Ohio History Journal

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Women on the Ohio Frontier:

The Marietta Area



It is difficult for the present-day American woman living in a

modern suburb to comprehend the physical rigors, the loneliness,

and the mental anguish suffered by those pioneer women who left

comfortable New England homes, journeyed eight hundred miles to

the wooded, "savage" Northwest Territory, and then settled in crude

log cabins or houses. A better understanding of that period in his-

tory can be gained by learning about life styles of women on the

Ohio frontier during the last few years of the eighteenth century.

Men may have the distinction of being the first to step on Ohio

soil, but women were also adventuresome and intrepid, and they

arrived shortly afterward. On April 7, 1788, a small group of forty-

seven men, led by Rufus Putnam, arrived at the present site of

Marietta, Ohio. Many of these men were veterans of the American

Revolution, ranging in age between 30 and 50 years, and they were

looking for adventure, as well as better opportunities and land than

were available in New England.' In June of that same year, Mary

Owen - the wife of James Owen of South Kingston, Rhode Island -

and forty other settlers joined the earlier arrivals. Mrs. Owen, who

served as a nurse for an invalid judge on the westward journey, is

considered the first woman inhabitant of this Northwest Territory

settlement.2 Some soldiers at Fort Harmar, directly across the

Muskingum River, had their wives with them, but these women

were considered "temporary sojourners," and not permanent

settlers.3 More families arrived in Marietta during August, and by


Mildred Covey Fry is Library Office Manager of the Education/Psychology Library

at The Ohio State University. Her article was the winner of the amateur-avocational

historian category of the Ohio Historical Society's recent essay contest.


1. Samuel P. Hildreth, Pioneer Settlers of Ohio (Cincinnati, 1854), 102, hereafter

referred to as Pioneer Settlers.

2. Mary Cone, ed., Life of Rufus Putnam With Extracts From His Journal (Cleve-

land, 1886), 110, hereafter referred to as Rufus Putnam.

3. History of Washington County, Ohio, 1788-1881 (Cleveland, 1881), 52, hereafter

referred to as Washington County, Ohio.