Journal-News, Sunday, Feb. 4, 1990
Local black soldiers served in "Glory" regiment
By Jim Blount
"Glory," a movie showing in the area, depicts the brave Civil War service of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, a pioneer black unit which included several Butler County men.
In fact, according to names on the walls at the Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument in Hamilton, more Butler County blacks served in the 54th than in any other Civil War unit.
At least 40 black men from the county volunteered during the Civil War (1861-1865), and nine of them joined the 54th, organized in May 1863 before Ohio formed a black regiment.
Identified on the monument walls as enrolled in the 54th Massachusetts are George Cowan, Levi Jackson, Robert Jones, David McCowan, George McCowan, John Meyers, Henry Russell, Abram Sims and James M Townsend.
Another record lists an A .C. Simmes as a corporal in the 54th from its formation until the end of the war, including service in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.
Prejudices, fears and misconceptions delayed and limited the use of black troops during the Civil War, a conflict which began because of differing North-South views on slavery.
Some northern leaders were reluctant to enlist blacks to fight because they feared blacks would be given no quarter by Confederate soldiers and officers if captured.
Others doubted their adaptability to the military. Some were willing to accept blacks as army laborers, but not as combat soldiers.
At first, black troops were paid $7 a month, regardless of rank, and a $3 clothing allowance, while pay for whites ranged from US for a private to $21 for a sergeant major, plus $3.50 for clothing. The inequity ended in June 1864.
When the official barriers were finally relaxed, black regiments were trained and commanded by white officers.
The 54th's white leader was Col. Robert Gould Shaw, a son of a prominent Boston abolitionist family. Shaw, the central figure in "Glory," is portrayed by Matthew Broderick.
Shaw was a captain in the Second Massachusetts when selected by Gov. John Andrew to raise and command the 54th, regarded as the first black regiment recruited in the North. Previous black units had enlisted freed southern slaves.
It wasn't the first black unit to fight in the Civil War. But its performance in a South Carolina attack dispelled concerns about the fighting ability and spirit of black men.
The 54th's first combat was July 16, 1863, on St. James Island, near Charleston, where it stopped a Confederate attack.
For the next two days, the men of the 54th marched through rain and across swamps and sand with sparse rations and water and little or no sleep, heading toward their next fight. It was the assault on Fort Wagner, a Confederate earthworks on Morris Island, near Charleston, S. C. Colonel Shaw volunteered the 54th to lead the perilous Union advance.
Its mission was to cross about three-fourths of a mile of narrow, flat beach sandwiched between a salt march and the Atlantic Ocean.
There was no element of surprise, and the beach over which the 54th charged was under fire when Confederate artillery at nearby Fort Gregg and Fort Sumter as well as Fort Wagner.
The 54th and some supporting regiments scaled the sand walls and entered parts of Fort Wager, but the outnumbered and severely weakened Union force couldn't hold the position.
"After the assault on Fort Wagner," wrote Dudley Taylor Cornish, a historian of blacks in the Civil War, "there was no longer any doubt about using Negro troops."
For his bravery at Fort Wagner, Sgt. William Carney, became the first black awarded the Medal of Honor. Of about 650 men, the 54th lost 84 that were killed, including Shaw, and 146 that were wounded in the assault, the climax of "Glory," which has been given high marks for its historical accuracy.
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Journal-News, Sunday, Feb. 11, 1990
Centralized Fairfield school opened in 1929
By Jim Blount
The demise of the one-room school was hailed 60 years ago as the governor of Ohio joined residents of Fairfield Township in dedicating a new centralized school on Dixie Highway.
Speakers on the 1930 program recalled that the Fairfield school board had weighed several alternatives before deciding to erect one centralized building and to include a high school.
The $150,000 three-story brick building — now Fairfield Central Elementary School — opened to 416 students Oct. 7, 1929.
There were still about 4,000 one-room schools in Ohio when the dedication was held Thursday evening, Feb. 13, 1930.
Gov. Myers Y. Cooper, who reminded the audience that he was a product of a one-room school, emphasized how Ohio public education was changing during his dedication speech.
"In 1929 there were approximately 450 one-room schools abandoned and 150 school districts consolidated," he noted. "Fully two-thirds of the children of our state are now enjoying the advantages of the consolidated school. Nevertheless, we still have 4,000 one-room schoolhouses," the governor explained.
