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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Bucks! OH-IO!

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

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

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

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

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

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


  1. Ithink RUfus Putnam would be pleased that he is not forgotten and that this land he loved is still passionately loved and defended by many.

  2. How wonderful to have Putnam named in an ESPN article referencing the true grit of Ohioans, then and now. Nice when history has relevance, even though it may be through sports. Go O-HI-O Buckeyes.