Journal-News, Sunday, Oct. 1, 1989
Local firms among leading industries in 1871
By Jim Blount
A writer in 1871 — perhaps inebriated with civic boosterism — asserted that "Hamilton leads in every line of manufacturing in which its citizens are engaged."
The boastful report in the Oct. 19, 1871, edition of the Hamilton Telegraph said Hamilton citizens "have good reason to be proud of the mechanical and manufacturing skill and enterprise centered here."
The glowing article followed the reporter's tour of "the Great Industrial Exposition just closed at Cincinnati."
There he viewed displays and demonstrations by four local firms - Owens, Lane, Dyer & Co.; Long, Black & Allstatter; McBeth, Bentel & Margedant; and the Niles Works.
His article described some of the wares which established Hamilton as a leading industrial center in the 19th century.
The unidentified writer found "the work of the old pioneer firm of Owens, Lane, Dyer & Co. in all its glory at the exposition."
"Their little 30 horse stationary engine, driving one of the main lines of shafting, doing as much work as the large 100 and 125 horse engines . . .was the wonder of practical engineers from all parts of the country."
He also found "their 15 and 10 horse portables . . . doing the most perfect work and at as rapid rate as the largest 25 and 30 horse engines," which, he said, "demonstrated the justness of their claim that in that line their work excels that of any other manufacture in the country; and what is more satisfactory, it has filled them with work to their fullest capacity."
The company, headed by Job E. Owens, Clark Lane and Elbridge G. Dyer, traced its origin to 1845 and is regarded as Hamilton's first industry. Its factory was between North Fourth and North Fifth streets, south of Heaton Street.
Also displayed in Cincinnati were "the wonderfully perfect machines manufactured by Long, Black & Allstatter for punching, cutting and shearing iron and steel in all its forms, from the heaviest to the lightest work."
The company, formed in 1856 by John M. Long, Peter Black and Robert Allstatter, also displayed "sickle-teeth and agricultural machinery" which it built in its factory on the north side of High Street between Fourth and Fifth streets.
McBeth, Bentel & Margedant, started in 1864 by Charles E. McBeth who later was joined by Fred Bentel and William C. Margedant, displayed its woodworking line.
"Their universal wood worker took one of the highest premiums," the writer said of the company which then was south of Butler Street between North Fourth and North Fifth streets.
"Last, though not least, in point of excellence, in their line was the tools shown by our new citizens of the incomparable Niles Works," the article noted.
"Their numerous unfilled orders and the necessary delays in getting into their new works prevented such a variety as they could have otherwise shown, but it was admitted on all hands, that the tools they did exhibit could not be equaled in point of workmanship, and adaptation to the wants of practical machinists at any shop in this or any other country."
Niles, which began in Cincinnati before the Civil War, was then completing its move to its Hamilton shop along the west side of North Third Street.
All of the companies profiled in the 1871 article were located along branches of the Hamilton Hydraulic, a canal which drew water from the Great Miami River four miles north of Hamilton to provide water power for Hamilton industries.
Their goods were transported out of Hamilton by the Miami-Erie Canal and three railroads.
The federal census in 1870 counted 11,081 persons in Hamilton and 39,912 in Butler County. Ohio, with more than 2.6 million, was the third most populous of 37 states. An Ohioan, Ulysses S. Grant, was president of the United States.
# # #
Journal-News, Sunday, Oct. 8
Missiles near Oxford part of Cold War defense
By Jim Blount
The Cold War, now in a welcomed thaw, was peaking 30 years ago when Ajax and Hercules missiles were placed in Butler County.
In October 1959, when most Americans were troubled by a much-publicized "Missile Gap," construction of underground launching silos was nearing completion west of Oxford.
The Oxford Nike base (its popular name) was one of four bases encircling the Cincinnati region. Others were at Wilmington and Felicity in Ohio and Dillsboro in Indiana.
Also at Wilmington then was Clinton County Air Force Base, a home for planes of the Strategic Air Command.
