Journal-News, Sunday May 6, 1990
Fire threatened to level Shandon in 1900
By Jim Blount
A desperate call for help came to the Hamilton fire department 90 years ago as a wind-whipped blaze raged through the village of Shandon in southwestern Butler County.
The Hamilton Democrat said the fire "threatened to wipe the village of New London off the map" Wednesday, May 2, 1900.
The Hamilton Republican-News said when discovered, the wind-driven blaze "was under such headway that, coupled with a lack of fire fighting facilities, the town was for a time at the mercy of the flames."
A reporter said "the wildest excitement prevailed in the village" and "a large bucket brigade was hastily organized . . . with every description of pails and vessels filled with water."
Seven buildings were destroyed or heavily damaged, including a house, a church and a shop. It was after three barns had been consumed that professional assistance was sought from Hamilton.
The city had organized a paid fire department in 1869, and firefighters became full-time employees in 1887. But in 1900, Hamilton still relied on horses to pull its fire equipment. It didn't begin acquiring motorized vehicles until 1911.
The mysterious blaze was first noticed about 7:15 p.m. in the barn of David Burnett on the north edge of the village, then known as New London.
The fierce wind caused the flames to jump across a house on the adjoining property to the A. R. Robinson barn.
Then, in succession, the fire ignited the barn of County Commissioner Martin McLaughlin, the house and barn of Maria Williams, and the blacksmith and repair shop of Evan Davies. Finally it skipped about 275 feet to the roof of 15-year-old St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church.
It was almost 9 o'clock when Chief P. E. Welsh of the Hamilton fire department took the telephone request for aid.
Chief Welsh and Safety Director C. M. Semler responded with speed — or as quickly as was possible with horse-drawn equipment over unpaved rural roads.
Six Hamilton firemen — Frank Overmeyer, James Sortman, Jacob Schwab, Philip Erb, Collin Reeves and Dan Baker — guided two pieces of Hamilton equipment to Shandon.
One was Hamilton's finest unit, Old Neptune, a steam pumper housed at No. 1 station on the west side of South B Street between Main and Ross. Four horses were borrowed from the Wirtz Transfer Co. on Maple Avenue to pull Old Neptune on the first leg of the 11- to 12-mile trip.
The other unit was a hose wagon, with 1,000 feet of hose, from the No. 3 station on the west side of North Third Street, south of Dayton Street.
The trip started at 9:12 p.m., the Republican-News said. At Millville the Hamilton equipment was met by New London residents who brought fresh horses.
The steam pumper and hose wagon reached Shandon at 10:45, about one hour and 45 minute after the call for help
"It was while the church was in flames that the Hamilton firemen arrived on the scene." the Democrat noted. "After the boys arrived at New London, they did heroic work. Six cisterns and ore well were pumped dry."
"The fire was fairly well in hand when" the Hamilton professionals arrived, "but there was still great danger from the sparks and flying embers. Water was poured onto those structures which were still in danger and then onto the burning buildings."
"The firemen worked until after 2 o'clock when practically every spark was extinguished and all danger past."
"The villagers prepared an excellent lunch for the firemen, which the latter thoroughly appreciated. The start for home was made at 3:30 a.m.," the Democrat reported.
The lighter hose wagon returned to Hamilton at about 5:30 a.m., an hour and a half before the steam pumper.
Old Neptune — which was acquired in 1885 and saw nearly 35 years of service — now is in the care of the Butler County Historical Society.
# # #
Journal-News, Sunday, May 13, 1990
Black Blizzard did little damage in 1934
By Jim Blount
In the midst of the Depression, part of the Great Plains was deposited on Hamilton and Butler County in the form of a dry storm termed a Black Blizzard.
Prolonged drought and high winds combined to bring millions of acres of abused farm land from the Dust Bowl to the Midwest and East in the 1930s.
The heart of the 1930s Dust Bowl was an area about 400 miles north to south and 300 miles east to west, covering parts of Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma.
"In May 1934 the drought was the most severe on record, and the erosion problem steadily worsened as the wind stripped the top soil to the depth of the plowing in many parts of the Great Plains," explained R. Douglas Hurt in a 1981 book on the disaster, The Dust Bowl, An Agricultural and Social History.
Hamilton's worst Black Blizzard struck at midday Thursday. May 10, 1934, lowering temperatures from the 80s, but failing to break a 15-day drought.
The dirt clouds "swept over the city on a 50-mile-an-hour gale which rode in from the parched plains of the West and Canada," said the Journal-News in detailing the storm. "It is probable that some of the grains of dust that settled in Hamilton homes came from as far west as Nebraska, Kansas and the Dakotas," a reporter noted.
