Journal-News, Sunday, Oct. 7, 1990
Local law firm celebrates 150 years
By Jim Blount
In 1840 Thomas Millikin, an 1838 Miami University graduate, rode a horse to Columbus to take the Ohio bar exam. He passed the test and a few weeks later, the 21-year-old Rossville native opened his law practice in Hamilton.
That was the start of what today is the Millikin & Fitton Law Firm, which will celebrate its 150th anniversary this week. It is the oldest law firm in Butler County and, according to a 1980 survey by the Ohio State Bar Association, the third oldest in the state.
Its founder. Thomas Millikin was born Sept. 28, 1819, in Rossville, a son of Dr. Robert B. Millikin and Sarah Gray Millikin. After graduating from Miami, Thomas Millikin studied law in the office of Elijah Vance in Hamilton.
A faithful Democrat, Millikin shunned elective offices in favor of practicing law. He was appointed to a one-year term as Butler County prosecutor in 1843. But in 1874 he declined an appointment to the Ohio Supreme Court
His varied client list included several railroads that served the area. Millikin represented the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad, the first line to serve the city, since shortly after it entered Hamilton in 1851.
Millikin, a popular speaker for civic and patriotic events, had a part in arranging the 1855 merger of his native Rossville into Hamilton. He also chaired the committee that planned Hamilton's 1891 centennial celebration.
He was a founder of both the Hamilton Gas Light Company and the Hamilton and Lindenwald Electric Transit Company.
Millikin and Mary Van Hook who became the parents of sever, children - were married in 1841, in an unusual location in Columbus. The ceremony was in the office of the Ohio Penitentiary, where her father was warden. The wedding party included two future Ohio governors, William Bebb and John Brough.
Millikin made his last court appearance two weeks before his death Nov. 10, 1899, at age 80.
A Dayton newspaper, commenting on his career of nearly 60 years, called Millikin "one of the best lawyers ever at the bar of the state." A Butler County Bar Association memorial said "in his own county, his name appears as counsel in nearly every important case in the court records for over 50 years."
Twenty-five years later, James K. Campbell - whose law practice took him from Hamilton to a term as governor of Ohio and legal service in Washington, DC. - recalled Millikin as "the greatest lawyer I have ever known."
In 1876, Robert N. Shotts had joined his law tutor in the practice. He was part of the firm until his death in 1928.
The continuity of the Millikin name was assured in 1891 when Brandon R. Millikin, a grandson of the founder, became a partner. He was a member of the firm until his death in 1958, a year after Thomas J. Millikin, a great-great grandson of the founder, joined the practice and remained until
The other part of the firm name was added in 1943 when Stuart Fitton joined the office. Fitton -- whose father, Sam Fitton, handled the incorporation of Champion Papers in the 1890s -- remained until his retirement in 1981.
Other deceased and retired members of the firm have been Millikin P. Shotts (1907-1943), Frederick A. Reister (1928-1967), John T. Latimer (1949-1973) and E. Hjalmar Persson (1964-1981).
Members of the firm today are James S. Irwin, John G. Rosmarin, Stanley D. Rullman, William C. Keck, James E. Michael, John H. Clemmons, Michael A. Fulton, John J. Reister, Michele M. Gressel, Jeffrey L. Rulon, Gregory E. Hull, Keith M. Spaeth, Patricia A. Reilly, Kathryn Holden, Paul G. Franke, and, of counsel, Louie J. Hofstadter.
Until 1972, the firm periodically altered its name to reflect changes in its membership. Since 1972, it has been known as the Millikin & Fitton Law Firm.
Thomas Millikin, the founder, had his office at 117 S. Second Street. In 1906, the law firm moved to the new Rentschler Building at the corner of High and S. Second streets, becoming the first tenant above the first floor.
Its Hamilton office remains in the same location, now known as the Society Bank Building, 6 S. Second St. In 1981, a Fairfield office was opened in Clock Tower Place at 1251 Nilles Road.
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Journal-News, Sunday Oct. 14, 1990
Hamilton retains its German heritage
By Jim Blount
News from Germany -- especially events of the magnitude of its reunification -- traditionally attracts extra attention in Hamilton.
According to most studies, people of German ancestry have constituted as much as 40 to 50 percent of Hamilton's population for about the last 130 years.
For almost 60 years, Hamilton's German heritage was prominently reflected in local school policies.
German-born immigrants — the majority from Bavaria and the Black Forest region of Wurttemberg — began arriving m Hamilton in the early 1830s.
