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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

A Century of Service - The Story of the Hippodrome, Colony, and Peoples Bank Theatre

Peoples Bank Theatre in Marietta, Ohio, was born as the New Hippodrome Theater 100 years ago in May of 1919. It was renamed the Colony Theater in 1949, then closed in 1985. In 2016, it began a new life as the beautifully restored Peoples Bank Theatre which continues the tradition of top quality entertainment for Marietta. Congratulations to all who helped make this wonderful restoration of the theater and of world class entertainment possible.

Peoples Bank Theatre interior. Image from Peoples Bank Theater

Construction was begun in 1918 by C & M Amusements to replace the original Hippodrome Theater located near Union Street which burned in 1917. The New Hippodrome Theater, as it was known at first, was a truly a first class facility. It was built to the recently adopted strict code Ohio building laws with fireproof materials and many emergency exits. The theater could be evacuated in an emergency within two minutes. 

There were 1200 seats, a large vaudeville stage which could also accommodate Broadway-size productions at the time, a 50 foot fly loft for scenery and lights, many dressing rooms, a chorus girl dressing room under the stage, plush carpeting, perfect sight lines, good acoustics, a booming "echo" theater pipe organ. A large boiler provided steam heat in winter. An innovative deep well system circulated cold water for then state-of-the-art air conditioning.

The "Hipp" began eight years before "talking" pictures. Most of the early fare included vaudeville acts, Broadway plays, and silent movies with music from the organ and the five piece Hippodrome Orchestra. The theater opening on May 2, 1919 featured Mary Pickford in "Daddy Long Legs." It was released to C&M Amusements two weeks early to attract interest in the theater opening.

The Hipp was updated in 1928 with audio equipment for "talking" movies. It continued with movies, plays, and local productions. Actor Boris Karloff starred in a live stage production in the 1943. Someone recalled that an elephant walked on stage as part of a circus act, but I can't verify that. Country western star Tex Ritter walked across the stage on his horse in the early 1950's.

Boris Karloff ad courtesy of Peoples Bank Theatre

Blues singer Mamie Smith gave her first of nine concerts at the Hipp on Feb. 23-25, 1933. Born in Cincinnati, Smith made history thirteen years earlier in 1920 with the recording of "Crazy Blues," considered to be the first blues vocal recording and the first blues hit, selling more than 1 million copies in less than a year. Although her style was more vaudeville and cabaret than straight blues, she nevertheless was an important pioneering artist, paving the way for great female blues artists such as Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey.

Mamie Smith ad and photo courtesy Peoples Bank Theatre

Productions by local talent included minstrel shows and school plays. My Uncle, Dan F. Baker, recalled memories of the Hippodrome Theater. Walter Baker (Dan’s father and owner of Baker & Baker Jewelers) performed with members of Kiwanis Club in a Minstrel show. He was playing a woman and had to find size 9 high heeled shoes. He found the shoes at Kesterman Shoes then located next to Baker & Baker Jewelers store on Front Street.

Dan himself performed with former Procter and Gamble CEO Ed Harness in "Emperor Who Had No Clothes." Dan - 9 years old at the time and an accomplished vocalist (was invited to join the Vienna Boys Choir) - was a character in a singing role with a single spoken line. He also played the little lame boy in the "Pied Piper of Hamlin," played the little lame boy. He performed in operettas "South in Sonora," and "Pirates of Penzance."

My father, W. Norman Baker appears in one of the few stage photos from the Hipp early era, below. It featured him (third from left) and his brother Dan (far right). An article from the Marietta High School paper "The Original" in 1938 mentions the play, "Applesauce."

Photo provided by Peoples Bank Theatre, donated by W. Norman Baker

Image from W. Norman Baker family

The images below include three advertisements, one for a movie, one for a live performance, and another for an unusual game of chance to win tickets to the Hipp.

Movie ad from 1946. Notice caption at bottom: "First Showing of the Fox Movietone Shot of the Christening of the Pioneer, Marietta College's Floating Dormitory." This was national news coverage for Marietta College's unique housing solution to the post-war GI enrollment surge. Image provided by Peoples Bank Theatre.

Bradley Kincaid, "The Mountain Boy," was a WLW Radio Cincinnati recording star who performed at the Hipp. Image from Peoples Bank Theatre.

Ad for weekly "Game of Chance" which gave away a total of 25 tickets to the Hipp to winners of the guessing game. Can you decipher this and figure out how the contest worked? Ad image from Peoples Bank Theatre

The New Hippodrome Theater disappeared, as it were, after the theater was sold to Shea Theatre Company in the late 1940's. It was extensively remodeled and re-opened in 1949 as the Colony Theater. There was a contest for submission of names for the remodeled theater. Mariettan Jack Lowe suggested the "Colony Theater" name. It was chosen for the reference to Marietta's history, and "quality, brevity, and clarity." Lowe won the prize of $25.00 (about $250 in today's dollars). 

The biggest event in the theater's history was the 1957 premier of the movie "Battle Hymn" which chronicled the heroic actions of Marietta native Colonel Dean Hess during the Korean War. The movie featured then mega-star and teen heart throb Rock Hudson. There were parades, Hollywood dignitaries, and appearances by other actors in the movie. 

The Colony featured first run movies and other variety acts, including local talent, Handel's Messiah performances, country and rock acts. St. Mary Catholic Church held services there in the early 1970's while the church was renovated.

But, alas, the theater attendance waned in the late 1970’s. The Theater changed hands several times. It was owned in the latter years by Marjorie Bee who heroically tried to keep the theater alive with second run movies, occasional concerts, and local events. Concerts included country artist Ernest Tubbs, The Ohio State Jazz Band, and the Buckeye Travelers country music entertainers. For some time she operated the theater without phones, heat, or advertising to save money. A sign at the theater entrance told patrons to bring blankets during cold weather. 

