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History of Washington County, Ohio

[Excerpted from Source: "Historical Collections of Ohio: Containing a Collection of the Most Interesting Facts..." By Henry Howe; Derby, Bradley & Co., Cincinnati: 1847]

Washington was formed July 27th, 1788, by proclamation of Gov. St. Clair, being the first county formed within the limits of Ohio. Its original boundaries were as follows: "Beginning on the bank of the Ohio river, where the western boundary line of Pennsylvania crosses it, and running with that line to Lake Erie; thence along the southern shore of said lake to the mount of Cuyahoga river; thence up the said river to the portage between it and the Tuscarawas branch of the Muskingum; thence down that branch to the forks, at the crossing place above Fort Laurens; thence with a line to be drawn westerly to the portage, on that branch of the Big Miami, on which the fort stood that was taken by the French in 1752, until it meets the road from the lower Shawnese town to Sandusky; thence south to the Scioto river, and thence with that river to the mount and thence up the Ohio river to the place of beginning." The surface is generally hilly and broken, excepting the broad strips of alluvial land on the Ohio and Muskingum. In the middle and western part are extensive tracts of fertile land. The uplands near the large streams are commonly broken, but well adapted to pasturage. The principal products are corn, wheat, oats, potatoes, dairy products, fruit and wool. The following is a list of its townships in 1840, with their population.

Adams 791
Aurelius 886
Barlow 880
Belpre 1290
Decatur 439
Fearington 1019
Grandview 514
Independence 335
Jolly 582
Lawrence 571
Liberty 515
Ludlow 539
Marietta 2689
Newport 1678
Roxbury 1225
Salem 881
Union 888
Warren 931
Waterford 1166
Watertown 1128
Wesley 991

The population of Washington in 1820, was 10, 425; in 1830, 11,731, and in 1840, 20, 694, or 31 inhabitants to a square mile.

This county was the first settled in Ohio, and under the auspices of the New England Ohio company. Its early settlers were from New England, the descendants of whom constitue the larger share of its present population.

In the autumn of 1785, a detachment of United States troops, under the command of Maj. John Doughty, commenced the erection, and the next year completed Fort Harmar, on the right bank of the Muskingum, at its junction with the Ohio. It was named in honor of Col. Josiah Harmar, to whose regiment Maj. Doughty was attached. It was the first military post erected by Americans within the limits of Ohio, excepting Fort Laurens, built in 1778. The outlines of the fort formed a regular pentagon, embracing within the area about three-quarters of an acre. Its walls were formed of large horizontal timbers, and the bastions of large upright timbers, of about 14 feet in height, fastened to each other by strips of timber tree-nailed into each picket. In its rear, Maj. Doughty laid out fine gardens. It continued to be occupied by United States troops until September, 1790, when they were ordered to Cincinnati. A company under Capt. Haskell continued to make the fort their head-quarters during the Indian war, sending out occasionally small detachments to assist the colonist at Marietta, Belpre and Waterford, in guarding their garrisons against the Indians. The barracks and houses not needed for the accomodation of the troops, were occupied by the inhabitants living at Marietta, on the opposite side of the Muskingum.

In the autumn of 1787, the directors of the Ohio company organized in New England, preparatory to a settlement. Upon the 23d of November, they made arrangements for a part of 47 men to set forward under the superintendence of Gen. Rufus Putnam; and not long after, in the course of the winter, they started on their toilsome journey. Some of these, as well as most of those who followed them to the colony, had served in the war of the revolution, either as officers or soldiers, being men who had spent the prime of their lives in the struggle for liberty.

"During the winter of 1787-8, these men were pressing on over the Alleghanies by the old Indian path which had been opened into Braddock's road, and which has since been followed by the national turnpike from Cumberland westward. Through the dreary winter days they trudged on, and by April were all gathered on the Yohiogany, where boats had been built, and started for the Muskingum. On the 7th of April they landed at the spot chosen, and became the founders of Ohio, unless we regard as such the Moravian missionaries.

