Monday, March 25, 2013

Marietta Fifty Years Ago

The Marietta Leader, June 7, 1890:

A Paper Read to the New Century Historical Club by Hiram A. Hill.

Let us leave the post-office now and go down street.  There are no other buildings between it and the run below, the ground is low, we depart on a pavement of rough flag-stones, diagonally across the street, till we come to the stone bridge across the run.  This bridge consisted of a single arch, and was narrow, and was located near the west line of the street.  The stone pavement led to a wooden footwalk on the left side of the bridge.  I think this bridge was built by private subscription.  Two accidents occurred here which I will notice.  P. Hildreth, Jr., when about twelve years of age, fell from the west side of the bridge and fractured his skull; but he recovered from the injury.  A Mr. Baker, many years previous to this, fell from the other side, and was drowned.

Let us cross the bridge now and pass to the right of the street, where the stone pavement leads us on between the street and the commons on the right.  There was no mill on the bank of the Muskingum, no deep cut as now from Front street to the mill, but it was all smooth unincumbered ground.  At the bank were a few large sycamore trees, and that was all, to obstruct the view in that direction.  Over by the abutment of the dam was a small frame building used as a store room, and there also was the ferry landing.  Bridges across the Muskingum were not thought of then.

But we have crossed the bridge now, and about three or four rods below, and on our left, we have the old market house, dilapidated and dingy, not used except by cows and horses as a shelter from the rain.  It stood in the middle of the street, when it was built I am not certain, but think probably in the flush times caused by the last war with Great Britain.  Below the market house two or three rods, and on land now owned by Mrs. Haberling, was a board shanty, used as a blacksmith shop by Joseph Glines, the father of the late William Glines, Esq., of this city.  From this shop down to Styer's drug-store was a board fence.  On the ground now occupied by the store, or very near there, was a small frame building, with no glass, but board shutters to the windows, painted red.  This building was used for a slaughter-house, and was owned by Capt. Nathaniel Dodge.  Capt. Dodge did not follow the butchering business himself, but rented the place to Henry Armstrong for a number of years for that purpose.  There were no more buildings to Butler street.  From the slaughter-house to that street, and taking in the whole width of Front street, the ground was as low as it is now anywhere between Second and Third streets, or about sixteen feet below the present grade of the street.  From this cause the wagon road from the bridge to Butler street was to the right of the stone pavement, and on the common.

The frame part of the St. James hotel, with its four column portico, has stood there for more than seventy years.  Col. Abner Lord, I believe, built the house, but after him it was owned and was the residence, for a long time, of Dr. John Cotton.  From this building to the corner at D. B. Anderson's was a board fence, thence down Front street 180 feet, a board fence and stone pavement.

We will now cross over to the left side of Front street, below Butler, and notice the buildings.  The first house is a low gambrel-roof structure owned by the widow Baker, formerly the wife of the man who was drowned at the bridge, no paint on this house.  I will state here, that from this house to Greene street there was no pavement; only a path, with weeds here, and weeds everywhere, except in the path and wagon way where they could not grow.  The next house was a two story frame owned by Thomas Baker.  This house stood on the ground where now stands the St. Cloud hotel.  The next was a poor frame without paint.  The next a story-and-one-half tenement house, with the end to the street, no paint, the next was a large two-story frame house owned by Jason R. Curtis.  It stood on the ground now occupied by Stanley's stores, and was not painted.  Above the alley below, at Peter Kuntz, was a story-and-a-half frame tenement house, occupied by John Cunningham.  Below the alley, on the lot where now stands Rodick's stores, was a brick dwelling house owned by William Talbot, the next a frame owned by Mrs. Buck, the next a frame owned by Dudley Woodbridge.  

The next lot below this had a two-story brick building, standing back a considerable distance from the street, and a row of locust trees on each side of the walk leading to it.  The lower room of this house was for a school room, the upper a masonic lodge, approached by a flight of stone steps, from the ground up.  I notice something singular about these steps, they never had a rail, or balustrade, for protection from falling off.  The entrance to the lodge room was from the southeast side of the building.

