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The Hidden History of a Home: Bosworth House

(The Charles Bosworth House today)

The Bosworth House at 123 Maple Street looms large in the business area of the Harmar Historical District. The Greek Revival style house, a design popular in the 1800’s, was built about 1831 for the family of Charles and Frances Gill Kaye Bosworth. The two-story brick house with its side verandas looking out to the Muskingum River reflects the charm that may be found in Charleston, South Carolina. Bosworth, a riverboat captain, may have waved to his waiting wife and family as he returned to Marietta following months on the river. It is suspected that the house originally had a clear view to the Muskingum River from side porches before other structures were built. It may be the only home in Marietta to have a false front, meaning that the first and second story verandas on the right side of the house are hidden from the front by a continuation of the brickwork across the width of the house. The Maple Street façade is symmetrical with a front door leading to the interior on the left and the right side door is the entry to the first floor veranda. The second floor shows four identical windows with the far right one as a part of the upstairs veranda. The triangular structure in the pediment is Greek Revival in style and includes a characteristic fanlight. The interior of the house had double parlors that ran from the front to the back of the house on the right side and opened up to a large side porch. There was a wall between the two parlors that could be pushed up to the second floor and thereby, opening up the two parlors as one for large gatherings. The original mantle was removed and placed in the Fort Street house built for James Whitney, a boat builder in the mid 1800’s. It is not confirmed that Bosworth and Whitney were in business together as river men, but they certainly knew each other.

(The Bosworth House in the early days)

Charles Bosworth arrived in Washington County with his parents and siblings in 1816. His great, great, great grandparents, Edward and Mary Bosworth came from England and settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1634. His parents, Salah, a Revolutionary War veteran, and Rebecca Perkins Bosworth married in 1788 and lived in Halifax, Massachusetts with their eleven children. Perhaps with some of the children grown, the Bosworth family joined the fervor of many American families to travel west for a new life in Ohio. The Bosworth family in Marietta included seven of the eleven children. Among these were Sala Bosworth who became a well-known artist and Daniel P. Bosworth who co-owned one of the largest business in town, the Bosworth & Wells, Co. on Front Street.

Bosworth & Wells Co. on Front Street in 1860

(Photo shows The Bosworth & Wells Company on Front Street in 1860)

With Marietta located at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers, boat building was a lively trade to address the needs of passengers, freight, and mail. The river appealed and he learned the trade as a young man in the local boatyards. In 1828, Charles was 31 years old, already a widower, and a father of two daughters. That summer he corresponded about his business in Marietta with his brother, Sala, who was in Philadelphia at art school. He wrote, “Our place is healthy this summer and business is brisk. Whitney and Stone have contracted to build a boat for the company who bought the Oregon. She is to be rising 450 tons burthen which will give employment to our mechanicks through the fall and winter.” This suggests that he worked with James Whitney, a known boat builder in Harmar.

The Sala Bosworth House on Fourth Street

(Photo shows the home of Charles' brother, Sala Bosworth, on Fourth Street)

In 1829, Charles married his second wife, Frances Gill Kaye and initiated plans to build a house in Harmar. Whether they planned it or not, the couple had a large family: two daughters from the first marriage and five children of their own. Charles built a large house for the family who would spend more time there than he would. Life of a river man demanded that Captain Bosworth would be gone for months as he navigated steamboats on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

A March 29, 1837 newspaper story announced that two new steamboats constructed in the Boat Yards of Harmar were launched on March 25. “These boats were built for and under immediate superintendency of Captain Bosworth and Whitney. The one for the New Orleans, and the other for the St. Louis trade…”

Captain Charles Bosworth commanded the “John Mills,” the largest of the two boats.

During these years Bosworth was often on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers transporting cargo and passengers and few days at home. He wrote in a letter to Frances in October of 1837: “… I love my home, I love you all and I wish that my business was such as would not call me from it, but when I shall see you again God only knows.”

Charles would sometimes ask Frances to join him on trips. He was frustrated with so much time on the river and away from home. River life could be tedious and boring especially when they were held up for long periods due to low water and slow mail service. Letters sometimes contained acknowledgment of sending money and goods to Frances. With concern about the house and a growing family, Bosworth appeared to worry about finances. In a July 27, 1840 letter he writes, “I know the difficulties at home and they are such as I cannot avert. I am determined to earn a support for us while I can, and that I cannot do at home…” Bosworth grew weary of river life that he once loved. In February 1841, he writes, “I have never felt greater pain of mind from a separation from you than I do at the present, and I did think that I should leave the boat this trip, but I have consented to remain on board a while longer.”

With one child, Emma, ill, it is believed that Charles returned to Marietta in the summer. With a sad turn of fate, Charles developed yellow fever during a Mississippi River trip and died in Memphis on September 26, 1841. During his last trip home in the summer of 1841, it was apparent that a child was conceived. On March 4, 1842, Frances delivered a son whom her husband would never meet. She named the child Charles. Some time later, Frances sells the house for $1,667.00.

Charles Bosworth Home - MC Special Collections

(The Bosworth House circa 1920, courtesy Marietta College Fischer Collection)

The Bosworth House has hosted a number of people over the next one hundred and seventy five years:

- From 1860 to 1913 the house was owned by members of the Charles G. Hall family and descendents.

-The 1900 City Directory list Mrs. J.G. Hall as the resident with the notation that it served as a boarding house.

- From 1913 to 1925 a variety of people were listed as residents including the Knox family. Under the ownership of the Knox family, Everett Burchett was listed as a roomer in 1922. After Albert Knox dies, Everett Burchett married his widow, Rebecca. The Burchett family lived in the home until about 1943.

- The next owners would live in the historic home for over 35 years. In 1949 Charles, a steamfitter, and Louella Preston lived in the home. Louella was a teacher at nearby Harmar School. In 1964 until 1985, their son, Charles D. Preston, and his wife, Mollie, raise their family in the historic home. They owned and operated the nearby Preston Car Service and Rent It. Their two children both followed their grandmother’s profession and became teachers.

- In 1986 the Preston’s are gone and the city directory had the listing: 123 Maple Street - Bosworth, Charles Home (Historic Home). At this time, Harmar Historic District became part of the National Register of Historic Places.

- The last long time residents of the home were James Badgett and his son Butch. They lived there for about 20 years ending residency in 2012. For a number of years they operated the Coca Cola Museum and Dad’s Collectibles Shop. Butch Badgett was well known for his civic work particularly with the Historic Harmar Bridge Company and as the leader in securing the accessible Third Street location for the City Municipal Court. As of this writing, the Bosworth House is vacant and falling into disrepair.

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