Journal-News, Sunday, May 7, 1989
'Red Devils' owned interurban roads
By Jim Blount
Interurban and traction are terms that require explanation today, but for more than 40 years they were familiar, everyday words here.
The interurban era ended in Hamilton 50 years ago — at about 11:10 p.m. Saturday, May 13. That's when the last electrically powered passenger car — often called "the traction" by its patrons — left here for its northbound trip to Dayton.
The interurban era began at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, July 25, 1897, when a car arrived along North B Street from Dayton over the line of the Cincinnati & Miami Valley Traction Co.
For about 25 years Hamilton was on two interurban lines:
*1. The Millcreek Valley Line — once known as the Ohio Traction Co. — operated from Hamilton south to Glendale, Hartwell and Cincinnati, following the route of Ohio 4 much of the way. It was the only line of seven serving the Queen City that extended directly into downtown Cincinnati.
*2. The Cincinnati & Lake Erie originally ran north to Trenton, Middletown, Franklin, Miamisburg, West Carrollton, Moraine and Dayton, and later to Toledo and Detroit.
Its 18-mile route south of Hamilton — which opened in 1898 — was along the present U. S. 127 through Symmes Corner (now part of Fairfield), Pleasant Run, New Burlington, Mount Healthy and College Hill to a station on Spring Grove Avenue in Cincinnati. The remainder of the trip to downtown Cincinnati had to be completed via streetcar.
Power for the local traction cars came from a 33,000-volt generating station at the west end of Williams Avenue (now the Powerhouse softball-tennis recreation area).
Some of the red C&LE cars were housed at a nearby car barn on the north side of Williams Avenue between Pleasant and Benninghofen avenues (now the site of Linden Lanes).
The two local lines were among more than 65 companies operating in the state before World War I when Ohio led the nation in interurban mileage (2,798).
The electric railways started declining in the mid 1920s as automobile sales boomed and as Midwest rural roads were paved. The Great Depression hastened their death. By the early 1930s service was rapidly disappearing.
The Millcreek Valley had abandoned service between Hamilton and Glendale July 11, 1926. leaving only the C&LE here.
The Cincinnati & Lake Erie was then an expanding system connecting many cities in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan with Dayton as its hub.
It changed its name from the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Interurban Co. to C&LE in 1928 when it acquired three other companies. New rolling stock — faster, safer and more luxurious - was acquired, and promotions and advertising campaigns were mounted to increase ridership.
Despite these efforts, the C&LE was forced into receivership Jan. 28, 1932, and its dismantling began.
Its last Cincinnati-Detroit limited operated Oct. 4.1932.
Service between Cincinnati and Mount Healthy ended June 17. 1938.
The last C&LE freight train through here was June 3, 1938, an event welcomed by many. A newspaper report said "the creeping and squeaking" freights were considered "a daily aggravation" as they proceeded "over principal streets in Hamilton," including a portion of High Street.
Nov. 1. 1938, the C&LE's Dayton-Columbus line was abandoned, leaving only the 36.7-mile Hamilton-Dayton and 12-mile Hamilton-Mount Healthy routes as survivors of a 276-mile system that once stretched from the Ohio Rivers to Lake Erie.
Saturday, Jan. 7, 1939, Hamilton-Mount Healthy service ended. William Steelman, 68, of Hamilton, was at the controls of that last northbound car.
Four months later, May 13, Harry Bell, a Hamiltonian with 27 years of service at the controls of the C&LE "Red Devils" (as the cars were called), guided the last interurban out of Hamilton. The next morning, 32 inter-city passenger buses began operating over the interurban route.
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Journal-News, Sunday, May 14, 1989
Prohibition came quietly in May 1919
By Jim Blount
Prohibition came "peacefully and quietly" to Hamilton 70 years ago this month, starting a 14-year ban on the sale, manufacture shipment and consumption of alcoholic beverages.
"The advent of prohibition . . . cast a gloomy shadow over all the bars in the city, which were lined with 'wets' from two in four deep from early evening to the last stroke of midnight, which sounded the death knell of the once happy meeting places, said a news account of the momentous evening.
Enforcement of Ohio's prohibition law began at midnight Monday, May 26, 1919.
National laws restricting the trade in beer, whiskey and wine were effective five weeks later — July 1, 1919. They were imposed by Congress to conserve food during World War I.
The 18th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution — which was believed to establish "permanent prohibition" — took effect about eight months later, Jan. 16, 1920.
