Putnam, Rufus, 1738-1824

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Putnam commanded the defensive works around Boston in 1775 and later served under Gates against Burgoyne.

From the description of Letter, 1781 March 13, Boston [Mass.], [to] Major General Heath, West Point. (New England Historic Genealogical Society). WorldCat record id: 50844673

Continental army officer.

From the description of Papers of Rufus Putnam, 1781-1801. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 71061883

Co-founder of Ohio University; trustee from 1804 to 1824; Surveyor General of United States, 1796-1803.

From the description of Document, 1811. (Ohio University). WorldCat record id: 12870277

Continental Army officer, surveyor, and pioneer; undertook survey and sale of lands in Maine and Ohio in 1785; one of the earliest settlers of Ohio.

From the description of Journal kept by Rufus Putnam while surveying land in Lincoln County, Me., 1784. (Maine Historical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 70977147

Gen. Rufus Putnam (1738-1824) of Sutton and Rutland, Mass., Revolutionary War soldier and western pioneer, is credited with the successful fortification of Dorchester Heights against the British in 1776, and with leading an expedition of war veterans (Ohio Company of Associates) to the Northwest Territory in 1788, forming the first settlement at Marietta, Ohio. He was later appointed judge of the Northwest Territory and Surveyor-General of the U.S.

From the description of Papers, 1790-1828. (American Antiquarian Society). WorldCat record id: 191259659

Rufus Putnam was born on April 9, 1738, in Sutton, Massachusetts, the son of Elisha Putnam and Susanna Fuller. After the death of his father, Putnam lived with relatives until he started his apprenticeship as a millwright in 1754. He served in the French and Indian War, received a promotion to sergeant in 1759, and taught himself the basics of military engineering. Putnam became a millwright in 1761. In the 1760s and 1770s, Putnam taught himself land surveying while he worked as a miller and farmer in Massachusetts. He oversaw the construction of defensive works around Boston from 1775 to 1776, and around New York in late 1776 (including West Point). He earned the rank of colonel in the Continental Army in 1776 and became brigadier general by January 1784.

Congress appointed Putnam a surveyor of the lands northwest of the Ohio River because of his extensive military career and his skill as a land surveyor. In March 1786, Rufus Putnam and Benjamin Tupper created the Ohio Company of Associates, with the purpose of organizing a group of like-minded individuals interested in settling land west of the Appalachian Mountains. The Ohio Company bought 1.5 million acres of land from Congress. Putnam led a group of Ohio Company men to the Muskingum River in 1788, and oversaw the construction of the town of Marietta, including a fort and a plan for a city of fifteen thousand occupants. Putnam's role in the Ohio Company and the settling of Marietta helped him gain recognition in both the territorial and national governments. In 1790, President George Washington appointed him a territorial judge and, on October 1, 1796, surveyor-general of the United States. As surveyor-general, Putnam oversaw the establishment of the Indian-United States boundary line described by the Treaty of Greenville. After Thomas Jefferson became surveyor-general in 1803, Putnam remained in Marietta, and helped found Ohio University in Athens (1804). He died in Marietta in 1824.

Rufus Putnam married his first wife, Elizabeth Ayres of Brookfield, Massachusetts, in 1761, but she died later the same year. Rufus Putnam married Persis Rice (d. 1820) of Westborough, Massachusetts, in 1765, and they had nine children.

From the guide to the Rufus Putnam letters, Putnam, Rufus letters, 1797-1799, (William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan)

