William Burnham was one of the early settlers of Ohio. He was not one of the first company which came in April 1788, but he must have come early in the summer of that year.
It is barely possible, at this day, to give any satisfactory sketch of Mr. Burnham's life, as reliable materials for so doing are difficult to obtain. He was born in Ipswich, Massachusetts, in 1760, came to Ohio at the age of 28, and married at Marietta, 1789, Miss Christian Oliver, daughter of Col. Robert Oliver, who had come to Marietta the same year that Mr. Burnham came, but later.
The settlement of Marietta consisted of the "Campus Martius" on the hill, and the lower garrison, called the "Point," the last mentioned being now the principal business portion of Marietta. Previous to the Indian war, Mr. Burnham built a house at the "Point," and resided there during the war. After the close of the war, he removed to his farm in Waterford township, about two miles north of Wolf Creek Mills, and resided there several years. About 1801, he returned to town, and opened a public house in Harmar, then a part of Marietta.
At one period, from 1800 to 1807, business was very active in Marietta, especially business connected with ship building. Mr. Burnham, at his public house, became acquainted with many prominent business men, his house being a place where they were accustomed to resort. The embargo, however, put a stop to ship building. Some of those engaged in that business were compelled to suspend, and many persons being out of employment, sought occupation in other places. Ship building and all business connected with it was ended.
Probably on account of the decrease in his business, Mr. Burnham, in 1808, removed to Zanesville, taking his family and his goods up the river in pirogues. The pirogue was a boat much used in those days, and was almost the only mode of transportation up the rivers. It was similar to a canoe, only larger, being hewn from large poplar or pine trees, and was often forty or fifty feet in length, carrying four or five tons, and requiring several men to manage it.
In Zanesville, Mr. Burnham opened a public house, on Main street. In 1803, Zanesville contained but ten houses, and Springfield, now Putnam (now Zanesville - Ed. Reg.) on the opposite side of the Muskingum river, contained but fifteen. Although Zanesville had not been long settled, it was growing rapidly when Mr. Burnham went there. It was one of the most important towns in the interior of the State, being on the line of travel from the West and Southwest, including Kentucky and Tennessee, to the East.
In May, 1796, Congress passed an act granting to Ebenezer Zane three sections of land in Ohio - one section at the crossing of the Muskingum river, where the city of Zanesville is now situated; one section at the crossing of the Hock Hocking, at what is now Lancaster; and one on the Scioto river, opposite what is now Chillicothe - on condition that he should open a road from a point opposite Wheeling, Virginia, through Zanesville, Lancaster, and Chillicothe, to a point opposite Limestone, now Maysville, Kentucky, establishing ferries on the Muskingum, the Hock Hocking, and the Scioto, at the points named above - there being no towns there at that time. The road was to be opened by January 1, 1797. Patents to be issued to him on the opening of the road to travel. It is presumed that the road was completed according to the act of Congress, as these patents were issued to Mr. Zane. The income from the ferries belonged to Mr. Zane also. The opening of this road was an era in the history of the State, and it became a very important thoroughfare, and continued to be such until the establishment of steam navigation on the Ohio, about 1820, drew off a great part of the Southern and Southwestern travel.
In those early days, nearly all travel going East was on horseback. Mr. Burnham's inn, at Zanesville, became well known and deservedly popular, and was largely patronized by travelers.
Mr. Burnham resided in Zanesville until his death, in 1820, at the age of sixty years. He was a man of affable manners, genial social qualities, very intelligent and fond of reading. He never accumulated a large property, and after his death his family returned to the old Burnham farm, near Wolf creek, Waterford.
Mrs. Burnham died five years after her husband, in 1825, at the age of sixty. She was from Chester, Massachusetts. When in her youth, she had united with the church. Several years fater her marriage, she was received by letter, at the same time with her mother, into the Congregational Church of Marietta, which had been organized December 6th, 1796.
Mrs. Burnham was a lady of fine personal appearance, very interesting character, and from her youth was possessed of very marked qualities as a Christian.
The children of William Burnham and Christian Oliver were:
Abigail, born 1798; married William H. Harris, 1822.
Mary Oliver, born September 19, 1795; married W. O. Banock, April 25, 1827; died 1851.
Sarah Judith, born November 20, 1800; married Ezekiel Wood, September 11, 1823; died April 16, 1841.
Lucy Chrate [sic Choate], born May 7, 1802; married Samuel Orr, 1829.
Robert Oliver Burnham, born January 5, 1806; he was the only son, and died August 17, 1815.
Mrs. Harris is now living in Zanesville; and Mr. Orr is also living, in Missouri.
Miss Nellie Oliver, only sister of Mrs. Burnham, married Thos. Lord, Esq., Associate Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, Washington county. They resided on the Muskingum, nearly opposite the mouth of Big Run, in Adams township, Washington Co.
A. T. N.