Journal-News, Sunday, March 5, 1989
St. Stephen Church part of city's big picture
By Jim Blount
St. Stephen Church — one of three Hamilton parishes to merge to form St. Julie Billiart this year — has endured several changes in its colorful 157-year history. Its founding and early history chronicles the growth of German influence in Hamilton in the 1800s.
St. Stephen had its start with Protestants, not Catholics. They were civic leaders who wanted to attract German craftsmen to the town of about 1,600 people (including Rossville).
They believed forming a Catholic church would bring men with the skills and work ethic needed to establish Hamilton as a successful industrial city.
In 1829 Hamilton's Protestant leaders purchased a 200-foot square lot at the northeast corner of North Second and Dayton streets and donated it to Bishop Edward Fenwick of the Cincinnati archdiocese.
"As soon as we can secure enough names, we will begin the Catholic Church in Hamilton, for it would be expecting too much to ask the non-Catholics to pay for the building of the church after they had donated the ground for this purpose," said a church official in noting the $400 Protestant gift,
Early historians said in 1829 there were only about a dozen Catholics in the entire county.
The first mass had been celebrated two years earlier in Rossville, then a separate village, but now a part of Hamilton's West Side. The service was held in a one-story brick house at Ross Avenue and South C Street, the residence of Sebastian Fromm. a 45-year-old native of Wurttemberg, Germany, who is regarded as the first Catholic to live in the community.
In 1832 a brick Gothic church was started, but problems delayed completion. It was dedicated Sunday, Aug. 21, 1836, with the Rev. Stephen Montgomery and the Rev. Adolphus Williamson participating.
The first resident pastor, the Rev. Thomas Butler, was appointed Dec. 25, 1839.
By the end of Butler's tenure in 1845, the church's German membership was increasing rapidly — and contributing to a language and nationality problem within the parish.
Many Germans had difficulty understanding English, while Irish parishioners had trouble understanding German.
The Rev. Daniel M. Hallinan, St. Stephen's second pastor, suggested two churches be formed, based on nationality.
The St. Stephen property was appraised at $6,000. It was agreed that the first group to raise $3,000 would pay that amount to the other group, which then would create its own parish and either buy or build a church.
The German members raised the $3,000 and presented it to the Irish.
The archbishop decreed that the Germans would retain St. Stephen Church with the 1848 split. That year the Rev. Nicholas Wachter became its first Franciscan pastor.
The $3,000 helped the Irish Catholics establish St. Mary Church. Father Hallihan moved from St. Stephen to become the first pastor at St. Mary.
During Wachter's service, St. Stephen membership grew rapidly, and before he left in 1852, it was evident a new church was necessary.
When the building's cornerstone was laid in August 1853, the service featured two speeches — one in German by the superior of the Franciscans, the other in English by the archbishop.
The new church — completed in 1854 — was a tribute to the Rev Pirman Eberhard, pastor form 1852 until 1861, who became known as "the Franciscan beggar of Hamilton."
Father Eberhardt earned that sobriquet because he would borrow a parishioner's carriage and drive to nearby churches in Ohio and Indiana to ask donations for the new building, which remains the nucleus of St. Stephen Church today.
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Journal-News, Sunday, March 12, 1989
The Butler we're named for: Richard Butler
By Jim Blount
Butler County's Irish connections include the controversial, martyred soldier and Indian agent whose name was attached to the new county in 1803.
Richard Butler was one of five sons of Thomas Butler; three born in Ireland and two in Pennsylvania. Richard was born April 1, 1743, in Dublin, Ireland. His father brought the family to America in 1760 and settled in Lancaster, Pa.
After serving in the Bouquet expedition into Ohio in 1764, Richard and a brother, William, were partners as Indian traders at Chillicothe and Pittsburgh.
In 1775 — as the American Revolution started — Richard became an Indian agent. In that role in 1776 he was sent to Fort Pitt to try to convince the Indians not to aid the British.
But soon Richard and his four brothers enlisted in the revolutionary army, all becoming officers. Richard entered in 1776 as a major and a year later was promoted to lieutenant colonel.
By the end of the war — after action at Saratoga, Monmouth. Stony Point and Yorktown — Butler was colonel of the Ninth Pennsylvania and a brevet brigadier-general.