Rufus Putnam (9 April 1738 - 4 May 1824), Revolutionary War officer, founder of Marietta, Ohio, was born at Sutton, Massachusetts, the youngest of the six sons of Elisha Putnam and Susanna Fuller Putnam. His father died when he was seven years old and for the next two years he lived with his maternal grandfather, Jonathan Fuller. In 1747 Putnam's mother married John Sadler of Upton, Massachusetts, and until 1753 Putnam lived in his stepfather's house. In 1754 he was apprenticed to Daniel Mathews of Brookfield, Massachusetts, a millwright. Mostly self-educated, Putnam in his adulthood recalled that until the age of nine he was sent to school "as much as children usually were in that day," but during the six years that he lived with his stepfather, a man who had contempt for education, he attended school for only three weeks. On his own he continued to study writing, and arithmetic "from the book." All his life he regretted his lack of knowledge of spelling and grammar. At some point he learned surveying. Putnam's military career began with the French and Indian War (1756 - 1763), during which he enlisted for several tours of duty in the Massachusetts provincial service. He saw action in northern New York and also worked building mills and fortifications for the army, an occupation not always to his liking. In June, 1760, he received an ensign's commission and joined his company at Ticonderoga, where he remained until discharged in November of that year. In March, 1761, Putnam began business as a millwright, his chief occupation for seven or eight years, after which he farmed and was also employed in surveying until the outbreak of the Revolution. On 6 April 1761, he married Elizabeth Ayres of Brookfield, Massachusetts. She died within the year, leaving an infant son who also died shortly. On 10 January 1765 Putnam married Persis Rice of Westborough, Massachusetts, who lived to 1820 and by whom he had nine children. When it was reported in 1772 that the king of England had authorized a grant of lands in West Florida to the colonials who had served in the French and Indian War, Putnam was chosen a member of a committee to explore the lands. He ultimately traveled with a party almost 400 miles up the Mississippi River in search of the best acreage, but the governor of West Florida never received the king's order. Putnam felt that he had wasted eight months on the expedition, but the experience was doubtless valuable to him later. When the American Revolution (1775 - 1783) broke out, Putnam entered military service as a lieutenant colonel in a regiment commanded by David Brewer. He continued in the army until the end of the war. On 17 June 1775 he took part in the battle of Charlestown. He helped plan fortifications around Boston and later claimed that he had been responsible for the Americans' taking of Dorchester Heights and therefore the British evacuation of Boston. It was at this time that he came to know George Washington, who was to remain Putnam's patron until his death in 1799. Putnam also worked on fortifications in Rhode Island and New York. On 11 August 1776 Congress appointed him an engineer, with the rank of colonel, and in the same year he accepted a regiment in the Massachusetts Line of the continental army. For the next four years he was stationed in upstate New York, part of the time under the command of General Robert Howe. He spent most of the winter and spring of 1781 in Boston lobbying the General Court in behalf of the Massachusetts soldiers. Toward the end of the war he received a brevet promotion to brigadier general. In the last year of the war, acting for a group of officers encamped at Newburgh, New York, Putnam framed a petition to the Congress of the Confederation asking that land promised to officers and soldiers who served to the end of the war be located in the territory northwest of the Ohio River. Back home in Massachusetts Putnam continued his efforts to interest army veterans and others in western "adventures," but when he learned in 1784 that Congress had not acted on the Newburgh petition, he agreed with the Massachusetts Committee on Eastern Lands to survey the state's lands in present Maine. He spent most of his time for the next three years on this business, even while he served a term in the Massachusetts General Assembly (1787), and continued to promote the western country. Early in 1786 Putnam and General Benjamin Tupper drew up and promoted a circular describing the riches of the Ohio Country and, together with representatives from several counties in Massachusetts, formed the Ohio Company of Associates, the purpose of which was to acquire and settle land in the Northwest Territory. In 1787 the company contracted with the federal government to purchase a million and a half acres in what is now southeast Ohio, to be paid for in depreciated continental currency and military land warrants. Appointed superintendent of the company, Putnam arrived at the mouth of the Muskingum River on 7 April 1788, with a company of men to found a settlement and survey and allocate the land. Named Marietta, the settlement was the first organized one in the Northwest Territory. The work of surveying, clearing, and building in the Ohio Company purchase proceeded under Putnam's direction. In November, 1790, he brought his family to Marietta, where he lived for the rest of his life. On 27 September 1792, his promotion to brigadier general confirmed (5 May 1792), he negotiated the Treaty of Vincennes with the Indians of the lower Wabash River, a treaty the senate failed to ratify. Pacification of the Indians awaited the Treaty of Greenville (1795). At Marietta Putnam established the Ohio Company land office, where he oversaw the affairs of the company. He helped set up the local government. He worked to establish a postal route in the Ohio Valley and was instrumental in settling the French immigrants at Gallipolis. In 1796 President Washington appointed Putnam surveyor-general of the United States, a position he held until 1803. He was a delegate to the Ohio Constitutional Convention in 1802, but as a Federalist he lost political power with the ascendancy of the Jefferson Republicans in the early nineteenth century. He helped establish the Congregational Church and the Muskingum Academy at Marietta, and Ohio University at Athens (1804). He died at Marietta at the age of 86 and is buried in Mound Cemetery, the resting place of many of his fellow officers of the Revolution who followed him to the West.