The $3 million Oxford missile site — officially called an antiaircraft artillery facility — was built under the direction of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. Work started in the summer of 1958.
It had four underground bunkers from which missiles could be launched. The 14-building, 14-acre complex also included barracks and offices in addition to missile control and monitoring facilities.
About 40 men were stationed at the base, north of U. S. 27 off Todd Road, about two miles west of Oxford.
All four area missile bases were activated in February 1960 as part of the North American air defense network.
"Greater Cincinnati now is comparatively safe from any sneak enemy air attack,'' assured Lt. Col. Charles R. Arvin, commander of the 5th Missile Battalion, when the bases opened.
"No aggressor now could get within 500 miles of the area without being seen on the radar screen." he noted. That aggressor, it was assumed in 1960, would be the Soviet Union.
Among prime U. S. targets, it was suspected, would be the industrial corridor extending north from Cincinnati through Hamilton and Middletown to Dayton — an area whose defense products included steel, machine tools, jet engines and processed uranium.
The chance of a U. S.-Soviet war seemed to be increasing as the Oxford base was planned and constructed.
Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik I, the first man-made satellite in orbit, taking a lead in the Space Race.
Almost instantly, the United States was believed to be on the short end of the Missile Gap, which continued as a hot issue into the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon presidential election campaign.
Jan. 1, 1959, Fidel Castro took control of Cuba, placing a communist government allied with the Soviets less than 100 miles from American shores.
May 1, 1960 -- about eight weeks after the Oxford base became operational -- an
American U-2 high-altitude spy plane, piloted by Francis Gary Powers, was shot down over Russia.
The tension mounted in 1961, first with the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba April 17, and then the start of construction of the Berlin Wall in August.
The Cold War peaked in October-November 1962 when President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev cautiously sparred in a showdown which has been labeled as the Cuban Missile Crisis.
During those trying years, military spokesmen repeatedly admitted that the base in Oxford Township was capable of firing missiles with either conventional or nuclear warheads. But there was never official confirmation of the presence of nuclear weapons at the local base.
By the late 1960s, new long-range weapons had emerged and missile bases like the one west of Oxford were obsolete.
Its imminent demise was reported in December 1969. It was closed early in 1970 and was declared surplus property by the federal government in July 1970
In December 1970 the General Services Administration assigned the tract to the U. S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. HEW then conveyed the former missile site to Miami University's Institute of Environmental Services.
# # #
Journal-News, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 1989
Joel Williams built county's first mills
By Jim Blount
Joel Williams would have a solid claim as Butler County's first real estate agent. He also may have been the area's first pioneer businessman and banker.
The Pennsylvania millwright was an enterprising frontiersman whose determined quest for profit put him at odds with early leaders in Cincinnati. He was one of the original settlers in Losantiville (Cincinnati's original name) in December 1788.
Williams worked as an agent for John Cleves Symmes, who had purchased the land north of the Ohio River between the Little Miami and Great Miami rivers from the government.
Williams also operated a tavern in Cincinnati and a ferry on the Ohio River between the foot of Main Street and Kentucky.
In what became Butler County in 1803, Williams combined his previous milling experience with his real estate skills.
Mills were essential in the settlers' struggle to convert their land from a debt to an asset. Their financial survival depended on access to gristmills, sawmills and carding mills, which were the trading complexes and community centers on the Ohio frontier until about 1830.
Williams came to this area in the 1790s when it was unsettled and explored the Great Miami River and its tributaries, searching for the most promising sites for water-powered mills.
He scouted the banks of Indian Creek and Four Mile Creek before land west of the Great Miami River was placed on scale by the federal government. Williams bought several of the best creek-side locations.
At some, he built mills on speculation for sale later. In other places, he sold land to persons who were interested in building mills. And, in some cases, he sold the site and contracted to build the mill for the land buyer.
He is believed to have completed the first mill in the county by 1798.