Dr. H. Dean Cummings, retired professor of music at Marietta College, recalled performances of Handel’s Messiah at the Colony Theater in the mid-1980s. The heating system was woefully inadequate. Musicians and attendees wore coats; space heaters were used in the orchestra string section. In another Messiah performance, escaping sewer gas left many participants feeling queasy

The theater closed for good in 1985 and was later purchased by local businessman Dan Stephan. It was through his vision and persistence that a campaign to restore the theater began. It culminated with the grand opening in January of 2016. Today, the Peoples Bank Theatre is again a vital cultural and entertainment asset to Marietta.  

Friday, April 5, 2019

Ephraim Cutler Dawes: A Wounded Soldier's Journey Home

They called it the "War of Rebellion." The Civil War. Southerners used the understated phrase “The Recent Unpleasantness," as though the war never happened. Over 700,000 perished in the War from combat and illness. At least that many more were wounded - often with disabling injuries. The poignant experiences of courage, injury, illness, and death changed countless lives forever. This is the story of a wounded Union officer of the 53rd Ohio Voluntary Infantry from Marietta. He should have died but beat the odds with luck, heroic care, and determination.

Ephraim Cutler Dawes 1863 photo from Wikipedia

Lieutenant-Colonel Ephraim Cutler Dawes was a grandson of his namesake, Ephraim Cutler, an early Marietta civic leader. Dawes and his brother Rufus R. Dawes enlisted early, both passionate about the Union cause. Ephraim tells the story of the harrowing wound experience in his own words as published in his brother's publication: Service with the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers:

"I was shot at Dallas, Georgia, two weeks ago to-day. We were in rifle pits. The rebels charged us. We gave them an awful licking. The bullet struck the left side of my lower jaw, and the surgeons say, 'carried away the body of the inferior maxilla to the near angle.' It took off my lower lip, tore the chin so that it hangs down, took out all the lower teeth but two....It is a horrible looking wound and will disfigure me, but the doctors say they can fix up a face for me....I was also hit in the back of the head."

"I was shot late in the afternoon of May twenty-eight and remained in the field hospitals until May thirtieth. A wagon train was (to be) sent under strong escort to the railroad at Kingston. The surgeons advised me to go in this train. They said that if I remained around the hospital the chances were that I would contract gangrene or erysipelas and die, and that I should get home as soon as possible. My old friend Haydn K. Smith volunteered to go to Nashville with me. I could hardly have got along without him. My colored servant, Wesley Benson, accompanied me. He was a faithful and competent young man but he could not read writing and I could not talk.

...I got into one of the wagons and sat on a bag of corn. The different surgeons bid me good bye....The road was very rough...My wound was much inflamed and my tongue so swollen that it was almost impossible to swallow. The misery of that night’s ride was indescribable. 

Early next morning Major Patrick Flynn, of the nineteenth Illinois,...put me in (an) ambulance (wagon)....the day was very hot the road was very dusty.  About noon we crossed the Etowah river. Near the end of the bridge was a house. One of the women (at the house) brought out a great yellow bowl filled with buttermilk...I was weak with hunger, faint from loss of blood, and burning with thirst. I crammed the bowl into my mouth with both hands, despite the awful pain, and drank nearly the whole of the buttermilk. It revived me at once. 

Front View
The "Moses" Ambulance Wagon, similar to what may been used to transport Major Dawes.
Descriptions and images from
 The ambulance is entered by two steps in the rear, contains seats for eighteen persons--fourteen inside and four on the front seat. By raising the flaps of the inside seats and supporting them by the uprights attached, and removing the cushions from the backs of the permanent seats, a bed is arranged which will accommodate one, two, or, on an emergency, three men lying down. With one man in a recumbent position, room for twelve men seated remains; with two men lying down, room for eight, and with three men lying down, room for six remains. 

Rear View

...The train reached Kingston (GA) between five and six o’clock. There seemed to be no adequate preparation for the wounded. But agents of the Sanitary Commission...took possession of a house (to care for the wounded). Mrs. Bickerdyke and Mrs. Johnson were in charge. I camped in a corner of the porch....One of the women brought me a bowl of soup. I took off my bandage to drink it. She look at me, burst into tears, and ran away. An old gray surgeon came in to dress the wound. At the sight of it he turned very white and went away. I went out myself to find a surgeon. Fortunately, my good friend, Dr. Edwards,....met me in the yard. He spent an hour dressing my wound and gave Wesley full and careful instruction how to care for it; that night I slept well. 

Seal of the United States Sanitary Commission, 
founded in 1861 as the American Civil War began. Its purpose was to promote clean and healthy conditions in the Union Army camps. The Sanitary Commission staffed field hospitals, raised money, provided supplies, and worked to educate the military and government on matters of health and sanitation.

Nurses and officers of the U.S. Sanitary Commission at Fredericksburg VA. Picture taken in May of 1864. Courtesy Library of Congress

Next day, June 1st, a train of empty freight cars backed down in front of the house.....all the wounded who were able to walk were to go Chattanooga on that train. Many were badly wounded, but all were in high spirits... The train reached Dalton at dusk. I....walked along the platform to a car where there was more room. It was occupied by a dying officer,....Lt. George Covington, adjutant of the Seventeenth Indiana Regiment. He died before the train left Dalton. (A) surgeon seeing that I was badly wounded and very weak, gave me some stimulant and put me on Covington’s cot... 

