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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Rufus Putnam: the early years

Rufus Putnam, one of Marietta’s founders, a millwright, surveyor, veteran of two wars, pioneer leader, civil servant - faced many hardships in his early life. But those hardships in life and military service formed the foundation for decades of leadership and accomplishment. 

Note: Words in bold are your author’s emphasis of Putnam’s traits.

Profile portrait from Wikipedia. Portraits of Rufus Putnam are mostly from middle age or older, and he preferred to be viewed from the left side.

At age seven his father died. Life with his stepfather, Captain John Stadler, after his mother remarried was harsh. He was not allowed to attend school. Stadler believed intellectual pursuits were a waste of time. Biographer Samuel Hildreth noted that Rufus “craved...instruction and would not be appeased without it. He persisted and largely taught himself.  Rufus used scant earnings from waiting tables at Stadler’s public house to buy powder and shot. With that, he shot game birds, sold them for cash, and bought reading and arithmetic books.

As a young adult he took on the obligations of military service. Below are notes from Rufus Putnam’s Journal (quotes are from The Life of Rufus Putnam with Extracts from His Journal unless noted).

The French and Indian War between Great Britain and France, began in 1754. On March 15, 1757, at age nineteen, he enlisted as a “provincial” soldier (volunteer from the American colonies) with the British forces. It was not easy duty.

July 8, 1757: He and two other rangers were sent forward to scout an area near Lake Champlain. They were stranded without adequate clothing or bedding for 2 days when their unit withdrew without them.

July 23: At 8:00 am, Indians attacked his unit near Fort William Henry. There were thirteen dead and one missing. “This was the first sight I had of the Indian butcherings and it was not very agreeable to the feelings of a young soldier.” 

August 3: A French Army laid siege to Fort William Henry; on August 9 the garrison of outnumbered British soldiers surrendered. While Putnam’s group of Provincial soldiers were marching to surrender at Fort Edward, Indians attacked “and a most horrid butchery ensued.”  The terms of surrender allowed the British to leave peacefully. Indians on their own began wantonly attacking British soldiers and civilians, including women and children.

Fort William Henry image. For more detail about the fort, click here.

Engraving of Louis-Joseph de Montcalm trying to stop Native Americans from attacking British 
soldiers and civilians. Viewed at engraving by Alfred Bobbett, ca. 1824-1888 or 9, engraver, based on painting by Felix Octavius Carr Darley, 1822-1888

October 8: Most men in his ranger unit were discharged. He was drafted into a group of carpenters until November 8 to finish building fortifications at Fort Edward. 

November 18: “Three Hundred and Sixty of us were drafted into....winter quarters. This was a great and unexpected disappointment.” They expected to be discharged earlier when the fighting was over.

February 3: His unit’s official enlistment expired, but the commanding officer insisted they remain and threatened them with death if they left. They set out anyway for Fort Hoosac at 3:00 am. Knee deep snow. Their provisions were barely enough for 2-3 days. 

February 4: Snowy, stormy day. Disappointed that they did not reach the fort that evening. 

February 5: Started early expecting to reach the fort by noon. “Noon and night came but no fort...Provisions nearly exhausted...several men froze their feet.”

February 6: Realized they had taken a wrong turn along the river. Changed course. Camped on a mountain top. Snow five feet deep.

February 7: Thirty men breakfasted on a small turkey. Followed a small stream which grew into a river by days end - an encouraging sign. Nothing to eat but beech nuts and a few cranberries. “Night found us very faint and much fatigued,” but hopeful.

February 8: Rough terrain. “Men...feeble and lame with frozen feet.” In their desperate need for food, they killed the dog that had accompanied them and ate it. “It was carefully butchered and divided” so that each man received the same amount.     

February 9: Better conditions for walking. Spirits bolstered by signs of human activity and familiar landmarks. 

February 10: Arrived at the fort by 10 am where they were cared for and fed. Rufus Putnam stated that for the entire march he had carried the pack (in addition to his own) of Ichabod Dexter, who had severe frost bite. 

February 15, 1758: Arrived home at Brookfield, Mass.

