This land at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers was part of a million-and-a-half acre tract made available by the Northwest Territory Ordinance of 1787, and purchased by the Ohio Company of Associates for resale and settlement. Many of the pioneers were Revolutionary War veterans who named their new city "Adelphia" meaning "Brethren." They later changed the name to "Marietta" in honor of the French Queen Marie Antoinette, and to express appreciation for her country's aid during the American Revolution.
Built in the fall of 1785, Fort Harmar was occupied by the First American Regiment under the command of Major John Doughty, who named the fort for his commanding officer, General Josiah Harmar. The protective presence of this fort was one of deciding factors leading to the Ohio Company's choice of location for their new settlement.
Overhanging branches of huge trees obscured the mouth of the Muskingum River on the morning of April 7, 1788, when Rufus Putnam and a vanguard of pioneers arrived to establish the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory. Having missed the intended landing point, the towed their river-craft back up into the Muskingum where they came ashore near this site shortly after noon. About 70 Indians, led by the Delaware Chief, Captain Pipe, waited to welcome them.
The men of the Ohio Company pitched tents and built temporary dwellings at this location, and almost immediately a "business district" began to develop at the point where the rivers met. By 1791, there were about 20 families living here, and the settlement included the first tavern/hotel, first store, first United States Post Office, as well as the first rental property available in the territory. Since they were located directly across the river from Fort Harmar, the pioneers did not think it necessary to encircle the settlement with a stockade; however, at the start of the Indian Wars in 1791, stout pickets were erected on the unprotected sides, and it became known as "The Picketed Point."
This fortification was built in the summer of 1788 to protect the settlers in case of Indian attack. Facing the Muskingum River about a mile from the Ohio, the enclosure was 180 feet square with block houses at the corners where armed sentries stood guard day and night during the Indian wars of 1791-1794. The fort served as headquarters for the territorial government, and the first Civil Court in the Northwest Territory was establishe here. The name, "Campus Martius" comes from a Latin phrase meaning "field of war."
In 1770, the flood opposite the mouth of the Muskingum River was the Commonwealth of Virginia. Here Samuel Tomlinson claimed 400 acres by hacking his initials on a beech tree to establish his "tomahawk claim." In the spring of 1787, his brother-in-law and sister, Isaac and Rebecca Tomlinson Williams, arrived to make a permanent settlement. In1790, when late planting and early frost ruined the crops on the Ohio side of the river, the Williams settlement shared their better fortune, saving the Marietta settlers from famine.
Quadranaou is a rectangular Archaeological complex enclosing 50 acres, in which are several small mounds and a graded way, known as "Sacra Via" leading to the Muskingum River. These are believed to have been built by the Hopewell Indians, 100 BC - AD 600. To the southeast, a 27 acre square includes "Conus," the Great Mound, thought to be Adena in origin, placing its construction between 800 BC and AD 100.
Depending on its ownership at the time, Duvall's Island has carried the names Duvall, Kerr, Marietta, Meigs, Muskingum, and is presently known as Buckley's Island. During pioneer times, the famous ranger, hunter, and Indian scout, Hamilton Kerr, lived there with his family. His father, Matthew Kerr, was killed by Indians as he landed his canoe at the foot of the island June 16, 1791.