Named after obvious geographic areas still in use today, the names of the Belpre, Marietta, Warren and Wolf Creek school districts don’t hold a lot of mystery.
Fort Frye High School
But the namesake of the Fort Frye Local school district isn’t as well known, and might have been even more obscure had the moniker not been chosen back when the Lowell and Beverly school districts combined.
“The name Fort Frye would’ve almost been lost to history if it were not for the consolidated school district using that name starting in 1956,” said Waterford resident Phillip L. Crane, a retired history teacher and local historian. “If you’d have asked people here back in the 1950s, hardly anybody would’ve known about Fort Frye.”
Fort Frye was constructed along the Muskingum River, not far from where Fort Frye High School stands today, in 1791. According to research Crane has done, it appears Joseph Frye, one of the original 39 settlers of the Wolf Creek area, had advocated the construction of a fort for some time, but it wasn’t until the killing of 12 Ohio Company settlers at Big Bottom in Morgan County that his advice was heeded.
Frye designed the fort that would later bear his name. Unlike other fortifications in the area, this one only had three sides.
“They made it in the shape of a triangle because that was quickest,” said local historian Louise Zimmer, of Marietta.
Starting construction in the winter of January 1791 added other challenges.
“They said they built bonfires wherever they wanted the posts to be so it would thaw the ground and they could work 24/7,” Zimmer said.
It was estimated that as many as 200 local militia members occupied the fort, which did successfully repel an Indian attack at one point.
“It was never attacked again,” Crane said.
After the Treaty of Greenville in 1795 brought an end to the Indian Wars, Fort Frye was no longer needed.
“The story was that they tore it down and it was used to build other buildings in the area,” Crane said.
Historical records indicate the fort likely stood on land behind the high school where the baseball field sits on one side and the Beverly water treatment plant on the other. But Crane said there are still questions surrounding the precise location.
For example, one record indicates the fort was half a mile from the Waterford ferry, which was near where the Waterford Bridge is today.
“Trouble with that is there’s a tremendous bend in the river, so you don’t know if they meant go with the river or just go straight,” Crane said.
Crane is leading an effort by the Lower Muskingum Historical Society to determine the exact location. He asked that anyone with source materials that might help in this effort contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Crane said Fort Frye was chosen for the new district instead of using the name of one of the districts consolidated over another. That was also likely a concern when the Frontier Local school district was formed in 1968, said Pat Peoples, a retired local educator who researched the formation of area school districts for a graduate dissertation.
She noted that there were hard feelings when multiple districts consolidated under the banner of Warren Local Schools, named for Warren Township.
“That was not very popular with all the other townships and all the other schools that consolidated to make that district,” Peoples said. “To this day, you can still find pockets of resentment about that.”
In the case of Frontier, “I think they were trying to give it its own name,” she said.
Newport Elementary Principal Greg Morus said he spoke with a longtime resident who told him the name “Frontier” was actually the choice of students in the schools being consolidated.
“The kids from Lawrence, Ludlow, New Matamoras and Newport all voted on the name of the district,” he said, adding that the new district’s mascot and colors were also determined by student vote.
It was not immediately clear why the name Frontier was among the choices, but Zimmer said it makes sense for the area.
“Since this is the frontier, we have ‘frontier’ everything,” she said. When people in the 18th century talked about going west, “they were talking about the Ohio Valley.”
It’s not surprising that there’s a school bearing the Putnam name in the Marietta City school district, but it isn’t very clear which Putnam is the namesake.
Some might guess it was Col. Rufus Putnam, who led the first group of settlers in Marietta. Others would say Col. Israel Putnam, the son of Rufus’ cousin, Revolutionary War Maj. Gen. Israel Putnam (the elder Israel Putnam is credited with saying “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes” at the Battle of Bunker Hill).
But a plaque at the school and “Williams’ History of Washington County” indicate the namesake is Israel Putnam III, on whose land the first school in the Devola area was constructed. The school is also not far from the Putnam Cemetery, where many members of the Putnam family are buried, according to Scott Britton, executive director of The Castle.
A Marietta City Board of Education history written by Allen E. Rupp calls Putnam an exception to the common naming of Marietta schools after the areas, communities or streets where they were located. It notes both the Putnam and Devol families were prominent in the area.
“When the new community was formed, the name Devola won out in a vote over Putnam,” it says. “It is reported that newcomers favored Devola, although many old-timers voted for Putnam. So, the school remains Putnam in the suburb named Devola.”
Marietta’s Phillips Elementary is located near Phillips Street, but it seems to have been named after the same person as the street, rather than the road itself.
Ernie Thode, manager of local history and genealogy at the Washington County Public Library in Marietta, said the school was established in 1953 and named for John Dean Phillips. According to excerpts from the April 25, 1926, edition of The Marietta Sunday Times, Phillips was a principal at the Greene Street School, superintendent of Marietta schools and head of Harmar schools starting in 1870. The article describes him as a man with “a kind disposition, unassuming manner and sterling integrity.”
Some suggested naming the new Greene Street School, built at Fourth and Greene streets, after Phillips in the 1890s. According to Rupp’s history, the lone female member of the board was asked to name it and she called it Willard, after Mrs. Frances T. Willard, founder of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.