Written by Irene D. Neu

From the guide to the Rufus Putnam Papers, 1776-1827, (Marietta College Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn United States. Continental Army. Massachusetts Regiment, Fifth. Orderly books, 1780-1782. New-York Historical Society
creatorOf Trumbull, Jonathan, 1740-1809. Jonathan Trumbull papers, 1787-1811 [microform]. Western Reserve Historical Society, Research Library
creatorOf Sargent, Winthrop, 1753-1820. Papers, 1776-1865. Library of Congress
referencedIn Frederick M. Dearborn collection of military and political Americana, Part I: The Revolution and the Administration, 1669-1958. Houghton Library
creatorOf Gallatin, Albert, 1761-1849. Papers. Ohio History Connection, Ohio Historical Society
creatorOf Fisher, John, fl. 1777-1802. John Fisher papers, 1776-1783. New-York Historical Society
referencedIn Ward, Henry Dana, 1797-1884. Notes of a tour from New York to Philadelphia, Washington, Cincinnati [etc.], 1828 Apr. 30-Jun. 13. Ohio History Connection, Ohio Historical Society
referencedIn Ohio Company (1786-1796). Ohio Company records, 1787-1800, bulk 1787-1793. Newberry Library
creatorOf Putnam, Rufus, 1738-1824. Papers. Ohio History Connection, Ohio Historical Society
referencedIn Papers, 1768-1877. Houghton Library
creatorOf Rufus Putnam letters, Putnam, Rufus letters, 1797-1799 William L. Clements Library , University of Michigan
creatorOf Wayne family. Anthony Wayne family papers, 1681-1913. University of Michigan, William Clements Library
referencedIn George Frisbie Hoar autograph collection, 1598-1945. Houghton Library
referencedIn Anthony Wayne family papers, Wayne, Anthony, family papers, 1681-1913 William L. Clements Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Manuscripts and Documents of the Ohio Company of Associates, 1783-1817 Marietta College Library
creatorOf Putnam, Rufus, 1738-1824. A plan of some of the most important posts and rising grounds either occupied by or in the possession of the American and ministerial armies, in, and near Boston / taken by Col. Rufus Putnam, Feb. 11th 1776. HCL Technical Services, Harvard College Library
creatorOf Rufus Putnam Papers, 1776-1827 Marietta College Library
referencedIn Hildreth, Samuel P. (Samuel Prescott), 1783-1863. Inventory and notes, ca. 1936. Ohio History Connection, Ohio Historical Society
referencedIn Putnam family. Putnam family papers 1794-1904 [manuscript] Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, Heinz History Center Detre Library and Archives
creatorOf Putnam, Rufus, 1738-1824. Geographical and historical account of the state of Ohio, ca. 1805. Boston Athenaeum
referencedIn Coombs, Zelotes Wood, 1865-1946. Papers, 1890-1935. Gadsden Public Library
creatorOf Putnam, Rufus, 1738-1824. Journal kept by Rufus Putnam while surveying land in Lincoln County, Me., 1784. Maine Historical Society Library
creatorOf Putnam, Rufus, 1738-1824. Autograph letter signed : to Messrs. Philips, Wells and Dean, 1785 May 21. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Orderly books collection, 1758-1813. Gadsden Public Library
referencedIn Autograph File, P, 1554-2005. Houghton Library
referencedIn Benjamin Gilbert letter book, Gilbert, Benjamin, letter book, 1780-1783 William L. Clements Library , University of Michigan
creatorOf Putnam, Rufus, 1738-1824. Letter, 1781 March 13, Boston [Mass.], [to] Major General Heath, West Point. New England Historic Genealogical Society
creatorOf Putnam, Rufus, 1738-1824. Papers. United States Military Academy, USMA Library
referencedIn American Philosophical Society Library. Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection. 1668-1983. American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Swett, Samuel, 1774-1853. Papers, 1743-1847. Gadsden Public Library
creatorOf Athens (Ohio). Document, 1800. Ohio University, Alden Library
creatorOf Putnam, Rufus, 1738-1824. Township no. VII range no. XIV. University of Michigan, William Clements Library
referencedIn Painting [realia] : Rufus Putnam. Ohio History Connection, Ohio Historical Society
creatorOf Putnam, Rufus, 1738-1824. Papers. Ohio History Connection, Ohio Historical Society
creatorOf Trumbull, Jonathan, 1740-1809. Jonathan Trumbull papers, 1787-1811. Western Reserve Historical Society, Research Library
