Marietta is a city abundantly rich in history, both modern and ancient. There is no better place to illustrate the vastness of this history than the Mound Cemetery. The Mound Cemetery main entrance is located on Fifth Street, across from St. Paul’s Evangelical Church, and surrounded by residential homes.
Hundreds of years prior to Marietta’s establishment as the first organized settlement in the Northwest Territory, the Ohio River valley was home to indigenous groups collectively referred to as Mound Builders. The Adena Mound builders are thought to be responsible for some of the ancient earthworks sites still found here today. One of the most recognizable of these earthworks is the Conus mound, located in the center of the cemetery. When the members the Ohio Company began to settle the community, they recognized that even though it was their purpose to create a new modern city, it was just as important to preserve the history that already existed here.
The land that Marietta was built on was given to the members of the Ohio Company as compensation for their military service. The land set aside for the cemetery was donated by Rufus Putnam, in 1801, to prevent the destruction of the great mound. The first burial took place later that same year, and was of Colonel Robert Taylor. To date, there have been thirty-seven Revolutionary War soldiers recorded as buried in the cemetery with many of them highly ranked officers. It is believed that the Mound Cemetery contains the highest number of Revolutionary War officers buried in one place. The names of many of these men are familiar: Putnam, Buell, Dodge, Bosworth, Tupper and Whipple. The latter, Abraham Whipple was the first person to sink a British ship during the Revolution, and went on to sail from Ohio to the Caribbean opening up new trade with the Northwest Territory.
In 1837 the founders of the city decided to enclose the cemetery, in order to protect it further. At some point an excavation was started on the mound, but stopped shortly after when those responsible found a set of remains buried with belongings. The researchers determined the remains to be that of an Adena male, and upon discovering that the mound was a sacred burial site, decided that it would never again be excavated. At that time they replaced the earth that was taken, covered the top of the mound and installed stairs so visitors would not damage the rest of the mound. In 1976, during bicentennial celebrations, the city placed a time capsule at the top, though aside from that, the great piece of history has been left undisturbed. The Great Mound was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
In addition to the individual and family grave markers, the Daughters of the American Revolution created a monument to the soldiers of the American Revolution who are buried throughout Washington County in graves that are unknown or unmarked. In addition to the veterans of the American Revolution, the Mound Cemetery is the final resting place for veterans of conflict on our own soil, as well as abroad, and those who have served in peacetime, ready to answer the call if asked.
The cemetery is still in use today, with the most recent military internment in 2013, and multiple burials earlier this year.
If you have never walked through the Mound Cemetery, I urge you to take an hour or so, and step into history. It is an awe inspiring experience to stand next to the thirty foot tall great mound, to see the stones that, though weathered, have survived for more than a hundred years, and to walk among the memories of the men and women who left their homes, their land and their families to settle this territory that we now call home.