Marietta's 226th birthday was kicked off Monday morning with the traditional "ringing of the bell" at the historic Henry Fearing House on Gilman Avenue, and ended with the annual Pioneer Day Community Dinner at the Lafayette Hotel.
"The founding of Marietta has been celebrated every year since the pioneers landed here in 1788, and the historical society has marked this occasion since it was founded in 1961," said Ken Finkel, president of the Washington County Historical Society.
He noted the Ordinance of 1787 banned slavery in the Northwest Territory as well as provided for the establishment of schools and churches.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
Harmar Elementary kindergartner Mylee Wright tugs on the bell rope, assisted at right by Washington County Historical Society member Glen Wolfe in period costume for the annual 'ringing of the bell' celebrating Marietta's 226th birthday at the Henry Fearing House on Gilman Avenue Monday. Looking on from left are kindergartners Noah Waggoner and Hudson Knight.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
Local Sons of the American Revolution members Steve Frash, left, and Michael Farnsworth presented the colors during Monday's annual Pioneer Day Community Dinner at the Lafayette Hotel, commemorating the 226th anniversary of Marietta's founding.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
Professional magician Kerry Blair gives a presentation on the history of magicians in the Marietta area during Monday's annual Pioneer Day Community Dinner at the Lafayette Hotel.
"And Marietta was the first experiment in the Northwest Territory," Finkel said. "It was a well-planned city from the beginning."
Each year the historical society celebrates the anniversary of Marietta's founding by General Rufus Putnam and members of the Ohio Company of Associates who landed at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers on April 7, 1788.
In spite of a light rain, more than 200 Harmar Elementary School students, from kindergarten through fifth grade, took a turn at the bell rope in the back yard of the Fearing House, calling out "Happy Birthday, Marietta" for each ringing of the bell.
- Marietta, the first organized settlement in the Northwest Territory, was founded on April 7, 1788.
- General Rufus Putnam and his Ohio Company of Associates, a group of 48 Revolutionary War veterans, landed at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers on that date.
- In celebration of that event, the Washington County Historical Society held its annual Pioneer Day Community Dinner at the Lafayette Hotel Monday.
- Local professional magician Kerry Blair provided entertainment and a presentation on past magicians from the Marietta area.
The children were then escorted into the home where each received an official Washington County Historical Society certificate testifying that he or she had participated in the 2014 celebration.
"We always have given out a certificate for anyone ringing the bell with their name and the date," said Mary Jo Hutchinson, a docent at the Fearing House.
Kindergarten teacher Courtney Halliday said the ringing of the bell plays into a history lesson for her class, focusing on the founding of Marietta.
"Every year we do something about Marietta's history on this date," she said. "The ringing of the bell is one of the highlights, and we finish the day off with a treat."
Glen Wolfe, a member of the Washington County Historical Society and longtime docent at the Fearing House, said the bell ringing has been part of the city's anniversary for at least 20 years now.
"It's actually a dinner bell that came from a farm in Washington County," he said. "In the days long before cell phones, everyone had dinner bells that were used to call farmers from the fields and children in from play at the dinner hour."
Wolfe said ringing the bell and receiving a certificate is a tangible way for area children to make a connection with Marietta's history.
"We need to get more kids interested in local history," he said. "I often tell them that when Marietta was founded the country didn't have a president. George Washington didn't take office until 1789."
Wolfe also noted that Henry Fearing, who lived in the historic house on Gilman Avenue during the 1800s, was probably born at Fort Harmar, which would have been located near the current site of Harmar Elementary School.
Children weren't the only ones to get a history lesson Monday, though.
More than 80 people who attended the Pioneer Day Community Dinner were entertained by local professional magician Kerry Blair who also provided some history of magicians from the Pioneer City's past.
"I'm a member of Ring 197 of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, based here in Marietta," he said. "We call ourselves 'The Tommy Windsor Ring.'"
Born in Marietta in 1905, Windsor was among the most famous magicians of his time, Blair said.
"Tommy started his career as a magician on showboats, but later began performing in a variety of clubs and other venues, including some time in the Chicago area," he said. "He came very close to the big time once when he was slated to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show."
In addition to being a magician, Blair said Windsor was also a talented musician and ventriloquist.
Windsor was friends with another local magician, Eugene Eisenbarth, whose father, Ellsworth Eisenbarth, had owned the largest showboat of its type in the world, named "The Modern Temple of Amusement."
"It seated 1,200 people, and during the winter the boat was docked in the Harmar area of Marietta," Blair said.
Eisenbarth's showboat presented Vaudeville acts, dramas, and musical entertainment through the early 1900s. He sold the boat in 1909.
In his younger days Windsor served as an assistant to another well-known magician, McDonald Birch, from Malta in Morgan County.
"Mac lived in Malta all his life, but very few people know that he and his wife had one of the largest touring shows in the world," Blair said.
Birch performed in the same era as magicians like Blackstone, Howard Thurston and Harry Houdini.
Blair noted at one time Thurston had planned to make Birch his successor. Birch ended his performing career in the 1960s and died in 1992 at the age of 90.
Tommy Windsor's career began in 1923. He died in 1978.