History

Why is this site important? 

The Campus Martius Museum highlights the history of Ohio's settlement, migration and transportation. The Ohio Company of Associates, which founded Marietta in 1788, established the first organized American settlement in the Northwest Territory. The Campus Martius Museum is on the site of the Campus Martius fortification, which was the Ohio Company’s headquarters. The museum features the restored, 200+ year old Rufus Putnam House on its original foundation, the last remaining structure from the original fortification. Exhibits trace the early settlement of Ohio as well as later migrations of rural Ohioans to cities and industrial centers.

Marietta, named after Queen Marie Antoinette of France, was the gateway to the Northwest Territory. In 1788 the Ohio Company sent an advance team of surveyors, carpenters, boat builders, and other artisans to settle on the mouth of the Muskingum River. The Settlers took immediate measures to provide for temporary shelter and security against the threat of Indian attack. On a high bluff overlooking the Muskingum, they constructed Campus Martius – a civilian fortification completed in stages between 1788 and 1791. “Campus Martius”, is Latin for “Field of Mars” and was thought to evoke images of the military camp in which the legions of ancient Rome once trained. The fortification was described as the “handsomest pile of buildings west of the Allegheny Mountains.” 

The museum, built by the state of Ohio in 1928, encloses a home in the original fortification that belonged to Rufus Putnam, superintendent of the Ohio Company of Associates, the land company responsible for Marietta’s settlement. The Putnam House was restored in 1972, and still stands today on its original location as the only surviving dwelling of the Campus Martius fortification. 

The museum also is the site of the Ohio Company Land Office, which was moved there in 1953 to ensure its preservation. In this historic structure, land deeds were allotted for the Ohio Company Purchase. Some of the earliest maps of the Northwest Territory were made in this office. 

Early Marietta settlers were fascinated by the area’s elaborate complex of prehistoric earthworks – evidence an earlier people once had occupied the region. The Marietta earthworks, located on an elevated plain overlooking the Muskingum, where the first of Ohio’s prehistoric Indians sites to be accurately surveyed, mapped and described. Conus Mound was built by the Adena Culture (800 BC to AD100) while the square enclosure and other geometric structures were built by the Hopewell Culture (100BC to AD500). 

Touched by Conflict, an exhibit on the Civil War from Marietta’s eyes.

Discover what lead up to Marietta’s involvement in the Civil War, and how local heros helped shape its outcome. This exhibit is rich with many military and personal items that were owned by Washington County soldiers. Follow the war through the eyes of the home front by reading first hand accounts from newspapers and journals from that time. A sampling of local heroes that will be featured are General Benjamin Fearing, Major J. Palmer, Captain James Selby, Captain J. Gage Barker, and Colonel Thomas Moore, as well as musicians, Woman’s Soldiers Relief and GAR items. This exhibit runs through 2015. 

Paradise Found and Lost: Migration in the Ohio Valley, 1850-1970

The focus of the exhibit Paradise Found and Lost: Migration in the Ohio Valley, 1850-1970 goes beyond Ohio's early settlement. It explores two later waves of migration that shaped the state's history: the movement of many rural Ohioans to cities between 1850 and 1910, and the influx of Appalachians from Kentucky and West Virginia into Ohio's industrial centers such as Dayton and Akron between 1910 and 1970. 

The exhibit includes 90 objects from Ohio Historical Society collections, ranging from an early mechanized seed drill to a jacket worn during performances by contemporary country music singer Dwight Yoakam, the son of Appalachian emigrants. In addition to artifacts, exhibits contain audio accounts taken from diaries and journals kept by these people on the move, video views of factory and city life, and interactive computer programs showing migration patterns and Ohio's economic development.