I went to sleep, but at Ringgold, woke with a start to find my bandages drenched with blood from some small arteries under the tongue, which had sloughed away. I stopped it by cramming a towel under my tongue...About midnight the train reached Chattanooga. There was no one at the depot to tell us where to go. I saw the row of hospitals on the hill and started toward them. A guard cried: ‘Halt!’, ‘Halt!,’ but I did not care whether he shot me or not, and pushing past him, opened the door of the nearest building, which was the officers’ ward. The nurse on duty was a wounded soldier. He knew exactly what to do, dressed my wound carefully, fixed a cot so that I could rest comfortably, and I slept until the surgeon came around in the morning.

...Mr. Smith...secured a pass for me to Nashville. The train left at three P.M., June 2nd. This railroad ride was the most trying experience of all. My wound was sloughing freely, my tongue was very much swollen and it was almost black....At Nashville I was taken to the officers’ hospital. Under the efficient care of Dr. J. H. Green,...I improved rapidly,....and was able to leave for home June 6th.” 

Dawes was given a discharge on October. On March 13, 1865, he was breveted (promotion to a higher rank based on outstanding service) to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel for his "gallant and meritorious service."

Lt. Colonel Dawes was fortunate to have his jaw and lip reconstructed by Dr. George C. Blackman. An account from New England Families Genealogical and Memorial (see below) describes the reconstruction: "By an intricate and delicate surgical operation, one of the most celebrated of its class performed during the war, a lower lip was made for him by material taken from his cheek, and the point of his jaw replaced by an artificial one." 

Recovery was slow, but he learned to speak again. He was in constant pain for the rest of his life. He grew a full beard to disguise the scars. Despite all of this, Dawes became a successful businessman, managing multiple rail lines and a coal company.

Dawes compiled a war library of documents, histories, and related information about the war. He authored several publications. Literary work became a favorite avocation for the rest of his life. 

Author John K. Duke, said about Ephraim Cutler Dawes:
"His own words written on the death of Generals Sherman and Hayes fittingly apply equally to himself:
'It is by the lives of such men as these that future generations may estimate the priceless treasure committed to their charge; for, if liberty is worth what liberty has cost, no words may express its value.' "

He is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Marietta. 

Major Ephraim Cutler Dawes wore this navy wool double-breasted frock coat with brass buttons on the day that he was shot in the jaw at the Battle of Dallas, Georgia in 1864. From Ohio History Connection:


Cutter, William Richard, A.M., Editor, New England Families Genealogical and Memorial, Volume II, New York, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1913.

Dawes, Rufus R., Service with the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers, E. R. Alderman, 1890

Duke, John K., History of the Fifty-Third Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry During the War of the Rebellion 1861-1865, Portsmouth, Ohio, The Blade Printing Company, 1900.

Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly, Vol IV, “Sketches of Life Members,”  Columbus, Ohio, Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society, 1895, page 457., “Ephraim Cutler Dawes.”

Friday, March 15, 2019

The French Doctor

Most of the settlers and leaders of early Marietta, Ohio, came from New England. But there was also a French connection as well. 
  • French explorer Celeron’ De Bienville led an expedition down the the Ohio River Valley in 1749. They buried engraved lead plates at the mouth of major tributaries (including the Muskingum River) to claim the land for France.
  • Marietta was named for Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, in recognition of France’s support during the Revolutionary War.
  • And, a group of French immigrants arrived in 1790 to settle on Ohio Company lands at Gallipolis (“city of the Gauls”).
One of those immigrants who eventually ended up in Marietta was young Jean (usually appearing as “John”) Baptiste Regnier (“Zhon Bapteest RenYAY”). With access to good education in France, he was trained in architecture and medicine. The latter training would become his vocation years later. 

He was typical of many early Marietta pioneers: well educated, adventuresome, tolerant of severe frontier living conditions, and able to persevere through multiple setbacks. He ultimately became a successful doctor and civic-minded leader. 

Jean Baptiste Regnier

Chaos gripped France as the French Revolution uprising began in 1789. Young John Regnier, his parents, and siblings were loyal to the monarchy. They were all on edge as national resistance to the rule of the king and nobility gained momentum. There was rioting and civil unrest. Privileges of nobility and feudalism were abolished.

The Regnier older children were being pressured to join the reformers.Their father feared for their well-being and made plans for all of the children to leave France for other countries. It so happened that land in America was then being offered for sale in France. That land, near present day Gallipolis, Ohio, was being sold by agents of the Scioto Company. Regnier’s father purchased land so that John Baptiste (then age 19) and his younger brother Modeste (age 14) could relocate there. 

About Six Hundred other French citizens also bought land. They sought a fresh start in America and escape from the French Revolution. However, moving from a comfortable life in France to the rugged Frontier in Ohio would be an unrelenting challenge - for the Regniers and the other French citizens.

Tears welled up as the Regnier brothers bid farewell to their family in February, 1790, at the port of Havre. A three month ordeal at sea and unknown new life loomed before them. The ship was cramped, vermin infested, and crowded. A poem “Trek of the French 500” written about the voyage includes these words:

        Rough was the voyage and long
        Fully three months in the doldrums
        Mal-de-mer (sea sickness) harassed them all
        Till existence was almost unwelcome

On many days, John lamented the decision to emigrate, especially because of the stress on his younger brother Modeste. 

They arrived at Alexandria, Virginia, in May 1790, weeks later than expected. More challenges lay ahead. The person who was to transport them to Ohio was a no show. Local residents helped them in the meantime. 

John was angered and dismayed to learn that the Scioto Company could not give them valid deeds for their land. The Scioto Company was a shameful example of land speculation. The agents including William Duer, Joel Barlow, and William Playfair (catch the irony of that name) used deceitful methods to sell American frontier land. The speculators used a technique appropriately called “dodging” - selling land they did not own. They took the buyers money but never paid the U S Treasury. The buyers ended up with nothing. It would make a great reality show today. 