The storm — first noticed here shortly before noon — lasted through Thursday night, transforming the afternoon sun "into a moonlight appearance."
The newspaper said "tests made in cities near Hamilton show that there were 380,950 particles of dust to the cubic foot. Each cubic foot had about 20 percent smoke and 80 percent loam." The smoke was believed to be from forest fires in Wisconsin.
By comparison, the newspaper said, the normal count of dust particles is 120,000 and as low as 5,000 particles per cubic foot in air conditioned buildings.
Friday, May 11, the newspaper said Hamiltonians were still "coughing and brushing their way from under a coating of dust."
"Other than causing a great amount of work and inconvenience to housewives in their annual spring cleaning and to most everyone who experienced irritated eyes, noses and throats, the storm did little damage" in Hamilton, the newspaper said.
The dust clouds were so thick in the Midwest that airplane service was disrupted. Pilots said visibility between noon and 1 p. m. was reduced from 12 miles to less than a mile.
A wire service story Saturday, May 12, said the Black Blizzards "had spent their force, sweeping to the sea on the eastern seaboard, dropping tons of fertile farm soil en route, while the drought continued to swell the crop damage."
Meanwhile, Butler County farmers feared their soil could be the next to become airborne. D. T. Herrman, Butler County Farm Bureau agent, reported the drought already had caused considerable damage to Butler County crops.
The last rain, about one-twentieth of an inch, had been April 26, bringing the month's total to less than an inch (.94). The area monthly averages then were 3.1 inches for April and 3.7 for May.
Relief came Sunday night, May 13, when rain broke the 17-day dry spell.
"Physicians here welcomed the weekend rains as a means of riding the community of causes of certain eye, ear and nose complaints, attributed in part to recent dust storms," the newspaper said Monday, May 14.
Agricultural Historian Hurt said "many factors contributed to the creation of the Dust Bowl — soils subject to wind erosion, drought which killed the soil-holding vegetation, the incessant wind and technological improvements which facilitated the rapid breaking of the native sod."
Fortunately, those conditions didn't develop here, and Hamilton's Dust Bowl experience was limited to the discomfort caused by the May 10,1934, Black Blizzard.
# # #
Journal-News, Sunday, May 20, 1990
Public transit began in Hamilton in 1875
By Jim Blount
Public transit — in question again because of rising costs and declining ridership — has been a service in Hamilton for 115 years, starting with horse-drawn streetcars.
The city was one of more than 300 towns with a horse railway when that transportation form peaked in the mid-1880s.
Hamilton had a population of about 13,300 people in 1875 when the Hamilton Street Railway Co. was formed.
The firm sold stock to raise $11,000 in capital, and most stockholders were merchants who saw the company as helping their businesses. Mark C. McMakin was its president; James Rossman was vice president: Dr. Samuel L. Beeler was secretary; Joseph Curtis is was treasurer; and Robert Harper, Louis Sohngen and Jacob Shaffer were directors when Hamilton City Council granted the company right-of-way July 5, 1875.
On the east, the line started at the depot of the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad at South Fifth and Henry streets. It went to South Fourth and Ludlow, then west one block on Ludlow and north on South Third to High Street.
The route continued west on High Street and Main Street to D Street, then south to Ross Avenue, the western terminus.
The laying of the three-foot narrow-gauge track began in August 1875, and service started in late September or early October.
In February 1876, a newspaper reported the company "running three and sometimes four cars over its route" at eight to 10-minute intervals. Each car was pulled by one horse.
But despite the initial euphoria, the HSR Co. had several problems and operated at a loss for most of its 14 years.
Snow often stopped service because the horses could not get enough traction to pull the cars. A periodic problem was illness among the animals. Another obstacle was opposition to expansion by some nearby property owners.
In April 1889 the company was sold to owners who planned to build "a cable railway and do away with the bob-tail car."
Electric-powered streetcars rolled along Hamilton streets on three routes for the first time Dec. 30, 1890. Service continued under several owners for more than 42 years.
In its last years, the street railway franchise was owned by the Cincinnati & Lake Erie Railway Co., which also ran interurban lines in Ohio.
The last streetcar — operated by motorman Conrad Mainous — completed its run from the west end of Millville Avenue to the Lindenwald car barn at Pleasant and Williams avenues shortly after midnight Sunday, July 23, 1933.
A passenger on that final run was George J. McGehean, who had operated the first Hamilton streetcar in 1890.
The streetcars were replaced by gas-powered buses the same day, July 23. They were operated by the Hamilton City Lines, a subsidiary of the Cincinnati & Lake Erie interurban company.