April 10, 1758: Rufus re-enlisted:  “Notwithstanding my late sufferings (in the previous campaign), I again engaged for another campaign in the Provincial service.”

June 12: He was assigned to a unit of engineers who were sent to Lake George to build defenses in advance of the army’s campaign to take Fort Ticonderoga (then “Fort Carillon”).

July 5: 17,000 British troops advanced in boats along Lake George towards the fort. On July 6, General George Howe, second-in command of the army and beloved by the troops, was killed in an initial skirmish. This was a major blow to troop morale. 
July 8: Putnam’s regiment was building a breastwork (temporary earthen fortification). There was a constant barrage of cannon and musket fire. In the late afternoon he volunteered to carry ammunition forward to the front lines. The army had retreated to a breastwork. He was shocked to see “so many of our men killed and wounded.”

Fort Ticonderoga ("Fort Carillon" at the time - from, photo by Carl Heilman II

British troops had suffered a humiliating loss at Fort Ticonderoga. Rufus returned to his regiment of Provincial engineers. At midnight they began a march in retreat to Fort William Henry.

Howe’s death prompted a poignant reaction at the time from Rufus, “...I was so panic struck that I remain(ed) with the boat guard (away from the fighting);..... however, I recovered, at least in a measure, (and rejoined) the regiment.” He admitted accepting the risky assignment to carry ammunition to the front lines on July 8 “lest my reputation should suffer” for having shown cowardice after Howe’s death.

His reflection continued: “I have heard that some men say that...they like to fight as well as they like to eat. I never had any such feelings; so far as I am able to judge for myself, it was pride and a wish to excel, ...that influenced me, at that period of life....”

July 22: Putnam’s unit was employed repairing roads from Fort Edward to Albany until October 29 when they were discharged.

November 9, 1758: He returned to Sutton, Mass., his hometown. “Thus I carried through a second campaign, enjoying uninterrupted health, the friendship of my officers, and never charged with any crime. But alas! On my journal I cannot find any acknowledgment to my Divine Benefactor and Preserver.”

April 2, 1759:  He enlisted again: “I this day engaged the Provincial service for the third campaign.”

July 22: A new campaign for taking Fort Ticonderoga was underway. British forces advanced. At 1:00 am on July 27, there was a spectacular explosion which lit up the night. The French had blown up the fort’s munitions and retreated.

August 4: Regular provincial soldiers were discharged. Rufus agreed to continue work building saw mills for a promised dollar a day. 

November 30: After four months of work, he was discharged, but the engineer in charge did not honor the dollar a day agreement. Rufus was paid only 15 cents per day for his hard work. “I was cheated,” his journal notes with exasperation.

December 1: Embarked with eleven others in two bateaux (large boats) to cross Lake George bound for Fort George. Another ordeal lay ahead. Weather good but worsened. Had to stay the night on a small island. Became very windy and cold.

December 2: Too windy to proceed; “it was never colder since my remembrance.”

December 3: Provisions all gone; “...the cold continuing and hunger increasing.” Luckily they found some old provisions left by others and ate a meal of salt pork and flour.

December 4: One of boats leaked. To lighten its load, baggage was transferred to the other boat which became severely over-loaded. With any wave action they would have perished. “But Providence ordained it so there was a perfect calm the whole day.” Arrived at Fort George just after sunset.

March, 1760: Rufus enlisted yet again and was ordered to recruit others into the Provincial service. It was frustrating duty; he found only a handful of recruits.

June 2: Joined his unit of engineers stationed at south outlet of Lake George. They did not participate in the siege and surrender of French forces at Isle au Noix which paved the way for the British to capture Montreal on September 8, 1760. 

The French and Indian War was over. Rufus returned to his primary trade of building mills.

His journal has a curious entry on June 27, 1760: Rufus Putnam reported having a dream that he was attending a wedding in the home of his future father-in-law William Ayers. Rufus then realized he was the one being married. In another dream a short time later he was in a room with his future wife Elizabeth Ayers. 

September 10, 1761: He married Elizabeth Ayers but she died less than a year later. Shortly after that, their infant son was also buried. “Thus was I in less than a year deprived of mother and child, and in them, as I then thought, of all earthly comfort.” He would remarry in 1765.

