Journal-News, Sunday, Dec. 3, 1989
After 85 years, monument statue still stands
By Jim Blount
The 85th birthday of a prominent Hamilton figure went unnoticed last week.
It was Dec. 1, 1904, when Billy Yank was born at the southwest corner of High Street and Monument Avenue.
On that date, the statue of a soldier was placed on top of the new Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument, giving Hamilton's skyline its most distinctive feature.
The 17-foot figure is a Civil War private, not Gen. Anthony Wayne, not a soldier or officer associated with Fort Hamilton (1791) and the founding of Hamilton and not Alexander Hamilton, the city's namesake.
He is truly Billy Yank, the collective moniker attached to the common soldier during the Civil War. He was the military ancestor of World War I's Doughboy, World War II's GI and Vietnam's Grunt.
The monument was dedicated July 4, 1906, to "perpetuate the memory of the soldiers, sailors and pioneers of Butler County," its builders said, with "the hope and with the prayer that the eyes and hearts of future generations may be as loyal to the flag of our free government as the persons whose names are enrolled on its sacred walls."
The campaign for the monument began in 1897 among members of Wetzel-Compton Post, Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War veterans' organization.
Within two years, the GAR's monument committee won the approval and support of the city, county and state. James E. Campbell, a Middletown native, long-time Hamilton resident and former Ohio governor, was president of the committee.
A county-wide tax levy approved by voters Dec. 7, 1899, generated $71,267.25, but the actual cost of the monument was $71,266.73 -- leaving a surplus of 52 cents.
The building — located on land which had been in the center of Fort Hamilton during the 1790s — was designed by two local men, Frederich Noonan, architect, and John C. Weaver, engineer.
Work on the limestone structure began in the spring of 1902 and the cornerstone was placed Nov. 27, 1902. The shell of the building was completed in October 1904.
The figure atop the monument represents a Civil War private at the moment of victory. The soldier, in his enthusiasm, has dropped his rifle off his right shoulder, is waving his cap with his left hand and is shouting "hurrah."
The 3,500-pound bronze figure was designed and created by Rudolph Thiem, a German immigrant. He was born in Berlin Oct. 22, 1859, and learned sculpture and model-making in Germany before coming to the United States.
Thiem arrived in New Orleans in 1881 where he met and became a friend of Lazard Kahn, a Hamilton industrialist. Five years later, Thiem took a job at Kahn's Estate Stove Co. on East Avenue in Hamilton. His work included designing the art work which adorned Estate stoves.
His design for the monument statue was selected in a national competition with other sculptors and artists.
Thiem worked on the statue in a structure built for that purpose on South A Street and at 110 North B Street in Hamilton. Several local Civil War veterans posed for the sculptor.
At 11:05 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, 1904, "it was announced to the city through the vociferous ringing of the fire bells and the peal of cannon from the hills over the river, the big statue, the raising of which has caused such interest locally, was allowed to settle into its position," a newspaper reported.
Rudolph Thiem , its creator, had the satisfaction of seeing Billy Yank become Hamilton's most prominent artistic feature. He died Oct. 1, 1928, and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery.
Strangely, Thiem suffered a fatal heart attack shortly after attending the funeral of Lazard Kahn, the industrialist who had befriended the immigrant and provided him with a temporary home and a job.
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Journal-News, Sunday, Dec. 10, 1989
Miami Bridge, area's first, opened in 1819
(This is the first of two columns on the Miami Bridge, the first to be built in the area.)
By Jim Blount
By 1815, a bridge between Hamilton and Rossville — rival trade centers were on opposite banks of the Great Miami River — was considered a necessity in both communities.
The frontier towns were linked by ferries. Users believed the tolls were excessive, and service could suddenly be severed by dangerous river conditions.
The Miami Bridge Co. solved the problem, connecting Hamilton and Rossville in 1919 with what is believed to have been the first span over the Great Miami River.
(The first bridge in Dayton also opened in 1819. The Venice and Colerain Bridge, south of Ross in Hamilton County, was -incorporated in 1830 and opened in 1834. Bridges west of Middletown and east of Trenton opened in the 1850s and 1860s.)