Moreover, French emigrants learned that their Ohio River frontier setting was worlds apart from their expectations. The speculators painted a heavenly picture of a Promised Land to the future colonists, and were quick to cite passages from Crèvecœur’s Letters from an American Farmer: “All you have to do is rake the surface of the soil, lay down your wheat, your corn, your potatoes, your beans, your cabbages, your tobacco, and let nature do the rest. During this time, amuse yourself, go fishing or hunting.”

Land was described to potential purchasers in Europe with these superlatives:

Soil as rich as can be imagined    
Salt springs, coal mines, lead mines, clay deposits
Grapes growing wild, suitable for wine
Cotton of excellent quality
Soil able to grow wheat, rye, barley, oats, indigo, tobacco, flax, hemp.
Abundant game, fish
Nature will supply provisions for many years; no need for a market

Some of this was true, some not, and much was exaggerated. Cotton growing in Ohio? Really?

The Regniers and other French immigrants were eventually transported by wagon to Pittsburgh, then by boat down river to Marietta, then Gallipolis ("City of the Gauls," or "French City"), their new home. They arrived in October, 1790, nearly 10 months after leaving France. All were surprised, angered, and unprepared for the rough conditions. The flamboyant literature about their new home did not mention Indian threats, wilderness conditions, and isolation. Yet, they soon held a ball, complete with resplendent costumes and musical instruments brought with them.

Gallipolis, 1790. Huts constructed by the Scioto Company for newly arrived French settlers
Etching published in Historical Collections of Ohio, Henry Howe, 1847
viewed at:

The Regnier brothers were hardy and adapted quickly. John used his architectural knowledge to build a small frame home, the first in Gallipolis. Other dwellings were log huts. They spent the next summer clearing about an acre of land. John Regnier pondered their future as the one year of free provisions from the Scioto Company ran out. Younger brother Modeste was petrified of Indian attacks and begged John to relocate.

They decided to leave Gallipolis for New York via the Ohio River in February, 1792. A few miles up the river, their boat upset. All of their provisions were lost, and they were lucky to be alive. With no money, supplies, or food they continued on foot, barely able to survive the cold and facing starvation. They were sickened eating paw paw seeds. 

The brothers finally reached Pittsburgh and then journeyed on to New York. Finding no work there, they moved on to a French community in Newfoundland  - and then back to New York State in 1794. Finally his fortunes improved. He found work - and a wife. He married Content Chamberlain in 1796. Historian Samuel Hildreth observed of Regnier: “For three years in a land of strangers, with an imperfect knowledge of their language, destitute of all things but his head and his hands....he was many times tempted to give up in despair....but his buoyant French heart enabled him to resist such thoughts...”

After several successful jobs and ventures, he again became destitute when a business agent failed to pay him. His thoughts turned to the beautiful Ohio valley. And his brother Modeste, who earlier begged to leave Ohio, now urged John to return there. 

John Baptiste Regnier decided to make medicine his vocation and to renew his medical training. He trained for a year with Doctor Lamoine of Washington PA who had come over from France on the same ship with the Regniers. Soon the John and his family again hit the road, moving from New York to Marietta. A local French baker, Monsieur Thierry, sold Regnier 100 acres along Duck Creek in Fearing Township. The area was then unsettled with few roads or bridges. 

Once more, he was in the wilderness, but “he was young and in the vigor of manhood, determined to do all he could for his family,” as historian Hildreth observed. Soon a log cabin was erected. Word got around that he was a doctor. Dr. Regnier, "the French Doctor," was in great demand from all directions. He made visits to people six or eight miles away - on foot. He was able to buy a horse after a while, making his rounds less strenuous.

John Baptiste Regnier became legendary for his skill and manner. He rarely lost a patient, even to the prevalent and often fatal bilious fever. He was an excellent surgeon, repairing trauma injuries such as broken limbs. In one case, a man injured by a falling tree was cold to the touch and thought dead when Dr. Regnier arrived. He immediately ordered that a sheep be slaughtered and the skin removed. The man was wrapped in the still-warm sheepskin and soon revived.

John’s finances improved. He started a mercantile business with his brother Francis who had moved to Marietta in 1809. But soon tragedy struck the family. John’s younger brother Modeste lived on same farm as John. Modeste became ill with bilious fever while John was in Wheeling buying inventory for the new store. By the time John returned, Modeste was seriously ill and died a day later. John was devastated by the loss, especially believing that he might have saved Modeste if he had been close by.

The mercantile business thrived, and the Regniers moved to Marietta. He built a stately home and created beautiful gardens, which became an attractive model which others imitated. Soon he added a drug store as a business. His former patients continued to seek his attention, so that he remained fully occupied.

Regnier was a leader as well, serving as a charter member of State of Ohio Medical Sociey board in 1812. He was elected a Washington County (Ohio) Commissioner in 1818. He moved again in 1819 - to Duck Creek, OH (now Macksburg) in northern Washington County.

It seemed to be his passion to settle and develop new areas. Like his experiences in Gallipolis and Fearing Township, he worked at Duck Creek to develop what was a wilderness. Soon he had started a French Chateau-style home, erected flour and saw mills, and encouraged building of new roads. As Commissioner, he was instrumental in the creation of Aurelius Township, which was named for his youngest son, Aurelius. Macksburg was named for his son-in-law William Mackintosh who operated the first dry goods store there. Regnier helped design the  new county courthouse built in 1822.

John Baptiste Regnier died unexpectedly in the prime of life at age 52 in 1821 of bilious fever, the illness he had so often treated successfully in his patients. A carpenter working on the uncompleted home built a coffin, donated the land for a cemetery, and himself was the second to be buried there.

