Last Wednesday, we went on an educational and thought-provoking field trip to Marietta, Ohio with some other home-school families in the area. One of the many points of interest we visited was the Campus Martius Museum.
The unique name of the museum gives insight to the nature and character of the artifacts it displayed. Campus Martius was the name given to an 18th to 19th century fortification erected along the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers to provide protection and organization to American pioneers settling in the Northwest Territory. Today, the only preserved, original portion of this fort is the Putnam House, the quarters of Brigadier General and settlement superintendent Rufus Putnam. We learned much about 19th century life on a comprehensive tour of the house.
First we learned about the history and position of the house. An miniture model of the entire fort helped us see its importance and influence. However, because everything was made of wood, it was not very effective in defending against Indians who used fiery arrows.
Then we toured the kitchen. Without electricity or refrigeration, fixing meals was a continuous and laborious job. Fire was used for heat and light so it was a very dangerous job as well. In fact, death by fire was the number one cause of death in women in those days. Also, because there was no running water, sanitation was difficult, if not impossible. People usually only took two baths a year.
The only other room on the first floor was a meeting room. It was fascinating to know that in that very room and on the very table many important documents of our countries exploratory history were written. As a prolific writer, Putnam gives us much information about the normal day to day life the settlers.
Upstairs were the bedrooms. The tour guide explained in depth the use and importance of things in the room. The common saying “sleep tight and don’t let the bugs bite” came from this time period. Over time, the network of ropes holding up the straw bedding would loosen and it was necessary to tighten them up occasionally to prevent a collaps during the night. And their were plenty of bugs too, both in and out of bed. The cover over the bed was to catch mice and bugs that fell through the ceiling. All the children slept in the same bedroom, as many as three in a bed. They moved out when they got married, the husband moving in with the wife (see Matthew 19:5).
Outside of the house (but still inside the museum), we saw the ingenuity of how the house was built. Many people injured or lost their legs while using the tools necessary for the project. In those days, a building of this dimension was extremely expensive and time-consuming. Today, however, the house still stands as a commemoration of our hardworking heritage.
This historical field trip reminds me of another westward expansion in ancient Israel. The words that God commanded Joshua are true to those who follow Him today: “Have not I command thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:9)