You could say historian Bill Reynolds fell in love with Fort Harmar, the region's first frontier military fort, on his first trip to Marietta's Campus Martius Museum when he was 10 or 12 years old.
"My parents brought me here... and I thought, 'Wow, what a wonderful place this is,'" he said.
Today, he's a living encyclopedia of knowledge about the fort, ready to spill out unknown facts about the settlement. Like, for instance, if today you tried to find the spot where Fort Harmar, an early U.S. frontier military fort, was located, well, you wouldn't be able to.
Historian Bill Reynolds shows off a tent replica that is part of a Fort Harmar display at Campus Martius Museum, 601 Second St., Marietta. The tent was put up, along with a “touch box” and a wardrobe of clothes, for children to play in to get a feel for early Marietta life.
"For the people looking for Fort Harmar, you'd have to look down into the middle of the (Ohio) River," Reynolds said. "Every time they dredge down there, I keep an eye out, wondering if something interesting will come up, but it never does."
That tidbit about Fort Harmar, which turns 225 this year, is but one of many Reynolds is likely to share tonight when he presents at the Washington County Historical Society's 222nd Pioneers Day Dinner at the American Legion Post 64 in Marietta.
But it's not the most recent fact he's uncovered - several of which will be the focus of his presentation.
If you go
What: Washington County Historical Society 222nd Pioneers Day Dinner.
Where: American Legion Post 64, Marietta.
When: 5:30 p.m. today, social hour, 6:30, dinner.
The one fact Reynolds is most attracted to was discovered after reading the Congressional records found at Marietta College's Special Collections.
"There was a consensus for a while that after 1792 (Fort Harmar) was pretty useless, and it was pretty much torn down," he said. "That's not true at all."
What Reynolds found in his research is that numerous families moved into the fort in 1791, when it became a garrison for 50 men who were responsible for servicing or being accessible to all the outposts on the Ohio River. The military was moved across the river to Picketed Point.
"If you think about it, the Ohio River runs all the way to Pittsburgh and Indiana," he said. "That's a heck of a long piece of work to be doing for just 50 guys."
Reynolds was also fascinated with a French man, Francis Thiery, who worked as a baker in Fort Harmar, and an order for soldiers from Fort Harmar to travel up the Muskingum to bring coal back for the fort's fire places.
"We don't know where the coal came from, but we suspect it was probably from around Coal Run," Reynolds said.
A letter from Josiah Harmar caught Reynolds' attention, too, because of Harmar's claim to Fort Knox that he wasn't being afforded everything he should be given, considering his rank and pay.
"One of which is he wanted more of a budget for food so he could set a bigger and more elaborate table," he said. "Plus, he was entitled, as an officer of his rank, to four servants. Whether he got them, I do not know."
The presentation tonight is but one of many events and activities planned to commemorate Fort Harmar and its role in shaping early Marietta.
One of those is an exhibit marking Fort Harmar's anniversary currently under way at Campus Martius Museum, 601 Second St., Marietta.
Featured in the exhibit is a six-pound British cannon similar to those used during the American Revolution, a reproduction of a five-and-a-half-inch howitzer cannon, drawings by Major John Doughty of Fort Harmar before, during and after its construction, and clothes, weapons, utensils and other devices used by settlers and Native Americans.
Another way the fort is being celebrated is through a small-scale model created by the Kennon brothers, Dalton, 10, and Aaron, 12. The estimated one-foot-by-one-foot scale, made out of Popsicle sticks, matchsticks and other materials, will be presented for display Friday night at Sugden Book Store, 282 Front St., as part of the Marietta Legacy Project, a fundraiser for the museums organized by the Riverside Artists Gallery.
Aaron said the project was "pretty cool" and he learned a lot about the military fort through it.
"What surprised me most," he said, "was (Fort Harmar) was actually used to protect the Indians from the settlers and I always thought it was to protect the settlers from the Indians."
The Marietta Family YMCA is also preparing a much larger scale version of Fort Harmar later this year, said Roger Kalter, youth program director at the Y.
The scale will likely be 25 feet by 25 feet, Kalter said, and will be built with the help of artist Thadeus Brewjo and an 18th century re-enactor who knows how to survey like they did during that time period.
"The idea behind this is to get kids active and doing things they've never done before," Kalter said, adding that the scale model will be up for at least a year after being built the first weeks of June.
"Then we'll find a good home for it or we'll recycle it," he said.