A crisp, sunny, blue-sky morning greeted Ohio State President Michael V. Drake, along with Dr. Cathann Kress, dean of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, other OSU staff, students, and guests as they visited southeast Ohio’s Washington County. The group boarded the Valley Gem Sternwheeler, built and operated by a local family to journey the Muskingum River. The fog had lifted to reveal the calm and gently flowing river banked on each side by lush green vegetation. Just over the top of the riverbank, homes could be seen in the City of Marietta. Perhaps with the rhythmic splash of the paddle of the sternwheeler, these passengers could imagine years long ago and the early pioneers who would establish Marietta and Washington County.
The Treaty of Paris greatly opened expansion of territories west of the Appalachian Mountains. In need of revenue and in payment to Revolutionary War veterans, the lands in the Northwest Territory were established with the passage of the Northwest Ordinance in 1787. Rufus Putnam, who was appointed Chief of Engineers by General George Washington, along with Manasseh Cutler and two other Continental Army officers, formed the Ohio Company of Associates and bought over 1,000,000 acres of land in the Northwest Territory. In 1788, with Putnam as their leader, 48 Revolutionary War veterans settled at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers, founding Marietta as the first organized settlement in the Northwest Territory. In accordance with the terms of the Northwest Ordinance, the settlers began the establishment based on legal basis land ownership, organized government, natural rights and prohibition of slavery. Later, Marietta and surrounding communities would become key locations in the Underground Railroad.
The Northwest Ordinance held language that carried forward the concept of land grants to support education. Arthur St. Clair (first governor of the Northwest Territory) originally chartered the American Western University to be the public university in the settlement (between Chillicothe and Marietta); however, the university never opened under that name. The next charter two years later established the first university in the territory: Ohio University. Rufus Putnam served as a trustee of the university for twenty years. Mr. Putnam also originated Muskingum Academy in 1797, a predecessor to Marietta College.
Just as the Northwest Ordinance presented opportunities for expansion, The Ohio State University offers opportunities for expansion of knowledge, careers, and development of social and economic initiatives. Visiting various areas of our great state gives our students, faculty, and staff a broader understanding of the impacts made by the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
Marietta and Washington County, Ohio invite you to visit. Plan a ride on the Valley Gem Sternwheeler and enjoy the many historical sites and scenic beauty of the area. The Columbus Dispatch’s recent article “Marietta preserves its past as Ohio’s oldest city,” describes many visitor attractions. For more visitor information visit: http://mariettaohio.org.
Darlene Lukshin is an OSU Extension Program Specialist (Washington County & Buckeye Hills EERA).