The Ohio General Assembly authorized the Miami Bridge Feb. 20, 1816.
Incorporators were Hamilton and Rossville leaders: Joseph Hough, John Sutherland, Joseph Wilson, John Hall, Samuel Dick, Isaac Falconer, Samuel Millikin, Thomas C. Kelsey, William Murray, Pierson Sayre, Robert Taylor, William Riddle, James McBride, Thomas Blair, William Blair and Micheal Delorac.
Stock sales began in November 1817, directed by Hough, Blair, Hall and McBride, who hoped to raise $30,000 through 600 shares at $50 each. By Nov. 24, subscription books were closed with 59 charter stockholders buying the offering.
John Reily, president; McBride, secretary; and Sutherland, Hough, Hall and Wilson were elected directors, whose only compensation was their expenses.
The directors had no direct voice in choosing the bridge site. Instead, the Ohio General Assembly appointed three commissioners to select the location.
They were Dr. Daniel Drake of Hamilton County, Daniel Reeder of Warren County, and David Hueston of Greene County. They were to be paid $2 a day for their services.
Nov. 12, 1816, Drake didn't show and he was replaced by Ogden Ross of Hamilton County, who appeared the next day.
Seven building proposals were considered with the highest bid of $25,508. The low bid was $17,000 by Nathan S. Hunt, a member of the company. In March 1818, he was awarded the contract to complete the bridge by Sept. 7.
Stephen D. Cone, a Hamilton historian, said "the science of bridge-building was but little known at this time in the western country. There was but one bridge in the state, and that was over the Scioto River at Chillicothe."
Because there were no experienced bridge-builders in the region, McBride, who was not a civil engineer, reluctantly took charge.
He drafted maps and architectural drawings and went to Chillicothe and Philadelphia to observe bridge work there.
Stone work began in the summer of 1818 on a mid-river pier and abutments. The next summer the frame work was raised before adversity struck.
Malaria took the lives of some bridge workers and Oct. 2, a stroke claimed Hunt, the contractor.
The work was completed by William Daniels, a Hunt employee; by Ira Hunt, the contractor's brother; and Dunn Whittlesey, an executor.
The cost reached $25,194,84, considerably more than the $17,000 in the original contract.
The unfinished bridge opened to travelers in December 1819. During the winter, its sides were enclosed, and in the spring of 1820, the roof was completed.
Historians disagree on its dimensions. One source says it was 360 feet in length; another reports 380 feet. Its overall width was 38 feet.
The Miami Bridge, approximately on the site of the present High-Main span, had two 12-foot thoroughfares for horse-drawn vehicles and a pair of five-foot pedestrian walkways.
Originally, it had 17 windows on each side. Later all windows, except one on the north side of the middle pier, were closed after the wife of a county official committed suicide by leaping into the river from one of the openings.
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Journal-News, Sunday, Dec. 17, 1989
Miami Bridge was popular and profitable
(This is the second of two columns on the Miami Bridge, the first to be built in the area.)
By Jim Blount
At $25,000, the Miami Bridge cost more than $30 for each of about 900 residents in Hamilton and Rossville in 1819. But the first span over the Great Miami River — which was longer than a football field — proved to be worth the investment. It was soon popular and profitable.
The first toll was paid Dec. 29, 1819, on the Miami Bridge — on the approximate site of the present High-Main Bridge.
Before then, persons crossing the Great Miami River had to rely on small ferries, which were idled unpredictably by high water, swift currents and dangerous debris.
When the bridge opened, travelers between Hamilton on the east side and Rossville on the west side could depend on two 12-foot passages for horse-drawn vehicles and a pair of five-foot walkways for pedestrians.
A source of most complaints was the bridge hours. It was open only till 10 p.m. -- a hardship for those delayed or conducting late business on the opposite side of the river.
Jonathan Beal, a veteran of the American Revolution, was hired as the first toll gatherer at a salary of $200 a year.
His successors included William Phares, Thomas Phares, Robert Hewes, Dayton Low, Richard Easton, Pierson Sayre, Lawrence Smith, Isaac Whistler, George Totten, William Elliott, Asa Burch and Thomas Sterrett.
