Journal-News, Sunday, April 1,1990
Hamilton plant made parts for Ford cars
By Jim Blount
Hamilton once was a part of automotive history, as it supplied parts for Henry Ford's popular Model T and Model A cars.
About the only visible reminder of the plant's existence is Ford Boulevard, which extends northeast from the end of North Fifth Street to Neal Boulevard. The address of the Ford plant was 500 Ford Blvd.
The plant, which was completed in April 1920, set off a real estate boom, including the opening of Fordson Heights in the north end of Hamilton. The subdivision was named for Ford's tractor.
After months of rumors, Ford announced on July 12, 1918 -- during World War I -- that he would build a plant in Hamilton. He bought about 1,300 to 1,500 acres, much of it in farm land north of the 176,857-square-foot plant site.
Contemporary reports give much of the credit for securing the new industry to W. B. Mayo, a former Hamilton resident who was then Ford's chief engineer, and Gordon S. Rentschler, a local industrialist.
Gas-powered tractors were still novelties on most farms at the end of World War I. There were only about 1,000 in use on U. S. farms in 1910. A 1919 report said 315,000 tractors would be built that year, more than twice the 1918 total.
Ford, who experienced hard work as a youth on a Michigan farm, had vowed to lessen the drudgery for others by using his technical know-how to manufacture affordable tractors. His Fordson tractor was selling for about $700 in April 1920 when production began in the Hamilton plant
However, the tractor work continued less than six months. It stopped Oct. 9, 1920, when the plant was retooled to make wheels for the Model T. More than 12 million were produced in the next six years.
The changeover reflected Americans' increasing love affair with cars, and especially the Model T, then priced at $600.
As the United States shifted from war production in 1919, there were 6.7 million cars, or one for every 16 persons. Ten years later, there were 23.1 million cars, which lowered the ratio to one car for every six persons.
In 1927, with the introduction of the Model A, the Hamilton operation began producing one-piece, all-steel, spoke-welded wheels for the new car. It turned out more than 22 million in the next 10 years.
Later, the plant manufactured other parts, including locks and running boards for Ford cars.
According to a 1936 report, the factory employed 1,500 men on three shifts, with an annual payroll exceeding $2.3 million. Later, it reached a peak employment of 4,000 persons.
The 1936 account said the plant processed 200 tons of steel a day and consumed 30 tons of coal daily.
United States' involvement in World War II Dec. 7, 1941, brought another product change for the Hamilton Ford plant. From 1942 until the end of the war in 1945, its workers contributed parts for bomber engines.
After the war, Ford's expansion plans made it more economical to shift work to new factories and the Hamilton plant began closing in April 1950, 30 years after it had opened.
Feb. 1, 1951 — during the Korean Police Action — the building was purchased by the Bendix Aviation Corp., which produced parts for jet engines, radar units and trucks at the Ford Boulevard plant for the next 10 years.
Bendix began a phase-out in February 1961 and closed in August 1962.
The next tenant, starting in October 1963, was the Ward Manufacturing Co., which completed moving its 450-employee camping trailer operation from Cincinnati in 1964.
The plant's final phase began in 1975, when the Chem-Dyne Corp. opened a chemical waste storage, disposal and transfer business on 10 acres of the site.
By 1981, it ranked as one of the nation's most hazardous waste areas, and the building constructed by Henry Ford in 1920 was demolished as part of a long-term, multi-million-dollar federal Superfund cleanup of Chem-Dyne residues.
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Journal-News, Sunday, April 8, 1990
Civil War surrender prompted local celebrations
By Jim Blount
April 14, 1865, was not an ordinary Good Friday in Hamilton. In addition to Christians commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus, it also was a day of thanksgiving.
On the previous Sunday, April 9, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant had accepted the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee's Confederate army at Appomattox Court House in rural Virginia. In the next five days, other Union victories had followed and the collapse of all southern armies was certain.
"Thus ends, in a blaze of glory, the four-year war for the preservation of the nation's life," said a local newspaper.
