When Rufus Putnam and his band of New Englanders stepped onto the Ohio shore to establish the town of Marietta, they were about to begin one of the most important yet little-known chapters in American history. Their landing spot at the confluence of the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers was on the edge of America’s wildest frontier. Their undertaking was, indeed, of epic proportions.
The Ohio Company built Campus Martius as the civilian fortification to house settlers until they could move out to their newly purchased land. It was constructed of four-inch-thick sawn planks. It was a magnificent building and a very spectacular sight to wilderness travelers. Besides Marietta, the Ohio Company established two additional settlements in the second year. One of them was Belle Prairie, today’s Belpre, situated in a lush river bottom where the best farmers lived. The fortified compound on the riverbank was known as “Farmer’s Castle.”
These pioneers, primarily Revolutionary War officers and men, began the newly formed United States’ official westward movement across the Allegheny Mountains and across the Ohio River to settle the Old Northwest Territory, including what would become the State of Ohio. In doing so, they established the pattern of settlement that would eventually extend across the entire nation. This set a high moral tone which they hoped would be an example for the future nation to follow. Rufus Putnam and his Ohio Company men were truly visionaries.