The original toll rates, set by state law, were three cents for a foot passenger; four cents for a horse or mule, one-year-old and upward; 12.5 cents for a horse and rider; 25 cents for one-horse vehicle with driver; 37.5 cents for two-horse vehicle and driver; and 6.25 cents for additional horse, mule or ox.
Some tolls were paid with a pewter fip, a coin then worth 6.25 cents.
Passage was free for persons going to elections, funerals, worship, delivering mail and in military service.
Annual passes also were available.
For $1, a man riding horseback and all members of his family, when traveling in the same manner, could cross for one year. They paid regular tolls for livestock or when crossing in any other way. Holders of these passes — called yearsmen — numbered more than 600 in 1829.
Charges for livestock included two cents for each head of cattle, and one cent for each sheep or hog.
Nearly 40,000 hogs crossed the bridge between November 1826 and November 1827, bringing in almost $800 in tolls.
There were penalties for speeding and other abuses. Anyone driving a vehicle or leading an animal on the bridge at a pace faster than a walk was subject to a fine of $5. Carrying fire over the bridge, except a candle or in a lantern, also cost the violator $5.
The fine was $20 for ignoring the load limits of no more than 20 horses, mules or cows or 100 hogs or sheep on the bridge at the same time.
Fines for accidental damage and vandalism ranged from $5 to $500, plus up to 30 days in the county jail.
Tolls were later reduced, despite the constant need to fund bridge alterations and repairs because of aging and water damage. Records Indicate that business was so brisk that the bridge paid for itself every five years.
"By the time each subscriber had paid $40, the tolls were taking care of all debts and expenditures. In 1821 a dividend of $5 was paid on each share," reported Alta Harvey Heiser in Hamilton In The Making. "During the first 25 years, each share costing $40 had brought its owner $272".
The bridge, then nearly 47 years old, was destroyed in a flood Sept. 20, 1866.
It was replaced by a temporary pontoon bridge and a wire foot bridge until a new span was completed.
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Journal-News. Sunday, Dec. 24, 1989
Benjamin R. Hanby wrote popular Christmas song
By Jim Blount
This is the 125th anniversary of a popular Christmas song written by a man who spent two years of his abbreviated life as principal of a private school in Seven Mile.
"Up On The Housetop" was written by Benjamin R. Hanby shortly after he lost his job in Butler County because the popularity of "Ole Shady," a song about a freed slave, angered a trustee of the Seven Mile academy.
Five years earlier, while Hanby was a sophomore at Otterbein College in Westerville, he had written "Darling Nelly Gray," an anti-slavery ballad that has been called "the 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' of songs" for its portrayal of the slave's plight.
"Darling Nelly Gray" -- based on Hanby's observations while living in a house which was a stop on the Underground Railroad -- brought him fame as a song writer, but earned him only $50.
Unfortunately, Hanby never lived to realize the popularity of "Up On The Housetop." He died about six months after it was published, only 33 years of age when tuberculosis ended a promising career.
He was born July 22, 1833, in Rushville, Ohio, near Lancaster, and moved in 1853 to Westerville, northeast of Columbus, with his parents and seven younger brothers and sisters. His father was bishop in the United Brethren Church and a founder of Otterbein College.
He graduated from Otterbein in 1858, married Mary Katherine Winter and spent a year as a traveling agent for Otterbein,
In 1859, two years before the outbreak of the Civil War, he was appointed principal of the academy at Seven Mile.
"Ole Shady," published in 1861 by Oliver Ditson & Co., Boston, earned Hanby $300, plus royalties. It was based on a May 1861 incident in Virginia when several slaves surrendered to Union soldiers.
Hanby wrote it to encourage slaves to escape, and it became a popular song with Union troops during the Civil War.
Music historians say Hanby was one of the first writers to use the black dialect, and the song one of the first jubilee songs featuring the emotions of a slave reaching freedom.
Hanby's writing was so convincing that many believed "Ole Shady" to be a Negro folk song.
But "Ole Shady" cost Hanby his job in Seven Mile because a rich trustee of the private school was sympathetic to the Confederate cause.