Samuel Hildreth, historian and friend of Dr. Regnier, expressed his personal loss and reaction of the community:
“ the bedside his cheerful conversation, aided by the deep interest he actually felt in the welfare of the sick, with his kind, delicate manner of imparting his instruction, always left his patients better than he found them, and formed a lasting attachment to his person in all who fell under his care. His death was lamented as a serious calamity, and no physician in this region of the country has since fully filled the place he occupied in the public estimation.”

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Man Overboard on the steamboat CARRIE BROOKS

The sternwheel packet boat CARRIE BROOKS chugged along down the icy Muskingum River one frigid winter day in the 1870's. Engineer Cliff Crane was on duty in the engine room. Passing the Douda bar (near Malta-McConnelsville, Ohio) Crane stepped out on the fantail to oil the bearings of the paddlewheel shaft. Spray from the paddlewheel left a coating of solid ice. He slipped and fell overboard. A potential disaster was unfolding.

The Muskingum River is a tributary of the Ohio River. George Washington made note of it in his exploratory trip down the Ohio River in 1770. More than 200 steamboats plied the Muskingum River after its lock and dam system was completed in 1841. It was the first such navigation system in the United States. It provided access for rural Ohio to the Great Lakes and Atlantic Ocean by way of the Miami Erie Canal, to Pittsburgh up the Ohio River, and to the Gulf of Mexico via the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

Copies of two freight bills for CARRIE BROOKS. CLICK TO ENLARGE. Note details about the date, items shipped, the schedule, and BROOK's officers. viewed at

Crane floundered in shock from the freezing water, struggling to stay afloat in his heavy clothing. The CARRIE BROOKS steamed on without slowing, confirming what he already knew: the crew was unaware he had fallen overboard. He began shouting frantically for help as he struggled toward shore. Luckily, James Loughridge heard the cries and found Crane clinging to willows along the shore, exhausted. 

Crane splashed ashore and immediately began running to the Loughridge house. He was oblivious to his own situation, panicked that his absence placed the CARRIE BROOKS in danger. He asked if there was a horse available. He had to catch up with the boat before it was too late.

Crane was the engineer on the CARRIE BROOKS. The steamboat pilots communicated with the engine room using a system of bells to change speed or reverse direction. The engineer upon hearing a bell, rang back an acknowledgement to the pilot and made the changes requested. Without Crane, there was no one in the engine room to slow the boat for docking. And Crane knew the boat would stop at Hooksburg, located just upriver of Stockport, about four miles downstream. Imagine the peril of a vehicle headed downhill at full speed with the accelerator to the floor and no brakes. 

The CARRIE BROOKS was a steam powered sternwheel packet boat built in 1866 at Pittsburgh by the Darlington family of Zanesville. She was designed for the Pittsburgh-Zanesville "trade" (a riverboat term indicating the boat's regular routes) moving freight and passengers. At a reported 310 tons, she was one of the largest boats ever on the Muskingum River. The Pittsburgh-Zanesville route was a popular and profitable one for Muskingum River steam boats in the mid-to late 1800's. Many Ohioans in 1870 wanted fresh opportunities by migrating west, just as decades before people in the east had relocated the Ohio country. CARRIE BROOKS made a trip west carrying 140 passengers headed west to newly settled areas, such as Kansas. The CARRIE BROOKS went out of service in 1878.

Image of CARRIE BROOKS from a postcard. Viewed at

The CARRIE BROOKS pilot was vigilant as he steered around a bend in the icy river towards the dock at Hooksburg. He rang a bell to slow for docking. No answer. Anxiously he rang the stopping bell to stop engines. No answer. He realized no one was in the engine room and instantly steered the boat out into the river to avoid the dock. He "tramped" the pilot wheel by climbing on it to turn the wheel with his feet for maximum response. The CARRIE BROOKS bow veered away from the dock. But would the stern, swinging around with the boat still under full power, scrape the shore. That could damage the paddlewheel and immobilize the boat. It narrowly missed the shore.

The crew realized for sure that Engineer Cliff Crane was overboard. The boat turned back up river to search for him. All eyes scanned the water and shorelines. They found nothing. With heavy hearts, they called off the search and continued down river. Meanwhile, at the Loughridge home, Crane was given dry clothes and a horse drawn carriage. The race was on to catch the CARRIE BROOKS. He caught up with her at Windsor Lock (now Stockport). The crew were amazed and overjoyed at seeing Cliff Crane whom they had given up for lost.   

Steamboat travel could be hazardous to boats, crew, and passengers. Boiler explosions, mechanical breakdowns, damage from obstructions ("snags") in the river, and collisions were all too common. The CARRIE BROOKS herself experienced mechanical failure and was damaged on the Ohio River when she struck a barge. 

Muskingum River sidewheeler BUCKEYE BELLE (built at Knox Boat Yard in Harmar and the largest such vessel to run on the Muskingum River) exploded November 12, 1852 near Beverly with an estimated loss of 40 lives.  The previous day another Muskingum River boat DAN CONVERSE, which had alternated mail routes with the BUCKEYE BELLE, sank below Pittsburgh when it hit a log. In an ironic twist, DAN CONVERSE passenger R. L. Morris was returning to McConnelsville a few days later. His trip up river was halted by the wreckage of the BUCKEYE BELLE at Beverly. He proceeded to walk the remaining distance to McConnelsville and arrived in time to serve as pall bearer for BUCKEYE BELLE victim Milton Whissen.

But that day on the CARRIE BROOKS, it was a happy ending. Tragedy was averted. There was no damage to the boat. Like the biblical story of the prodigal son, Cliff Crane was "lost but was found." 