referencedIn United States. Marietta Land Office. Letter requesting plats lying between the Miami Rivers, 1803 Jan. 19. Ohio History Connection, Ohio Historical Society
creatorOf Putnam, Rufus, 1738-1824. Papers, 1790-1828. Gadsden Public Library
creatorOf Putnam, Rufus, 1738-1824. Plan of lands in the Ohio Companys purchase lying in sections no 1 & no 7 town no 2 range no 12. University of Michigan, William Clements Library
creatorOf Nixon family. Nixon family papers, 1800-1889, bulk 1800-1851. University of Michigan, William Clements Library
creatorOf Putnam, Rufus, 1738-1824. Papers 1787-1824. Ohio History Connection, Ohio Historical Society
referencedIn Marietta College collection [microform], 1776-1847. Ohio History Connection, Ohio Historical Society
referencedIn Nichols, Joseph, fl. 1755-1766. Diary of Joseph Nichols, 1758-1766. Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
referencedIn Nixon family papers, 1800-1889, 1800-1851 William L. Clements Library , University of Michigan
creatorOf Putnam, Rufus, 1738-1824. Receipt from Rufus Putnam, president of Bank of Marietta, Marietta, Ohio : autograph manuscript signed, 1807 August 8. Wisconsin Historical Society Archives
creatorOf Putnam, Rufus, 1738-1824. Papers of Rufus Putnam, 1781-1801. Library of Congress
referencedIn United States. Continental Army. Eastern Dept. Journal of the Proceedings... 1782, February 14-July 2. Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
creatorOf Putnam, Rufus, 1738-1824. Document, 1811. Ohio University, Alden Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
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associatedWith Cooper, Thomas, 1759-1839 person
associatedWith Coues, Elliott, 1842-1899 person
associatedWith Cuvier, Georges, Baron, 1769-1832 person
associatedWith Darlington, William, 1782-1863 person
associatedWith Dayton, Jonathan, 1760-1824. person
associatedWith Dearborn, Frederick M. (Frederick Myers), b. 1876 person
associatedWith Dow, George Francis, 1868-1936. person
associatedWith Edison, Thomas A., (Thomas Alva), 1847-1931 person
associatedWith Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955 person
associatedWith Everett, Edward, 1794-1865 person
associatedWith Fisher, John, fl. 1777-1802. person
associatedWith Fitch, John person
associatedWith Gallatin, Albert, 1761-1849. person
associatedWith Genth, F. A., (Frederick Augustus), 1820-1893 person
associatedWith Gilbert, Benjamin, 1755-1828 person
associatedWith Gray, Asa, 1810-1888 person
associatedWith Greeley, Horace, 1811-1872 person
associatedWith Harding, Warren G. person
correspondedWith Heath, William, 1737-1814 person
associatedWith Hildreth, Samuel P. (Samuel Prescott), 1783-1863. person
associatedWith Hoar, George Frisbie, 1826-1904 person
associatedWith Jameson, Henry, fl. 1781. person
associatedWith Lombard, Herbert Edwin, 1863-1940. person
associatedWith Ludlow, Israel, 1765-1804 person
associatedWith Marble, Henry. person
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associatedWith Newton, Isaac, Sir, 1642-1727 person
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correspondedWith United States. Marietta Land Office. corporateBody
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associatedWith Wolcott, Oliver, 1760-1833 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Ohio
Ohio.
Ohio River Valley
Ohio
Meigs County (Ohio)
Athens County (Ohio)
Ohio--Meigs County
Marietta (Ohio)
West Point (N.Y.)
Northwest, Old
Ohio
Northwest, Old.
United States
Marietta (Ohio)
New York (State)
Ohio
Ohio--Meigs County
Northwest, Old
Lincoln County (Me.)
Massachusetts
Ohio
United States
Maine--Lincoln County
Northwest, Old
Boston (Mass.)
Meigs County (Ohio)
Subject
Real property--Maps
Indians of North America--Ohio
Courts-martial and courts of inquiry
Manuscript maps
Brun Guide
Frontier and pioneer life--Sources
Land companies
Maps shelf
Chickasaw Indians--History--18th century
Surveying
Education, higher
Surveyors--Diaries
Shawnee Indians--History--18th century
Greenville, Treaty of, 1795
Occupation
Surveyors--Maine--Lincoln County
Army officers
Function

Person

Birth 1738-04-09

Death 1824-05-04

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