Journal-News, Wednesday, April 6, 1994
West Side isolated after March 1913 flood
By Jim Blount
Although acknowledged as the hardest-hit industry in the area by the March 25, 1913, flood along the Great Miami River, a 19-year-old Hamilton paper firm was quick to share its resources with the most-devastated community in the path of the rampaging waterway.
The submerged Champion mill on North B Street burned to the muddy water line when a fire erupted at about 1 a.m. Wednesday, March 26, about 16 hours after flood water started entering the plant. Champion's loss in the double disaster was estimated at more than $1.7 million.
Worse yet, was Hamilton's human loss. At least 200 people died in Hamilton during the flood as the unruly river spread from the Miami-Erie Canal (now Erie Highway) on the east to C and D streets on the west. As many as 85 perished later.
Of immediate concern was the plight of thousands of Hamiltonians who survived the worst flood along the 160-mile Great Miami River. More than 10,000 people were reported homeless -- most of them residing in the lower elevations east of the river.
On the higher, more fortunate west side, major problems appeared as the water subsided.
The flood had divided Hamilton when it swept away all four bridges and severed public utility lines crossing the river. That meant the city's water and electric services -- which originated on the east side of town -- weren't available to the west side.
For five weeks after the disaster -- while Hamilton remained under martial law -- Champion fed water and electricity to the isolated part of the city.
The paper mill's boiler room, steam-driven pumps and generators had escaped major damage. As soon as connections could be completed, the crippled mill shared its water and electricity with its west side neighbors.
First ward residents experienced a temporary scare April 11, when service had to be suspended while the Champion pumps were repaired. "As a result," a newspaper said, "the reservoir and fire mains are empty and the ward is without water, except for private pumps and cisterns, for either fire protection or domestic use."
The article also said the city would soon bring in a diver to determine what had happened to a 24-inch water main which crossed the river. "It is believed to have broken and been washed away" during the flood, the article said.
Earlier. because of water problems, other precautions had been ordered throughout the city. Residents were urged not to use candles for light to reduce the chance of fire. It also was suggested that all water be boiled before used or consumed.
Overall, First Ward residents were better off than their neighbors east of the river where extensive repairs were required on municipal water treatment and distribution facilities, delaying a normal, safe flow for months.
"The Champion Coated Paper Co., through its president, Peter G. Thomson, has done a fine thing for the people of the First Ward, and also for the people of the entire city of Hamilton," the Journal declared in a May 1913 edition.
Mayor J. A. Holzberger asked Champion to bill the city for its services. Thomson acknowledged that for five weeks Champion had "furnished the citizens of West Hamilton with pure water in abundance from our driven wells, besides keeping the reservoir filled at all times as a precaution against fire. To render this service has cost this company in coal and labor, several thousand dollars.
"We have been advised," Thomson said, "that the city is willing to pay for the cost of supplying this water and would still feel under great obligations to this company for the accommodation made under such adverse conditions."
"After full consideration," Thomson said, "we have decided that we will make no charge whatever for supplying this water, but will donate this amount to the City of Hamilton. We would ask, however, that, if it is possible, the water rent of the citizens of West Hamilton be remitted during the period in which we furnished same," the Champion executive insisted.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, April 13, 1994
Ten people started Champion mill in 1894
By Jim Blount
"We started with one coater," and "I carried that paper over the hot line that first day," recalled Charlie Soule, one of 10 people involved in initiating production at the Champion Coated Paper Company 100 years ago.
Soule's association with the Hamilton mill -- now part of Champion International Corp. -- continued for more than 65 years until his death in 1959. When he arrived in 1894, at age 19, he already had three years experience in paper coating.
Champion's founder, Peter G. Thomson -- in addition to gaining patent rights and financial backing from the Champion Card and Paper Company in Massachusetts -- also asked the company's president to send some experienced workers to help start the Hamilton coating mill.
Soule, a reel runner, was one of three sent to Hamilton. He was accompanied by Jerry Flinn, a color man, and Tom McDonald, a coater.
They were part of a seven-man crew which reported to Frank Williams, mill superintendent, the morning of April 15, 1894, to begin production at the plant on Seven Mile Pike (now North B Street).
Others in the gas-lit plant -- who were paid $1 for a 10-hour day -- were Arthur Jackson, operating the Hamilton-built Corliss engine that furnished power to the mill; and Jim Lyons, who fired the boiler. With Thomson in the office were James Metcalf, secretary-treasurer; and Miss Kitty Kinzer, Thomson's secretary-stenographer.
Joining the production crew the second day were Bill Kuth, calender man, and William Weiser, helper.
Within three weeks, there were 25 employees, including James C. Giffen, shipping clerk; Harry Sheley, finisher; William T. Shank, calender man; Jacob Zeller, calender helper; Harry Despond, cutter; Elizabeth Doellman, cutter; Mary Lobar, cutter; Rose Spindeler and Bertie Tabler, sorters; Jim Knox, color room helper; Jim Ford, coater helper; Milton Hill, coater helper; and Richard Kelch, box factory.
Those Champion pioneers didn't make paper. The company didn't produce paper in Hamilton until June 1902. For eight years, the local plant only coated paper, turning out about 100 to 150 tons a week in its first two years.
The first paper to be coated -- a 25-inch, 300-pound roll -- had been made in the Fordham Mill, opposite Champion on the east side of the Great Miami River. The first order -- for the Chatfield and Wood Company in Cincinnati -- wasn't shipped until May 4.