On the ground occupied by this house was erected, probably, the first jail in the Northwest Territory.  It was one of the blockhouses within the palisade inclosure of the fort at the "point."  This building was burned down, and was, I believe, the first house, with the exception of one, burned in the town.  It was not used as a jail at the time, and was of little value.  It was supposed to have been set on fire by two young men, more notable for engaging in tricks and malicious mischief than anything else.

There was a scene at the burning of this structure which I will describe.  Another house, near by, was much endangered by the great heat, and a number of ladies were carrying water till they became almost exhausted, while a crowd of men were standing by as idle spectators.  This was more than the ladies could endure, and one of them turning to the men, gave them such a rebuke that they concluded they had better go to work or leave the ground, for another rebuke like that would by no means be desirable.

This lot is now occupied by Mr. Buell's drugstore and Theis' hardware store.  The next building below, and on the ground where Smith's furniture store stands, was a small two-story brick house, with the end to the street, occupied by James Dunn as a hatter shop.  From this shop, for two or three rods, was a post-and-rail fence, to an old and much decayed barn, standing on the lot where is now the store of the Nye Hardware Co.  From this barn to the house on the corner, where now stands the First National Bank, was more post-and-rail fence.  

The house on the corner was originally built by Gen. Joseph Buell for a tavern.  A Mr. Munsel kept the tavern for some time, but I think there was no tavern there later than 1820.  After that time it was occupied as a tenement house, sometimes having three or four families, and to consequence soon became much out of repair.  The first floor of this building in the rear was about seven feet from the ground, and I believe not higher than the floor of the National Bank.  The approach to the front door, on Front Street, was by a flight of several wooden steps. Entering the door, you came into a hall extending through the building with a stair way to the upper rooms.  On the left of this hall were two rooms of equal size, and on the right two.  Ascending the stairs to a door on the left, you would enter a spacious hall.  On the right was a narrow passage way, on each side of which were doors opening into sleeping rooms.  This house was a frame, painted red, and was called by the boys the "Old red house."  After the building became so much in want of repairs that it was almost abandoned as a place of residence, the school-boys used to resort to the large hall and spend sometime in throwing tops, which I can affirm were better tops than any I see now.

If the walls of this hall could have spoken, how much they could have related of meetings here in the early years of the century, of persons of note, who spent the hours of night in the giddy dance, forgetful of all but the pleasures of the moment, charmed by the attractiveness of the place and music's enlivening sound.  It is wisely ordered that we can not know the vicissitudes of the future in this life, for so sad are they sometimes, that they would deprive us of the enjoyment of the present.  Had Mrs. Blennerhassett, who I have no doubt attended these meetings, known that at a future period she would be reduced from affluence to extreme poverty, the reflection would have caused a sadness which no scenes of revelry could have alleviated.  I believe this lady was a woman of kindly and benevolent feelings, and no doubt many were her charitable acts in the days of prosperity.  A reflection upon these acts in after life, in the days of adversity, afforded, I have no doubt, a pleasing recollection, while the splendor and gayety of the ball-room reverted to, could not, I think, produce a corresponding feeling of satisfaction.

The last time my attention was particularly attracted by the "Red house," was in February, 1832, when I was paddling by in a small canoe and saw a cow looking out of a sashless window of the upper story,  apparently contemplating the mighty waters of the Ohio, which were now nearly as high as the floor on which she stood.  The poor man who owned the cow, not being able to take her to high land, thought he would take her in on the first floor, and thence being driven by the rising water, he was compelled to take her to the upper story.  Thirty years afterwards, this person, who took so much pains to save his cow from drowning, committed suicide by drowning in the Muskingum river.

Speaking of the flood of 1832, it was not quite so high as in 1884, but I think the destruction of property was greater.  The number of floating houses of different kinds, with stacks of hay and grain, and shocks of corn fodder was astonishing.  Add to these the immense quantity of drift-wood and fencing floating by, the whole presenting a sad picture of destruction.