Local leaders — most with English backgrounds — welcomed those German craftsmen who would help to diversify the town's farm-based economy.
The influx in Hamilton also was related to its proximity to the larger city of Cincinnati, which saw its German population swell from 5 percent (or 1,242) of 24,831 in 1830 to 23 percent (10,658) of 16,338 people in 1840.
By 1840, the increasing influence of Germans also was evident in Hamilton business, industry and other aspects of society in the town of 1,400.
In 1850 foreign-born residents from all nations comprised 12.3 percent of Butler County's 30,789 population total.
In that census, only five Ohio counties had more foreign-born inhabitants than did Butler.
That same year, about one-seventh of the inhabitants of the neighboring towns of Hamilton (3,120) and Rossville (1,447) were identified as Germans.
In the 1850s, the number of Germans in Hamilton was large enough to support numerous breweries, churches, social organizations and two weekly newspapers, the Wachter and the Schildwache.
From 1848 until 1860, three out of five naturalized citizens in Butler County were listed as German.
According to some estimates, as much as 50 percent of Hamilton's 7,000 citizens in 1860 were of German birth.
The 1870 census, taken 40 years after the first arrivals, reported 10 percent of Butler County residents had been born in Germany, more than twice the ratio of Irish, the area's second-largest group of foreign borns.
The size and closeness of Hamilton's German population was obvious in politics, including the board of education.
A resolution reported in the minutes of the Aug. 9, 1855, meeting of the Hamilton Board of Education stated "that the board of education (will) open and cause to be taught a German department in which shall be taught spelling, reading, writing and grammar and such other branches as the board may direct."
Instituting the order was relatively easy because many Hamilton teachers were of German ancestry.
For several years, the board maintained a separate German school in the Second Ward, a neighborhood with a high concentration of Germany families until the 1940s.
By 1871, German-language classes were an option in all local elementary schools. Usually, Hamilton pupils spent half of their time with teachers instructing in English and the remaining time with German-speaking teachers.
Naturally, the instruction in German required the board to purchase textbooks in German, including German editions of the McGuffey readers.
Teaching in German remained an option for children in Hamilton elementary schools for about 60 years.
The German emphasis in local schools declined rapidly in the years before World War I. By 1913, the school board had reduced its German-speaking teachers in the elementary schools to two persons.
By 1917 — when the United States entered World War I — there was no German instruction in Hamilton schools. This was a period when some of the most obvious local German connections began to disappear because of increased anti-German feelings.
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Journal-News, Sunday, Oct. 21,1990
JohnWoods a long-time local legislator
(This is the first of two columns on the career and contributions of John Woods.)
By Jim Blount
The first Butler County resident to represent this area in the United States House of Representatives was John Woods, a persuasive lawyer whose intellect and political savvy benefited the Hamilton area for more than 30 years.
"His mind and energy left their impress on everything about Hamilton," said Alta Harvey Heiser in eulogizing John Woods in her 1941 book, Hamilton in the Making.
"John Woods was instrumental in bringing the canal to Hamilton's very doors, also in securing three railroads, nearly all the turnpikes, the hydraulic and good schools," wrote Mrs. Heiser, whose book was based on Woods' personal papers.
The first-generation American was born Oct. 18, 1794, in Johnstown, Pa., one of eight children. His father came from Ireland to the United States in 1790, first to Pennsylvania and then to Kentucky before moving in 1797 to a part of the Northwest Territory that later would become Warren County.
Woods entered the army in the final year (1814) of the War of 1812, serving at Fort Meigs in northwestern Ohio.
In 1815 he became a teacher, opening a school near Springboro.
Meanwhile, he read law in Lebanon under John McLean, a member of Congress who later would become a justice of the U. S. Supreme Court.
In June 1819 Woods passed the bar exam in Dayton and began practicing in Hamilton in August. The next summer, June 20, 1820, he married Sarah Ann Lynch of Springboro.
Woods' political career also began in 1820 when he was appointed Butler County prosecuting attorney, an office he held until starting his first term in the United States Congress in 1825. The next year he was re-elected to a second term in the U. S. House of Representatives.
The first Butler County resident representative had an impact on the economy of his district, especially Hamilton.
Woods went to Washington as Ohio was building its canal system. Ceremonial groundbreakings for the 248-mile Miami-Erie (between Cincinnati and Toledo) and the 308-mile Ohio-Erie (between Portsmouth and Cleveland) were in July 1825 in Middletown and Newark, respectively.
