was common in western Virginia at the time. Land was often claimed by one person, then contested by others. The process to actually confirm a claim in court was convoluted and could take years to resolve. Isaac and Rebecca deeded some land in 1818 to Rebecca’s nieces and nephew. It was a prudent, though possibly unnecessary, step to give greater assurance of clear title to the land.

Isaac Williams died on September 25, 1820. Isaac’s will bequeathed part of his estate to Rebecca. The remainder was left to various relatives and friends, including a portion of the 400 acre land claim that originally belonged to Rebecca. Rebecca took an unheard of step for a married woman at that time: she contested the Will. That land belonged to her, and she wanted it back. The process took three years; on May 21, 1824, the Circuit Superior Court decided in her favor. The 400 acres was once again hers. Heirs who had received land had to deed it back to her. Moreover, she forced several families who lived on that land to leave.  The Parkersburg Women’s Club offered an insightful comment about the will contest  in their 1976 Bicentennial paper Pioneers and Early Incidents of Wood County Virginia, “(We admire Mrs. Williams courage at a time when women were mere chattels and applaud the forward-looking court...”).

Rebecca died in 1825 and was buried in the bucolic place she selected to as to “not be jostled in the resurrection.” Her life favorably impacted the lives of many. Williamstown was named for Isaac Williams, though one historian opined that “(Rebecca) is more deserving of the honor.”

*The early settlement had several local names: - Williams Station, Williamsport, and Williams Creek. Your author chose “Williams Station.” 


Burke, Henry, “Slavery in the Ohio Valley,” Lest We Forget website:

Fruitful Valley, a history of Williamstown WV

Hildreth, Samuel P. , Biographical and Historic Memoirs of the Early Pioneer Settlers of Ohio, Cincinnati, H W Darby, 1852 viewed at 

“History of Williamstown, Wood County WV and the Kinnaird Connection,”

“Living Soldiers of the War of 1812,” Marietta Semi-Weekly Register, May 3, 1884 Viewed at:

“Pioneers and Early Incidents of Wood County,” Parkersburg WV Woman’s Club Bicentennial Committee, 1976

Tomlinson, Joseph Jr, 1745-1825

Williamstown WV History Facebook page

Woodbridge, George, “Birth of the Northwest, Number 11”, The Tallow Light, Vol. 33 #4, p 200

Williams, Rebecca Tomlinson 1754-1825

Friday, October 2, 2020

Cap and Anna Posey

Cumberland (“Cap”) and Anna Posey were a remarkable African American couple with Southeast Ohio connections. They achieved a level of success in life that was unusual for Blacks in the late 1800's and early 1900's. I found their story captivating. What was it that motivated them - from humble beginnings -  to learn, to strive, to persevere through the challenges? That is the subject of this blog post. I learned about Posey from an exhibit at the Ohio River Museum in Marietta, Ohio. There you can discover his story, along with many other aspects of steamboating and life on the river.

Cumberland Willis ("Cap") and Anna Posey
Image from Cum Posey of the Homestead Grays

Cumberland Willis Posey (“CW”) was born in 1858, the son of Alexander Posey and Elizabeth Willis Posey. They were likely freed slaves, who lived near Port Tobacco, Maryland. They worked for a white family in Charles County, Maryland. Elizabeth died when Cumberland was just seven years old. Alexander became an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church. He and his children moved to Winchester, Virginia in 1867, and to Belpre, Ohio, in 1869. 

There CW found a job in Belpre working for a Mr. Payton sweeping the decks on the ferry boat MAGNOLIA. Posey was mesmerized by the mechanical operation of the steamboat. Something stirred inside him. Though just a teenager, he set his sights on becoming a licensed engineer on a riverboat. 

Angeline (“Anna”) Stevens was born born and raised in rural Athens County, Ohio, in a large African American family. Her father Acquilla was a railroad worker and stonecutter. Her mother Eliza Brackston Stevens took care of eleven children at home. Fortunately for the Stevens family, Black children were allowed to attend public schools with other white students. 