  • Muskingum River place names mentioned are those in effect at the time of this incident.
  • Names of steamboats are listed in all capital letters according to some traditions. Your author has chosen this method of listing boat names.
  • Sorry, guys, but female pronouns are used for boats.


Gamble, J. Mack Gamble, Steamboats on the Muskingum, 

Ohio History Central, “Muskingum River,” viewed at

Travis, Irven, “Navigation on the Muskingum,” Ohio Archaeological and History Quarterly, Vol XIV, pages 408-424, Columbus, Fred J. Herr, 1905.

Travis, Irven, “Muskingum River Pilots,” Ohio Archaeological and History Quarterly, Vol XXVI, pages 477-488, Columbus, Fred J. Herr, date not noted.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Lewis and Clark on the Ohio River

The initial phase of the Lewis and Clark Expedition began in Pittsburgh and included a stop in Marietta. Leader Meriwether Lewis set off down the Ohio River in a flatboat on August 31, 1803, laden with supplies and several recruits for the expedition. He would meet up with second-in- command William Clark at Louisville. Quotes, spelling, and grammar are from Lewis’s journal.

Thomas Jefferson had a vision: that the United States of America could occupy the whole of the continent from Atlantic to Pacific. He had closely studied past explorations of routes to the Pacific Ocean. None had succeeded. Some never had a chance. John Ledyard attempted to reach the west coast in 1786 by trekking east through Europe, Russia, Siberia, then sailing across the Bering Sea. He made it to Siberia but was arrested there. In 1790 Secretary of War Henry Knox promoted an exploration of the Missouri River by Lieutenant John Armstrong that was woefully short of resources, lacking such basic necessities as a tent. A Frenchman named Andre’ Michaux mounted an expedition west that was terminated in Kentucky when Jefferson discovered that Michaux was a French spy. 

As President, Jefferson decided a government organized mission was the way to go. Congress approved funding for $2,500 to equip and staff the expedition. It would be a U. S. Army operation, officially named The Corps of Discovery.  Jefferson selected Army Captain Meriwether Lewis, a 29 year old then serving as President Jefferson's personal secretary, to lead the expedition. 

August 31: The start down the Ohio had a rough start. After just three miles, they stopped at Bruno's Island to demonstrate Lewis’s innovative compressed air gun for inquisitive local residents. They were amazed by its power. One of the locals accidentally discharged the gun, hitting a nearby woman who "fell instantly and the blood gusing from her temple...we supposed she was dead." She soon revived and the wound was superficial, to their great relief.

At McKees Rocks, "we were obleged to get out all hands and lift the boat over about thirty yards. There were several such portages required - a herculean effort for a fifty-five foot long craft carrying a ton of supplies. They "halted for the night much fatiegued after laboring with my men all day...gave my men some whiskey and retired to rest at eight o’clock.”

The Ohio River then had no dams. There were shallows and deep pools, riffles and calm. Low water was a common condition during dry spells. Fog is also typical along the river in late summer.

Meriwether Lewis was born in Albemarle County Virginia. He was a skilled outdoorsman, developed a life-long interest in natural history, and had interacted with local Indians. He then joined the Army rising to the rank of Captain. His otherwise successful military service was marred by a 1795 court martial for a drunken outburst against a Lieutenant. He was acquitted, though chastened by the experience. He was transferred to a unit commanded by William Clark, whom he later selected for the western expedition. 

September 1: Back on the Ohio River, there were more delays from low water and morning fog. He was fascinated by the persistent fog, observing that "the Fog appears to owe it's orrigin to the difference of temperature between the air and water.” He was curious enough to start recording the air and water temperatures each day. There were more portages; one required a team of oxen to drag the boat free.

The river trip was supposed to start in early summer, before the low water and foggy conditions usually occur. But Lewis was held up by the extensive preparations for the expedition. He also spent weeks learning from experts on medicine, natural history, celestial navigation, and other skills needed for the exploration. He was a quick learner. Still, everything took longer than expected. Jefferson fretted at the delays.
Expedition cost estimates prepared by Lewis, from The Library of Congress, viewed at
The list was short but the details were long

Excerpts from the journal as they moved down river towards Marietta: 

Sept 2: Extensive observations by Lewis about the river bank configuration. He noted " the leaves of the buckeye, gum, and sausafras (trees) begin to fade, or turn red."

Sept 3: Fog delay, fired one of the crew, hired horses to drag boat over low spot, made only 6 miles.

Sept 4: Canoes sprung a leak; stopped for repair. Water very clear - saw "a great number of Fish of different kinds, the Stergeon, Bass, Cat fish, pike, &c.”

Sept 5-9. Slow going, leaky canoes, passed Steubenville, then Wheeling where he met with local officials.

Sept 10: Passed Grave Creek just below Wheeling near present day Moundsville WV. He described the large Adena culture mound at Grave Creek in some detail.

Grave Creek Mound at Moundsville WV, from Wikipedia

Sept 11: At Long Reach, just below Sunfish Creek, they saw many squirrels swimming from the west to east across the Ohio River. Joseph Barker in his Recollections of the First Settlement of Ohio about Marietta had similar observations. Lewis's dog “Seaman” swam after the squirrels and brought back several which were cooked: "I thought them when fryed a pleasant food..."

Sept 13: Reached Marietta; stayed the night. Observed many passenger pigeons passing over. Flocks were so large that they obscured the sun. More swimming squirrels. While at Marietta, he dismissed two of his hands and took on another. He wrote to President Jefferson and visited with Marietta resident Colonel Griffin Greene whom he described as “the Postmaster of this place, he appears to be much of a gentleman and an excelant republican.”

Letter from Meriwether Lewis to President Jefferson written at Marietta , courtesy Library of Congress, viewed at The letter mostly conveyed mundane details of river navigation. For a clearer image, click here.

