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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Nahum Ward to Scottish Farmers: Have I Got a Deal for You

Many readers may know that Nahum Ward was a prominent early Mariettan, owner at various times of 100,000 acres of land and of a showcase home in Marietta. In 1816, he achieved national notice for his exploration of Mammoth Cave and exhibition of the "Fawn Hoof" mummy retrieved from the cave.

Nahum Ward was serious-minded, but he dreamed big. He promoted the sale of the lands he owned with newspaper ads and notices in the eastern U.S. His marketing effort included a trip to Scotland and Ireland in the fall of 1822 to recruit immigrants who would buy his land and move to the Marietta area. The journey itself was quite an accomplishment at a time when travel was complicated, slow, expensive, and sometimes risky. It was also a personal sacrifice, since he left behind his wife and 3 small children for about 1 1/2 years.

Below are excerpts from a broadside (a large poster or handout that was commonly used in that period for publicity or advertising) used to promote the Marietta area to Scottish farmers. Ward, or whoever he used to write this, was quite a wordsmith. This is from a transcription of the original document now at Marietta College Library Special Collections. Spelling and punctuation are quoted from the document.


The undersigned (Nahum Ward), a citizen of Marietta, in the state of Ohio, in latitude 39 north, and about 500 miles west of the city of Washington, the capital of North America, has crossed the Atlantic for the purpose of aiding farmers who are desirous of emigrating to that hospitable clime. The climate is mild, the soil exuberant, waters pure and abundant......The state of Ohio is rapidly increased, and increasing, in population.

Colleges, academies, and schools are encouraged. Lands are given by Congress for the support of religion and schools...1200 acres in each town; also large sums of money for making roads....The political institutions of this state impart to its inhabitants, who are remarkably moral and religious, all the benefits and privileges which freedom could desire....

The population (of Ohio) is about 800,000 free people, who have upwards of 220 post offices already in the state, and between 40 and 50 newspaper presses which (are) diffusing information, almost gratuitously, in every part of the state.

Grain of all kinds is easily cultivated, and is abundantly productive. Fruits, such as apples, pears, peaches, pomgranates, wine-grapes, mellons, cucumbers, tomatoes, and numerous others, grow in great perfection, and are cultivated in open fields by every farmer....

The class that takes the lead of all others is the farmer;....he has no rent to pay - no game laws (deer, turkies, pheasants, squirrels, etc. to shoot when he pleases). He has neither timber nor fishing laws - no taxes to pay, except his equal share for the support of the civil list of the country, which is a trifle. He has neither poor rates nor tythes to pay: such are the blessings enjoyed by the American farmer.

The market (for farmers' products) is always sure , and at his door, as there are men, both from the cities and country, who make a business of travelling to every farmer's house, who has cattle, swine, sheep, or grain to sell, and will take them off his hands, paying down in dollars for what he buys...others are engaged in collecting butter, cheese, apples, cyder, whiskey, peach brandy, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, and in fact every article that the farmer raises or makes for sale....

The undersigned has the most ample credentials from gentlemen who fill the first offices in the American Cabinet, to show that he is the undisputed proprietor of many large tracts of valuable lands in the district of Marietta...
I found the wording of this document fascinating. The language is flowery and probably exaggerated. Yet he included useful information that sensible, down-to-earth farmers would want to know about. I am not sure how well researched his facts were. For example, did people really come around to area farms to pick up produce that farmers were selling? The narrative is also a reminder of the state of our country in that period: no taxes and no regulations.

Mr. Ward’s broadside also mentions practical details: where to contact him, a description of the land/lot sizes, and a requirement to pre-pay postage – otherwise the letters “will not be attended to.” There is also a post script saying “N.B. (take notice)---- None possesed of means below £25 need apply.” Meaning, unless you have at least 25 British pounds, don’t bother to inquire.

Nahum Ward achieved some success. The History of Washington County Ohio book reports that 175 people emigrated from Scotland to the United States to land which he owned. Many arrived in the summer of 1823. Unfortunately, there was an epidemic of illness going on then. Most of the emigrants were stricken with fever when they arrived; some died. But Nahum Ward helped provide for them with temporary lodging and medical attention. Many eventually settled in western Washington County, forming “one of the best elements of the population of Washington County,” according to The History of Washington County Ohio authors.

This was but one chapter of Nahum Ward’s productive life as a successful business person, Marietta civic leader, family man, and benefactor of the Unitarian Church.

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