January 10, 1773: Agreed to help find land in the new Florida Territory for veterans of the French and Indian war. But the promised king’s order authorizing the grants was never approved. The Putnam party’s eight month exploration of the lands was for naught. He was reimbursed for only a fraction of his time and expense.

Rufus enlisted again in 1775 - this time in the Revolutionary War. Hildreth: “He buckled on his sword when the strife began, and he did not lay it down till liberty was secure and peace again smiled upon the land” - nearly six years later.

Image of Fort Putnam at West Point NY built in 1778 by Rufus Putnam and 300 soldiers from the 5th Massachusetts Regiment.

Such was Rufus Putnam’s lifelong sense of duty, commitment, and perseverance that went into whatever endeavor he chose.

Cone, Mary, Life of Rufus Putnam with Extracts from His Journal, Cleveland, William W. Williams, 1886

Dawes, Ephraim Cutler, Journal of Gen. Rufus Putnam Kept in Northern New York During Four Campaigns of the Old French and Indian War 1757-1760,  Albany, NY, Joel Munsell's Sons, 1886

Hildreth, Samuel, Biographical and Historical Memoirs of the Early Pioneer Settlers of Ohio, Cincinnati, H. W. Derby & Co., 1852

Mad Monarchist blog, "Sacrifice at Fort Carillon," November 30, 2017, madmonarchist.

New York State Military Museum, "Fort Putnam," at, "History," references to Fort Edward

"Rufus Putnam," Wikipedia, viewed at

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

L. L. Peddinghaus, The Rambler: When Driving Was a Real Adventure

L. L. “Lew” Peddinghaus operated a Marietta jewelry store in 1905 at 187 Front Street. He must have been successful because he was able to afford new cars every year or so. That was a big deal at the time.

Driving was really an adventure then. Hardly anyone owned an automobile. Cars were not used for everyday transportation but for recreational outings. The auto was kept in a garage or barn when not used. 

Photo of the Lew and Edith Peddinghaus in their 1907 Rambler automobile at the old Marietta Country Club, image from an unknown publication.

Mechanical problems were routine on most trips. There were few creature comforts - passengers were prepared to get wet, muddy, cold, hot, sunburned, windblown. Roads were marginal at best; few were paved. Directional signs were not reliable; getting lost was part of the adventure.

Photo of the Peddinghauses in their 1908 Rambler (on the left) and Mr. and Mrs. Tom Sheets who were having car trouble. Photo from S. Durward Hoag collection, viewed at the Washington County Local History and Genealogy Library. Notice the license plate on the Rambler, "28" with OH monogram but no date. This was the first year that Ohio issued automobile state license plates.
1908 Ohio License Plate image from

The Rambler moniker fit well - it was the name of the automobile that Peddinghaus drove, and it described his wayfaring spirit. The Rambler was an early automobile produced by Thomas B. Jeffrey Company, maker of the Rambler bicycle. The car was manufactured in a former bike factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rambler was a pioneering brand, introducing such features as a steering wheel and spare tire. The advertisement below listed the price at $1400, about $35,000 in today’s dollars.

Print advertisement for the Rambler - early 1900s. Image courtesy of Washington County Local History and Genealogy Library

Restored 1904 Rambler photographed in the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run in 2010, viewed at

Lew Peddinghaus and his wife Edith - were frequent travelers. Lew kept meticulous notes on each trip - usually matter-of-fact even in trying situations, sometimes amusing, always fascinating. Fortunately, his journals were preserved, and now reside at the Washington County Genealogical and Local History Library. Quotes in this article are from Peddinghaus's journal or his notes.

This book was published to record automobile trips. There were meticulous details, from the date and time to the weather, distance, and incidents.

Peddinghaus documented what he called the “Rambler Reign,” the period of 1904-1909 when he owned four Rambler automobiles. Each was described in detail, for example, the 1905 model:
“No. 2 Rambler: (1905-1906) Rambler 5489 Type 3, Weight 2300 lbs, 18 hp Ave. speed 30 MPH. Two cylinder opposed, 5 & 6, single chain drive, Kahki top, olive green, Surrey Model (Without the fringe on top.) Veedometer, Hartford shock arresters.”

