A Bit of Our History

In 2012 we continue the monthly series of excerpts from Thomas Jefferson Summers book, History of Marietta, published in 1903. The April installment  is given at bottom of this page!


“On December 6, 1796, the Christian people in the various settlements banded themselves together in a Church under a simple but comprehensive confession of faith and covenant."  So runs an account in the handwriting of Rufus Putnam (at right) concerning the first organized church in Marietta and now the oldest continuous worshipping fellowship west of the Alleghenies began.  Putnam arrived at the mouth of the Muskingum River on 7 April 1788, with a company of men to found a settlement and survey and allocate the land.”  Soon named Marietta, the settlement was the first organized one in the Northwest Territory.

The sanctuary of the church has a very New England look, with polished wood pews, white-painted trim, a wide center aisle with red carpet, and converted gas lights along the walls. The beauty and peacefulness of First Church has made it a favorite place for weddings, festivals, and other special occasions.  First Church celebrated its bicentennial -- its 200th anniversary on the same site -- in December, 1996, and the history of the church continues. In 1997 the congregation called its first woman minister to the pastorate, the Reverend Linda N. Steelman.   The Marietta Area Community Food Pantry, an important asset in Marietta and Washington county, originated and is still housed here at First Church.

As part of its 190th birthday celebration, the congregation of First Church undertook a major restoration program. Included in this project were a replacement of the heating plant, demolition of the 80 year old carriage house, expansion of parking facilities, and rebuilding a three-manual 36 rank Austin Chancel Pipe Organ.   A recent and important renovation was the installation of a motorized lift to provide accessibility to all people.

Since the beginning, the unusual exterior architecture of the church has included two "bell cones," as the twin towers were often referred to, patterned after the Hollis St. Congregational Church in Boston that Rufus Putnam attended. The "two horned" church (a name given by rivermen who watched for the lights of its tall twin spires against the sky) was remodeled in 1901-1902, but completely destroyed by fire in 1905. A new building along similar lines but of brick veneer was erected on the same site one year later.

From “History of Marietta” by Thomas Jefferson Summers: (June 2012 installment.)   (One can find, read and/or download the complete text of the book on www.amazon.com.   (You’ll really need to explore to find it on Amazon!)  
On June 7, 1896, Dr. Dickinson tendered his resignation as pastor of the church. This resignation was accepted after much deliberation, and with much regret upon the part of the church and the council. Dr. Dickinson had worked hard for thirteen years for the support of the church and his noble efforts can not but be remembered by all who know him.
Dr. Dickinson is now pastor of the Columbia Congregational church at Cincinnati. It is from his "History of the First Congregational Church of Marietta, Ohio,'" that much of the matter contained herein about the church is taken, and to which reference is made for a complete and detailed history of the church.  (Only TWO more installments of Summers book to go!)