Prohibition's immediate cost here would be $111,700 a year. County Auditor Quincy Davis said that was the amount the county, cities and townships would lose from the sale of liquor licenses.
Actually, legal liquor sales ended Saturday night, May 24, in all but one of Hamilton's 58 saloons. That was because state licenses expired the next day, May 25, and Sunday sales weren't permitted in Ohio in 1919.
The entire Hamilton police department was on duty that Saturday night because city officials feared "an unusual amount of disorder" as bar owners tried to sell out stock. Chief Charles G. Stricker posted officers at some of the expected trouble spots.
The show of force apparently worked as a newspaper reported that "prohibition was peacefully and quietly ushered in" here.
"When midnight struck, the lights over the bars were dimmed -- which was the usual signal that leaving time had approached — all turned toward the door, glancing back with a sigh for the last time at the wet bars." the newspaper said. "Fleeting thoughts of the sight of coming soft drink and near beer bars only added to their depression."
The reporter also noted that "celebrators in many places bid farewell to John Barleycorn in song," including versions of "How Dry I Am," "Good Night. Ladies" and "Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here."
One Hamilton saloon owner paid $305 for a one-day state license so he could operate until midnight Monday. May 26. Lyman Williams' cafe was at South Fifth and Henry streets across from the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad depot.
Williams bar was enlarged for that one day and pool tables were removed from a back room to allow more space for those seeking "a last chance to quench their thirsts." Six patrolmen also were assigned to the bar at 433 South Fifth Street.
A week later Hamilton police reported no drinking arrests as the community survived its first dry weekend.
In fact, during the first week of prohibition, police arrested only one person and a newspaper said he "came from dry Indiana and brought his booze with him."
Within a few days, former Hamilton saloons were converted into an assortment of new businesses, including pool rooms, hardware stores, jewelry stores and a dress shop.
The Martin Mason Brewery (on South C Street near Millikin Street) advertised its near beer as having "the old-time taste, the old-time color" and "makes the old-time smile."
Eleven Hamilton grocery stores advertised the ingredients for making "home brew" at 25 cents a gallon, Home-brewed beer -- provided it was consumed only by family members — was legal under prohibition laws.
But the quiet start belied the prohibition-related problems and violence which soon would label Hamilton and vicinity as "Little Chicago," a haven for bootleggers.
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Journal-News, Monday, May 22, 1989
Stagecoach lines had their day in area
(This is the first of two columns on the stagecoach era.)
By Jim Blount
The stagecoach usually is associated with the American West. But it also transported Ohioans, including residents of Butler County. The peak stagecoach era in Ohio was from 1815 — at the close of the War of 1812 when road-building accelerated — until the mid 1850s, when the railroad boom began.
Many of the earliest lines didn't publish a schedule and most operated only in daylight hours. Some ran only in the summer and fall, avoiding the mud and other hazards of the winter and spring.
As early as 1805 a stage line ran from Cincinnati to Yellow Springs via Hamilton, Franklin and Dayton.
By the late 1820s, there were as many as 20 stages making daily-trips between Cincinnati and Dayton by various routes.
According to an 1825 schedule, it took a stagecoach 14 hours for the trips from Hamilton to Cincinnati, and Hamilton to Dayton.
That year the Cincinnati and Dayton mail line — which made an overnight stop in Hamilton each day — completed one round trip a week.
The northbound stagecoach left Cincinnati each Monday at 4 a.m. and reached Hamilton by 6 p.m. The trip resumed at 4 a.m. Tuesday and ended in Dayton by 6 p.m.
The southbound schedule was similar. The coach departed Dayton on Friday at 4 a.m. and stopped in Hamilton by 6 p. m. The Saturday trip began at 4 a. m. in Hamilton and reached Cincinnati at 6 p. m.
As area roads improved, travel times shrank.
For example, in the 1840s the Eastern Stage Coach Company advertised nine hours for its runs between Richmond, Ind., and Cincinnati through Hamilton.
In 1847 there were at least three daily Hamilton-Cincinnati coaches.
In their heyday, stagecoaches linked several Butler County communities.
In May 1849, a Hamilton newspaper ad reported two daily departures from Cincinnati to Hamilton — at 7:30 a.m. through Symmes Corner (now Fairfield) to Hamilton and Rossville, and at 2 p. m. through Carthage and Springdale to Hamilton and Rossville.