There is no record of Anna’s childhood years. The family lived in rural Athens Township. Theirs was the only non-white family on their page of the census records in 1870 and 1880. Her father worked to support the family. Census records say he was still working at age 78 as a cemetery caretaker.

Anna was said to be the first African American graduate of Athens High School.* Graduation was quite an accomplishment, considering her family’s poverty, discrimination against Blacks, and the limited resources of rural schools. The Athens Messenger article “High School Commencement” on June 6, 1879 mentioned the speech given by Anna. It was titled “The Visible and Invisible.” The theme was that invisible influences often have more impact on one’s life than the visible ones. The newspaper was complimentary of the speech: 

The originality of thought exhibited in (Anna’s) composition gives basis for large expectation of the literary efforts of her maturer years. (She) is the first colored graduate of Athens High School and deserves great credit for her achievement and for having set an example to her race of what may be attained by intelligent and persistent effort....

Mr. Payton encouraged Cumberland Posey in his quest to learn about steamboat operation. He helped CW land a job as fireman on the riverboat STRIKER**. Sources mention his work on other boats, such as the DICK HENDERSON and SALLIE J COOPER in the Belpre-Parkersburg area. Local river people recalled years later in a newspaper account that he was a fireman on the SALLIE J COOPER. 

Photo copied by author from S&D Reflector Magazine

 Cumberland Posey Sr. image in a Black History Series article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

CW earned a Second Engineer license in 1877, despite facing “much opposition on account of his color,” as reported in The Pittsburgh Courier at CW’s death. He later achieved his dream to become a chief engineer in 1892. After being licensed, he was often known as “Cap” (for Captain) or “Commodore” Posey. He was the first African American to do so, according to the Western Pennsylvania Historical Society. The Langston (OK) City Herald June 15, 1893 edition reported:

C. W. Posey of Munhall, Pa., is the first Negro granted a Chief Engineer's license to run a steamboat on the Mississippi River and tributaries. He is now general manager of the Delta and Cyclone Towboat company. He is also a stockholder in that company. 

While in Belpre, in addition to working on boats, he belonged to the “colored” Odd Fellows lodge. This was noteworthy - odd, you could say, -  because CW was probably still a teenager at the time. Odd Fellows*** was (and is) a fraternal organization promoting personal development, ethical conduct, and charitable activities.

Anna Stevens earned a teaching certificate to teach in Athens County in the spring of 1879. She passed an examination and her certificate was renewed for 18 months in August of 1880. Anna attracted attention as a qualified teacher:

Progress in the march of events is, in one direction, chronicled in the fact that Miss Anna Stevens, of African lineage, is teaching the public white school west of Mr. Joseph Herrold’s suburban residence. Miss Stevens has previously taught in York township and at other points where she has uniformly been highly personally esteemed. As a teacher she possesses rare tact and efficiency and her services in this line have been in wide demand.
Athens Messenger (OH) Thursday, September 7, 1882. page 5, column 3

At some point Anna Stevens and Cumberland Posey met and fell in love. There is no record of the courtship details. They were married in Athens, Ohio, according to this court document:
Marriage license and return
Posey, C. W. and Stevens, Angeline
License issued the 9 day of May A. D. 1883 to the above-named parties: 
Wm. S. Wilson, Probate Judge

Shortly after their marriage, she stopped teaching, and they moved to Homestead PA, near Pittsburgh. There were more river-related jobs and valuable contacts in that area.

Angeline (Anna) Posey. Image from the 1910 Pennsylvania Negro Business Directory

Cap Posey went on to achieve great success in business, wealth, and civic involvement. In the 1890’s, he began building steamboats, not just working on them. He reportedly built or owned forty-one boats during his lifetime. 

His involvement with steamboats also included these with local connections: 
  • DICK HENDERSON built in 1873 at Parkersburg WV
  • SALLIE J COOPER built in 1878 at Parkersburg by Captain Ed B. Cooper
  • VOLCANO was built for Posey at Parkersburg 1905. 
  • OLIVETTE was built at Knox Ship Yard in Marietta in 1882. Posey bought it in 1896.
CW was owner, investor, or manager of numerous companies. One of them, Diamond Coal and Coke Company employed as many as 1,000 people. He profited from hauling iron ore across the Great Lakes to Pittsburgh for for Andrew Carnegie. Cap earned respect for his business success and the quality of the boats he built. Newspaper reports often used his name without mentioning he was African American. S&D Reflector magazine observed: “Captain Posey was held in very high regard for his boat design not just in Pittsburgh but up and down the river.”