Butler — who was married to Mary or Maria Smith — resided briefly in Carlisle, Pa., before a congressional appointment in 1784 as an Indian commissioner and elevation in 1786 to superintendent of Indian affairs for the northern frontier
He helped negotiate the treaties of Fort Stanwix, Fort Mclntosh and Fort Finney with the Iroquois, Wyandot. Delaware, Chippewa, Ottawa and Shawnee tribes from 1784 through 1786.
In these agreements, Butler and his distinguished colleagues were responsible for wresting land from the Indians which stretched from New York to what later became Indiana.
Most important to this area was the Treaty of Fort Finney with the Shawnee, signed Jan. 31. 1786, at a temporary fort on the north bank of the Ohio River east of the mouth of the Great Miami River.
That treaty was repudiated by most Shawnees, and six months later Butler told Congress that the Shawnees and other tribes in the Ohio region were hostile and being encouraged by the British to vent their hatred in bloody raids on Americans.
In 1790 a small army led by Gen. Josiah Harmar was sent out of Cincinnati against the Indians, but the campaign ended in failure. Butler was president of the court of inquiry that investigated the Harmar disaster.
In 1791 Butler — with the rank of major-general — was appointed second in command in the army of Gen. Arthur St. Clair which was ordered to avenge the ill-fated Harmar campaign
St. Clair and Butler — both headstrong, suspicious men -- had little contact and often were at odds with each other.
Butler — operating at Fort Pitt — was charged with gathering supplies and recruiting men for the army while St. Clair — based in Cincinnati where he also was territorial governor — was being pressured to march against the Indians.
Butler joined the main army Sept. 27, 1791, at Fort Hamilton and commanded the force as it marched north Oct. 4. The clash with the Indians came a month later.
Butler was mortally wounded early in the Nov. 4, 1791, battle. A brother, Major Thomas Butler, also was severely injured. When St. Clair ordered a retreat, a third brother, Captain Edward Butler, came to remove his brothers.
But Edward Butler could save only one brother. Richard Butler ordered him to take Thomas Butler.
The cause of St. Clair's defeat and Butler's death have been debated for nearly 200 years with Butler depicted as either a potential hero or a victim of his own mistakes and the animosity between St. Clair and Butler.
Nearly 12 years later — when several new counties were formed in the three-week-old state of Ohio — the Irish-born general was memorialized in naming Butler County.
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Journal-News, March 19, 1989
Floods were problem in Hamilton before 1913
By Jim Blount
This is the time when the disastrous March 1913 flood is recalled in Hamilton. But that wasn't the only time the Great Miami River overflowed its banks. Before 1913, the worst inundation here was in March 1898.
The exact human loss was never determined. Seven people are known to have died in Hamilton, and at least four others are believed to have been victims.
There was a week of steady rain before Tuesday, March 22, 1898. But that day, the situation worsened as a thunderstorm hit. According to a newspaper, "The rain for hours dashed down in torrents," creating flash floods over much of the region.
The last eastbound train on the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Indianapolis Railroad arrived here at 8:07 p.m. before several washouts stopped traffic on the line.
At midnight, police were sent through the city's low areas to warn residents of the possibility of a flood. Later, local newspapers praised police for moving or rescuing about 500 people.
That night the Great Miami rose an average of 2.5 feet an hour until it overflowed its banks about 2 a.m. Wednesday, March 23.
The first place under water was the Hamilton Transfer Co. at 21 North A Street (a street that no longer exists). Its horses and wagons were taken to higher ground without loss.
By dawn the water was up to the second floor of houses in Peck's Addition. In the afternoon, the previous flood record of 1866 was surpassed by three feet.
At 7:30 p.m. high water doused the fires in the boilers of the city electric plant on North Third Street, starting a three-day disruption of electric service. Soon the municipal gas plant and city waterworks also were out of operation.
The water peaked at 3 a.m. Thursday, March 24, but the worst was still to come.
Two to three hours later, two houses washed away near the intersection of South Front Street and South Avenue (now Knightsbridge Drive).
A husband and wife died in one building. In the other house, a husband and wife and three daughters (ages 2, 3 and 5) were swept away. Only the father, who was able to cling to his floating house, was rescued.