"As St. Clair, who had been appointed governor the preceding October, had not yet arrived, it became necessary to erect a temporary government for their internal security; for which purpose a set of laws was passed, and published by being nailed to a tree in the village, adn Return Jonathan Meigs was appointed to administer them. It is a strong evidence of the good habits of the people of the colony, that during three months, but one difference occurred, and that was compromised. Indeed, a better set of men altogether, could scarce have been selected for the purpose, than Putnam's little band. Washington might well say, 'no colony in America was ever settled under such favorable auspices as that which was first commenced at the Muskingum. Information, property and strength, will be its characteristics. I know many of the settlers personally, and there never were men better calculated to promote the welfare of such a community.'

"On the 2d of July, a meeting of the directors and agents was held on the banks of the Muskingum, for the purpose of naming the new-born city and its public squares. As the settlement had been merely 'The Muskingum,' the name Marietta was now formally given to it, in honor of Marie Antoniette.

"On the 4th of July, an oration was delivered by James M. Varnum, who, with S. H. Parsons and John Armstrong, had been appointed to the judicial bench of the territory, on the 16th of October, 1787. Five days later, the governor arrived and the colony began to assume form. The ordinance of 1787, provided two district grades of government for the northwest territory, under the first of which the whole power was in the hands of the governor and three judges, and this form was at once organized upon the governor's arrival. The first law, which was for regulating and establishing the militia,' was published upon the 25th of July; and the next day, appeared the governor's proclamation, erecting all the country that had been ceded by the Indians east of the Scioto river into the county of Washington.

"From that time forward, notwithstanding the doubt yet existing as to the Indians, all at Marietta went on prosperously and pleasantly. On the 2d of September, the first court was held, with becoming ceremonies," which was the first civil court ever convened in the territory northwest of the Ohio.

"The progress of the settlement, [says a letter from the Muskingum,] is sufficiently rapid for the first year. We are continually erecting houses, but arrivals are faster than we can possibly provide convenient covering. Our first ball was opened about the middle of December, at which were fifteen ladies, as well accomplished in the manners of polite circles as any I have ever seen in the old states. I mention this to show the progress of society in this new world; where, I believe, we shall vie with, if not excel, the old states, in every accomplishment necessary to render life agreeable and happy."

Soon after the landing, preparations were made to build the stockaded fort, Campus Martius, to which allusion has already been made; and although it was begun in the course of that year, it was not entirely completed with palisades and outworks, or bastions, until the winter of 1791.

The names of the early settlers who came the first season to Marietta, as far as recollected, were as follows:

Of the agents, were Gen. Putnam, Winthrop Sargeant, secretary of the territory, Judges Parsons and Varnum of the settlers, Capt. Dana, Capt. Jonathan Devol, Joseph Barker, Col. Battelle, Major Tyler, Dr. True, Capt. William Gray, Capt. Lunt, the Bridges, Ebenezer and Thomas Cory, Andrew M'Clure, Wm. Mason, Thomas Lord, Wm. Gridley, Gilbert Devol, Moody, Russels, Deavens, Oakes, Wright, Clough, Green, Shipman, Derrence, the Maxons, Wells, &c. The first boat of families arrived on the 19th of August, in the same season, consisting of Gen. Tuppers, Col. Ichabod Nye, Col. Cushings, Major Coburn's, and Major Goodale's.

In the spring of 1789, settlements were pushed out to Belpre, Waterford, and Duck Creek, where they began to clear and plant the land, build houses and stockades. Among the first settlers at Waterford, were Benjamin Convers, Gilbert Devol, sen., Phineas Coburn, Wm. Gray, Col. Robert Oliver, Major Hatfield White, Andrew Story, Samuel Cushing, John Dodge, Allen and Gideon Devol, George, William and David Wilson, Joshua Sprague, with his sons William and Jonathan, Capt. D. Davis, Phineas Coburn, Andrew Webster, Eben Ayres, Dr. Farley, David Brown, A. Kelly, James and Daniel Convers.