As the Civil War was ending 125 years ago, Hamilton and other communities set aside April 14 to celebrate, calling it "a peace Jubilee."
The war had started at 4:30 a.m. Friday, April 12, 1861, when Confederates fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor.
In 1865, April 14 was chosen for the peace observance because it had been April 14,1861, when Fort Sumter in South Carolina had surrendered to southern forces.
The bloody, internal struggle had generated countless hardships and heartaches at home as well as the battlefield.
More than 4,400 Butler County men served in the Union army and navy, fighting in all theaters of action.
At least 350 local men didn't return, with about two dying of disease for each one killed in battle. Some were buried in unmarked graves in southern states.
Five soldiers from Butler County were awarded the newly-created Congressional Medal of Honor — the nation's highest military distinction.
"The day rose brightly, and seemed of itself to impart gladness to all hearts," said a writer for the weekly Hamilton Telegraph in recounting the events of April 14,1865. "Very early in the day it was manifest that it was to be quite a holiday, and soon the streets were filled with people whose eyes and cheerful faces told their gladness," said the newspaper report
Hamilton's peace festivities -- which included music, singing, dancing, speeches, bell ringing and fireworks — centered around the Butler County Courthouse. Peace also was emphasized in churches holding Good Friday services. Similar day-long celebrations were reported in Middletown and Oxford.
As the revelers in Butler County-were returning to their homes late that night, another of the war's many tragedies was unfolding in Ford's Theater in Washington, D. C.,. where President Abraham Lincoln was watching a play, "Our American Cousin."
Shortly after 10 p.m., John Willkes Booth slipped into the presidential box and shot Lincoln in the head.
The mortally-wounded president was taken across 10th Street to the Petersen House where he lingered until 7:22 a.m. Saturday morning, April 15.
That morning, as the search for Booth and his accomplices intensified in Virginia and Maryland, Butler Countians were reluctant to accept the reports of Lincoln's death.
"Early Saturday morning our citizens, hardly through with the rejoicings of the previous day, were startled by the rumor that President Lincoln had been assassinated," reported the Hamilton Telegraph.
"So monstrous seemed the report that few could believe it, and it was not till the arrival of the morning papers that our people were willing to give credence to the story."
The newspaper said "at once the faces of all assumed a look of sadness and soon the toiling bells, the half-masted flags and the solemn insignia of woe spoke of our sorrow."
The red, white and blue banners of the previous day quickly yielded to the black ribbons and mourning throughout Butler County.
Easter suddenly became a day of sorrow, not rejoicing.
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Journal-News, Sunday, April 15, 1990
Reverend David Jones first to preach in area
By Jim Blount
When Gen. Anthony Wayne commanded the United States Army in this region, the Rev. David Jones, a Baptist minister, was a chaplain for his frontier Indian-fighting force.
Jones may or may not nave conducted the first formal religious services at Fort Hamilton. Some local historians — who erroneously identify him as a Presbyterian clergyman — have given him that distinction.
That claim is based on accurate reports that Chaplain Jones directed services in the Fort Hamilton mess hall.
It also is certain that Jones' ministry' was no ordinary one. During his more than 50-year career, he was associated with many persons prominent in the struggle to gam and maintain American independence and open Ohio to settlement.
During the American Revolution he suffered and celebrated with the colonial army at such places as Crown Point, Fort Ticonderoga, Valley Forge and Yorktown.
Jones was born May 12, 1736, in White Clay Creek Hundred, Newcastle County, Delaware, while it was an English colony.
He was licensed to preach in 1761, and ordained at Freehold in Monmouth County, New Jersey, in December 1766, where he remained as pastor until 1772, when he decided to visit Indians in the unsettled territory northwest of the Ohio River, an adventure approved by the Philadelphia Baptist Association.
He made two frustrating trips to what later became Ohio, the first from May through August 1772. On this tour he moved down the Ohio River from Fort Pitt with a young George Rogers Clark.
Jones — who went as far as the mouth of the Little Kanawha — found the Indians suspicious and returned home. But two months later he began a second trip (October 1772-April 1773).