Steam towboat TORNADO. This was one of three CW Posey boats with names suggesting power. VOLCANO and CYCLONE were the other two. Image copied from S&D Reflector magazine

CW was also active in several civic groups, church, and fraternal organizations. He was an investor and President of the African American newspaper The Pittsburgh Courier. He invested in the Homestead Grays negro baseball team. His son, Cumberland W. Posey, Jr. ("Cum") was a gifted athlete, and built the team into a powerhouse of the Negro baseball leagues in the 1930's and 1940's. Posey, Jr. became more well known than his father. His story is chronicled in James Overmyer's biography: Cum Posey of the Homestead Grays.

Cumberland Willis (“Cap”) Posey
Image from Pennsylvania Negro Business Directory 1910

Anna was a housewife, mother to their three children, and a trusted advisor to her husband. Her role in their businesses was significant and probably understated. She held title to some of the real estate investments. Her name was on a government contract for dredging operations. She also was active in social and arts organizations. Anna was gifted at painting. Her pictures decorated the walls of their tastefully decorated home. 

She was a founding member in 1894 of the Aurora Reading Club, a cultural organization of Black women in Pittsburgh. It still exists today. Anna was cultured - but gutsy, too. She wrote a spirited letter in 1901 to the editor of the white-owned Pittsburgh Daily Post advocating for the recognition of Black woman’s civic organizations on an equal basis with white organizations. Anna defended her family - literally. In 1894 she fired warning shots with a pistol to chase off two men who tried to rob her husband. A few years later, she personally apprehended a group of boys who had burgarized the Posey home and some stores. The boys were from prominent families; they agreed to make up the losses.

How did Cumberland and Anna Posey achieve such success at a time when most African Americans worked hard to make ends meet in menial jobs?

For CW, there were several factors:
  • CW possessed a rare combination of intelligence, drive, and perseverance.
  • His father was a positive influence. After emerging from slavery, he earned a responsible position with the AME church, and provided for his children. He allowed and probably encouraged CW to pursue steamboat engineering.
  • Faith, probably learned from his parents. CW was active in his church and many charitable organizations.
  • A friendly disposition: The Colored American Magazine said “In person, Mr. Posey is a man of robust features, genial habits, and never in too big a hurry to greet you with a smile.”
  • He was aggressive in business practices - some say, to a fault. He often sued and was sued and was jailed once after being convicted of fraud. He was soon pardoned, testimony to his reputation and perhaps to the influence of his white business partners. This aspect of his character is hard to assess. Was he simply holding his own as a Black operator in the "rough and tumble," mostly white-dominated river industry? Or was he ruthless in pursuing his own agenda. It was probably the former, based on the accolades of many other people.

Headlines such as these (above and below) were surprising to your author, considering Cumberland Posey’s general reputation. They are one indication that river-related business at the time could be rough. Images from

  • Good character and reputation; three examples, among many:
    • Frank Bolden, local Pittsburgh historian: “(Posey) was a pillar of African American culture and progress...He was a good citizen and a very good role model.”
    • Evan Posey Baker (CW’s great grandson): “He was never satisfied with what he accomplished; he wasn’t the type of guy who would sit on his past achievements.”
    • Way's Towboat Directory: "Captain (Cumberland) Posey was well respected on the river..."
  • Mentors. There were several of those, attracted by the skills and work ethic they saw in him.
    • Mr. Payton from Belpre helped CW find his first riverboat job and encouraged his interest in steamboats.
    • Seward Hays (Pittsburgh coal merchant William Seward Brenneman "WSB" Hays) employed CW as an engineer on several of his boats. CW named his second son “Seward” in honor of Mr. Hays.
    • Andrew Carnegie trusted CW enough to use Posey’s boats for transporting iron ore and coal.
  • Good partners. Author James Overmyer in Cum Posey observed that CW often worked with white business partners. That gave him credibility, connections, and financial support. And they gained an energetic and trusted operator.

