Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Gold-Rushing Mellors of Morgan County

“Go west, young man!” Journalist Horace Greeley advised in 1854. Yet thousands of young men had already lived his advice five years earlier, as they hurried west to participate in the infamous California Gold Rush. In the cool, quiet stacks of Marietta College’s Special Collections, the westward journey of two such men, Benjamin Young Mellor and William Vincent Mellor, lives on. During their journey to the West Coast and their gold mining efforts in California, the brothers wrote letters home to their father, Morgan County farmer Samuel Mellor. From mutinies, fraud, and crazy old miners to the daily ups and downs of the mining life, these letters provide modern historians with a vivid, detailed—indeed, invaluable—glimpse into the secret lives of the iconic 49ers.

Aside from nine surviving letters, very little is known about William Vincent and Benjamin Young Mellor. Their grandfather George Mellor, Sr., and father Samuel moved to the United States from Liverpool, England in the early 1802. They first settled in Washington County, Ohio. While Samuel’s profession remains unknown, George worked as a cabinetmaker in England and continued this work in Ohio.The Morgan County Herald reports that “much of the fine cabinet work in the Blennerhasset mansion on the island near Parkersburg [was] the product of [his] handicraft."

Born in Ohio in 1822 and 1824 respectively, Benjamin and William were the youngest in a family of seven. Between their births and their departure for California in January 1849, the brothers’ lives are a mystery. An 1850 US Census places them definitively on the middle fork of the American River, California.
By 1853, they had returned to Ohio. Benjamin married one Jane Massey, but died on 1 October 1854. Three years later, William married his brother’s widow. They had three children. The dearth of information about William and Benjamin specifically makes their letters all the more valuable. These nine letters constitute the only enduring traces—and rich traces at that—of the lives of two men who participated in an exciting and often misunderstood period of American history. In the truest sense of the phrase, William and Benjamin made history, both as individuals and as part of a national experience.

One of the most interesting anecdotes from the Mellor letters is William’s account of a crazy old man who claimed to have stumbled upon the mother-lode of gold deposits. On 20 June 1850, more than a year after the brothers had arrived in California, William wrote to his father saying that a resident of their mining camp, an old man, claimed that “between the head waters of the Yuba river and Heather river,” the surrounding earth yielded unprecedented amounts of gold. Upon hearing this, the men in his camp threatened to kill him unless he took them to this place; they wished to reap the rewards of his discovery. The old man gathered them together and led the way. “But,” William wrote, “they are returning every day and say they cannot find the golden lake the report is that the old man could not find the place.” The other miners then threatened to kill the old man because he had not delivered the “golden lake” as promised. Fortunately for his survival, some of the miners did not believe the old man had deliberately misled them; they argued that he was simply insane. Finally, the group released him.

Interestingly, the story did not end with the old man’s diagnosis of insanity. Regardless of the established insanity of the source, William noted, “the people are not willing to give it up yet they are going every day and there is probably not less than three thousand people there now hunting for the place.”

Hannah Lynn Ratliff
Special Collections Intern, Spring 2014
Class of 2014

Bibliographic Resources

Massey, R.R. Brief Account of Family of Robert and Susan Everett Massey of Gorey, Ireland. N.p., n.d. Digitized by the Internet Archive, 2009. 8-9. 4 February 2014.

Mellor Gold Rush Letters, 1849-1854. Marietta College Special Collections.
#1: “January 18th 1849 [William Mellor to Samuel Mellor]”
#2: “San Francisco July the 25th 1849 [Benjamin Mellor to Samuel Mellor]”
#3: “California September the 20th 1849 [Benjamin Mellor to Samuel Mellor]”
#4: “Sacramento June 20th 1850 [William Mellor to Samuel Mellor]”
#5: “North fork of American Dec 22 (50 [Benjamin Mellor to Samuel Mellor]”
#6: “St Francisco June the 18th 1851 [Benjamin Mellor to Samuel Mellor]”
#7: “Weaver September 7th 1851 [William Mellor to Benjamin Mellor]”
#8: “Weaverville February 15th (52 [William Mellor to Samuel Mellor]”
#9 “Sacrimento March the 20th —52 [Benjamin Mellor to Samuel Mellor]”
“Mellor Family Has Interesting Keepsakes.” Morgan County Herald, n.d.

