Marietta, Ohio - September 15, 2008 After an uneventful drive up from Meherrin, Virginia we arrived at Marietta in good order. Noticed price gouging at gas pumps all along the way - the highest price being $4.10/gal for regular. Hurricane Ike provided the incentive. Traffic was noticeably lighter on the interstate highways. We only saw one other motorhome on the 360 mile trip.
Marietta has an interesting history. Located at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers, Marietta’s history is rich with stories of ship building and river commerce. Riverboat life still thrives with the annual Ohio River Sternwheel Festival which features a popular race of big sternwheelers. The city is the oldest organized city in Ohio, settled in 1788.
The Washington County Fairgrounds in Marietta was the rendezvous point for our Mountain Heritage Caravan, the beginning of six weeks together for nineteen Airstream trailers and motorhomes.
September 16, 2008 - Caravanners continued to arrive at the fairgrounds during the day. Our leaders - Larry and Carol Strong - had dinner ready as they cooked beef stew for us at 5:30pm. With the good weather we gathered under the trees across from Larry’s trailer. After dinner Larry and Carol conducted an organizational meeting, laying down the caravan rules, or lack thereof, confirming assignments, and previewed the stops we would be making. The fun starts tomorrow morning.
September 17, 2008 - Wednesday morning - rather cool, but clear. Fears of rain connected with hurricane Ike proved unwarranted. We formed up early for a carpool convoy to the Ohio River Museum to learn more about the Marietta area. Then there was a trolley tour of the town, a visit to another museum called "Campus Martius," and a tour of "The Castle," an ornate old home in town.
The Ohio River Museum consisted of three buildings, each containing exhibits which housed artifacts that depicted life on the rivers from prehistoric times through the golden age of the river steamboats. The first settlers of the region arrived in unpowered flatboats that simply floated down stream from upstream somewhere. Robert Fulton's steam engine revolutionized river traffic. The steamboats that followed carried cargo and passengers in increasing sophistication. Outside the museum one of the last steampowered sternwheeler towboats - the W.P.Snyder Jr. - is moored on the
bank of the Muskingum River. It was built in 1918 and pushed coal barges on the rivers until 1954. Powered by two 750hp steam engines, this boat was 175 feet long, 32 feet wide, carried a crew of 21, and could run about 8 miles per hour. In its day it was but one of many coal fired vessels plying the rivers. Pictures of these boats belching out black smoke adorned the museum walls.
Next we boarded a trolley that took us on a guided tour of Marietta. Here the guide told us that Marietta was named after French queen Marie-Antoinette. As we drove up and down the streets of the old town, our guide pointed out the houses of distinguished people who once lived here. The main characters were Rufus Putnam and his descendants. It was General Putnam who led a party of 48 people here in 1788 to establish the town. These were Revolutionary War veterans who came from Massachusetts to be paid with land for their services in the war.
Campus Martius was a fort built to protect the original pioneers from warring Indians. The site is now a museum still carrying the same name. Our first activity was a catered box lunch in the museum classroom. While the museum houses an impressive display of artifacts from the region, its main exhibit is the old home of Rufus Putnam. This house was once a part of the Campus Martius fort. It remains on its original foundation, but is now surrounded by modern brick walls and the roof of the museum. Except for some added supports, the framework of the old house has been preserved in tact -
Back at camp, we had our first GAM with the caravanners divided into two groups, one hosted by Bill Hillson and Orvella McGrath, and the other by Frank and Shirley Whitman. These are "get acquainted meetings" with folks introducing themselves and just socializing.
September 18, 2008 - Today the ladies on the caravan were excited about a visit to Fenton Glass Works. We left our campsite at 8:30am carpooling across the Ohio River to Fenton, near Williamstown, West Virginia. What an amazing place! We watched them make hundreds of hand crafted glass bowls, vases, and figurines, all colors and designs, some painted, some clear, some opaque. With 150 employees, most of whom were working in organized chaos around the huge kilns, this company turns out first quality, high priced stuff. The most impressive thing was the hugh variety of things. We were told that they have over 14,000 different molds and an almost infinite variety of colors. After the factory tour, and a visit to their museum, the ladies were turned loose in the gift shop.
For lunch we all went to the Golden Corral in Parkersburg, then on a tour of the Parkersburg Oil and Gas Museum. Housed in an old building that was once a hardware store, the museum contained a collection of old oil and gas drilling equipment. Our guide told of how the oil and gas industry in America began in West Virginia - not Pennsylvania as is more commonly assumed. George Washington came through the area right after the Revolutionary War and found a natural oil and gas spring which periodically caught fire. It wasn't until the 1850s though that any commercial development occurred. It was first used only for oil lamps and lubrication. Other exhibits chronicled West Virginia's advance to statehood during the Civil War.
Back at camp, we had our second GAM. This time the hosts were Frank & Julia Wagner and Ken & Nancy Davis. Following the GAM Larry conducted a drivers meeting to precede tomorrow's trip to Sugarcreek.
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220 years old. The walls of the house are made of four inch thick timbers, some of which are twenty feet long.
The Castle claims to be the focal point of Marietta's historic district. It looks like a castle with its octagonal tower, pointed spires, and turreted facades. The style is called Gothic Revival. There were lots of fireplaces. Some of the rooms were equipped with modern facilities, yet furnished with many antiques of the time the house was built. The tour took an hour, and we were all ready for some rest time when it was over.