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Campus Martius was a civilian fortification built between 1788 and 1791 in order to protect Marietta, the first organized American settlement in the Northwest Territory of the United States. The original museum was erected by the state of Ohio on that site in 1928.
Campus Martius was the seat of territorial government under the Northwest Ordinance from 1788 to 1790 and provided protection to Marietta settlers during the Ohio Indian Wars of 1790 to 1794. The noble name "Campus Martius," Latin for "Field of Mars," evokes images of the military camp in which the legions of ancient Rome once trained.
The Campus Martius Museum 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 to its original condition by the Ohio Historical Society in 1972. Today, the plank structure still stands in 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.
Many of the craft tools, decorative arts, furnishings, agricultural implements, and other artifacts relating to the founding of Marietta and to the settlement of the Northwest Territory also are displayed in the museum.
The first group to purchase land and make an organized settlement in the Old Northwest was the Ohio Company of Associates. A joint-stock corporation, the Ohio Company was created by Revolutionary War veterans from New England and other adventurers who sought to establish a new settlement in the Ohio country. By pooling the continental certificates and military bounties they had received as pay during the Revolutionary War, the company stockholders purchased 964,285 acres in presentday southeastern Ohio.
The Ohio Company then surveyed the land and the shareholders settled and/or resold the land for profit. In this manner, they redeemed the military land-warrants and largely worthless continental certificates they had received during the Revolutionary War.
On April 7, 1788, an advance party of forty-eight Ohio Company surveyors, carpenters, boat builders, and other artisans arrived at the mouth of the Muskingum River "most heartily congratulating each other on the sight of [their] new country..." The directors of the Ohio Company named the first organized American settlement in the Northwest Territory Marietta, in honor of Queen Marie Antoinette of France.
Territorial government under the Northwest Ordinance was first inaugurated at Marietta on July 15, 1788. Marietta's formation signaled the beginning of the westward settlement across the United States. Following these pioneering steps, the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and the part of Minnesota that lies east of the Mississippi eventually would be created from the Northwest Territory.
"A HANDSOME PILE of BUILDINGS"
At the Muskingum River, the Ohio Company settlers also 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. The fortification was described as the "handsomest pile of buildings west of the Allegheny Mountains."
The first territorial laws were enacted and the first court of justice in the Northwest Territory was convened at Campus Martius in September 1788. Campus Martius remained the seat of territorial government until 1790, and continued to provide protection to the residents of Marietta during the Indian war that broke out there in 1791. After General Anthony Wayne defeated the Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers and the Treaty of Greenville was signed in 1795, the fort was dismantled.
HOME of PREHISTORIC INDIANS
Early Marietta settlers were fascinated by the area's elaborate complex of prehistoric earthworks - evidence that an earlier people once had occupied the region. The Marietta earthworks, located on an elevated plain overlooking the Muskingum, were the first of Ohio's prehistoric Indian sites to be accurately surveyed, mapped, and described. At the time of their discovery, they were great curiosities and the objects of much speculation concerning the presumed origin and identity of their builders.
Today we know that Marietta's Conus Mound was built by the prehistoric Adena Indians (800 B.C. to A.D. 100), while the square enclosure and other geometric structures were built by a late prehistoric culture, the Hopewell Indians (100 B.C. to A.D. 500).
Great admirers of the remains, the directors of the Ohio Company designated them as public places and made specific provisions for their preservation.
Following the beginnings of settlement and the end of the Ohio Indian Wars in 1795, Marietta began to appear less like a fortified frontier settlement and more like a transplanted New England community. When Marietta became the first incorporated city in the Northwest Territory in 1800, frame and brick homes already had begun to replace log and plank houses. The first organized American settlement of the Northwest Territory had been established.
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