Marietta was the first permanent settlement of the United States of America in the territory north and west of the Ohio River.
Originally known as Adelphia, meaning "brotherhood," Marietta was the first settlement founded by the Ohio Company of Associates in the Northwest Territory in 1788. The company's investors renamed the community after Queen Marie Antoinette of France, in honor of France's contributions to the American victory in the American Revolution. The first settlers were led by Rufus Putnam, who was one of the Ohio Company's early investors. He chose a site along the Ohio River at its junction with the Muskingum River, not far from Fort Harmar. Originally, settlers from New England made up the population of Marietta. People from Virginia and Kentucky later moved to the area as well.
Putnam and the settlers tried to recreate the type of community that they had left in the East. They included a school and a church. The town was laid out much as communities were organized in New England. Settlers received both a lot in town and a lot outside of town for agricultural purposes. There were four common areas throughout the community. The wide streets were planted with mulberry trees. The people of Marietta left some of the local Indian mounds intact, including one that stood in the center of the town cemetery. The early settlers also built a fortification known as Campus Martius to protect themselves from Native American attacks. Marietta's residents hoped that their community would become a model for future western settlements
On July 9, 1788, the Northwest Territory's first governor, Arthur St. Clair, came to Marietta. In a formal ceremony, the territory was officially established. At this time, Washington County was also established, and Marietta became the county seat. As the population of the Northwest Territory grew, the people of Marietta hoped that their community would become the capital of the future state. They supported St. Clair's plan to divide the territory in a different way than the Northwest Ordinance had originally planned. They believed that the governor's plans would make Marietta more prominent. But in the end, St. Clair's plan was not accepted by Congress.
Because of its location along the Ohio River, Marietta grew quickly. It became a major trading center in the Northwest Territory and later in the state of Ohio. The community became one of the earliest settlements in Ohio to have a state-chartered bank in 1808. Agriculture was very productive and the farms around Marietta had many large apple orchards. In addition to agriculture and trade with the East, Marietta was also known for its shipbuilding industry. Ships, barges and flatboats moved from Marietta down the Ohio River to the Mississippi River and then to New Orleans and to ports in the East.
In spite of its early growth, Marietta was surpassed by other towns as other forms of transportation came to Ohio. Canals, the National Road, and the railroads made all parts of the state accessible.
In 1846, Marietta boasted seven churches, two public libraries, Marietta College, two private academies, twenty stores and several other types of businesses. The city numbered 1,814 residents in 1840. By 1880, the community had grown to 5,444 residents with twelve churches and two banks. Various manufacturing businesses produced chairs, stoves, flour, doors, and harnesses.
With a population of 14,515 people, Marietta was Washington County's largest community in 2000 and remains a political and cultural center. The city has a growing tourist trade because of the city's important place in Ohio's early history.