"Since I have been your governor, I have had but one protest against a consolidated school" and "they opposed the centralized school because the roads in their area were so bad the children could not be transported to one center."
He said "the building and maintenance of good roads and the advancement of education are inseparably united. Without good roads in this township, you could not have had a consolidated school."
Cooper said "it has been demonstrated that pupils in the consolidated schools have a 15 percent advantage over those in the one-room buildings, and I am in favor of giving that advantage to every community in Ohio which hungers to give its children an education. You people have done that very thing here.
"Ohio has made great progress during the past 15 years. Until today only two states in the Union can be rated as her equal, or with the possibility of excelling Ohio in her educational advantages."
He said at the start of the 1929-1930 school year, Ohio had 42,701 teachers (8,949 men and 33,763 women) being paid an average of $1,300 a year.
They were responsible for instructing 1,249,612 students, including 636,095 males and 613,517 females.
In the 1930 census, the Fairfield Township population was 3,541 and the Hamilton population was 52,176 in a county with 114,084 residents.
Presiding at the 1930 dedication was R. E. Augspurger, principal of the new school.
Other participants included State Rep. O. P. McCormick, resident of the township; C. A. Kumler, president of the county board of education; Joseph W. Fichter, superintendent of the Butler County schools; J. S. Hunter, the county's assistant superintendent; and the Rev. J. Gallaher, who gave the invocation.
Robert C. Cogswell represent the contractor, the F. K. Vaughn Building Co. of Hamilton, and George E. Barkman and R. E. Fryar, architects, also attended
Barkman presented the keys the new schools to Charles Damm, who was in his 16th year as president of the Fairfield Board of Education.
Also present were J. C. LinE, school district clerk; Fred Schmidt, Charles Lewis and Adam Mehl, school board members; and Charles Schneider, a former board member.
Additions were made to the building in 1936 and 1948, but it remained the only Fairfield school until 1951, when a separate high school was constructed immediately north along Dix Highway.
Today there are seven schools in the Fairfield system, including four elementary buildings, a mddle school, freshman school and high school.
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Journal-News. Sunday, Feb. 18, 1990
Local soldiers served on Mexican border in 1916
By Jim Blount
The December invasion of Panama was not the first time U. S. troops fought south of the border. In 1916, an expedition along the U. S.-Mexican boundary involved about 100 men from the Hamilton area.
They were members of Company E, which was part of the Third Ohio Infantry Regiment, a National Guard unit that spent about six months on Mexican border patrol on the eve of World War I.
Political turmoil had dominated Mexico since the 1870s. The struggle crossed the U. S. border March 9, 1916, when about 500 revolutionaries, led by Francisco "Pancho" Villa, raided Columbus, N. M., killing several Americans.
After pressure from Congress, President Woodrow Wilson ordered Brigadier-General John J. Pershing to lead 15,000 U. S. troops into Mexico to pursue Villa's raiders.
Pershing's 400-mile march began March 15, and Wilson backed it by sending National Guardsmen to patrol the border.
Company E — organized March 30, 1916, in Hamilton — was among about 150,000 border watchers.
The 112-man unit left Hamilton via rail on Monday morning, July 3, commanded by Capt. Wesley Wulzen. Training continued at Camp Willis in Columbus until Sept. 7, when the regiment started for Texas to patrol the Rio Grande.
"We were five days on the way as we stopped for one hour every day to drill a little," explained Sgt. Richard O. Hager.
At Fort Bliss, near El Paso, Hager said the unit "received a great reception in the form of one of those nice Texas sandstorms which fill you so full of sand that you chew it for about one week. It was the first one of these storms we had ever encountered and the boys didn't like it, but afterwards we had so many we got used to them, "Hager said.
The unit lived in tents about a half mile west of Fort Bliss, spending each day in routine drills amid cactus and long stretches of sand. To kill boredom, the men built a mess hall.
"Nov. 7 the officers came to our relief from the monotony of daily sand drilling and sent us to Fabens, Texas, 30 miles southeast of El Paso," Hager said.
"There we had four miles of the border to patrol and one of the international bridges to guard. We stopped and examined everyone who tried to cross the bridge." Hager said Fabens had about 1,100 residents, "and all but about 25 were Mexicans."
Later, Company E moved to Clint, Texas, where, according to Hager, "there was a telephone exchange, a large water tank and a crossroads. All of these we watched carefully, especially the water tank, as we needed something to drink besides Rio Grande water."