The U. S. Mail Stage ad boasted of connections in Hamilton with a line serving Darrtown, Morning Sun, Fairhaven, Boston, Richmond, Centerville and Cambridge City, Ind.
The same company also offered daily service, except Sunday, from Cincinnati through Venice (Ross), Millville, Stillwell, Oxford, College Corner, Liberty, Brownsville and Connersville, Ind.
Another stage linked Cincinnati, Venice (Ross) and New London (Shandon) three times a week.
Passenger fares varied during the stagecoach era.
In 1805, for example, it cost $5 for the entire one-way trip from Cincinnati through Hamilton and Dayton to Yellow Springs. For partial trips, it was six cents a mile.
In 1828, a Cincinnati-Dayton line charged eight cents a mile, which also allowed a passenger up to 14 pounds of baggage without an additional fee.
By 1848, fares from Hamilton included 50 cents for the one-way trip to Cincinnati and 75 cents to Eaton.
Most stage lines in this region had disappeared by the start of the Civil War (1861).
The building of canals (1825-1845) and railroads (starting in the 1840s) brought quicker, more efficient and more comfortable transportation to Southwestern Ohio.
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Journal-News, Sunday, May 28, 1989
Stagecoaches played large role in economy
(This is the second of two columns on the stagecoach era.)
By Jim Blount
The arrival of a stagecoach -- bringing mail and visitors -- stirred excitement in Hamilton during the first half of the 19th century.
The typical Ohio coach — usually pulled by six horses — carried from nine to 12 passengers, plus baggage and mail.
"It was in the days of the stagecoaches that the Hamilton Hotel obtained its greatest prestige," wrote Dr. Henry Mallory in his 1895 book, Gems of Thought and Character Sketches.
"The stage office was in the hotel and the drivers, when within a mile or two of the town, would crack their long whips and the horses knew by instinct that they would be changed and have a rest," recalled Dr. Mallory.
"No matter how badly they were loaded, they (the horses) would start on a sweeping trot and never let up until the front of the hotel was reached."
"And while a fresh relay of horses was being hooked on, the passengers would alight, register their names and take refreshments."
"Then when the postmaster changed the mails, they were ready to start again. But if the postmaster was a little slow, the stage driver would cry out in rather dictatorial tones, 'Hurry up that mail and be quick about it, too.'"
Unlike movie and TV portrayals, most Ohio stagecoaches were one-man operations. There was no one riding "shotgun" to guard against a robbery between stops.
To many persons then, Including Dr. Mallory, stagecoach drivers were the heroes of the era. Dr. Mallory believed the "old stage drivers were a dignified set."
Drivers were idolized for numerous reasons, including their independence, the opportunity to travel, skill with a whip, horsemanship and their command of their vehicles.
"When the weather was pleasant, many of the passengers would ask the driver to let them sit on top of the stage beside him," Dr. Mallory noted. "But the driver was very select and would look them over before he would permit them the honor."
"It was said a very distinguished foreigner was once riding over the country by stage and, for some impertinence from the driver, threatened to report him to the minister at Washington."
"The driver told him very plainly that he would thrash both him and his minister if he heard anything more from him. This, to the foreigner, was a new idea of the principle of American equality," Mallory said in his book.
A foreign visitor who wrote about his stagecoach experience in this region was Charles Dickens. The British author's 1842 U. S. trip included a stage trip from Cincinnati to Columbus.
Dickens was one of 12 passengers "in a great mail coach" which, he said, "rattles through the streets of Cincinnati."
"It is a distant about 120 miles from Cincinnati, but there is macadamized road (rare blessing) the whole way, and the rate of traveling upon it is six miles an hour," he noted.
Dickens was impressed by the area, describing it as "beautiful country, richly cultivated and luxuriant in its promise of an abundant harvest," comparable to Kent, southeast of London, in his homeland.
But he didn't share Dr. Mallory 's opinion of drivers.
"The frequent change of coachmen works no change or variety in the coachman's character. He is always dirty, sullen and taciturn."
"If he be capable of smartness of any kind, moral or physical, he has a faculty of concealing it which is truly marvelous," Dickens said.
"He never speaks to you as you sit beside him on the box, and if you speak to him, he answers (if at all) in monosyllables."
"He always chews and always spits, and never encumbers himself with a pocket-handkerchief," Dickens complained. "The consequences to the box passengers, especially when the wind blows towards him, are not agreeable."
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