Woods was on the House committee on roads and canals during his second term, putting him in a position to promote legislation that may have saved Ohio's canals.
In 1827, hard times had hit the unfinished Ohio canal system, including increased costs, labor difficulties, health problems among canal workers and some contractors failing to complete their jobs.
The complications threatened to damage confidence in Ohio canal bonds among investors in the eastern United States and in England, perhaps to the extent that work would have to stop before the canals connected Ohio's interior to the Ohio River and Lake Erie, as planned.
Rep. Woods' committee sponsored legislation that granted 500,000 acres of federal land in Ohio to the state. The land was to be sold at a minimum price of $1.25 an acre, which guaranteed $625,000 to Ohio.
The proceeds were earmarked for the canals, including the Miami-Erie Canal, which then was open only between Cincinnati and Middletown.
This enabled Ohio leaders to sell $1.2 million in bonds on favorable terms in New York in 1828.
One of the immediate beneficiaries was Hamilton, which had not been on the original canal route. With the new money at its disposal, the Ohio General Assembly in 1828 authorized a one-mile lateral canal into Hamilton.
Construction of the Hamilton Basin, as the canal link was called, prevented Hamilton from possibly becoming a commercial ghost town.
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Journal-News, Sunday, Oct. 28, 1990
John Woods' career continued after Congress
(This is the second of two columns on the career and contributions of John Woods.)
By Jim Blount
Rep. John Woods would have earned his place in local history on the basis of his two productive terms in the United States Congress. His efforts in Washington helped save Ohio's canal system and bring its benefits to Hamilton.
But the 33-year-old Woods didn't rest on his laurels when his second congressional term expired in 1828.
Instead, he worked for a number of Hamilton improvements, including schools, turnpikes, a water-power system, three railroads and the merger of Hamilton and Rossville.
After leaving Congress, Woods became owner of the Hamilton Intelligencer in 1829 and a year later its editor. He sold the weekly newspaper in 1832 to Lewis D. Campbell.
In January 1845 he was elected state auditor by the Ohio General Assembly and served two three-year terms until 1851.
Woods also was on local committees on a variety of civic matters. He suggested formation of several of these groups which promoted the growth and stability of the area.
During the 1830s and 1840s, Woods was associated with several area turnpikes. For example, he was president of the Hamilton, Rossville, Darrtown, Oxford and Fairhaven Turnpike and a director of the Cincinnati & Hamilton Turnpike.
He was an original director of the Hamilton & Rossville Hydraulic in the 1840s, serving mostly behind the scenes to secure political and financial support.
Woods had a strong hand in the political and financial negotiations that brought three railroads into Hamilton in the late 1840s and early 1850s.
He joined Lewis D. Campbell in drafting the original charter for the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad in 1846, was one of its original incorporators in the same year and remained a CH&D director until his death in 1855.
From 1852 through 1854, Woods was president of the Eaton & Hamilton Railroad, a 28-mile line which opened May 1, 1853. This line eventually connected Hamilton to Chicago via Richmond, Muncie and other Indiana points and remains in use today as part of the Norfolk Southern system.
From 1851 until his death in 1855, Woods was president of the Junction Railroad. Through his leadership, the Junction overcame several obstacles that had delayed the road which would link Hamilton, Oxford and Indianapolis. Construction started in September 1853, but Woods didn't live to see it open in 1859.
Woods' final project was unification of Hamilton on the east side of the Great Miami River and Rossville on the western bank. The two towns had been commercial rivals since the formation of Rossville in 1804, and earlier attempts at merging the communities had failed.
As president of the Junction Railroad, which would serve both towns, Woods saw great advantages in a merger.
In October 1853, Woods was a Hamilton representative on a joint committee considering unification.
Jan. 5, 1854, Woods opened his home for a dinner for leaders in the two towns. He used the event to express his views, and as president of the company, he offered to have a free bridge built under the Junction Railroad's proposed bridge between Hamilton and Rossville.
Within a few weeks, Woods joined Thomas Millikin, M. C. Ryan, William Hunter, Samuel Snively and Alfred Thomas on a joint committee which drafted the terms and conditions of combining the communities.
At an election in April 1854 the merger was approved by a margin of 261 votes out of 719 cast. It was favored by 68.9 percent in Hamilton (331 for, 149 against) and 66.5 percent of Rossville residents, a total of 490 for and 229 against.
The Hamilton-Rossville merger was completed in February 1855, but 60-year-old John Woods didn't live long enough to see the full results of his leadership. He died July 30, 1855.
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