Monday, November 1, 2010

Marietta, Sixty Years Ago

The Marietta Register, April 1, 1875

In 1815 an uncle [Timothy Flint] of the writer of this article, left Massachusetts, where he had been settled for 14 years, under a commission from the Connecticut Missionary Society, to labor in what was then the far West.  The colony of ex-revolutionary soldiers from New England, for twenty-seven years, had been developing its settlement at Marietta.  Taking with him his entire family - wife and three children - he made the journey in his own conveyance, in about one month, to Pittsburgh.  From thence they floated down the river to Marietta, which they reached about the middle of November.  Here he remained for some weeks, and then passed on to Cincinnati, and, after laboring as a minister in that region and in the States of Kentucky and Indiana, he was transferred to St. Louis.

After a residence of ten years at the West, he wrote a series of letters, containing his recollections of the country.  Retiring from the direct work of the ministry, he gave himself to literary pursuits, composing works which, a recent number of the "New Englander" declares, point him out as "a writer of real merit, and master of a style that for clearness and beauty is seldom equaled."

He made several visits to Marietta, and his letters embody his reflections upon the place from 1815 to 1824, when his letters were published.  The work is now out of print, but I have thought your readers might be pleased to read what he wrote, and so have transcribed a portion for the columns of the Register.  To many of the incidents spoken of by the author, I remember to have listened in my early years, and, often reading over his works, I have though he possessed a rare felicity and power of embodying in glowing and appropriate language his impressions of the outward, and what he conceived and felt of the inward and spiritual world.

But let us see what he says of Marietta as seen sixty years since.  He writes:

"We landed at Marietta, just above the mouth of the Muskingum.  It is a considerable village.  In the forms of the houses and the arrangements about them, you discover that this is an establishment from New England.  A number of well informed and respectable emigrants from that country had preceded us, and had just arrived in the village.  Mr. R., a pious and amiable man, who has since deceased, was minister there.  I had letters to the venerable General Putnam, the patriarch of this colony.  We were here once more in the society of those who had breathed the same air, had contemplated the same scenery, and been reared amidst the same institutions with ourselves.  You can imagine the rapidity of discourse, the attempt of two or three to narrate their adventures at the same time, and the many pleasant circumstances attending the renewal of a long suspended intercourse with congenial society.

"There is something very pleasant and rich in the aspect of the wide and level bottom here.  There is a fine steam mill, built of stone, across the Muskingum, spouting up its column of vapor, and the accompaniment of boat-building and mechanical labors give the place an aspect of business and cheerfulness.  The place has, however, suffered more than once from inundation, which has much retarded the advancement of its growth.  We hear much of the flourishing and populous settlement up the Muskingum, a river whose banks are said to be pleasant and healthful.  The river, which here falls into the Ohio, is broad, shallow, and considerably rapid.  The Ohio backs it up, at times, to a considerable distance.  A laughable incident is said to have occurred on this river, from this cause.  During the thick fogs that often happen here, it is well nigh impossible for the boatmen to judge of directions, to ascertain which way is up, or which way down the river.  In such circumstances, a boat came down the Ohio near the Muskingum shore, was drawn into the mouth of the river by the current that was backing it up, and was proceeding to ascend it in the fog.  When the hands had made some miles up the river, they were hailed, and the usual questions were asked: namely, where from? and where bound?  To this last question the reply was, to New Orleans, and they were with difficulty convinced, that they were making headway up the Muskingum.

"To return to Marietta.  General Putnam was a veteran of the revolution, an inhabitant of Marietta, one of the first purchasers and settlers in the country.  He had moved here when it was one compact and boundless forest, vocal only with the cry of owls, the growl of bears, and the death-song of the savage.  He had seen that forest fall under the axe - had seen commodious, and after that, splendid dwellings rise around him.  He had seen the settlement sustain an inundation, which wafted away the dwellings, and in some instances the inhabitants in them.  The cattle and all the improvements of civilization were swept away.  He had seen the country suffer all the accumulated horrors of an Indian War.  He had seen its exhaustless fertility and its natural advantages triumph over all.  He had seen Marietta make advances towards acquainting itself with the gulf of Mexico, by floating off from its banks a number of sea vessels built there.  He had seen the prodigious invention of steamboats experimenting on the Ohio, and heard their first thunder, as they swept by his dwelling.  He had witnessed a hundred boats, laden for New Orleans, pass by in the compass of a few hours.  He had surrounded his modest, but commodious dwelling with fruit trees of his own planting; and finer, or more loaded orchards than his, no country could offer.  In the midst of rural plenty, and endeared friends, who had grown up around him - far from the display of wealth, the bustle of ambition and intrigue, the father of the colony, hospitable and kine, without ostentation and without effort, he displayed in these remote regions, the grandeur, real and intrinsic, of those immortal men, who achieved our revolution.  Of these great men, most of whom, and General Putnam among the rest, have passed away, there seems to have arisen a more just and a more respectful estimate.  Greater and more unambitious men no age or country has reared.  Cato's seems to have been their motto - 'esse quam videri.'"

From Marietta the author of this extract went to Cincinnati, and St. Louis, and residing in the West till 1840, returned to his native place and there died of consumption.  In addition to his work entitled the "Last Ten Years" ["Recollections of the Last Ten Years"], he wrote extensively of the West, was editor of a magazine published at Cincinnati, and in 1833, was editor of the Knickerbocker Magazine in New York.


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