As Ohio's first permanent settlement Marietta has much to offer tourists and history buffs.

What’s most amazing about the tale of Marietta is time. Only 12 years after 1776, the year America became America, General Rufus Putnam took an expedition of cultured, East Coast intellectuals and curious explorers to their “new world” — the Northwest Territory, a utopia where the Ohio and Muskingum rivers coalesced. In exchange for service in the Revolutionary War, the men were given tracts of land in Ohio country, and subsequently settled Marietta.

That geographic convergence may seem minimal now, but renowned historian David McCullough, who wrote last year’s treatise on the evolution of Ohio, The Pioneers, saw that natural beauty — first inhabited by the Adena and Hopewell civilizations — as something that compelled our expansion west. Of course, there are scattered forts and squats in Ohio that pre-date Marietta. We were once part of the French empire. Not to mention the messy, complicated history white invaders have with the native populations (perhaps McCullough will write that thorny sequel). But Marietta is the first permanent settlement in Ohio. And with that distinction, and expansive timeline, Marietta has a lot to offer history tourists.

Our first guide of the day, Harley Noland, can trace back 200 years of family in Marietta. He is the regular driver on the town’s essential Trolley Tour. On this day, the trolley was in the shop, so he gave us an expanded jaunt in his car. We visited the First Congregational Church (the first place of worship in the territory), the Ohio River Museum (which includes the W.P. Snyder, the only remaining steam-driven towboat on the nation’s river system), the once-bustling ship-building district of Harmar (a flood-prone neighborhood across the Muskingum from Marietta), and numerous other sites that boggle the mind given their timestamp.

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