From that post, Hanby entered the United Brethren ministry, accepting a call at Lewisburg, about 20 miles north of Seven Mile in Preble County
After two years in Lewisburg, Hanby moved about 12 miles west to lead a congregation in another Preble County community.
"Up On The Housetop" was composed while Hanby was pastor of the Otterbein Chapel in New Paris, northwest of Eaton.
It was introduced at a Quaker-sponsored Christmas dinner in nearby Richmond, Ind., in 1864. By that time, Hanby had left his pastorate because of people's displeasure with him for playing musical instruments in the church.
The song was not published until October 1866 -- after George F. Root had hired Hanby to work for his Chicago music publishing house, Root & Cady. Hanby's song was printed in a children's song quarterly under the title "Santa Claus."
Also in that October 1866 magazine was a Hanby hymn, then called "Who Is He?" -- also popularized after his death under a new title, "Who Is He in Yonder Stall?"
Hanby died March 16, 1867, in Chicago, and his body was returned to his native Ohio for burial in Westerville.
After the Chicago fire of October 1871 destroyed the Root & Cady publishing house and many of its records, Hanby's songs continued to be sung, but newer copies by other publishers listed the author as unknown.
Finally, in 1941, a Westerville woman uncovered the evidence that reasserted Hanby's authorship of "Up On The Housetop."
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Journal-News, Sunday, Dec. 31, 1989
Engineer's error ruined 1950 Pater Lake Park plans
By Jim Blount
Dreams of a Pater Lake State Park in western Butler County turned into a costly nightmare 40 years ago, thanks to an engineer's error. Pater Lake — planned for fishing, swimming and boating — was to contain the headwaters of Indian Creek near Reily, about eight to nine miles west of Hamilton.
The state projected the total cost at about $150,000 for the 300-acre park, which was to include a lake of about 185 acres.
Land in Reily Township donated by Dr. and Mrs. Walter Pater was to be the nucleus of the state park, which had been promoted for about 20 years by the local Izaak Walton League.
Early in 1949, state engineers said that before a dam could be built and water impounded, about 800 feet of Reily-Millville Road would have to be raised an average of 6.5 feet and as much as 13 feet in some places.
This immediately became the most controversial part of the project and accounted for a delay of several months.
A major obstacle was the Butler County Commission, which was reluctant to spend county money for the road-raising. Commissioners held out for state funding. Finally, the three- man commission yielded to pressure from local park supporters.
Work on the $16,000 road job started in August 1949.
In June, a $54,800 contract for lake construction had been awarded to a Cincinnati firm with the expectation that the park would open in the spring of 1950.
The earth dam was completed by mid-September 1949. Clearing of trees and brush from the lake bed — the last task before water could be contained — began in December.
In the first days of 1950, the filling of the lake started with what appeared to be help from Mother Nature.
Instead of welcome assistance, less than three inches of rain within a 42-hour period brought unexpected trouble.
By Jan. 4, 1950, the elevated road along the park perimeter was under 12 to 18 inches of water, and adjacent farm fields also were flooded. The problem appeared after later rains.
A county official said the state's lake "plans were drawn without full realization of the impact of the creek waters when in flood stage."
An investigation indicated that the troublesome rains of Jan. 4, Jan. 10 and Feb. 14 "were not excessive."
As the finger-pointing intensified, state officials feared that a heavy rain storm would cause more than temporary closing of Reily-Millville Road and inconvenience for area farmers.
To prevent a greater disaster, the state ordered bulldozers and dynamite to cut a gap in the dam and permit a free flow of Indian Creek.
That Feb. 25, 1950, action was thought to be a stop-gap measure until state engineers could study the fiasco and produce a new plan.
In September 1950, the state said it had a new design and a new price tag for Pater Lake.
The cost of the new dam, which would be started from scratch, was up to $255,000, much more than the anticipated $150,000 for the entire park.
The rising costs soon prompted the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to announce its desire to abandon the project, but the decision didn't deter local backers, who continued to lobby for the park for at least five years.
In August 1955, the state took the first steps to sell the park land, then reported at 443 acres.
That didn't happen, and in March 1960 — almost 10 years after the expected opening of the Pater Lake State Park — the Butler County Park District and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources reached an agreement allowing the park district to use the land.
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