"United States Census, 1850," index and images, FamilySearch. Benj Y Muller, American River (middle fork), El Dorado, California, United States; citing family 5, NARA microfilm publication M432. 4 Feb. 2014.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Old Marietta College Cannon

No Marietta College tradition has a more mysterious and twisted tale than the legend of the College Cannon. Born of murky origins, the focal point of rumors and pranks, the old artillery piece provided excitement during the night life of the campus for nearly half a century. It regularly appeared, then disappeared, first dug out of a cellar, then set in concrete in front of the library, later transported on stolen wagons through dark alleys. Students never knew one day where it would turn up the next.

The cannon was said to have been forged in a local iron foundry at the outbreak of the Civil War, and more than once during that conflict it defended the town of Marietta. When the sound of heavy firing warned the citizens that Rebel gunboats were moving up the Ohio River to attack, the cannon, then called the "Baby-waker," was hauled through the streets in preparation to meet the foe. How relieved the Mariettans were when they learned that the war-like noises had been caused by workmen loading a barge with iron downriver!

The cannon came to the rescue again when Confederate General John Hunt Morgan tore through southern Ohio with his band of raiders in 1863. The Home Guard brought out the cannon to stop the traitors in their tracks - sure enough, the Rebels went around Marietta rather than through it.

Following the Civil War, the cannon was displayed in the park and used only for parades and salutes on special occasions. It was after one of these events in 1875 that it made its first appearance on the Marietta College campus. During the night of September 17, "a crowd of townies" drug the artillery piece onto the front lawn and pointed it at the dormitory. They loaded it with gravel and stones and began firing charges. Most of the college boys slept through the attack, and the townies soon gave up the fight.

As the years passed, the former glory of the old cannon faded away, and eventually it was consigned to the rubbish heap near City Hall. When the Spanish American War clouds of 1898 gathered overhead, it was summoned forth once again by the mayor of Marietta. Hundreds of volunteers accompanied it through the streets to Muskingum Park, where it "demonstrated that it could still make a noise."

Inspired with patriotic fervor at the sight of the cannon, a group of college men crept down to the park during the night and rolled it up to campus. They took the heavy gun apart and carried it up the steps of Andrews Hall to the chapel room. When students assembled for chapel services on the morning of April 22, they were greeted with the sight of the old cannon mounted on the platform with a flag floating above it. Patriotic songs were sung, speeches were made, and the students of Marietta College marched through town, ready to take on the war. Mayor Richardson was so impressed that he offered the cannon as a gift to the senior class of 1898. It was graciously accepted and placed on display in front of Alumni Hall (later the site of Thomas Hall), its barrel aimed at the Baptist Church.

From its lofty position on front campus, the cannon became an important part of the college's daily routine. It was a loafing spot for students and a playing spot for local children. It was a favorite receptacle for penny pitching, and whispered rumors suggested that certain dignified professors stole some secret moments there, "for at this time the college was not the possessor of a faculty rest room." Occasionally it was loaded and shot, just for fun.

Then on Halloween night in 1911, when the college was overrun with pranksters, the beloved cannon was thrown from its cement base and buried under a cinder path. This incident signaled the start of a heated fraternity rivalry and a relentless game of hide and seek. For many years, the students of Marietta College sat up until the wee small hours, plotting the ways in which they might take possession of the cannon.

"Dad" Elliott, the campus caretaker, recovered the cannon from under the cinder path and stashed it safely away in a dark corner in the basement of Alumni Hall. Before long it was discovered by members of the Nu Phi fraternity (later Lambda Chi Alpha), and after a brief display, they buried it under their own front porch. It was uncovered by a group of men from Delta Upsilon, who attached cables to it and suspended it underneath the Putnam Street bridge. The Nu Phi's promptly rescued the dangling cannon and buried it deep under the cellar of their house - but not deep enough.

