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‘Forgotten’ cemetery: Harmar stands alone as the oldest

February 9, 2012
By Brad Bauer - The Marietta Times ( , The Marietta Times

Sandwiched between Fort Harmar Drive, a set of railroad tracks and Wood Street on Marietta's west side is an often forgotten cemetery that local historians say is full of significance.

Harmar Cemetery, which opened in 1796, was the first cemetery in the Northwest Territory - seven years older than The Mound Cemetery on Fifth Street.

The five-acre Harmar Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 1,000 local residents.

Article Photos

BRAD BAUER The Marietta Times
Local historian Ben Bain walks though a section of Harmar Cemetery in Marietta on Wednesday. The cemetery is the oldest in the Northwest Territory, having opened in 1796.

Local genealogist and historian Ben Bain said the cemetery is not often thought about because of its secluded location, which is also prone to flooding.

"I don't think it's that important to many people anymore ... But really, the biggest issue is the markers that have been lost over the years in major floods," Bain said. "You can walk around and you'll see indentations in the ground and you know there's a grave there but there is no marker."

Bain has compiled a three-volume book after he scoured city and county records attempting to identify the individuals buried there. He said the cemetery first got his attention because of the many black and multi-racial families who are buried there.

Fact Box

Harmar Cemetery

- The cemetery, located at the end of Wood Street in Marietta, is the oldest cemetery in the Northwest Territory, having opened in 1796.

- The cemetery is approximately five acres in size.

- Known burials at Harmar Cemetery total more than 1,000.

- Many of the grave markers and stones are missing, having been washed away by floods.

- Early pioneers from the Putnam and Fearing families were laid to rest at Harmar Cemetery, along with many Revolutionary War and Civil War veterans.

- The cemetery is owned and maintained by the City of Marietta.

"These wouldn't have been slaves but their parents may have been (slaves)," he said. "There are also veterans from the Revolutionary War and Civil War buried here...and also members of some of the more prominent early families, like the Putnams and Fearings."

Jim Hoy, 79, of Devola, said he and his wife, Nancy, helped put on a class a few years ago looking into the history of local cemeteries. The class included a visit to Harmar Cemetery. Hoy pointed out a large monument at the cemetery erected by Dr. Charles Sumner Harrison for his parents, who died in the late 1800s.

In 1876, Harrison was the first black student to graduate from Marietta College. He received his M.D. in 1895 from Howard University and worked as a physician in the Washington D.C. area.

Hoy said a local businessman named David Putnam, who lived in the Harmar area in the mid-1800s, and who is buried at Harmar Cemetery, was very involved in the Underground Railroad and often helped black youth.

"It is my understanding he sponsored Harrison in getting his education at Marietta College," Hoy said.

Many of the streets in Harmar -Gilman, Barber and Fearing - are all named after early pioneers buried in Harmar Cemetery, Hoy said.

Joseph Gilman, who died in 1806, came to Marietta in 1788 among the first pioneers and was an early magistrate, Hoy said.

Also buried at Harmar Cemetery, Levi Barber, who died in 1833, was a veteran of the War of 1812, and was elected to the state House of Representatives and later became a congressman.

Hoy said many members of the Fearing family, including father and son Paul and Henry Fearing, are buried at Harmar Cemetery.

"That's a family that just about everyone knew," Hoy said.

Paul was an early attorney and Henry was a general merchant in town.

Benjamin Dana Fearing, son of Henry, died in 1881, and was a U.S. Civil War Brigadier General. He is laid to rest near his parents at Harmar Cemetery.



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