It was in the southern end of Fairfield Township at the mouth of Bank Lick, where it empties into the east side of the Great Miami River. Today, it would near River Road in the vicinity of Burns and Georgetown roads, near the county line.
The Williams-built mill at Bank Lick served the earliest settlers in two important ways.
First, of course, it enabled them to have their corn and grains ground without the expense and time-consuming task of building their own mills.
Second, it eased payment for their land. Williams, as Symmes' agent, would deduct the value of the processed grain from the amount the settler owed Symmes for the land.
Williams is credited with building at least a half dozen mills in Butler County, including a structure on Indian Creek completed in 1805 for Joseph Van Horne.
That Indian Creek mill became the catalyst for the appropriately-named village of Millville, which was formed 10 years later (1815).
Meanwhile, Williams was embroiled in a long-runnung controversy in Cincinnati.
In 1789 he had challenged a town plat drawn by Israel Ludlow, who later would be Hamilton's founder.
Ludlow had designated the Cincinnati riverfront as a public landing instead of offering it for sale.
But Williams produced a plat on which he claimed the land along the river, igniting a legal battle which divided the community for years.
"Joel Williams' deed of aggression was bitterly resented by the Ludlow faction and originated a quarrel which continued until a decree of the supreme court in 1807 settled it forever," explained the Rev. Charles F. Goss, a Cincinnati historian.
That decision, Goss noted, forced Williams "to dedicate it all back to the public, except enough for a small building lot and space to land his little (ferry) boat."
[Editor's note: Jim Blount 's column is published today because it was unintentionally omitted from some editions of the Journal-News Sunday.]
# # #
Journal-News, Sunday, Oct. 22, 1989
Mass murder overshadowed 1929 stock market crash
By Jim Blount
A national nightmare began 60 years ago this month, but the event which triggered it was overshadowed here by news of the murder of five persons, including four children.
Oct. 24, 1929 — known as "Black Thursday" — panic struck the New York Stock Exchange and other financial centers.
Actually, losses were heavier in trading Tuesday, Oct. 29. 1929. By then, the Dow average had fallen 100 points in six days
Thursday, Oct. 24, is the symbolic start of the Great Depression which crippled the nation through the 1930s.
Within a few months, a fourth of the nation's labor force was jobless, banks failed, personal savings vanished, families lost their houses and farms, and many who had enjoyed relative affluence during the Roaring '20s were hungry in the 1930s.
Statistics are unavailable on the number of area residents who suffered huge losses or financial ruin because of the sudden drop in stock prices in October and November 1929.
When the crash came 60 years ago, Hamiltonians could buy a man's all-wool suit for $19.50 and shirts for 95 cents at Dunlap Clothing on South Third Street. A woman's dress cost $19.50 to $29.50 at Robinson-Schwenn on High Street.
Kroger was advertising hamburger at 25 cents a pound and pork chops at 33 cents a pound. Apples were $1.50 a bushel at Tanner & Atherton on Court Street.
At Jonson Brothers Restaurant on High Street, complete Sunday dinners — including soup, entree, dessert and drink — ranged from 60 cents for veal chops to $1 for filet mignon with most meals priced at 75 cents.
Savings accounts were earning 5 percent at the West Side Building & Loan Association on Main Street.
Forty-eight hours before the stock market crash, President Herbert Hoover — the person commonly saddled with the blame for much of the ensuing Depression — was in Southwestern Ohio.
Hoover passed through Hamilton at about 8 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22, on his presidential train. The engineer on the Baltimore & Ohio locomotive of the southbound special was George Wortendyke, identified as a former Hamiltonian.
At 7:57 a.m., about 200 persons were at the B&O depot on South Fifth Street, hoping to see and hear the president, but the Hoover train didn't stop in Hamilton.
The president was on his way to Cincinnati to participate in ceremonies marking completion of the lock and dam system on the Ohio River from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Ill.
Hoover was still aboard the presidential special train when the panic began Thursday morning on Wall Street.
