Harmar was a municipality of its own during that time, for reasons which remain historically obscure, but had their basis in the discontent of west side citizens who believed it could be an independently viable community in its own right.
Fort Harmar was established in 1785, three years before settlers came to Marietta in 1788, when the U.S. Army started an outpost to protect settlers from Native Americans who already lived in the region, said Butch Badgett of the Historic Harmar Bridge Company, a group of business owners and community leaders from the Harmar area. As a longtime resident of Harmar, he has compiled records and notes on the history of the village.
In 1825, when Marietta received a charter, Harmar was considered the city’s 2nd Ward and part of the corporation. But, by 1835 dissatisfaction had grown among the residents of Harmar and they separated from Marietta to become a village, a status they would retain for more than 50 years.
“What the dissatisfaction was cannot be stated in a historical way,” said author Thomas J. Summers in his 1903 history of the city.
“Certain plans and hopes were doubtless cherished by some of the leading citizens about the time of the building of the locks on the Muskingum, which plans, if consummated, would have made Harmar quite a city. As to the separation, there was no good and sufficient cause for so doing.”
As the city began to grow in the late 1800s, unification began to look more attractive to the two municipalities. And, by the time of the organization of the Board of Trade, a precursor to the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce, in 1887, the board promoted the idea of reuniting the two halves of the city.
Badgett said in April 1890 the voters of Harmar Village decided to reunite with Marietta by a 90-vote margin. The victory of the reunification effort was hailed with enthusiasm on both sides of the river and cannons were fired in celebration. Within a month, Marietta council had approved the conditions for annexation which involved stipulations including the extension of electric and water utilities from the city of Marietta to Harmar residents. Harmar citizens also insisted that the pride of the Harmar Fire Department, a fire engine called “Niagara,” be maintained by the city along with their hose reel and other firefighting equipment.
The June 5, 1890, edition of The Times reported the completion of the annexation including Harmar and the Norwood district of Marietta.
“The annexation of Harmar and Fultonburg was completed. The Harmar Councilmen met with the Marietta Council. The Fultonburg territory (Norwood) has been disposed of by adding all below Green’s Road to the First Ward, all the territory between Green’s Road and Washington Street to the Second Ward and all above Washington Street to the Fourth Ward. This division of the territory will partially equalize the size of the wards on this side of the river.”
This annexation was the most important one ever made to the city of Marietta, Badgett said.
With the addition of Harmar and Norwood, the population of Marietta increased dramatically, more than doubling over 10 years. In 1880, the population of Marietta alone was 5,444. The population of Harmar was 1,571. By 1900, after the annexation, Marietta had grown to 13,348.