Here are records of a few trips from in his journal:

One of the shortest was a problem-plagued trip from his home on Front Street to the Marietta Country Club, then located in Devola.
Date: July 3, 1907
Time of start: 7 pm
Guests: Mrs. Gallagher, Miss Gallagher, her friend Miss Hubbard, Edith
Incidents: picked up passengers. “When got to road near dam, key in left rear wheel worked loose;...could not repair it. (Passengers) walked to streetcar, on the way telephoned Andersons. After waiting an hour and a half, Kale came with Mr. Baxter and Buick. Kale then started after a rope (for towing) and after an hour,...found one. Hitched on and started towing us....the Buick broke down. Worked about an hour, and found one of the valves sticking. Reached home at 11:25 pm.“ No indication of frustration in his journal - just the facts.

There were often multi-day trips covering hundreds of miles. One such trip took them to Cleveland and back over 10 days in September, 1906. Their circuit included Zanesville, Columbus, Dayton, Lima, Sandusky, Cleveland, Wooster, Zanesville, and back to Marietta. Peddinghaus kept incredible details. On that trip, the vehicle operated for 37 hours, 16 minutes covering 624.1 miles, with an average speed of 17.05 miles per hour. There were journal entries for each day of travel. How many times have you recorded these details of your trips?

Here are some of his notes for that trip; each segment was a day's travel:

From Marietta to Zanesville: Average speed 13.2 mph, drove through rain, put on tire chains to navigate the muddy road, “every one wet.,” stopped to repair hub brakes which locked up, “I got into poison ivy.”

From Zanesville to Columbus: Average speed 20.7 mph (very good for the time); stopped to replace a link in broken chain. Peddinghaus often recorded humorous details: for example in Columbus: “George (Alexander, one of his passengers) stuck on girl in drug store, bought everything she offered. Hair tonic etc.”

Columbus to Dayton: a rare problem-free travel day: “Roads...level and fine. Everything working fine, no stops, and no trouble.” 

Dayton to Lima: “Had trouble getting out of Dayton and from here on got lost in every town we went through.” 

Lima to Sandusky: Averaged 22.15 mph. Fair dinner at Tiffin - Peddinghaus often commented on meals or lodging. “Tried to turn out (pull over) for a team of horses; (car) sank into ditch. Got out easily. Teamsters bid us a merry ‘ta-ta.’ Next time they turn out, not me.”

Cleveland to Wooster: Rain in am, cloudy in pm, “crossed ‘Brooklyn Bridge,’ came to toll gate paid 7 cents and had 19 miles of good brick pavement, another toll gate and pay 4 cents fair dirt road all way to Wooster.”

Wooster to Zanesville: “A day of trouble!” Muddy road; tire chain caught on mud guard; clutch failed on long steep hill - recruited 2 boys with horse team to pull them up the hill. “Met team (of horses) on hill; woman claimed her horse would never pass one of ‘them nasty things (automobiles),’ have been lost in every town we passed through. Clutch failed on hill below Dresden. Got dark. Too late for supper at Clarendon in Zanesville. Hardest day and most trouble have ever had.”

Zanesville to Marietta: Another challenging day. Muddy. Averaged only 12.8 mph. Started out but had to return to have high speed clutch tightened. Engine missing badly; bridge out, changed plugs near Malta. Mrs. Alexander visited her uncle in McConnelsville. At Beverly George Alexander saw “a good looking girl leading a horse which (was) frightened (by their) car and took off down a road. George liked this girl’s appearance so well that he chased the horse and finally returned it to the good looking girl.” No comment on Mrs. Alexander’s reaction to the good looking girl incident. Arrived home at 6:45 pm.