At Belpre, (the French for "beautiful meadow") were three stockades, the upper, lower and middle; the last of which was called "farmers castle," which stood on the banks of the Ohio, nearly, if not quite, opposite the beautiful island, since known as "Blannerhassets," the scene of "Burr's consipiracy." Amnog the persons at the upper, were Capt. Dana, Capt. Stone, Col. Bent, Wm. Browning, Judge Foster, John Rowse, Mr. Keppel, Israel Stone. At farmer's castle, were Col. Cushing, Major Haskel, Aaron Waldo Putnam, Col. Fisher, Mr. Sparhawk, and it is believed George and Israel Putnam, jr. At the lower, were Major Goodale, Col. Rice, Esq. Pierce, Judge Israel Loring, Deacon Miles, Major Bradford, and Mr. Goodenow. In the summer of 1789, Col. Ichabod Nye and some others built a block-house at Newberry, below Belpre. Mr. Nye sold his lot there to Aaron N. Clough, who, with Stephen Guthrie, Jos. Leavins, Joel Oakes, Eleazer Curtis, Mr. Denham, J. Littleton, and a Mr. Brown, were located at that place during the subsequent Indian war.

Every exertion possible for men in these circumstances, was made to secure food and prepare for future difficulties. Col. Oliver, Major Hatfield White, and John Dodge, of the Waterford settlement, began mills on Wolf Creek, about three miles from the fort, and got them running; and these, the first mills in Ohio, were never destroyed during the subsequent Indian war, though the proprietors removed their families to the fort at Marietta. Col. E. Sproat and Enoch Shephard, began mills on Duck Creek, three miles from Marietta, from the completion of which they were driven by the Indian war. Thomas Stanley began mills higher up, near the Duck Creek settlement; these were likewise unfinished.

During the Indian war, which soon succeeded the first settlements, the inhabitants suffered much for the necessaries of life. Although some of the settlers were killed, and others carried into captivity, yet the massacre at Big Bottom, was the most alarming event. The escape of the settlers from greater suffering from this source, was owing to the strong fortifications erected, and teh admirable judgment and foresight they displayed in taking precautions against danger. Among the incidents connected with the troubles with the Indians, to which we have barely space to allude, was the taking prisoner at Waterford, of Daniel Convers, (then a lad of 16, now of Zanesville,) who was carried to Detroit, the murder of Warth while at work near Fort Harmar; the taking prisoner of Major Goodale, of Belpre, who was, it is supposed, murdered; the death of Capt. Rogers, who was out with Mr. Henderson, as a spy, and was killed near the Muskingum, about a mile from Marietta; the death of a Mr. Waterman, near Waterford, and the narrow escape of Return J. Meigs, into Fort Harmar, by his fleetness of foot, while pursued by the enemy. On the other hand retaliation was in a measure inflicted upon the Indians, and among those most active in this duty was Hamilton Carr, a man eminently distinguished as an Indian hunter and spy. During the war a stockade was erected near the mouth of Olive Green Creek, above Waterford, which became the frontier garrison, and had in it about sever or eight men and boys able to bear arms. Just before Wayne's victory, Aug. 4th, 1794, they lost one man, a Mr. Abel Sherman, who went into the woods incautiously, and was killed by the Indians. A tomb-stone with a scalped head rudely carved upon it, marks the spot where he lies.

Among the inmates of this garrison was Geo. Ewing, esq., father of the Hon. Thomas Ewing. His fortune and history were similar to that of many of the revolutionary officers who emigrated to the west at that early day. He inherited a handsome patrimony and sold it, investing the proceeds in bonds and mortgages, and entered the continental army as a subaltern officeer in 1775, he being then but little over 21 years of age. He continued to serve, with a few short intermissions, during the war. When the bonds fell due, they were paid in continental money, which, proving worthless, reduced him to poverty. In 1785, he migrated to the west, and remained on the Virginia side of the Ohio until 1782, when he crossed over and settled at Olive Green.

From the communicaton of one of the early settlers at Olive Green, we annex some facts respecting their privaitons and the discovery of a salt well

The inhabitants had among them but few of what we consider the necessaries and conveniences of life. Brittle wares, such as earthen and glass, were wholly unknown, and but little of the manufactories of steel and iron, both of which were exceedingly dear. Iron and salt were procured in exchange for ginseng and peltry, and carried on pack horses from Ft. Cumberland or Chambersburg. It was no uncommon thing for the garrison to be wholly without salt for months, subsisting upon fresh meat, milk and vegetalbes, and bread made of corn pounded in a mortar--they did not yet indulge in the luxury of the hand-mill.