The crash was reported in a brief story on page 19 of the Oct. 24 Journal. The Associated Press said "a selling movement approaching panic proportions completely demoralized the stock market and hundreds of millions of dollars in quoted values disappeared by the millions."
The major topic in Hamilton that day was the murder of five family members discovered the previous day in their house on Fairview Avenue in Lindenwald.
A despondent father, age 39, killed his wife and four sons. They died from inhaling gas while sleeping. A fifth child, age 7, survived.
The father, who turned on the gas and fled, was captured a year later and in 1931 became the second person sentenced from Butler County to die in the Ohio electric chair.
Friday morning, Oct. 25, President Hoover assured the nation that "the fundamental business of the country, that is, the production and distribution of commodities, is on a sound and prosperous basis."
"Stock market debacle curbed after big tumble," said an optimistic headline on page one of the Oct. 25 Journal.
But the stock market panic had an immediate impact on Butler County farmers. During the next week, prices for wheat, corn, hogs, livestock and other items traded at Cincinnati markets resembled a roller coaster as they plunged, rose and plunged again.
# # #
Journal-News, Sunday, Oct. 29, 1989
Legend of Hangman's Hollow began in 1851
By Jim Blount
Halloween is an appropriate time to recall a ghost story with a factual base which is part of Butler County folklore. It is the legend of Hangman's Hollow, complete with scary reports of ghost sightings and warnings from unseen persons.
Hangman's Hollow is west of the new Hamilton Meadows Shopping Center in a wooded area northwest of the intersection of Gardner Road, Hamilton-Richmond Road (Ohio 177) and Old Oxford Road (Ohio 130).
There are several versions of the legend, which is understandable because the story survived for many years, and from generation to generation, by word of mouth.
Some verbal variations even differ on the exact site of Hangman's Hollow.
What appears to be the first printed account — complete with the names of key participants, location and the date of the event which started the legend — was published Oct. 13, 1910, in the Hamilton Telegraph.
The report said the story was associated with the first Butler County Fair in 1851.
That year the fair was held on a site Just east of Hamilton along High Street east of Sixth Street. (The fair was moved in 1856 to its present location, the Butler County Fairgrounds.)
Four young men from the Darrtown area -- Taylor Marshall, Ben Scott, Chambers Flenner and Dan Warwick -- went by horseback to the first fair Oct. 2-3, 1851.
After their day at the fair, the foursome, who have been credited with establishing the factual basis for the legend, crossed the covered bridge from Hamilton to Rossville and headed west on the Hamilton, Rossville, Darrtown, Oxford and Fairhaven Turnpike
It was dark as they approached the dip, or hollow, in the road about a mile and half west of Rossville (a town later merged into Hamilton).
The Darrtown men encountered a small group of people who had gathered in the roadway. They had been attracted there by the lifeless body of a man hanging from a tree just off the dusty turnpike.
Some believed the man, who had been dead for several days, had committed suicide. They pointed out that he died with his suspenders around his neck, not a rope.
It was several days later before the victim was tentatively identified as a stockman who had left a Hamilton hotel about a week earlier to call on Butler County farmers. He hadn't returned to Hamilton, as expected.
Others recalled that the apparent victim also had flashed "quite a roll of money" before leaving town. The bundle of bills was considered large enough to invite robbery.
A robbery or murder along a lonely turnpike was not an unusual crime in the mid 19th century.
The 1851 incident beside the Darrtown Pike was not enough to attach the eerie Hangman's Hollow label to the spot.
Instead, it was what happened or supposedly happened, after the robbery-murder in October 1851.
Several times in succeeding years, travelers along the road between Rossville and Darrtown told of seeing a mysterious image in the hollow.
The aberration was believed to be the ghost of the hanged stock dealer.
Others passing the spot didn't see a ghost. But they heard a strange voice or voices, possibly coming from one or more unseen ghosts.
In most instances, the voice warned riders to beware of danger lurking there.
According to the 1910 report, for several generations, travelers through the spooky woods spurred their horses for extra speed to avoid an encounter with a ghost or mysterious voices.
# # #