Lately, Marietta has been popping up on a lot of lists. We’ve been named the most picturesque city in Ohio, one of the top ten small cities in America, an adventure destination – I could go on. This isn’t surprising, though – the little city of Marietta has been something worth talking about since the dawn of our nation, being established a mere 12 years after America was born. George Washington himself took an interest in the Mid-Ohio Valley when he explored the region in his late thirties – he believed it had a great potential and acquired land holdings. On October 26th, 1770 he even camped just above the mouth of the Little Muskingum River near what is now Reno.
Fast forward to 1788 when a group of 48 Revolutionary War veterans calling themselves the Ohio Company landed at the present site of the Lafayette Hotel. The group, led by Rufus Putnam, had set out the previous year seeking to settle in the new territory a grand and beautiful city at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers. The first name the settlers agreed upon was Adelphia (sound familiar?) but after a few months they changed their mind and held a meeting to discuss other options.
Several names were proposed, including Castrapolis and Urania, before it was finally decided that they would call the settlement Marietta, an abbreviation of Marie Antoinette. The then Queen of France was chosen in acknowledgement of her friendly reception of Benjamin Franklin, who was at that time Minister to France. The war veterans held the Queen in high regard after the help they received from France during the war and wanted to name the city in her honor.
In thanks, the Queen ordered a bell to be sent to the new settlement to be hung in a public building; Unfortunately, it never reached its final destination, and the beautiful gift was lost to sea. The Ohio Company even sent her a letter to France, offering the queen a “public square” of Marietta property in town, which turns out to be what we now know as Mound Cemetery. Marie Antoinette did not take up the offer, though her fate might have been altered significantly if she had. Instead, Mound Cemetery became the final resting place for many of the Ohio Company veterans – in fact, more Revolutionary War officers are buried in Mound Cemetery than any other cemetery in the nation.
Although we cannot boast owning a French bell, we can take pride in knowing that this region has been considered desirable for centuries. As George Washington so eloquently put it, “No colony in America was ever settled under such favorable auspices as that which just commenced on the banks of the Muskingum.”