"We were shortly sent back to Fort Bliss and resumed our routine drilling, inspections and hikes. We engaged in many sham battles, but never were near the real thing," Hager said in summarizing his border experience.
Company E left El Paso on March 21, 1917, to return to Butler County. But its train trip was delayed because of a shortage of railroad coaches.
The company was sent first to Fort Riley, Kansas, and then to Fort Benjamin Harrison at Indianapolis, where the men were scheduled to be discharged.
But a presidential order March 26 held the unit in federal service. Company E returned to Ohio in April when the U. S. declared war on Germany.
Some men were sent to Point Pleasant, W. Va., to guard rail bridges over the Ohio River. Others were assigned to guard the New York Central Railroad bridge over the Great Miami River north of Middletown.
Later, the unit helped guard construction of an air field at Dayton (now part of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) and workmen at Camp Sherman at Chillicothe.
Eventually, Butler County's Company E became part of the 37th Division, the Buckeye Division, landing in France in July 1918 for the final four bloody months of World War I.
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Journal-News, Sunday, Feb. 25, 1990
Hamilton city income tax began in 1960
By Jim Blount
Persons employed in Hamilton are in the 30th year of paying a city income tax — a levy which could be increased this year.
Hamilton City Council is asking voters to approve a 0.25 percent jump while the Hamilton school board is placing a 0.75 percent school income tax on the May ballot.
At its current rate — 1.75 percent on earned income and net profits — the city tax raised about $11.4 million in 1989.
The income tax was enacted suddenly, late in 1960, as Hamilton faced a financial crunch.
Members of the Hamilton City Council who started the tax were Robert Bartels, Jack Blumenthal, Richard Fitton. Donald Grammel, Freida McCandless, Herbert Mick and Mark Petty.
Their unanimous approval was at a special morning meeting of council Nov. 29, 1960, an hour after the Ohio Supreme Court in Columbus ruled the city's utilities commodities tax illegal.
That tax was a 14 percent levy on the total gas, electric and water bill paid by Hamilton users.
A newspaper report said the court decision "necessitated immediate action to recoup these funds." It said "the only alternative would have been an economy crash program which would have drastically cut all city services, laying off policemen and firemen, eliminating garbage collection and other services."
The original tax — effective Dec. 1,1960, — was 0.8 percent, or 80 cents from $100 in earnings.
In 1961, its first full year, it netted $1,001,256. That was below the $1.2 million to $1.3 million expected, probably because it was during the traumatic period of Hamilton's industrial decline (1957-1962).
Annual collections didn't reach $1.3 million until the fourth year (1964).
Council raised the rate to 1 percent, starting Jan. 1, 1966, with the added 0.2 percent earmarked for capital improvements in the city.
In 1966 at the higher rate the tax brought in more than $1.5 million, including $283,366 for capital improvements.
The first time voters had a say on the income tax was in a special election in April 1969. A majority voted in favor of the 0.5 percent increase, but it wasn't enough for approval because a 55 percent vote was required for passage.
It received 51.3 percent support (5,847 for the increase, 5,547 against) with only 11,402 (41.1 percent) of 27,746 eligible voters participating in the election.
The rejection caused council to pare $360,178 from the city budget, order cutbacks and increase fees for city services, effective June 6,1969.
One of the new charges started that day was $16 for emergency squad runs. Until then, the fire department service had been free. (Last year, it was raised from $35 to a maximum of $100).
In January 1970, council presented some alternatives to local voters.
They were (1) voters approve a 0.6 percent increase in the income tax or (2) have council enact a monthly garbage-collection fee of $3 for residences and $9 for businesses, effective June 1,1970
In February, council changed its plans, asking voters instead for a 0.5 percent hike in the income tax to 1.5 percent to prevent city service cuts. It dropped the garbage fee idea.
Hamilton voters responded in May 1970 by giving the tax increase 65.3 percent approval (8,421 for, 4,470 against) with a 46.38 percent turnout of the city's 27,797 registered voters. The 1.5 percent tax rate began June 1, 1970.
Collections increased from more than $2.53 million in 1969 to more than $3.72 million in 1971, the first full year at the new rate.
The total was $7.8 million in 1983 when council began campaigning for another increase.
May 8,1984, voters approved an increase from 1.5 to 1.75 percent, the present rate, with 5,102 in favor (51.7 percent) and 4,764 against, a turnout of 31.9 percent of 30,858 eligible.
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