This time he visited Shawnees along the Scioto River and Delawares along the Muskingum River. He also encountered several traders, including Alexander McKee, an American who sided with England during the American Revolution and helped lead Indian raids on American settlements.
Jones — operating alone much of the time — was stymied by several factors, including language differences, his inability to find an adequate interpreter and Indian suspicion.
Next, Jones became pastor of a church in Chester County, Pa., in 1775 and a year later was appointed chaplain to a Pennsylvania regiment led by Colonel Arthur St. Clair, who 15 years later would order the building of Fort Hamilton.
In the fall of 1777 he became chaplain of a brigade commanded by Gen. Wayne and remained with him until the 1781 surrender of Yorktown, Va.
Apparently Chaplain Jones was a valuable part of the rebellious army because a British general once offered a reward for his capture and sent soldiers to attempt it.
At the end of the revolution. Jones retired to a farm near Eastown in Chester County, Pa., but from 1786-1792 held pastorates in Bucks County and Chester County, Pa,
In 1789, as settlement was starting here, he visited Ohio again and by 1794 he had rejoined his friend, Anthony Wayne, as chaplain to the army in this region. It was in this capacity that he conducted services at Fort Hamilton.
After the Indians were subdued, the Rev. Jones joined William Henry Harrison and others in assisting Wayne with Indian negotiations which led to the Treaty of Greenville in 1795.
When Gen. Wayne died Dec. 15, 1796, shortly after his 52nd birthday, it was the Rev, Jones who delivered the funeral oration.
But Jones' military service didn't end with the death of his friend. At age 76, during the War of 1812, he volunteered again and served as a chaplain until the end of the war in 1815,
Then he retired again and Feb. 5, 1820, died at Eastown, Pa., in Chester County, at age 84.
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Journal-News, Sunday, April 22, 1990
John Cleves Symmes, first local land owner, died poor
By Jim Blount
Symmes is a familiar label on the area's landscape, and most of the names are a tribute to the region's first land owner and real estate agent.
John Cleves Symmes was born July 21, 1742, at Southold, Long Island, N. Y., and was residing in Sussex County, N. J., in 1770, before the start of the American Revolution.
During the war, he was a colonel in charge of New Jersey troops. He was on the committee that drafted a new state constitution in 1776, and was an associate justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court from 1777 through 1783.
He was a New Jersey representative in the Continental Congress from 1785 through 1787 while that body searched for a way to sell land and control settlement in the Ohio valley.
Congress, which was then the only branch of government in the new United States, adopted ordinances in 1785 and 1787 which opened the way for migration into the region that would become the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin.
In New York City, Congress adopted the Northwest Ordinance July 13, 1787, while in Philadelphia the Constitutional Convention worked until September on a new plan of government.
Aug. 29, 1787 -- less than seven weeks after enactment of the Northwest Ordinance — the 45-year-old Symmes asked his colleagues to permit him to buy one million acres in the wilderness.
Joining the often-controversial Symmes in the venture were Elias Boudinot and Jonathan Dayton, past and present members of Congress from New Jersey. Dayton also was then a member of the Constitutional Convention.
In the spring and summer of 1787, Symmes had traveled down the Ohio River to inspect potential locations.
His choice, because it was north of the Ohio River between the Little Miami River and the Great Miami River, was known as the Miami Purchase. It included a portion of what is now Butler County.
It wasn't until Oct. 15, 1788, that Congress approved the sale to Symmes. By then, Symmes had been appointed to one of five administrative positions in the territory. Feb. 18, 1788, Congress named him one of three territorial judges.
He planned to buy a million acres and profit by reselling smaller parcels to others. First, he priced his land at 66 and two-thirds cents an acre. Later, the standard price was $1.
Unfortunately, many of Symmes' deals were faulty.
There was confusion between Symmes and the government over both the size and the boundaries of the Miami Purchase.
In some cases, Symmes sold land which he didn't own. Some problems were attributed to Symmes' tendency to neglect details, including selling tracts on credit and then failing to collect payment.
