You may not know that a prominent movie star, producer, director and industry leader was born in Marietta. I didn’t until I learned about Hobart VanZandt Bosworth. Few people have heard of him, except maybe historians and long time Hollywood residents. That’s because Hobart was active in stage and silent movies in the early 1900’s. He was a prolific actor as well as a producer, director, and movie company owner - including part owner of the early Paramount Pictures studio. This guy was amazing; his own life would make an inspiring and entertaining movie.
Friday, May 7, 2021
Saturday, February 20, 2021
These are profiles of three African American men from our early history. Each distinguished himself with a life of courage and perseverance. Each had the opportunity to live as a free man in the Northwest Territory or Ohio where foresighted leaders had adopted laws to prohibit slavery.
100 acres of land third rate, two old Horses the one 14 & the other 17 years old. One Cow 14 years old one spring calf, one two years old Heifer, two yearling calves, two sheep & two Lambs, one Sow & Eight Pigs. Three old Kitchen chairs without bottoms, one old Crock. 4 Pewter plates, 4 old Knives & Forks one old Bucket one shovel Plough. 1 old broken Pot 1 Log chain. One 7 gallon Kettle one small broken Bake Pan 4 old pewter spoons. an old drawing Knife. and old handsaw. two old Chissels. One small fire Shovel. one old axe. one old hoe. one worn wedge
Friday, February 5, 2021
A duel was fought in Belpre, Ohio on October 8, 1805. That caught my attention. I had never heard of this or any other duel in the Ohio Country. It seemed out of character with practices of that time, though the famous duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr had taken place just a year earlier. The duel combatants were Alexander Henderson, Jr. and Stephen Wilson, both of Wood County, Virginia (now WV). Here is a newspaper account from the Virginia Argyle on December 4, 1805, likely reprinted from the Ohio Gazette:
- One of the first settlers in what is now Wirt County WV, then a remote wilderness
- Fought in the first (and probably last) recorded duel in Ohio
- One of the first area settlers who successfully overcame a permanent disability
- Was a Captain in the first Wood County militia
- One of the first magistrates in Wood County
- One of the first, with his brother, to alert President Thomas Jefferson of Aaron Burr’s allegedly treasonous plot
- A charter member of the first Washington/Wood County Agricultural and Manufacturing Society board
- Worked as cashier at the first chartered bank in Ohio - the Bank of Marietta
- Was one of the first members and vestrymen at St. Lukes Episcopal Church in Marietta
- The duel which inflicted permanent physical injury, making him “a cripple for life.”
- The deaths of two of their children as young adults in the bilious fever epidemic of 1823.
- Bankruptcy in 1826, requiring all of his assets to be sold to meet debts, from which he never recovered.
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
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.”
- 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.
- 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, “...it 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.
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.
- 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.
Friday, October 2, 2020
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.
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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.