Journal-News, Monday, June 7. 1993
Potter Park course encouraged business
(First of two columns on Potter Park Municipal Golf Course)
By Jim Blount
Ellis M. Potter moved to New York after being rebuffed by leaders in his home town, but he didn't hold a grudge against Hamilton. Thirty-three years later, the disappointed Potter presented an enduring gift to his native city.
His 1925 contribution of 100 acres became Potter Park, Hamilton's first municipal golf course.
Potter was a "man who never forgot his boyhood home and endeavored to create for it an atmosphere of confidence, faith and development," said the writer of his obituary.
Potter specified that the legacy must be used for a public golf course, but it wasn't because he played the game or had an interest in it. In fact, he wasn't a golfer.
Instead, Potter said business experience and personal observations had convinced him that in the 1920s a gold course was no longer a municipal luxury, but a requirement for a city which expected to prosper and grow.
Potter announced his 100-acre gift to the city at the YMCA during a Nov. 20, 1925 meeting of fund-raisers for the proposed Anthony Wayne Hotel.
"This has been my dream for years," Potter said. "I left Hamilton in 1892 when a young man, and three years before I acquired this land. Through all these years I have held it for the very thing we are now trying to do."
The successful businessman recalled the rolling, wooded land along New London Road as the setting for many of the happiest days of his boyhood in Hamilton.
Philanthropist Potter also said one of his first efforts at civic development was the building of a baseball diamond near the city water reservoir.
His grandfather's house, which had sat north of New London Road, had been demolished by the time Potter donated the land for the golf course.
The house had been built by William H. Miller, president of the Junction Railroad (now the CSX Hamilton-Indianapolis line). Miller was killed during the Civil War and Ellis Potter (the grandfather) eventually acquired it. Later, the property was sold to Pollock Wilson, a Cincinnati manufacturer, who spent $60,000 improving the property.
It was purchased in 1889 by Potter and two associates from John Carlisle, Wilson's son-in-law and executor. Potter later became sole owner of the house and surrounding land, including what would become the Potter Park and Miami Woods.
Potter's business career had started in Cincinnati as part of Potter, Parlin and Company and then the Kenton Baking Powder Company, which produced baking powder and sold spices, tea and coffee.
In the 1890s, he invested money in land at the west end of Main Street in Hamilton with plans to develop industry there.
About the same time, he purchased a Main Street horse-car line, which Potter planned to convert to an electric system. When his proposal didn't seem to excite city leaders, Potter issued an ultimatum; grant the trolley franchise or he would build the proposed factory in New York. He received no response and moved to New York City.
That 1892 rebuff wasn't the only time city leaders rejected Potter. A few years later he offered land for a park, but city fathers refused because they said Hamilton couldn't afford to develop the park.
Ellis M. Potter died Saturday, Nov. 23, 1929, in his residence at 31 West 69th Street in New York City.
Unfinished at the 80-year-old's death was another Hamilton project -- upscale housing near the golf course bearing his name. He was developing Oak Park Subdivision (in the Crescent Road area, north of New London Road).
Earlier, he had started Forest Hills subdivision (south of New London Pike and east of the golf course site, now including Oak Wood Road, Maple Wood Road and Elm Wood Drive).
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Journal-News, Monday, June 14,1993
Potter golf course opened in 1927
(Second of two columns on Potter Park Municipal Golf Course)
By Jim Blount
"Gold has fairly taken the city by storm" a newspaper said as Hamilton prepared to open Potter Park— its first public golf course. "Folks young and old, in all vocations, have expressed a willingness to take up the game," observed an anonymous writer. The ceremonial opening was Thursday, May 26, 1927 with play on the nine-hole, par-35 course starting the next morning.
Ellis M. Potter had donated 100 acres for the gold course Nov. 20, 1925. The property — also identified as Dingledine Woods in the 1920s — had been owned by his grandfather and Potter had played there as a boy.
Potter, successful in business in New York and Cincinnati, had acquired the rolling, wooded land along New London Road in 1889.
In the summer of 1927, according to a newspaper report, he also "gave a 100-foot boulevard to the city," which was supposed to become "a link in the gigantic boulevard system which is eventually to surround Hamilton." This tract ran through his property south of New London Pike.
Potter, who developed upscale housing in the area, petitioned for annexation of a 200-foot strip of his property along New London Pike so the city could pave the road leading to the golf course entrance.