Sept 14: Delayed departure from Marietta until 11 am because two of the crew were drunk and did not return to the boat. They were finally located and brought on board, “so drunk they were unable to help themselves.” More swimming squirrels and mention of malaria which was prevalent in the lower Ohio Valley.

The “hair of the dog” that nipped Lewis was a challenge for the expedition. Planning how much liquor to bring was itself was a major project. The daily ration required for military personnel was a gill (about 4 ounces) of rum, brandy, or whiskey. Spirits were thought necessary for soldiers - “keeping spirits (and bravery) up by pouring spirits down” was the maxim in those days. Lewis brought an estimated 120 gallons of spirits on the expedition. It ran out well before they reached the Pacific. 

Drunkenness - like the Marietta episode - was a persistent problem. Many crew members were disciplined. Two were court marshaled for stealing liquor from storage. A separate protocol to prevent theft became necessary for distributing the rations. 

The Corps of Discovery expedition overcame that and many other obstacles to achieve legendary success. Learn more about the Lewis and Clark expedition by clicking here.

There was a gap in Meriwether Lewis’s journal September 18 to November 11. He was either too busy or the journals were lost. We are fortunate that his journals included the days before and after Marietta. 

Ambrose, Stephen E., Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West, New York, Simon and Schuster, 2013

Moulton, Gary E., Editor, Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition Online,

Danisi, Thomas C., Meriwether Lewis, Amherst NY, Thomas C. Danisi and John C. Jackson, 2009

Coues, Elliott, History of the Expedition under the Command of Lewis and Clark, Volume I, "Memoir of Meriwether Lewis," New York, Francis P. Harper, 1893 

“Discovering Lewis and Clark” website at, “Preparations” section

Wikipedia, “Lewis and Clark Expedition”

Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, Ohio River Chapter, at website Lewis and

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Thomas Wallcut's Journal

Thomas Wallcut (1758-1840) arrived in Marietta on October 26, 1789 - on foot. He started from Boston, enduring a rough passage of twenty-four days to Baltimore on the schooner CAPTAIN SNOW. After 4 days recuperating in Baltimore, he started walking to Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia). He walked the 280 plus miles in 19 Days, an average of 15 miles per day. From there he hiked to Marietta in 4 1/2 days.

Walking was not a typical mode of conveyance to Marietta from the eastern states. But then Wallcut was not your typical Marietta settler. Thomas Wallcut was a Massachusetts native, educated to be an Indian missionary at the Indian Charity School in Hanover, New Hampshire. He was accepted at Dartmouth College in 1774 but instead went to live with the St. Francis Indians (a division within the western Abenaki Indians) near Montreal. 

Wallcut worked in hospitals at Albany and Boston during the Revolutionary War. He used his earnings to buy one share in the Ohio Company of Associates which owned land in the Marietta area. He was a scholarly type yet sociable, curious, outspoken, and seemingly unfazed by the hardships of living in the new territory. 

He kept a detailed journal of his stay in Marietta from October 1789 to March 1790. The journal does not start until January 20. It offers fascinating insights into early life in the new settlements. Wallcut’s nephew George Dexter edited the journal and added helpful footnotes for background. Dexter described the journal book: “It is a compact little volume, five inches by three and a half and opens on the shorter edge. It is kept in a very neat and careful manner. Mr. Wallcut’s habits were methodical, and his handwriting almost a model for this generation of poor penmen.”  Sounds like the poor (or no) penmanship of today in the 21st century.

Some interesting observations from Wallcut’s journal; all dates listed are from 1790:

January 24: Visited the new settlement at "Belle Prairie" (today's Belpre, Ohio) down river from Marietta. Was impressed with the people he met there. Dined at Colonel (Alexander) Oliver's home: "had a good dish of boiled beef and pork, cabbage, turnips, potatoes, and Indian bread and wheat bread, and all served in a decent and handsome clean manner."

"Farmer's Castle" fortified enclosure at Belle Prairie settlement built in January 1791 after Indian attacks in the area, from Wikipedia. This included the log homes of Col. Cushing and Col. Battelle whom Thomas Wallcut visited in January of 1790. Image from Wikipedia.

Wallcut observed first hand how river conditions impacted life in the settlement:
February 10: Ohio and Muskingum Rivers were choked with ice which stopped all river traffic.
February 18: Flooding: “Expect to be routed again with the high water.” And the next morning: "At sunrise water rising fast...before we could get our breakfast done, water came in so fast that the floor was afloat, and we stood in water to our buckles to drink the last dish.”  
February 22: "The (flood) water has abated so that Lucas and Neal and several more are moving back into their houses." Walcutt kindled a fire to dry the house where he was staying. It had flooded to "about four feet on the floor."

Wallcut was a member of a debate society in Marietta which existed briefly in early 1790:
January 27: The society met and discussed this question: “Is the civil Government of the (Northwest Territory) as it now stands...calculated to secure the peace, freedom, and prosperity of the people; and what is wanting to obtain so desirable an object?” The group selected a new topic for the next meeting: “Whether the American States have, contrariant to the regulations of the Spanish Government, a navigate the Mississippi (River).”
February 3: Enoch Parsons was elected President of the debate society, Wallcut was secretary.
February 16: "No meeting this evening. I fear ours will be but a short-lived society. They seem to have so little taste and animation for it that we evidently have the symptoms of decay." There was no further mention of the debate society in his journal.