In 1908 they drove to New England with a Dr. and Mrs. Howard Smith and their son Lawrence. The trip started on an uncertain note: "Leave Marietta expecting to go to Berkshires...May not get there. Car is heavy (with luggage and passengers) and overloaded." It was a characteristically bold Peddinghaus venture, driving that far in an open vehicle, fully loaded with 5 people, with the constant threat of breakdowns, rough roads, bad weather, and poor road signage. They were gone 23 days. His journal reflects his great satisfaction with a successful trip: "1748.7 miles - one puncture - valves slipped twice - pump leaked - radiator leaked. Never had to stop. Always reached (destinations) on time. Good car - delightful trip." 

Thanks to Lew Peddinghaus's pioneering spirit and journal notes, we have a fascinating glimpse into early auto travel.

Note: The Peddinghaus Jewelry business was sold in 1918 to Walter A. Baker (your author's grandfather) and his cousin Henry Baker. The store became Baker & Baker Jewelers. The business continues today under the ownership of Larry Hall and his family.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Ephraim Cutler’s Journey: Westward to Ohio

“When our arrangements for going west were completed, on the 15th of June, 1795, I left Killingly (Connecticut) and departed from a circle of friends from whom I had received every mark of friendship from my childhood, and who had bestowed on me at a maturer age many evidences of respect and confidence. Mrs. Cutler’s friends, as they pressed around her at parting, expressed their fears that she could not survive the journey. She answered cheerfully, that ‘she had committed herself to God, her Savior,’ and was not disheartened by any apprehensions. ...Our assembled neighbors gathered around and bade us farewell, with many good wishes and tears. Thus we left the scene of my early life, and started on this then hazardous journey and perilous enterprise.”  

Portrait of Ephraim Cutler by Sala Bosworth viewed at

Ephraim Cutler's journey to Marietta in 1795 was especially harrowing. It is recounted from his memories of the actual events. Quotes are from his recollections, Life and Times of Ephraim Cutler. He experienced many setbacks in his early life, the trip to the Marietta area, and the first years living there. But he overcame adversity with perseverance and a positive outlook.

The journey to the new settlements in Ohio in the late 1700's was fraught with challenges. Travel was physically difficult - rugged terrain, no roads, long distances. Indians were a threat. Illnesses such as smallpox, diarrhea, bilious fever were common and could be fatal. Journey was also a metaphor for major life changes which accompanied moving to frontier settlements. Life there was radically different, often involving hardship, isolation, and lack of cultural activities. 

Ephraim, the eldest son of Manasseh Cutler, became a successful political leader and businessman in Southeast Ohio. He was was raised in Connecticut by his grandparents, but by his late 20’s had yet to find his niche. He was by then married with four children. After a failed mercantile business and losses as an agent for Ohio Company subscribers, he was restless for change. His wife Leah was in poor health. Her doctor advised that a warmer climate would be good for her. “This determined me to (move) to Ohio....and my wife approved...”

The Cutlers embarked from Killingly with a wagon, a yoke of oxen, two horses, and a milk cow “which gave us an abundance of milk on the way." They were accompanied by Colonel Israel Putnam, Israel Putnam, Jr., and their families, and Phineas Matthews. At Bethlehem PA, they stopped and visited Reverend John Heckewelder, noted Moravian missionary. Heckewelder was present at Fort Harmar treaty negotiations with Indian tribes in late 1788.

As they crossed mountains west of Carlisle PA, the pregnant wife of Israel Putnam, Jr. became seriously ill and gave birth prematurely.  They carried her on a makeshift stretcher to a home at the base of the mountain. The Putnams remained there until Mrs. Putnam could travel again. The Cutlers and Mr. Matthews continued on to the Monongahela River near Williamsport (now Monongahela PA). There Ephraim ordered a Kentucky flatboat built to transport the four families to Marietta. 

                           Flatboat illustration by Granger. Image from

A man named Becket allowed the Cutlers to stay in a cabin of theirs. The two families became close friends during the Cutlers' visit while the boat was being built. Ephraim seemed sorry to leave them when the flatboat was ready to take them on to Marietta. “I have ever felt grateful to him and to his family, not only for their friendly courtesy, but for substantial favors received.”

Ephraim and Colonel Israel Putnam took the horses and cow by land through Washington PA to Wellsburg VA (now West Virginia) on the Ohio River. The others set off in the flatboat on the Monongahela River. Surely the rest of the journey would go more smoothly, Ephraim hoped.

