Family seeks ties to founder
MARIETTA – From his two-story home on Bellevue Street, high atop Harmar Hill, Jason Kahrl has a great view of the confluence of the Muskingum and Ohio rivers and the city Rufus Putnam and his Ohio Company of Associates founded 225 years ago.
Marietta holds a special significance for Jason and his father, James Kahrl of Columbus, because they’re direct descendants of the Rufus Putnam family.
“I think about that sometimes, although we didn’t know about the view when we first located this house,” Jason said. “Being a Putnam descendant didn’t really factor into the planning when we decided to move here a year ago, but it’s something I’ve always known about. And now it’s something we’re experiencing.”
Jason, 41, a science teacher from Columbus, married his wife Jennifer, a surgeon’s assistant from Parkersbur in 2009. A year ago the couple had a son, Alexander.
“We were living in a small house, and after the baby there wasn’t a lot of room,” Jason said. “We looked at a lot of houses but this one had what we needed.”
James Kahrl, 68, now retired from a computer development firm, was raised in Mount Vernon, but later moved to Columbus where he met his wife, Terry.
“We lived there about 10 years, then moved back to Mount Vernon,” he said.
The Kahrls are descended from Abigail Putnam, born in Brookfield, Mass., in 1770-one of six daughters born to Rufus and Persis Putnam.
Putnam brought his family to the area in 1790, two years after his initial arrival at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers where he and members of his Ohio Company of Associates founded the frontier settlement that eventually became the city of Marietta-the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory.
The area was mostly overgrown forest land when Putnam’s party arrived in 1788.
“It’s amazing when you think about it,” Jason said. “They started from zero and built a community, and look at how much has changed.”
He said Putnam’s adventurous spirit continues in the family.
“I think we do have that spirit. We’ve always been the outgoing, adventurous type of family,” Jason said.
According to documents from Marietta College’s Special Collections, Putnam established the Ohio Company land office in Marietta where he oversaw the company’s affairs. From 1796 to 1803 Putnam was appointed Surveyor-General of the U.S. by President George Washington.
He was a delegate to the Ohio Constitutional Convention in 1802, and helped establish the Congregational Church and the Muskingum Academy at Marietta.
Putnam also helped found Ohio University in Athens in 1804.
Rufus Putnam died in Marietta at the age of 86 and is buried in Mound Cemetery. Daughter Abigail married William Browning of Belpre. She died in 1803 at age 35, according to a grave marker in Belpre’s Cedarville Cemetery.
Son George Browning was born in Belpre, but later moved to Knox County where he married Nancy Bryant of Mount Vernon. Many of the Brownings’ descendants continue to live in the Mount Vernon area.
Names added to the family tree at Mount Vernon included the Taylors, Conleys and Kahrls, beginning with James Kahrl’s father, Allin.
But the family never forgot their Marietta roots.
“Every few years or so my parents would come from Mount Vernon to Marietta to visit the Rufus Putnam grave site,” James said.
Neither James nor Jason have been to Rutland, Mass., where Rufus Putnam lived before his trek to Marietta.
“But I would definitely like to go there, I think it would help bring all of this history together,” James said.
He noted in the early 1990s a cousin doing genealogy research assembled a Book of Remembrance that has helped keep track of the family’s history from Marietta to Mount Vernon.
Now, with Jason’s move to the Pioneer City, the family has come full circle, with 1-year-old son Alexander marking the family’s ninth generation connection to the founding Putnams.
“I’ve always known all about the family history, but didn’t take a real interest until we moved here. And now I’m part of it,” said Jason’s wife, Jennifer.
Terry Kahrl said the Putnam history was often a topic of discussion during family get-togethers. “They’re always sharing the latest findings about the family history, but it’s exciting. That’s how they’ve kept it alive,” she said. “And our house is filled with memorabilia that we’ll pass on to our children.”
Jason said it’s important for families to know about their histories. “It’s good knowledge to share with the local community, too,” he said. “It helps to know how things have come about. Given our current moment in society, it is as important to look to history today as it was when our founders looked on history while planning a successful future for our country.”
As for young Alexander, Jason said he’ll definitely know about his lineage.
“I think it will be neat for Alexander to know he’s directly associated with the history of this area,” he said. “But I also think we’ll take a humble approach with him. This is something important, and we’re fortunate to have been a part of it, but we want him to see that role with a humble attitude.”
Jason said he hopes his son will also be an inspiration to others who might share or explore into their own family history and discover more about their own heritage. “After all, everyone is related in some way,” he said. “These truths that brought our country together haven’t changed, and they really aren’t as far back as many people think.”
The Kahrls are interested in hearing from others in the Putnam line.
“We hope to be able to link to other Putnam descendants who would be welcome to contact us,” Jason said.
He encourages those interested to email him at email@example.com.