January 31: “...attended the funeral of Rowena (Mrs. Winthrop) Sargent in the afternoon. The obsequies were performed with decency and respect. She died in childbirth along with the baby on January 29." Winthrop Sargent was then the Secretary of the Northwest Territory; he later served as Governor of the Mississippi Territory. Commentary about Sargent's marriage can be viewed here, courtesy "Pioneer Prologue" blog at Marietta College Special Collections. A copy of the marriage certificate issued by territorial governor Arthur St. Clair appears below:

From Marietta College Special Collections

January 31: Wallcut held strong opinions which he was not shy in expressing. He was a juror in the Court of Quarter Sessions (similar to today's Common Pleas Court). They met in the southeast blockhouse at Campus Martius, the fortified enclosure. The jury "found against" two men for fighting. Foreman Dudley Woodbridge asked (probably rhetorically) if there were any other issues to discuss. Wallcut spoke up and presented "four articles of complaint to be presented as grievances." It's not clear why he chose the jury gathering as a forum for these issues, listed as follows: 
  1. No laws against duelling
  2. No incorporation of Marietta, and therefore no way of providing for poor and sick strangers
  3. No law licensing and regulating taverns, etc.
  4. No law against the crime of buying and selling the human species
These points were debated by the jury members, though the outcome had no legal standing. The Ordinance of 1787 creating the territory expressly prohibited slavery, which should have satisfied Item 4. The Ohio Company had already made some provisions for needy persons, the complaint mentioned in item 2. Wallcut was dismayed that juror Jonathan Morris passionately spoke in favor of dueling, stating that ..."every government ought to encourage duelling." 

February 6: "Employed myself in chopping wood. I feel best those days which are partly improved in exercise."

February 19: Wallcut went to Dr. True's "pest house." Smallpox appeared in Marietta in January of 1790. Some houses were built away from others for care and to quarantine persons who contracted smallpox. Such buildings were referred to as pest houses. Wallcut does not explain why he went there; it might have been temporary shelter from the flooding.

February 22: "The doctor (Wallcut referred to "the doctor" often but did not give his name) showed me, as a natural curiosity of the country, a complete lobster in miniature about two inches in length...They are found in plenty in streams and springs of water."  The "lobster in miniature" was a crayfish, or in local terminology, a crawdad.    

Freshwater crayfish

February 25: Attended a meeting of agents (a group representing shareholders) of the Ohio Company. They discussed finances but spent most of the time debating policy about salt springs on the Scioto River. Wallcut’s notes suggest that this was a controversial topic. It was also mentioned at other meetings, including March 2 when Wallcut himself was quite vocal on the subject. Topics at other agents’ meetings included finances, land surveys, Donation Lands, and employment of Daniel Story as a preacher for the settlements. Wallcut met Reverend Story and wrote a note of support for employing him. 

By early March, Thomas Wallcut had decided to leave Marietta and return to Boston. He gave no reason; it's possible that he never intended to stay. But his detailed study of the Ohio Company's records and serious inquires about Donation Lands for himself suggested some level of interest in the new settlement. 

In those final days, his journal reflects preoccupation with others' opinions of him - perhaps reflecting some ambivalence about leaving:
March 4: Wallcut seemed apologetic about his conduct at a March 2 agents' meeting regarding the salt springs debate. He separately asked Colonel Meigs and Colonel Battelle what they thought of his behavior at the meeting. Both offered favorable comments. 
March 6: Paul Fearing was a friend who expressed regret about Wallcut's departure and wanted him to return. Wallcut listed many others who were complimentary or respectful of him, including "Colonel Oliver, Colonel Meigs, Captain Prince, and Mr. Gridley,....Commodore Whipple,...Major White, Esquire Wells and his sons, Mr. Rockwell, Mr. Bent, Messrs. Buell and Munsell, Colonel Battelle, Messrs Mills, Barker, Mr. Story and brother, Captain Shepard, Mr. Skinner, Mr. Tilas, Skinner, Parsons,...He stated that their favorable opinions "affords me great pleasure and gives me satisfaction..."

On March 8, he began his trip east to Boston with the doctor, and two men named Dodge and Proctor. They walked, navigating crude roads in very rough condition, and lodged mostly in homes or road houses along the way. They often made 15-20 miles per day. That is quite a distance for persons not normally accustomed to walking.

He suffered from leg and feet soreness along the way, but except for one day of rest, pressed on. READER ALERT: POSSIBLY DISTURBING LANGUAGE JUST AHEAD: On March 15, Wallcut was attacked by what he called "thoroughgonimbles." Thorough Go Nimbles was slang for diarrhea. Loosely (so to speak) translated, the phrase meant "goes through quick." A 1903 slang dictionary listed other synonyms for the condition: squitters, wild squirt, and back door trot. Fortunately, this situation persisted only a few hours.

The journal ends on April 5 in Philadelphia. Other correspondence suggests that he met the doctor in New York and arrived back in Boston on April 23 “in good health.” 

Wallcut did not return to Marietta, though he occasionally inquired about the parcels of area property that he owned through his share in the Ohio Company. He forwarded money for taxes on the properties but never occupied or developed the land. He finally transferred the parcels to Nahum Ward in 1838 for the price of $100.

Wallcut was devoted to antiquarian research and was a founding member of the Massachusetts Historical Society. His day job was clerk at the State House in Boston, a job he held for forty years.

Silhouette image of Thomas Walcutt ca 1835, from

We are indebted to Thomas Wallcut - and his nephew George Dexter - for preserving this fascinating snapshot of life in early Marietta.


American Antiquarian Society, Manuscript Collections finding aid, Wallcut, Thomas Papers 1640-1833, viewed at

Dexter, George, Journal of Thomas Wallcut, in 1790 with notes by George Dexter, Cambridge MA, University Press: John Wilson and Sons, 1879

Farmer, John Stephen, and Henley, William E., Editors, Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present, Volume VII, London, Publisher not given, 1903

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