The Marietta Leader, June 11, 1890:

We have now arrived at Greene street, let us go up a little to the South-east corner of the lot.  Here is a frame house one story high, with the end to the street, which I suppose was the first frame house built at the "Point."  Gen. Buell speaks in one of his letters of having constructed such a building, the timber for the frame of which was brought from above Pittsburg.  It stood on the ground now occupied by Booth's variety-show building.  The Old Red house with this one, was removed in 1832 to give place for better buildings.  The latter was bought by Stephen Daniels and moved to the south corner of Greene and Third streets, where it was used for a carpenter shop.  Subsequently it was bought by D. B. Anderson and converted into a dwelling.  Some years after, Mr. Dye bought it and moved it to the west side of Third Street, near his dwelling, where it stood till recently, when it was condemned by the city council and torn down.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, there was a time, when if you had passed through the streets of Marietta early in the morning, very likely you would have seen a man or a young woman with a fire-shovel carrying fire from a neighbor's, their fies, which was covered with ashes during the night, having "gone out," and as there were no matches like we have now, they were obliged to borrow fire.  This was of frequent occurrence.  The first Lucifer matches brought to Marietta were on sale at the store of the late Col. John Mills about the year 1833.

There was comparatively little coal burned in the town previous to that date, and the cooking-stove was little known, except as in use on steamboats, for the accommodation of which I think it was invented.

The mode of cooking previous to 1830 was very much after the fashion of our great-grandmothers of England.  If you will go with me into a kitchen I will prove this.  When we enter, the first thing to attract our attention is a capacious fire-place, for burning wood exclusively, with an iron crane in it, upon which are suspended several hooks called pothooks, and on these such iron vessels as may be desired in cooking.  On the left of the fire-place is a brick-oven, and under it a receptacle for ashes.  The fire place is deep enough to take in the old time back log, or yule log of our English fore-fathers.  It is long enough to admit split wood four feet long, which is supported by andirons.  With the backlog, Christmas, or yule log, and a plenty of split wood, a fire was made which was very cheering to see, especially on a Christmas day.

For baking, besides the brick oven, there was a cast-iron vessel, with a close fitting lid in which bread was baked, by placing coals underneath and on the lid.  For roasting there was in use a tin reflector to set before the fire, with an iron rod extending through the center of it called a spit, on which the articles to be roasted were fastened.  These reflectors were large enough in some cases to roast two turkeys or geese at a time.  By turning the spit frequently, all sides of the turkey or goose were exposed to an equal degree of heat, and it proved an excellent method of preparing these articles for the table.  

But there were people, both in the town and country, who thought themselves too poor to own a reflector, and yet were not so poor as not to have occasionally a roasted turkey.  I was once in a house where lived a poor family.  The cooking there devolved on a little girl about twelve years old, whose mother had died, they had no reflector, but instead she had the turkey suspended before the fire by a string or maybe a wire, under the roasting turkey was placed a large dish to receive the dripping fluid, which was frequently dipped up with a spoon and poured over it.

Now ladies and gentlemen, it is some time since we left our room, and if it is nearly nine o'clock at night we shall soon hear the sound of the town bell.  It is at the present time in the cupola of the Court House, and has a muffled sound, in comparison to what it need to have when it was suspended in the open belfrey of the old Court House.  Well do I remember its clear tone, when it rang at nine o'clock in the morning, at noon, and at nine o'clock at night.  There were no other bells in the town, save one on the Congregational church.  It was customary at that time to toll the Court House bell, whenever a death occurred in the town.  The old Court House was a frame structure, and stood on the site of the present jail building.  I have thought, many a time, about the custom of ringing the town bell at nine o'clock at night, and have concluded that it was probably the continuance of a custom originating in England.  I mean the ringing of the Curfew-bell.  In that matchless poem of Gray's, in which he says,
     "The curfew tolls the knell of parting day;
      The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea;
      The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
       And leaves the world to darkness and to me."
He alludes to the ringing of this bell.

