2012-07-12 / Rutland News

RUTLAND Rufus Putnam connects towns with shared history


A guest at Rutland’s most famous bed and breakfast last fall has led to an official bond between two different but connected communities hundreds of miles apart.

Cathy Mower, an education instructor at Marietta College in Marietta, Ohio, visited Rutland less than a year ago to connect with the early life of Gen. Rufus Putnam, who established the first settlement in Ohio.

Putnam lived part of his life in a Rutland home that now serves as a bed and breakfast, The General Rufus Putnam House.

“She wanted to say she slept in both his homes,” said Marcia Warrington, the owner of The General Rufus Putnam House.

Mower had been able to get permission for her and her students to sleep in Putnam’s home in Marietta, which is now a museum, as part of the preview of the 225th anniversary of the founding to the Northwest Territory.

The two women found the connection and history shared by the two communities — one a semi-rural and residential community of about 8,700 people in central Massachusetts, the other a city of about 14,000 people located on the border of Ohio and West Virginia — interesting and important.

“We thought it would be great to have the children and the adults of both communities realize the connection,” Warrington said. “She took it and really ran with it.”

Within six months, Warrington and Mower worked in their respective communities to have both governments sign sister city proclamations and to begin to recognize the connection of the shared history.

“The magnitude of what this house means to the country isn’t known to the community,” Warrington said. “This [house] is the town seal. It’s an American jewel located right in our backyard.”

Warrington is also working with the Rutland schools to highlight Putnam’s contribution to the expansion of the country and to both Massachusetts and Ohio. She was able to find and donate copies of the 1969 children’s book “Wagons Away” by Josephine E. Phillips, which chronicles the steps taken by Rutland native Benjamin Franklin Stone from Rutland to Marietta. Parts of the book are set in the Rufus Putnam house.

Warrington and her husband have owned the house, built in about 1750, for the last 20 years. “We have always felt we are stewards,” she said.

Putnam lived in the house for only seven years, but for much of the 1900s it has been a museum or a bed and breakfast dedicated in his honor.

Putnam was born in Sutton and his house in the center of that town is now home to the Sutton Historical Society. Putnam served in the British Army during the French and Indian War and years later in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. After leaving the Army as a general at the end of the war, Putnam purchased the property on Main Street in Rutland and lived there until 1788.

“The founding of the Northwest Territory started here,” Warrington said.

Putnam founded the Ohio Company with Benjamin Tupper. The company purchased 1.5 million acres of land in what became Ohio from the federal government for two payments of $500,000, according to Ohio’s history. Marietta was one of the first towns established by the Ohio Company, which was led by Putnam. Over the next three to four decades, Putnam became a political leader in the Northwest Territory.

Warrington does not want the sisterhood between the two cities to simply be a formality; she hopes to create a connection between the residents. Her ideas range from setting up trips for senior citizens and students to online classrooms for students in both communities to connect them with this part of the town’s history.

“I want the knowledge of what happened in their hometown to be with them,” Warrington said.

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