History of Washington County Historical Society

For many citizens of the county and particularly Marietta, devotion and honor to our early pioneers has been a sustained legacy. The Pioneer Society began as a suggestion of A. T. Nye to his friends William Pitt Putnam, of Belpre, and William R. Putnam, of Marietta. The three lifelong friends decided to ask for a meeting of sons of Pioneers with the purpose of organizing a Pioneer Society of Washington County. Letters were sent to the descendants of pioneers throughout the county. When the Pioneer Association of Washington County formed in 1870, the vision of its founders, the grandsons of significant pioneers, determined membership was only open to the descendants whose ancestors had lived in the county before 1830. Later, to supply a greater following, the rule was relaxed to allow for anyone to join who had lived in Washington County before 1850. The Pioneer Society held a celebration each year on April 7 in honor of the day the first pioneers stepped ashore.




When it was time to plan the 1888 Centennial Celebration, the Pioneer Society was short in membership, so yet again, new rules allowed any citizen who paid one dollar and signed its constitution could become a member. Interestingly, the many German immigrants who arrived in mid-century were also encouraged to participate in the Centennial activities. The Pioneer Society of Washington County along with the Women’s Centennial Association joined forces to present a memorable Centennial Celebration on April 7, 1888. The women began raising funds that included selling memberships in the Pioneer Association and wrote four hundred letters to Washington County families asking for relics, artifacts, and historical documents of their ancestors. The women planned the Centennial meal for 1500 people and published a Centennial Cookery Book that sold for $1 a copy including German recipes.  The 1888 Centennial Celebration included decorating the city with metal arches over the streets, a pageant, speakers, and the celebratory dinner. Much controversy surrounded this event and actually a second celebration was held in the summer. But the Pioneer Society was dedicated to keeping the original founding date. For many decades thereafter, the Pioneer Society of Washington County patriotically celebrated the early pioneers with an annual dinner and various activities.


In 1961, at the Pioneer Day Dinner on April 7, Harry Pettit, as master of ceremonies and acting chairman of a proposed Washington County Historical Society, was elected first president of the new society. The Pioneer Association of Washington County that was affiliated with the Women’s Centennial Association formed the core of the new group. The historical artifacts and historical documents that these two groups had collected were placed in the care of the new county society and membership was open to anyone having an interest in local history.

Purpose of Washington County Historical Society

The purpose of the WCHS is to promote an understanding of the history of Washington County, Ohio by collecting, preserving, and making available to the public, that history, and its relationship to the region beyond Washington County.


To fulfill this purpose the WCHS shall:

-provide public access to the society’s archives and collections.

-use archival materials to promote education about local history.

-support research endeavors of the community.

-publish historical information for the membership.

-provide information for efforts in historical preservation.

Board of Trustees

The Tallow Light is a quarterly journal published for the education and enjoyment of WCHS members. It includes articles on past history of Marietta and Washington County as well brief news about the present-day historical society.

President: Bill Reynolds

Vice-President: Wes Clarke

Secretary: Jann Adams

Treasurer: Mike Ryan

Sarah Bird

Mary Jo Hutchinson

Regina Goodnite

Hollie Davis

Steve Weber

Andrew Goodnite

Rob Gorrell

Naomi Shock

The Tallow Light  Editor: Bill Showalter

Interested in joining us? Contact wchs.ohio@gmail.com for more information


All members are welcome to volunteer with these committees.


Chair: Jann Adams


Chair: Jann Adams


Chair: Mike Ryan

Fearing House

Chair: Mary Jo Hutchinson


Chair: Hollie Davis


Chair:  Andy Goodnite

Archives Office

Director: Sarah Bird


Chair:  Sarah Bird


(740) 373-1788

346 Muskingum Dr, Marietta, OH 45750, USA