Grave matters: Anselm Tupper, Marietta’s first teacher

He was more than an officer and a gentleman. He was a scholar and a poet, and he was Marietta’s first teacher.

Anselm Tupper was one of the 48 original pioneers who made their way along the rivers and mountains of New England to the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers to establish the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory. He’s buried in Marietta’s Mound Cemetery.

“He was a man of intellectual ability, and especially in mathematics had the reputation of being a good scholar,” according to “Williams’ History of Washington County, 1788 to 1881.” “He is said to have a refined and polished address and was of fine personal appearance and military bearing. … He was the favorite of the officers of the garrison (Campus Martius), especially of Colonel Sproat,” and was quite the poet.

In one incident, Sproat and Dr. Story, the minister, were engaged in a race, and Story left Sproat in the dust. To commemorate the event, Tupper wrote:

“It was a point, they all gave in,/Divinity could outstrip sin.”

As is the case with many of the pioneers who settled Marietta, Tupper also had an impressive American Revolutionary War record. As a young boy of 11, he enlisted and joined Capt. Robert West’s Chesterfield company, assigned to Col. John Fellows’ regiment (17th Massachusetts Bay Provincial Regiment), after the first shots were fired in 1775 at Lexington and Concord, Mass. Anselm’s father, Benjamin Tupper, was already major.

In 1779, Tupper was named adjutant in the regiment of fellow pioneer Col. Ebenezer Sproat. Later that year, Anselm was promoted to ensign at age 16

Although the rank of ensign is today a naval term, it would be the equivalent of a second lieutenant, said Scott Britton, executive director of The Castle in Marietta.

“It’s hard to imagine taking orders from a 16-year-old,” Britton said. “They obviously had a lot of respect for him.”

Tupper even had the honor of getting a recommendation from Gen. George Washington.

“He’s in with his father, who has experience before the Revolution,” Britton said. “Part of that was due to his upbringing. You don’t get the recommendation of George Washington just because of who your dad is. A lot of that was well earned on his own merit.”

After the Ohio Company of Associates had been formed by Rufus Putnam and Benjamin Tupper, the father-and-son team took on a survey of the Seven Ranges in the Ohio Country. That area covers today’s Monroe, Harrison, Belmont and Jefferson, and portions of Carroll, Columbiana, Tuscarawas, Guernsey, Noble and Washington counties.

In fact, according to “Williams History of Washington County,” Tupper and John Matthews were the only ones of the original 48 to have seen the area around what would become Marietta.

Near the fortification of Campus Martius, the pioneers dug a well 80 feet deep to supply the settlers with water. Near that well, Tupper placed a large sundial he made. It wasn’t until 1788 that Tupper’s parents and other siblings arrived at the Marietta settlement.

Once Campus Martius was built, Anselm Tupper was put in charge of all the defense of the garrison.

“That says a lot about his merit, not his father’s,” Britton said. “Out of all the seasoned military men (Rufus Putnam, Ebeneezer Sproat etc), they chose Anselm Tupper to protect their families.”