At Wellsburg, Ephraim and Colonel Israel met up with Colonel’s son Aaron Waldo Putnam and Phineas Matthews. Aaron had come up from Belpre to assist in bringing the flatboat down the Ohio River to Marietta. Matthews explained that the flatboat only made it about 15 miles to present day Elizabeth PA because of low water conditions on the river. He reported that Ephraim’s wife, the elder Mrs. Putnam, and Israel Jr. were all sick. The four men exchanged foreboding glances. The illnesses were likely bilious fever; it was contagious and often fatal.

The group decided that Aaron Putnam and Phineas Matthews would take the livestock downriver. Colonel Putnam and Ephraim returned to the boat. In a few days, a rise in the river allowed them to again start out in the flatboat. Now, Ephraim thought, they could make it to Marietta in a few days without further incidents. Ominously, sickness continued to afflict the group. Colonel Putnam and the Cutlers’ youngest son Hezekiah became ill. 

Below Pittsburgh progress on the Ohio River was “exceedingly low” due to low water. They were averaging only three or four miles per day. “....we were often aground; and I, with George Putnam, was much of the time in the river lifting at the boat, to get it over the sand-bars and shallows.”

A few days later, before reaching Beaver Creek, their “dear little son” Hezekiah died. “We stopped at a new place where the owner had buried some of his family, and by their side deposited his remains.”

Cutlers’ eldest daughter Mary became ill with bilious fever and soon died. Ephraim poignantly recalled their grief. “(We lost) one of the most promising children I ever knew. She was quite precocious in all her improvements...and interested all who saw her. To add to our distress we had no alternative but to commit her to the earth in the dreary wilderness, far from the habitation of any civilized being.”

As they approached Marietta, Ephraim’s wife Leah fell and broke two ribs. Then Ephraim was severely weakened by dysentery.  The group finally landed at Marietta on September 18,1795, just over three months after they left Connecticut. The Cutlers found temporary housing at "a stockade," probably at Picketed Point near the Ohio River in Marietta. 

It had been a devastating journey. But they had made it. Ephraim recalled that their feelings “were varied.“ “We had overcome the labors and fatigues of a long and perilous journey; but we had to mourn the loss of two of our dear children one just budding into life,...the other, the darling youngest son....We had landed sick, among strangers, and (with) little hope that I should ever rise in health. Such was our introduction to pioneer life.”

Ephraim Cutler home at Amesville OH where the family lived 1799-1806. The home still stands today; the current owner hopes to do some restoration work. Image from

When his health recovered in Marietta, there was no stopping him. He went on to become a successful farmer, public servant, educator, and political leader. Among his accomplishments:
  • Co-founding Ohio University where he served as a trustee from 1820-1849
  • Leading efforts to prohibit slavery at Ohio's 1802 constitutional convention.
  • While in the state legislature in the 1820's he helped create statewide school standards and reform the property tax to an ad valorem system, taxing land based on value.
  • He was a fervent abolitionist and supported Underground Railroad efforts.

Cutler Hall is the oldest building at Ohio University, built in 1819. It was named for Manasseh Cutler, Ephraim’s father. However, Ephraim is credited with co-founding the University and served as a Trustee for 30 years. Viewed at

What gave him the courage to persevere through these early challenges? He credits his grandparents, self education, and working with people (farming, public office, Ohio Company agent) at a young age. He also noted a "special (divine) providence (which) guides and directs the affairs of men. I can not be sufficiently thankful that God has thus preserved me. The glory and praise be to His holy name." 


“Biography of Ephraim Cutler,” viewed at

Cutler, Julia Perkins, Life and Times of Ephraim Cutler, Cincinnati, Robert Clarke & Co, 1890

“Ephraim Cutler”,

“Ephraim Cutler Home Page,” viewed at

Walker, Charles M., History of Athens County, Ohio, Cincinnati, Robert Clarke & Co, 1869

Williams, H.Z., History of Washington County Ohio, Cleveland, H. Z. Williams & Bro., 1881.

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.”