The practice of ringing the curfew originated in England from an order of William the Conqueror, which obliged the people at its ringing, to cover their fires, put out their lights, and go to bed.  The hour for ringing the curfew was eight o'clock in the evening, an hour earlier than the ringing of our bell, but our Anglo-American ancestors, not having much respect for an edict of a king, could easily change the hour of retiring from eight to nine o'clock.  It used to be a common saying here, it is nine o'clock, and it is time all honest people were in bed.

Ladies and gentlemen, when we were down where the old jail was burnt, I forgot to tell you about the relic of barbarism, the whipping-post.  Well it stood in the lot between the jail and Front Street, a disgrace to Christian civilization.  When the old Court House was built, it was moved to the lot at the North corner of Putnam and Second streets, on the lot now occupied by the present Court House.  Were any persons ever whipped there?  I believe not many, how many I can not say.  The following traditional account of the satisfaction of justice at this post, is from a man who witnessed the whipping of two men, convicted of some petty offense, and whose names I could give if I thought proper.

He said it occurred when he was a boy, and he went with his sister, two years older than himself, to witness it, and besides themselves, there were many others present.  Said he, I endured the sight pretty well myself, but my sister could not endure it, and was so overcome that she cried.  I believe these were the last whippings here, and the whipping-post is counted among the things of the past.

"The world moves," and when it makes a move out of barbarism, everybody ought to rejoice.  How changed have been some of the laws.  Long since the whipping-post was taken away, the law was severe on the man who, unfortunately, was unable to pay his debts.  He was liable to be imprisoned, if his creditor chose to have him confined.  The jail in the old Court House had its key turned more than once on men who could not pay.

I remember the case of a man who owed a small debt, and who was imprisoned by his creditor, with the soothing information that he should like there till he should rot, if he did not pay.  But the law provided that the creditor should pay for the debtor's board while in jail, in consequence of which there were not many kept in jail very long.  The law provided, also, that if the debtor would give security that he would not leave the county, who need be imprisoned; and such a person was spoken of as being "out on the limits," that is the boundaries of the county.

It seems that the law makers were long in waking up to the conviction, that a man outside of jail would be a hundred times more likely to pay a debt, than one inside; but they did, finally, wake up to it, and the law to imprison for debt was repealed.

Did you hear, while passing by some of the smaller dwellings, a low sound like very distant thunder?  If you did that was no doubt the sound of the spinning wheel.  Probably there is not one of them used in the town today, but formerly they were much used for spinning yarn to be woven into cloth and for other purposes.  The hand loom was, also, much used, and we had two fulling mills and cloth-dressing establishments which furnished a very substantial cloth.  But has not our town been injured by the discouragement of home manufacturing, and in sending its money to patronize distant factories?  It may be taken as an axiom, that a town which buys everything and produces nothing, will never be anything but a slow town.  Our fulling mills, rope walks, potteries, woolen mills, cotton mills, hatter shops, shoe and bucket factories, and soap factories are mentioned only as things of the past.

In passing up Second street from Greene street we crossed the little stream once called the Tiber; but it has an alias now, which is Goose Run.  There being no bridge, properly speaking, across this stream, we walked over on a log which had been laid for the accommodation of pedestrians.  This stream used to abound with little fish, but its waters were so poisoned by the drainage from tanneries and the Gas works that they have long since disappeared.

To the right, and very near the bank of the Tiber, stood the "Old Sycamore," the last survivor of the great forest trees which stood on the ground when the pioneers landed, one hundred years ago.  That was evidently an old tree at that time.  I don't know why that tree was left standing, unless it was to show for many years what kind of trees there were when the New Mayflower landed.  It is not a great while since the old tree fell, but whether it was cut down, or blown down, I am not able to say.  There has been some dispute as to who cut the first tree after Putnam's boat struck the shore, but if the man is living who cut down the "Old Sycamore," his name ought to be known as the person who felled the last tree of that noble forest once covered the site of our beautiful city.

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