Marietta, the first settlement in the Northwest Territory, is home to one of the oldest pioneer burial grounds west of the Appalachian Mountains: Mound Cemetery. General Rufus Putnam, who led the settlers here and founded the city, donated the plot of land surrounding this large Indian mound in January 1801, and the first burial took place in October of that same year--that of Revolutionary War veteran Robert Taylor.
In its early years, Mound Cemetery saw the burial of more than twenty-five Revolutionary War soldiers, including Rufus Putnam himself. Many of the Revolutionary War veterans went west to pursue their fortunes and start families, and a large number of them are interred here. Below you can see the Revolutionary soldiers' memorial: a grid of metal memorial stars.
At the center of the graveyard is the Indian mound, which is thirty feet tall and can be climbed using a staircase. Signs warn you that it's a major crime to leave the staircase and trample the mound--maybe because the cemetery is a registered National Landmark. Archaeologists agree that the Hopewell Indians built the mound, even though most of Marietta's famous earthworks were built by the Adena.
Many very famous early Ohioans are buried in Mound Cemetery; even a cursory look at the gravestones will reveal a lot of identifiable names. A list of the notable figures you'll find occupying Marietta's oldest cemetery includes...
Return Jonathan Meigs
Meigs was born in Middlesex, Connecticut, but spent his life in Democratic politics in the Buckeye State. His resume is pretty impressive; he served terms as a Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, Federal Judge, United States Senator from Ohio, and the fourth Governor of the State of Ohio (1810-14). Between 1814 and 1823 Meigs served as Postmaster General of the United States under President James Madison. Meigs County, which borders Washington County, is named for him. But where did he get a first name like Return? According to this genealogy site, "The story of the origins of his name has been handed down through the generations, and frequently has become confused. It is said that Janna Meigs had persistently asked his sweetheart, Hannah Willard, for her hand only to be repeatedly refused. He came one last time, was again refused, and turned to go saying he would not ask again. At this, the lady called to him to 'Return and I will marry thee.' Thus the name of one of their children. No one knows if the story is true or not, but it has appeared in many branches of the family, so one is inclined to believe some truth lies therein. Our own family, completely removed from contact with any other branch, evidently had the story handed down from Return Jonathan Meigs himself."
After fighting in the French and Indian War, Rufus Putnam began the American Revolution as a Lieutenant Colonel. He was in charge of building defensive fortifications around Boston, Manhattan Island, and West Point. In 1785 he was appointed Surveyor of Western Lands. He later led an expedition to the mouth of the Muskingum River on the Ohio, where they founded Marietta in 1788. President Washington appointed him Judge of the Northwest Territory in 1790. In 1792 he negotiated the Treaty of Vincennes with eight Ohio Indian tribes, then served as Surveyor General of the United States between 1796 and 1803. In 1802 he was a delegate to the Ohio Constitutional Convention.
The American who fired the first shot at the British on the water. He was the twelfth commissioned officer in the US Navy, and he went west with Putnam's group to found Marietta.
William Augustus Whittlesey
Member of the Ohio Legistlature and later US Representative to Congress from Ohio's 13th district, 1849-1851.
These historical figures are buried alongside people who died in the last year or two. Apparently interments are still done here, but space must be limited. The cemetery is surrounded on all sides by streets and some extremely beautiful houses. It's been a popular landmark and tourist attraction for as long as Marietta has existed; the postcard you see below dates to 1907.
Katydid and I went there in the fall of 2002, right around dusk, and we both thought it was an incredibly nice place. Special thanks to her for use of her camera and photos.
Mound Cemetery should be haunted, but it apparently is not. The people at Haunted Marietta don't have anything about it on their site, and I have never heard any ghost stories about the place, although it was recommended to me on Halloween by Ohio News Network anchor and Marietta native John Fortney. Apparently modern Americans, pioneers, and ancient Indians rest peacefully side-by-side at this graveyard. If you're aware of any legends I've left out, please e-mail me.
Find-a-Grave: Mound Cemetery, Marietta, OH
Ohio Exploration Society: Mound Cemetery
The Political Graveyard: Mound Cemetery
Washington County Historical Society: Mound Cemetery Article
Rohde, Amanda L. "Walking Tour Gives Glimpse of Marietta's Past." The Marcolian. Vol. 127, No. 1. September 6, 2001.