Potter's original donation came with some stipulations. "This gift is subject only to the condition that nine holes of this golf course shall be constructed during the year 1926, and the remaining nine holes. . . shall be constructed during the year 1927," Potter said in a letter to Hamilton park commissioners.
The commission, chaired by Frederick G. Mueller, included Alien Andrews Jr. and Ben Strauss. L. J. Smith was park commissioner and supervised the construction of the course.
A city park levy had been approved by 65 percent of Hamilton voters Tuesday, Nov. 3, 1925, but that money would not be available until 1927.
To meet Potter's conditions, a public fund-raising campaign was organized to raise the $15,000 needed for work required in 1926. Frank K. Vaughn was general chairman of the successful drive which started Monday, March 1, 1926. About 4,000 people contributed money.
Fourteen months later, May 26, 1927, nearly 500 people attended the opening ceremony which included a welcoming speech by Mayor Harry J. Koehler.
The Hamilton Daily News said Park Commissioner Smith "was the recipient of many felicitations . . . for the manner in which he dressed up the ground and the beauty of the place in general."
Also praised, the newspaper said, was W. C. (Bill) Jackson, a former pro at the Butler County Country Club, who "supervised the general layout and measured off the distances of the course free of charge."
Jackson, then a pro at Camargo Country Club in Cincinnati, was part of the foursome which played the inauguration round. The other pros were John Buchannon, Butler County Country Club' Paul Stoppleman, district champion from Dayton; and L. Paige Schalk, a Hamilton native who was then pro at the Petoskey, Mich., Country Club.
About 300 memberships were sold for the opening season. "Hamilton merchants, too, have realized the possibilities of the course and have put in stocks of golf apparel and equipment," a newspaper noted as the nine-hole course opened.
The Sportsman's Supply Co., 38 High St., Hamilton, advertised a beginner's special. It included a driver or brassie, mid iron, mashie, putter, bag and ball, a "$12 value for $9.75."
The second nine holes opened Oct. 5, 1927, and 17 days later Frank K. Vaughn, who had headed the public subscription drive for the course, was crowned the first city champion when he beat Art Biedenbender, 10 and 8, in match play.
Now the 66-year-old Potter Park Golf Club, at 417 New London Road, is a 5,363-yard, 18-hole, par-69 course.
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Journal-News, Monday, June 21,1993
Gratitude inspired Twin Run donation
By Jim Blount
Thirty years ago a member of the founding family of Champion Papers made a "small" repayment to the city where the company started coating paper in 1894. What became Twin Run municipal golf course was donated to Hamilton as a tribute to the past presidents of the paper company, which will mark 100 years in Hamilton in 1994.
"This is a great day in my life to see the dream of Twin Run come true," said Dwight D. Thomson as the course was dedicated Saturday, June 22,1963.
"I don't have to tell you of the tremendous debt of Champion to Hamilton, the city of our founding. I'm happy to be able to repay the community in a small way for the good things that have happened to us since 1893," said Thomson, who had donated the land off Eaton Road May 26, 1960.
Thomson described the gift of 220 acres as "a memorial to the past presidents of Champion, whose desire always was, as mine is now, to contribute continually to the well-being and growth of Hamilton."
The five past presidents then were Peter G. Thomson, who had incorporated Champion in
1893 and was its president from 1894 until 1931; Alexander Thomson, 1931-1935; Logan Thomson, 1935-1946; Reuben B. Robertson, 1946-1950; and Reuben B. Robertson Jr., 1950-60.
Karl R. Bendetsen was president when Thomson, then chairman of the board of the Champion Paper and Fibre Company, donated an estimated $400,000 worth of land and buildings to the city. Bendetsen had assumed the post March 15, 1960.
The gift was part of Thomson's Contentment Farm, a 460-acre complex which began with his first land purchase in 1947. It had been home to Thomson's prize herd of polled Herefords.
The property conveyed to the city included a two-story residence, built in 1949, with five bedrooms and four baths; a one-story guest house, built in 1952; a tenant house; a main barn and other farm buildings. The former Thomson residence became the clubhouse for the golf course.
Thomson stipulated that a golf course must be built on the land by July 21, 1963, and that the city must maintain it in good condition for at least 10 years after its completion. Failure to meet these terms would have caused the land to become the property of the local Boy Scouts council.