The labeling of his real estate as "the Miami Slaughterhouse" — because of deadly Indian raids on settlers — discouraged some prospects from buying Symmes' land.
Added to all of their troubles were disputes between Symmes and some of his associates.
In March 1811, a mysterious fire destroyed Symmes' residence. Eventually, his holdings were seized and sold to satisfy legal claims against him.
Symmes, then 72, died in poverty Feb. 26, 1814, in Cincinnati. He was buried with military honors in North Bend, an Ohio River community which he founded Feb. 2,1789.
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Journal-News, Sunday, April 29, 1990
Hamiltons played pro baseball only one year
By Jim Blount
Wind and 60-degree termperatures greeted players and fans who helped inaugurate professional baseball in Hamilton Thursday afternoon, May 1, 1884.
Professional baseball was stiil young when the Hamiltons — the unimaginative nickname given the local team — took the field in their white uniforms with red trim.
The first professional league had been formed in 1876 with the Cincinnati Red Stockings as a member of the National League. The first minor league began operating the next season.
Three major leagues and eight minor leagues operated in 1884. The Ohio State Baseball League had six teams: Hamilton, Dayton, Springfield. Chillicothe, Ironton and Portsmouth.
Public subscription helped finance the Hamiiton team, which expected expenses to be at least $5,000 for the season.
To pay the bills, an average attendance of 500 was needed at 10 home games each month. A $10 season ticket provided admission to 40 league games.
Expenses included player salaries, averaging $35 a month; paying an umpire $4 a game; and railroad fare to away games.
Nelson Williams, a lawyer, headed the Hamilton franchise. Other local officers and incorporators were George Hutchison, P. O. Berry, C. I. Keely, J. P. Smyers, W. J. Matthias, J. E. Crider, George A. Miller. Martin Mason, George H. Phillips, Isadore Mass and R. N. Schotts.
Games were played at the Dodsworth Lot, east of East Avenue on the future site of Roosevelt Junior High School.
The four-acre field was owned by Caleb Dodsworth and included a parking area for about 100 carriages.
The grandstand seated about 1,500 fans. The field had 10-foot fences on three sides and a 20-foot barrier near East Avenue. A retired railroad caboose was used as a backstop.
Thirty-one players were on the roster during the season, which began May 1 with a 10-4 victory over Springfield and ended Sept. 30 with a 4-3 win over Dayton.
The team had 15 players at the start of the season, but cut back to 11 in June when only $173 remained in the treasury.
The lineup included three players who had been with the Cincinnati Red Stockings — Amos Smith "Darling" Booth (1876), Henry "Lucky" Kessler (1876-1877) and Bobby Mitchell (1877), who was the first lefthanded pitcher in the major leagues.
Eleven of the 31 played in the big leagues before or after their stints with the Hamilton minor league entry, including William "Cannon Ball" Stemmyer, who set the major league record for most wild pitches in a season (64 in 41 games with Boston in 1886).
A highlight of the season was an Aug. 20 no-hitter by Stemmyer in a 9-2 win over Portsmouth, despite nine Hamilton errors.
Two Hamilton natives -- Frank Monroe and John Ryan — also had brief major-league service after leaving the local team.
Hamilton finished fourth in the OSBL with a 26-40 won-lost-record.
A plus for Hamilton fans was the appearance of seven major league teams here for exhibition games, usually after stops in Cincinnati. Attendance usually topped 1,000 for local games against major league teams, including Baltimore, Brooklyn, Pittsburgh Toledo, Louisville, Columbus and Indianapolis.
Sunday and Monday, July 13-14, Hamilton split exhibitons against Toledo of the American Association (one of three major leagues in 1884).
The catcher for Toledo in those games was Moses Fleetwood Walker, a native of Mount Pleasant, Ohio, who was the first and last black to play in the major leagues until Jackie Robinson broke the racial barrier in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
But financial losses, contract disputes, uneven scheduling and several other problems marred the Ohio State Baseball League season and only one city fielded a professional team the next year. It would be five years before Hamilton would try again.
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