While the Nu Phi's were socializing at a college "Jam Reception" in 1918, the DU's teamed up with some Alpha Sigma Phi's and absconded with the prize. They mounted it securely on a concrete base in front of the old library (later the Irvine Administration Building), confident that it would move around campus no more. But the Nu Phi brothers of the Class of 1919 could not let it rest, and the old cannon mysteriously vanished from sight for 11 long years.

Throughout the 11 years of seclusion, impassioned pleas were made for the return of the cherished iron symbol of Marietta College tradition. Finally, on a dark night in the spring of 1930, the pledges of Nu Phi were awakened from their slumbers by a group of upperclassmen and alumni bearing shovels. They were escorted to the front of the old library building, where the cannon had last been seen, and directed to start digging. After only a few moments their spades struck iron and the cannon was unearthed. The Nu Phi men of 1919 had simply toppled it off the concrete base and buried it at the scene of the crime!
Nu Phi pledges unearth the Cannon in 1930.

A few days later the old cannon was given a place of honor in the Marietta College Commencement parade. Mounted on a two-wheeled telephone pole trailer, it was pulled down Putnam Street by the brothers of Nu Phi. During the next several years, it made occasional appearances for special events, but after each display, it was whisked away to a secret hiding place. Then on the night of December 12, 1941, it became the target of one last campus siege.

By this time, the Nu Phi's had become the Lambda Chi's, and the fraternity men were once again enjoying an evening of socialization at their annual Christmas dance. Members of Delta Upsilon saw a golden opportunity and swarmed into the unguarded Lambda Chi cellar in search of the iron trophy. But the Lambda Chi's had been tipped off and the DU marauders were caught in the act! The cannon was saved again, but its remaining days were numbered.

The Lambda Chi's, keen to be the final stewards of the cannon, felt the time had come to call the old artifact into military duty once more. And so it was, that the Civil War-era cannon was donated to the nation's scrap metal drive in 1942. Perhaps it was reincarnated as part of a tank in the fight against Hitler, a fitting end for a campus legend.

Linda Showalter
Special Collections Associate
Marietta College Library

Monday, March 31, 2014

Marietta College Goes Hollywood

Marietta College assumes a stage name.

In the fall of 1962, Marietta College stepped into the national spotlight to play a part in a new NBC television series.  With the stage name of "Cordella College," Marietta was featured in scenes of the critically-acclaimed, yet short-lived comedy-drama, It's a Man's World.  The one-hour program followed the daily lives of four young men who lived on a houseboat while attending a small college.

Universal City's Revue Studios heard about Marietta while planning the series and considered it as one of several possible locations for the backdrop.  In November 1961, they sent director Peter Tewksbury to town with a camera crew to collect material and shoot film.  A Cleveland native, Tewksbury had already directed other popular shows, including Father Knows Best and My Three Sons.

The original title of the program was "Four Young Men," and the story was to be set in a small town in Oregon.  By April of 1962, Marietta's selection as the backdrop for It's a Man's World had been confirmed, and the setting had been changed to a small Ohio River town called "Cordella."  The film that had been made during the Marietta visit would be projected on a large translucent screen while the actors performed in front of it, creating the illusion that they were actually on the Marietta College campus.

Marietta College students pose for a sales presentation photo for the 1962 television show, It's a Man's World. The Marcolian, March 30, 1962

It's a Man's World debuted Monday, September 17, at 7:30 p.m. on NBC.  Viewers from coast to coast watched scenes of downtown Marietta, the Williamstown Bridge, and Erwin Tower.  They could even hear the college carillon playing in the background.

Stars of the show were Glen Corbett (later known for Route 66), Michael Burns (Wagon Train), Ted Bessell (That Girl), and Randy Boone (The Virginian).  Their characters were Wes Macauley, a pre-law student working his way through school; Wes' younger brother Howie; fellow student Tom-Tom DeWitt; and Vern Hodges, a drift-about folksinger.  The four lived on "The Elephant," a ramshackle houseboat moored along the Ohio River.  The show's writers broke away from the traditional family-show formula and presented "young people as they really are." They addressed serious issues, such as feminism, sexual freedom, and the widening generation gap.