The Thomson tract was accepted for the city May 26, 1960, by Mayor Robert L. Bartels and Howard F. Wilson, acting city manager. City council formally accepted it Monday, April 4, 1961, and authorized William Beckett, president of the Beckett Paper Co., to lead a public subscription campaign to raise funds for development of an 18-hole golf course.
When Thomson announced his gift, Beckett had been prepared to direct a similar financial drive to build a golf course at Darrell Joyce Park. But city leaders agreed the Thomson farm would be a better site for a second municipal course.
Council took several steps toward Twin Run development in 1961, including a decision that no taxpayer money would be used in its construction, estimated at $250,000.
Instead, golf fees were increased at Potter Park with the added income earmarked for building Twin Run and improving the Potter Course on New London Road. This revenue was to pay for $175,000 in 25-year bonds authorized by council. The other $75,000 was to come from the public fund drive.
Thomson and Mayor Robert E. Westfall participated in the formal ground breaking Monday, March 12, 1962. Three days earlier the main contract for building Twin Run had been awarded to Walter L. Follmer Inc., Hamilton, who bid $98,400.
Public play began May 30, 1963, on the 18-hole, 6,667-yard course designed by William H. Diddel, an Indianapolis golf architect.
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Journal-News, Monday, June 28,1993
City paid respects to first local soldier to die in combat in Civil War
By Jim Blount
Thousands of people came to downtown Hamilton Sunday, July 21, 1861, to honor Samuel R. John, a 20-year-old Hamilton resident.
Few of the mourners had known the native of Brookville, Ind. Instead, they were paying tribute to the city's first casualty of the Civil War, and acknowledging the shock and horror of that internal struggle which would claim the lives of about 350 Butler County men.
Corporal John was one of 111 men in a company raised in Hamilton by Captain William Clement Rossman, a local merchant. John had been a clerk in the T. V. Howell store before enlisting.
The group, known as the Hamilton Guards, left the city April 21, 1861, just nine days after the Civil War had started with the Confederate shelling of Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor in South Carolina.
The volunteers were sent to Camp Jackson, near Columbus. There they became Company F. of the Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment. After a week, the new regiment was moved to Camp Dennison, near Milford, northeast of Cincinnati.
The Hamilton Guards had enlisted for 90 days because it had been the consensus of federal leaders that the war would be over in three months. Instead, it hadn't started at the end of 90 days. Corporal John and several of his comrades re-enlisted June 15 for three years.
Seven days later, June 22, the Third Ohio was ordered into western Virginia, a region which would become the new state of West Virginia in 1863.
The unit was part of a force led by Major-General George B. McClellan which crossed the Ohio River from Bellaire, Ohio, to Benwood, Va., and advanced through Grafton and Clarksburg to Buckhannon.
Corporal John was killed Saturday, July 6, in a small fight at Middle Fork Bridge at Rich Mountain, near Buckhannon. It was the first taste of combat for the Third Ohio and John was the first member of the regiment to die.
John and a Hamilton friend, Pvt. John W. Falconer, were part of a 50-man scouting party sent out the previous day. They both were in a smaller detachment which was ordered to attack what a captain mistakenly thought to be only a few Confederates guarding the bridge.
As the Ohioans rose to charge, Falconer said, "we were met by a volley of 500 rifle balls, both from in front and a hill on our right flank, right above us and only a few yards distance."
He wrote that "Samuel R. John and myself had been together all the time, and at the first volley he was standing at my right, his shoulder touching mine, and he was shot through the body."
John's body had to be left where he fell as the small group retreated, but it was later returned to the Union army by Confederates.
John's body arrived about midnight Friday, July 19, at the Hamilton depot of the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad, where, according to a newspaper, it was received by a military escort and "a very large concourse of citizens."
Funeral services were held Sunday on the public square at the Butler County Courthouse with "a solemn and appropriate discourse. . . by the Rev. William McMillan (of the Presbyterian Church) to an audience of several thousand people."
"An immense procession followed the body to its final resting place" in Greenwood Cemetery, a newspaper reported.
Several military companies from the area — some soon to be headed for southern battlefields — marched "with reversed arms and with slow and solemn steps. At the grave, the usual salute of three volleys was fired, and the ceremony of the Grand Council of Templars performed."
Unknown to the mourners in Hamilton, that same day the first large-scale battle of the four-year war was being fought at Bull Run, near Manassas, Va., about 35 miles south of Washington, D. C.
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