There had been an opinion, founded upon the information of the Indians, that there were salt springs in the neighborhood, but the spot was carefully concealed. Shortly after Wayne's victory, in 1794, and after the inhabitants had left the garrison and gone to their farms, a white man, who had been long a prisoner with the Indians, was released and returned to the settlement. He stopped at Olive Green, and there gave an account of the salt springs, and directions for finding them. A party was immediately formed, (of whom George Ewing, jr., then a lad of 17, was one,) who, after an absence of 7 or 8 days, returned, to the great joy of the inhabitants, with about a gallon of salt, which they had made in their camp kettle. This was, as I think, in August, 1795. A supply, though a very small one, was made there that season for the use of the frontier settlement.

Whether this salt spring was earlier known to the whites I am unable to say. It may have been so to spies and explorers, and perhaps to the early missionaries; but this was the first discovery which was made available to the people.

Marietta, the county seat, and the oldest town in Ohio, is on the left bank of the Muskingum, at its confluence with the Ohio, 104 miles SE. of Columbus. It is built principally upon a level plot of ground, in the midst of most beautiful scenery. Many of the dwellings are constructed with great neatness, and embellished with handsome door-yards and highly cultivated gardens. Its inhabitants are mostly of New England descent, and there are few places in our country that can compare with this in point of morality and intelligenc--but few of its size that have so many cultivated and literary men. Marietta contains 1 Presbyterian, 1 Episcopal, 1 Baptist, 1 Methodist, 1 German do., 1 Universalist and 1 Catholic church; a male and female academy, in excellent repute; a college, 1 public libraries, 1 bank, 1 or 2 printing offices, a variety of mechanical and manufacturing establishments, about 20 mercantile stores, and in 1840, had a population of 1814.

Ship building, which was carried on very extensively at an early day, and then for a season abandoned, has again been commenced, and is now actively prosecuted. From the year 1800 to 1807, the business was very thriving. Com. Abm. Whipple, a veteran of the revolution, conducted the one first built, the St. Clair, to the ocean.

At that time Marietta was made "a port of clearance," from which vessels could receive regular papers for a foreign country. "This circumstance was the cause of a curious incident, which took place in the year 1806 or 1807. A ship, built at Marietta, cleared from that port with a cargo of pork, flour &c., for New Orleans. From thence she sailed to England with a load of cotton, and being chartered to take a cargo to St. Peteresburg, the Americans being at that time carriers for half the world, reached that port in safety. Her papers being examined by a naval officer, and dating from the port of Marietta, Ohio, she was seized, upon the plea of their being a forgery, as no such port was known in the civilized world. With considerate difficulty the captain procured a map of the United States, and pointing with his finger to the mouth of the Mississippi, traced the course of that stream to the mouth of the Ohio; from thence he led the astonished and admiring naval officer along the devious track of the latter river to the port of Marietta, at the mouth of the Muskingum, from whenc he had taken his departure.This explanation was entirely satisfactory, and the American was dismissed with every token of regard and respect."

Marietta College was chartered in 1835. It was mainly established with a view to meet demands in the west for competent teachers and ministers of the gospel. The institution ranks high among others of the kind, and its officers of instruction are such as to merit the confidence of the enlightened patrons of thorough education. A new college edifice has lately been reared, and from the indications given, the prospects of the institution for a generous patronage are highly auspicious. The catalogue for 1846-7, gives the whole number of students at 177, of whom 60 were undergraduates, and 117 in the preparatory academy. The officers are Henry Smith, M. A., president; John Kendrick, M. A., J. Ward Andrews, M. A., and Hiram Bingham, M. A., professors; Samuel Maxwell, M. A., principal of the academy, and Geo. A. Rosseter, M. A. tutor.

Among the early settlers of Marietta were many who merit extended sketches; we have, however, but space for brief notices of a few of the more prominent.
[Excerpted from Source: "Historical Collections of Ohio: Containing a Collection of the Most Interesting Facts..." By Henry Howe; Derby, Bradley & Co., Cincinnati: 1847]

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