Every town has its time to shine, and Columbus is no exception.

Every town has its time to shine, and Columbus is no exception.

The people living through these moments know their importance. Over the years, the nature of these moments might change but not their significance to the people who were there.

In 1817, James Monroe became the first president to visit Columbus. Passing through on his way back east, he complimented the "Infant City" -- and it's a fair bet that all 700 residents were there to listen.

By 1832, Columbus was a village of about 2,000 people. That year, a branch of the Ohio and Erie Canal reached the city at the same time the National Road -- building its way west -- arrived. Many residents probably felt something important was happening here.

They were right. Within two years, Columbus was no longer a "borough," but had become a city with more than 5,000 residents.

Several other moments gave the new capital of the new state reason to feel good about itself. Witnessing all of this and remembering it was one of the more remarkable men of his time.

William T. Martin was born in 1788 in Bedford, Pennsylvania. In 1815, he joined a generation of Americans moving west and arrived in Columbus.

The new capital city of Ohio was only 3 years old and tree stumps still impeded traffic on the dirt trail called High Street. But Martin liked what he saw and decided to stay.

It was a wise decision for both him and the city he came to love. Over the years, he served the city in many ways. Well-educated in the East before his arrival in Columbus, he came to a town where many of residents were nice people who could neither read nor write.

Martin served on the city's school board and for a time taught school in a log house near Statehouse Square. He went on to hold a variety of elected offices and other positions. He was the fifth mayor of Columbus from 1824 to 1826 and later served as a judge. Known as Judge Martin, he also served for many years as Franklin County recorder.

Toward the end of his long life, he thought the story of Columbus should be told as a published volume. As he explained in his introduction, he had told some of his story in earlier publications but now had brought it all together in 1858, in his "History of Franklin County: A Collection of Early Reminiscences of the Early Settlement of the County with Biographical Sketches and a Complete History of the County to the Present Time."

Apparently, books with long titles were popular in those days -- or at least, Martin and his publisher thought so. They were right; the book was popular and sold well.

Martin's history is a well-told remembrance of most of the major events of the early history of Columbus and central Ohio. It has chapters on the history of Columbus as well as chapters on each of the townships in Franklin County. It tends to recount and emphasize the positive moments in the stories of all those places.

In this, Martin's history is no different than many similar local histories written in the same period about towns in the Midwest that had been established by an earlier generation. However, he also included a chapter on "Tragedies" in the capital city. What the people of that time called a tragedy says something about the city in those days.

Some of the events Martin described were memorable by any standard. In 1844, a double hanging of William Clark and Esther Foster was held on the riverfront. Each was a murderer and most of the town turned out to watch. The crowd became unruly and a skittish horse trampled to death a local man.

But many of the events Martin describes were -- in a world of more people and more violence -- events remarkable for their inclusion in a local history.

"In the month of April 1851, a homicide was committed at the Franklin House in Columbus, then kept by Grundy Taylor. The victim was George Parcels and the perpetrator of the homicide, Thomas W. Spencer. The parties were acquaintances and friends. The tragedy commenced with playful jokes which were succeeded by frenzy of passion on the part of Spencer, who in that frenzy, discharged a pistol at and killed his friend. Spencer was indicted for murder in the first degree and tried at the March term of the Court of Common Pleas, 1852. The jury returned a verdict of manslaughter, and he was sentenced to six years confinement in the penitentiary. After serving out about one year of his sentence, he was pardoned by Governor Wood."

One might wonder why this and some similar stories were included in a general history of Columbus and Franklin County. They were included because violent crime was so unusual and so infrequent here in those days that even this quarrel gone bad was seen to be worthy of inclusion.

Martin died in 1866 and is buried in Green Lawn Cemetery. His tombstone carries a simple Bible inscription: "Behold the Upright Man."

Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As it were column for ThisWeek Community News.