The sport of rowing dates back centuries. The first competitive event was staged on the Thames River in England in 1715. More than 300 years later, the race still happens every summer.
Crew is the oldest collegiate sport in the United States, with the first race taking place between Harvard and Yale in 1845.
The first rowing club at Marietta College was established in 1871 with the first official organization starting in 1875.
The first boats for the group arrived from New York strapped to the roofs of railcars as they passed through 27 tunnels on the way here. By 1880 interest was high enough that a new boathouse was built near Muskingum Park. The three-story structure lasted until 1913 when it was destroyed by the flood that took out many riverside buildings.
For a time after the flood rowing was missing from Marietta. The Marietta Kiwanians took on the project of building a new boathouse, using locally sourced grind stones and donated materials.
A boat house was constructed along Gilman Avenue that would stand up to any flood that the Muskingum could throw at it.
Rowing returned in 1930. The boats had to contend with the Lock and Dam #1 on the Muskingum.
Located just downstream from the Putnam Street Bridge, the crews had to lock through to reach the Ohio River. A photo on Page 2 today shows four boats doing exactly that. The dam and the lock were removed in the late 1960s after the construction of the Belleville Lock and Dam was completed in 1968.
Much of the success of rowing in Marietta can be traced to Ralph Lindamood. He coached at the school for a quarter of a century and helped to build the program to what it is today. The college boathouse on Gilman Street is now named for him.
I first met Ralph when I was in junior high school. Several years before, Lindamood offered to help the high school start a rowing program. He gave them space and I believe some of the college’s older boats. Being in junior high school, we got the oldest of the old boats, The Rovep.
The thing weighed a ton, but it was a good craft to learn the sport in. It was a boat that was likely 40 years old when I first climbed into it, it was literally a tank that floated.
There is a sports adage that there is “No I in team,” there isn’t one in “boat” or “crew” or “shell” either. Eight people do essentially the exact same thing at the same time, it’s the whole idea of the sport.
I stayed with the sport all the way through high school, and it was a great group to be part of. Crew teaches you to work as a team. Failure to do so results in a poor row and possibly an oar into your back. You learn quickly.
When I was on the team, rowing was rare in Ohio. In fact the “Tiger Navy” was state champs every year because we were the only high school in the state with a program. West Virginia has only slightly more teams with Parkersburg High School and Parkersburg Catholic providing local competition. The lack of local teams made for some impressive away races including Washington D.C., New Jersey, Delaware, Knoxville and Detroit.
I did not row in college. Ohio University had no program at the time.
They now have a club program that will sometimes come to Marietta and row.
The high school would later get its own boathouse just upstream from the college boathouse. The Carl Broughton Boathouse was built a few years after the dairy leader died. His son George rowed a few years before me in a very good varsity eight boat.
The college boathouse was renovated a few years ago. The top floor of the building was replaced with a more modern facility. The giant grindstone walls remain. The Muskingum will be a busy place today with the annual Lindamood Regatta starting early this morning and lasting most of the day.
If your Saturday morning routine takes you down Gilman, you might want to find a different route.
If you are near the Muskingum River, stop and give a cheer to the passing crews. By the time they are near Muskingum Park the rowers can use all the encouragement they can get.
Generous support from alumni, community members and organizations, both at the college and high school level, has assured that rowing in Marietta will be part of the river landscape for years to come.
Art Smith is online manager of The Times, he can be reached at email@example.com