Anna’s success attributes:
  • Intelligence and talent
  • Encouragement from her parents and mentors, probably some of her teachers.
  • Perseverance: She, and other Black children in rural Athens County, Ohio, were lucky to attend public school. Something drove her to study, excel, and achieve goals - such as teaching school in a mostly white area. Surely she faced opposition in doing this. Yet she pressed on, graduated, and earned teaching positions.
  • Reputation. Her talents as a young person were noticed by the Athens community.  Later in life, The 1910 Pennsylvania Negro Business Directory listing of “Mrs. Anna Posey” was typical of comments about Anna:
    Mrs. Posey is a prominent figure in the Ladies Federation of Clubs and takes an active interest in all movements tending to improvements in the race. She is a lady of education and refinement and has devoted much study made to the fine arts.
  • Business judgment which enabled her to advise and partner with CW in business ventures.
  • Artistic talent.
  • Social skills. A poor Black girl from rural Ohio adapted to fit in with prominent people in an bustling, urban setting.
  • Courage to take controversial positions and actions.
It's an inspiring story: two African American people achieve great success from humble beginnings in rural Ohio. A quote from the Parkersburg Sentinel in 1894 about Cap Posey applies to Anna, too: "Cumberland Posey has prospered in a way that is rare for one of his race. But it was a reward for qualities that bring (success) to any one, black or white."

*The Athens Messenger newspaper listed the student as “Anna Butler.” Was it Anna Stevens listed with the wrong last name or another student? That can’t be verified. However, the correct first name, the lack of other African American residents with the name Butler, and the likelihood that Anna Stevens received a high school education, make it likely that the “Butler” surname was listed incorrectly. Other sources list Anna Stevens as the graduate; that is your author’s assumption.

**There is no record of a steamboat with this name in boat directories. It could have had another name, or been a small private boat. Or, Cumberland Posey may have worked as a “striker,” a steamboat engine room job, and that term was incorrectly identified as a boat name. 

***The “Odd Fellows” name is apparently derived from the unusual or odd notion that common working men in 18th century England would form such a high-minded club. 

Belko, Mark, “‘Commodore Posey’ plied boats, ore trade,” Black History Month Series, Pittsburgh Post Gazette,February 21,1994. 
Burke, Henry Robert, “Cumberland Willis Posey Sr.,” copy provided by Belpre, OH Historical Society
Ewell, Thomas, The Smoky City, The Colored American Magazine, December, 1901
Hancock, Carol Wylie, a dissertation titled “Honorable Soldiers, Too: An Historical Case Study of Post-Reconstruction African American Female Teachers of the Upper Ohio River Valley,” Carol Wylie Hancock, 2008, copy provided by James E. Overmyer, author of Cum Posey., numerous articles on line found in searches for Cumberland W. Posey, Sr. 
Ohio River Museum, Marietta OH, “Cumberland Willis Posey, Sr.” exhibit.
Overmyer, James E, Cum Posey of the Homestead Grays, Jefferson NC, McFarland & Company, Inc., 2020, viewed on line at Google Books 
S&D Reflector Magazine, a publication of Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen, various reports and photos on steam towboats connected to Cumberland Posey Sr. 
Southeast Ohio History Center, Athens, Ohio, documents and articles published by The Athens Messenger newspaper related to Angeline Stevens, provided by Levering Library volunteers John D. Cunningham and Cindy M. Smith
Way, Frederick, with Rutter, Joseph, Way’s Steam Towboat Directory, Athens OH, Ohio University Press, 2013, information on boats connected to Cumberland Posey Sr.
Whitaker, Mark, Smoketown, the Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance, New York, Simon and Shuster, 2018
Williams, Rachel Jones, “Cumberland Willis Posey Sr.,” Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine, Vol 36, No. 2, 
Wills, Rick, “Cap Posey overcame slavery to rise to success in Pittsburgh,”, July 20, 2008. 

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