The Mysterious Cotton House

August 29, 2016



In 1815, a man named Dr. John Cotton moved to Marietta with his bride Susan. A sharp-witted man of learning, he was astounded that the Ohio Company had chosen such a disagreeable place to settle as Marietta, Ohio. He saw the problems from flooding, the bad agriculture and rampant diseases of the town. However, he decided to stay and moved into a large home on the corner of Butler and Post Street. The building was once located just behind where Twisted Sisters is today and later became the St. James Hotel. 



Dr. John Cotton became a mover and shaker of the town and was one of the main people to help found Marietta College. He often lectured there and at the Female Seminary located at the corner of Second and Putnam Street.



Dr. John had 2 sons: John Jr. and Josiah Dexter. Both boys became doctors. However, the family relationship suffered much strain during the Civil War. Dr. John Cotton Jr. married into a Confederate family, with his own wife being arrested for aiding the Confederate Army (in which 5 of her brothers

 served). Dr. Josiah Dexter Cotton, however, was a surgeon for the Union Army. 


In 1853, a grand white house was erected on Fifth Street. Built by Dr. Josiah Dexter, it has been known as the Cotton House ever since. 

At the time, Fifth Street was sparsely populated, with most of the homes near Marietta College. The streets were not yet lined with bricks, and the hills made Fifth Street difficult to reach at times. The house is Greek Revival in style. 


Dr. Josiah Dexter Cotton was a well-respected man in town, and had a loving family of 8 children (4 of which survived to adulthood) and a happy marriage with his wife. A very forward thinking family, they supported abolition and equal education for women. Dr. Cotton's youngest daughter, Willia, became one of the first female

 graduates of a co-ed Marietta College campus in 1898. She never married, instead pursuing a career in library science. She was the head of the Washington County Public Library until she was involved in a car accident in the 1930s. 


Dr. Cotton seems to have had such a happy family life that it is hard for him to leave the house! When the new owners moved in and started renovating the house back to its original grandeur, a man knocked on their door and asked to see the place. When they offered to take him around he said, "no thank you, I am very familiar with this house". He then disappeared. He has been seen from time to time, just checking in. He appears to be an older man, in an old-fashioned suit.


The owners were astounded by this turn of events and checked with the previous occupants of the house and were told that they had seen the man too! It had frightened the previous owners so much that they had the house exorcised. Apparently it failed. The new owners don't mind seeing the man every now and then. He was the one who built the house and they feel he has a right to be there.


Children are also heard playing in the attic, though children have not lived in the

house for years. Dr. Cotton and his wife lost 4 children to illness in the house. One Cotton daughter, Mary, survived just long enough to get married and then passed away within a year of her wedding. Perhaps over time, as each member of the Cotton family died, their spirits sought out each other in the family home in which they grew up.


Willia, the last of the family still in Marietta, died in the house in the 1940s. A great historian and researcher, she inspires future generations of historians to pursue the fascinating, endless depths of Marietta's history. 



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