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…”