At about 8 a.m. the original Columbia Bridge — a covered wood structure built before the Civil War — collapsed into the river. Two men were inside the bridge. One grabbed a tree and was saved. The other was never seen again.
At 5 a.m. Friday, March 23, a seventh flood-related death was recorded, the result of a freak accident. The man died of injuries suffered Wednesday when he was kicked by a horse while helping to move endangered horses from a livery stable on South Front Street.
By Friday, March 25, the river was back within its banks as Hamilton faced a massive cleanup job.
Roads throughout the area were washed out. Rail lines west and north of Hamilton were cut. Tracks and poles of the Cincinnati & Miami Valley Traction Co. were gone north of here. The High-Main iron truss bridge was damaged, but survived.
City water supplies were contaminated by mud and gas that had leaked from the city system. Gas and electric service was out. A water line across the river had been broken by the undercurrent.
More than 170 families required assistance. Damage to residences and other buildings was not estimated.
But many businesses and industries suffered losses, including the Champion Coated Paper Co. where 80 carloads of coal were washed away from the North B Street mill.
It took weeks to restore all city-services and remove debris and mud. But some scars of the 1898 disaster remained until March 25, 1913, when another deadly flood struck Hamilton.
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Journal-News, Sunday, March 26, 1989
YMCA: a century of service in Hamilton
By Jim Blount
The Hamilton YMCA began in 1889 when local civic and religious leaders recognized a need for its services in their growing community. Now, 100 years later, instead of focusing on young men, the YMCA offers a variety of programs serving males and females of all ages and families.
Its facilities — at first a renovated house — now include four locations (downtown, Fairfield, Hamilton West and Camp Campbell Card).
Hamilton was an expanding industrial city when the YMCA movement began here a century ago. That growth attracted many young, single men from farms and smaller towns to work in the shops here.
"The young man coming a stranger into the city lacked the pleasant companionship, sympathetic advice and all the other privileges which such an institution would afford," said an 1898 newspaper report in recalling the founding of the local YMCA nine years earlier.
"Our own young men had few places better than the saloon in which to spend their evenings and the generally low moral tone of the community made it a matter of urgent necessity that something be done to better existing conditions," said the same article.
In 1851 the first YMCAs in North America had been formed in Boston and Montreal, both patterned on a plan that had started in England in 1844. Rapid expansion began in the United States after the Civil War ended in 1865.
It reached Hamilton June 2, 1889. when S. D. Gordon, Ohio YMCA secretary, presided at a meeting at the First Presbyterian Church, where R. P. Hargitt was elected chairman
A newspaper said "the will of the meeting being unanimous," it took steps immediately to establish a YMCA here. The Dayton YMCA constitution was adopted to govern the Hamilton organization.
J. D. Weir, the Rev. E. C. Simpson, the Rev. G. W. Dubois, Charles Hathes and Charles L. Whitaker were appointed to nominate directors, who were elected unanimously.
The directors — described as "gentlemen selected as equally as possible from the different Protestant churches" — were E. A. Belden, president; and B. C. McKinney. W. B. Carr, John Keller, R. P. Hargitt, Dr. W. B. Falconer, C. E. Macbeth. G. M. Emerick, George Driver, William Ritchie, Arthur Letherby, O. V. Parrish, F. P. Stewart. F. C. Gibbins and Fred Schneider.
Edgar R. Mathers — described as "a bright young graduate of Westerville College" — was elected general secretary in December 1889.
The 1898 article said "Dec. 3, 1889, after negotiations had been considered with various parties the old Ezra Potter homestead on the [northwest] corner of Third and Dayton streets was purchased from James B. Maxwell for the consideration of $13,000."
"It was a large, old-fashioned home-like building and seemed peculiarly adapted to meet the requirements of a YMCA headquarters," the historical report said. "It was remodeled and improved and every facility supplied to make it a cozy and attractive home for the young men."
Directors held their first meeting in that building Jan. 16, 1891, when "the question of a gymnasium was broached, and it was but a few months until a large and commodious addition had been built and equipped with almost every conceivable sort of apparatus for the development of strength and muscle."
"The gymnasium was seen to be an important factor in the building up of the institution," the article said. C.D. Barker of Cleveland was hired as the first physical instructor.
The first major expansion of YMCA facilities came 75 years ago. The downtown building at North Second and Market streets was completed and dedicated in September 1914.
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