Hamilton City Lines won the bus franchise in an unusual election May 2, 1933, the result of an initiative ordinance submitted to Hamilton City Council by another company that sought the franchise. Hamiltonians had to vote for or against three transit proposals. One would provide municipal ownership and operation of buses here. A second would grant the bus rights to Hamilton City Lines. The third would give the bus franchise to Schisler Transit, which had been operating here for about 13 years without a franchise authorized by council.
Only the HCL plan received a favorable vote, by a margin of 333 votes (4,759 for, 4,426 against).
Bus service has continued for nearly 57 years, most of them under troubled circumstances.
In June 1965, as ridership and revenues fell, the owner announced cutbacks which prompted a 36-day drivers strike. It ended when the city agreed to subsidize the bus firm.
In September 1972, the Hamilton Board of Education began operating its own buses, taking more than 2,400 daily riders from the municipal system.
In 1975, thanks to increased federal assistance, the city took over ownership, renamed it The Bus Co. and contracted for its management and operation.
# # #
Journal-News, Sunday, May 27, 1990
Mosler chose Hamilton in 1890
By Jim Blount
"There is an opportunity to make Hamilton the center of the universe in the manufacture of safes!" a newspaper declared in June 1890 in endorsing a plan that lured Mosler to Hamilton.
"You cannot bring an industry employing 400 or 500 men into the city without benefiting every person in the town in some manner," observed the Hamilton Democrat.
A successful community effort 100 years ago persuaded the expanding safe company to move from its flood-prone Cincinnati location to a local site between the Miami-Erie Canal, the Pennsylvania Railroad and Grand Boulevard.
Mosler was one of several industries new to Hamilton in the 1890s, a decade in which the city's population jumped 36 percent from 17,565 in 1890 to 23,914 in 1900.
It was not the first safe company to relocate here. June 11, 1890 — during the Mosler campaign — production began at the Macneale & Urban Co.'s new $40,000 safe plant on 10 acres along the railroad at Millville and Edgewood avenues.
A June 6, 1890, report said Mosler officials "have bound themselves in writing to locate in Hamilton" if the city of citizens provide 10 acres and $85,000, including $70,000 toward plant construction and $15,000 for moving expenses.
A June 29 deadline was set for Hamilton to respond. The city's announced competition included Canton, Piqua, Sidney, Toledo and Columbus in Ohio and Aurora, Ind.
A news report said "a number of gentlemen stand ready to donate 40 acres of land adjacent to the city." Ten acres would be for the factory. The remaining 30 acres would be subdivided into 24O lots for houses. Money raised from the sale of the residential lots would provide the $85,000 incentive
The plan was heartily promoted by local newspapers and at a public meeting Friday night. June 13, 1890, at the Globe Opera House at High Street and Journal Square (now the Dollar Store).
The large committee pushing the proposal was a who's who of Hamilton business, industry and professions. Its leaders were industrialist Lazard Kahn and businessman O. V. Parrish.
"The benefits that would result from their removal here is far reaching," Kahn said at the public meeting. "We must not figure on the amount of money they would spend in our town in one year, but must figure on the amount that will accrue to the businessmen here in the years to follow."
"I look for the time . . . when the citizens of this city will be astounded at the growth resultant from this effort," said Kahn, whose stove company (later known as Estate) had moved to Hamilton in 1884.
"The Mosler Safe and Lock Co. and the Mosler Bank Safe Co. of Cincinnati are one of the largest and most successful companies of the kind in the United States," a local newspaper reported during the 1890 campaign, but "their shops in Cincinnati are utterly inadequate."
It said the company wanted to double its manufacturing space from the 150,000 square feet of floor space in Cincinnati to about 300,000 square feet in a new plant. It also expected factory employment to increase from 400 to 600.
Mosler Safe and Lock Co. then occupied several buildings at Front and Elm streets in Cincinnati while Mosler Bank Safe Co. was on Front Street between Park and Smith streets.
A reporter who visited the plants found Mosler already using Hamilton-made machine tools from Niles Tool Works, Long & Allstatter, Bentel & Margedant and Hooven, Owens & Rentschler.
In 1890. the firm was directed by Moses Mosler and William Mosler, sons of the founder Gustav Mosler, who had died in 1874.
June 27, two days before the deadline, The Hamilton Democrat reported Hamilton's victory and said "the contract will be closed with the Mosler people tomorrow." A Mosler company history says the contract was signed July 5, 1890.
Sixteen months later — in October 1891 — Mosler started production in its new Hamilton factory. The 240 residential lots, known as East Hamilton, were later annexed to Hamilton.
# # #