Life was hectic in Columbus in the early months of 1832.
The National Road had reached the city in the previous year. A feeder canal linking Columbus to the main line of the Ohio and Erie Canal had arrived, as well. Thousands of people began to arrive in Ohio's capital city, a town created by the Ohio General Assembly only 20 years earlier.
Some of the new arrivals came from rural America. Others came from different parts of the world. Some of the new arrivals stayed and the population of Columbus had doubled by 1834 to more than 5,000 people.
Many other people stayed in town only briefly. Most of those travelers left little behind before moving on to other parts of the country.
But one of them did.
In early March 1832, a young, precocious and energetic man of 17 arrived in Columbus. Thomas Kelah Wharton was traveling around Ohio with his family seeking a place to call home. Wharton's father had suffered what a later account called "business reverses" at the family's home in England and had come to the United States seeking a new life.
Arriving in Ohio, the senior Wharton had looked at places as diverse as Piqua, Newark and Cleveland before settling on Zanesville as the place to be.
In 1831, he asked his family to join him. Mrs. Wharton and her four sons and two daughters left Yorkshire in northern England and traveled to Ohio. Before leaving for Zanesville, it was decided that a trip to Columbus to see the state capital was in order.
So it was that on March 1, 1832, the Whartons arrived in Columbus, taking up brief residence at the Franklin House hotel at the northeast corner of Town and High streets.
Like many other new arrivals, Thomas took to the streets to explore the town. But the young man had a couple advantages. For one, he was literate and able to write down his impressions of Columbus. He also was an accomplished sketch artist and made a visual record more than seven years before the invention of photography.
In his journal and sketchbook, he left two of the earliest known views of Columbus. One shows the town looking south along the riverfront from roughly where the Arena District is today. That picture became moderately well-known as it became the view used on a Staffordshire Blue turkey platter that sold well in central Ohio. Examples of the platter are displayed prominently in several local museums.
In his journal -- later edited and published by Wharton himself -- he described how he came to make his other sketch of Columbus:
"March 2 -- Very mild and pleasant. Made an outline of the Lock thro' which the Lateral Canal is supplied from the Sciota [sic] River ...
"The Ohio and Erie Canal was considered a gigantic undertaking in those days when railroads were yet in their infancy. It connected the lake at Cleaveland [sic] with the Ohio River at Portsmouth ... The lateral branch at Columbus was 11 miles in length and served the double purpose of connection and 'feeder' from the Sciota to the main canal. The opposite sketch (seen above) shows the supply lock on the Sciota River. The abutments were of substantial masonry, the upper one 17 feet high, the lower 12 feet and the average depth of the canal 4 feet.
"A strong dam was thrown across the broad stream of the Sciota at this point to secure a constant head of water, and furnished power for the sawmill seen in the sketch and other works ...
"March 3 -- Henry (his brother) and I spent the morning walking along the eastern bank of the Canal, and tracing the indications of early spring, with a sky over our head of intense purity, and sunshine of most genial warmth. In the afternoon, I went alone to a pretty spot where the Whetstone (now the Olentangy) mingles with the Sciota. At the bend of the latter river I sat down on a smooth fence rail and made a drawing of the city and the bridge over the Sciota (which I still preserve in my portfolio)."
Thomas Kelah Wharton left with family for Zanesville on April 3, 1832. He would never return to Columbus. After settling the family in their new home, Wharton, who had turned 18 while in Columbus, set off for New York City. There, he trained as an architect. In time, he married and settled in his wife's home at Holly Springs, Mississippi. From there, he moved to New Orleans, where he became a successful architect. After the death of his first wife, he married again, had two sons and published an edited version of his travel diary in 1854.
With continuing health problems, he died in 1862 at the age of 48.
Those who stand today where he stood by the canal in 1832 would be directly behind the Waterford Tower, which was built in 1988 over the site of the canal basin.
Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.