Michael Burns as Howie Macauley, Randy Boone (with guitar) as Vern Hodges, Glenn Corbett as Wes Macauley, and Ted Bessell as Tom-Tom DeWitt.

Although It's a Man's World was popular among the younger crowd and reviews were positive, the show was cancelled during its first season due to weak ratings. At that time commercial sponsors did not target the younger audience, saying that surveys showed they did not watch much television and were not "big buyers." 

A nationwide campaign to save the show was launched, and in December 1962, Ted Bessell and Randy Boone traveled to Marietta College to lead students in a protest against NBC's decision.  Bessell and Boone were welcomed at the Tau Kapp Epsilon fraternity house, where they were made honorary members, met the TKE "Sweetheart," and Boone sang a song about saving the show.  Then a group of about 150 MC students piled into cars to accompany the stars to Parkersburg for a rally in front of local NBC affiliate, WTAP.  All their efforts were unrewarded, however, as the last episode was aired in February of 1963. 

Randy Boone and Ted Bessell perform at a rally at Marietta College sponsored by Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity.

Marietta College students protest the cancellation of NBC's It's a Man's World at local TV station WTAP.

Critics now believe that It's a Man's World, with its mature themes and youthful audience, was simply ahead of its time. Many viewers still recall their favorite episodes with fondness, but the show has never been released in syndication, nor commercially in any video format.

Linda Showalter
Special Collections Associate
Marietta College Library


Monday, February 24, 2014

The Marietta College Class of 1964 Falls Into the Rhythm of Campus Life

By late fall of 1960, the Freshman Class was conquering the sometimes challenging transition from high school to college and enjoying a variety of social events, including Homecoming and Greek Rush. They decorated a class float for the Homecoming parade and cheered the Pioneer football team on to a come-from-behind victory over Kenyon.

Dean Ruth Wilcox accepted registration forms from 135 freshmen women who "rushed" to pledge a sorority.  Open houses, formal teas, and preference parties were an important part of the social scene during November.

Although most Marietta College students were not old enough to vote, they were interested in the 1960 presidential election.  Backers of the Nixon-Lodge Republican ticket wore campaign buttons and distributed political leaflets; Kennedy-Johnson supporters listened to Professor Jack Prince speak on behalf of Democrats in Otto Lounge. Some students had the opportunity to meet Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., a Kennedy campaigner, when he visited the ATO house. Others were interested in hearing Richard Nixon speak at the Armory on Front Street.  Nixon won an overwhelming victory in the mock election held on campus in early November.

 All images were originally published in Marietta College's student newspaper, The Marcolian.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Getting to Know You: Welcoming the Marietta College Class of 1964 to Campus

Marietta College, 1960

Members of the Class of 1964 arrived at Marietta College on a Sunday afternoon, September 11, 1960, and with "beaming faces" began their journey through higher education. After being welcomed by President W. Bay Irvine, their first week on campus was filled with assemblies, dorm meetings, and class placement examinations. Some time was also set aside for food, fun, and meeting new friends during the Freshman Picnic at Masonic Park.

Write and wait! Filling out forms in the registration line.
Students enjoy food and companionship at the Freshman Picnic.
The Freshman Handbook contained everything new students needed to know about clubs and campus resources, but the most important information of all was found on page eight - a list of rules to be followed during the week of freshman hazing. Beanies and over-sized name cards were required to be worn every day from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., and freshmen were to carry matches and chewing gum for the convenience of upperclassmen. They must be able to answer questions about the history of Marietta College and to perform any of the school songs and cheers when requested by a sophomore.

The unofficial headquarters for hazing was located in front of the Gilman Student Center, where "wary frosh, who were trapped by their tormentors, staged command performances of Time Honored Marietta." Any sign of belligerence or failure to produce the desired response resulted in an appearance before Kangaroo Kourt. Sophomores definitely had the upper hand during freshman hazing, but claimed that their "guidance" united members of the new class and introduced them to the college.

Learning from the upperclassmen.
A command performance.

 - Marietta College Special Collections