Thomson built the Hamilton mill because he believed paper and printing demands were changing, pushed by such improvements as the halftone process. Starting in the late 1880s, halftones began replacing wood cuts and steel or copper engravings in newspapers, magazines and catalogs.
But existing rough grades of paper slowed the transition. The market demanded coated paper (sometimes called enameled paper). The coating filled hollow spots and provided a smooth, ink-receptive surface for the varied shades of the halftones.
Patents for coating machines were owned by Charles H. Gage, president of the Champion Card and Paper Co. of Pepperell, Mass. Thomson acquired perpetual rights to the patents by granting Gage half interest in the $100,000 Hamilton mill.
Thomson's announcement to prospective customers said his Hamilton firm was "the western branch of the Champion Card and Paper Company of East Pepperell, Mass., and is intended to supply the trade with coated papers."
"Its territory," he said, "covers all the west and south, west of Buffalo and Pittsburgh (including the latter), and hereafter orders for enameled book, lithograph and label papers will be supplied from this mill, while the mill at East Pepperell, Mass., will confine its trade in these goods to the eastern market."
Thomson said "the specialty of this mill (Hamilton) will be enameled paper, the consumption of which is increasing constantly, printers having found that no other paper will give such excellent results."
Hamilton was chosen as the site of the western mill, Thomson explained, because of "the purity of its water, its proximity to numerous paper mills in the Miami Valley, its central location and nearness to the principal dealers, and the excellence of its shipping facilities."
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Journal-News, Wednesday, April 20, 1994
France eager to retain Ohio in 1749
By Jim Blount
Forty-two years before the United States Army started building Fort Hamilton, France believed it owned this region. To reassert its claim to the area, the governor of New France authorized a combined diplomatic and military expedition under the direction of Pierre Joseph Celoron, sieur de Blainville.
The 56-year-old captain -- previously in command of French outposts at Niagara, Detroit and Mackinac -- was ordered to emphasize France's ownership of the land north of the Ohio River. His expedition also was meant to warn traders from British colonies to leave the region, and to persuade the Native Americans residing there that they should trade exclusively with the French.
For most of the 140 years after England had founded Jamestown in 1607 and France had established its first settlement at Quebec in 1608, the North American domains of the European rivals had been separated by the rugged Appalachian range.
During that period, the French developed a lucrative government-controlled fur trade with the Indians west of the mountains while the British built colonies -- including farming and industry -- on the east coast.
Those contrasting economic policies influenced population trends. By 1750, British colonists in North America outnumbered their French counterparts by a 20-1 ratio (about 1.6 million to 80,000).
In the 1740s, however, English colonists had started to replace the French in dealing with the Native Americans. Virginians and Pennsylvanians were offering the Indians a better deal for pelts. Fur trapped and prepared by the Miami, Shawnee and other Ohio-Indiana tribes found its way to Philadelphia and New York instead of Montreal.
More recently, the British government had authorized settlement in the region. The Ohio Company -- chartered May 19, 1749, by King George II of England -- was granted 500,000 acres on the upper Ohio.
To thwart the move of British colonists into the Ohio Valley, the French governor, Comte de Galissonniere, ordered Blainville's 1949 mission into the region. It would take about five months and cover, by various estimates, from 2,000 to 3,000 difficult miles.
Blainville left Montreal June 15 with about 250 men, including 20 French regulars, 180 Canadian militia and about 30 Indians. In the group was a priest, Father Joseph Pierre de Bonnecamps, whose journal supplemented the commander's reports.
The French force headed southwest from Montreal along the St. Lawrence River to Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. From the latter, Blainville moved by smaller streams and portage to the upper part of the Allegheny River, which, with the Monongahela River, forms the Ohio River at present Pittsburgh.
By Mid-August 1749, he had reached the eastern border of what would become the state of Ohio.
To reassert the authority of King Louis XV over the region, Blainville's men placed 7x11-inch lead plates at the mouths of Wheeling Creek and the Muskingum, Great Kanawha and Great Miami rivers.
The six inscribed plates also were to remind the British colonists that they didn't belong in the area - a hollow warning because they were lettered in French. Many of the English-speaking fur traders venturing west of the Appalachians, who were unable to read and write their own language, couldn't decipher French.
During the journey, Blainville witnessed examples of the presence of his rivals. In an Indian village at Logstown (about 18 miles below present Pittsburgh) he saw six English colonist with 150 packs of fur. Later, he found five English-speaking traders at Shawneetown near the mouth of the Scioto River (present Portsmouth, Ohio).
He planted the last of his six plates Aug. 31, 1749, on the northeast bank of the confluence of the Ohio and Great Miami rivers, about 25 miles southwest of the site of Fort Hamilton, which would be constructed in 1791.
At the mouth of the Great Miami, he turned north for what would be, physically, the most difficult part of the campaign - and also his most disappointing encounter.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, April 27, 1994
Indians rebuffed Blainville's 1749 expedition
During the first two weeks of September 1749, a French force of about 250 men, following the Great Miami River, moved north through the future site of Hamilton toward an important rendezvous with a Miami leader.
Celoron de Blainville's expedition had started from Montreal June 15, 1749, on a multi-purpose mission along the Allegheny, Ohio and Great Miami rivers.
Blainville (also spelled Bienville) was charged with reasserting France's claim to the Ohio region, warning British colonists against trespassing and renewing friendship and trade with Native Americans in the area.
With great ceremony, he left behind six lead plates. The last was placed at the mouth of the Great Miami River - which the French called the Rock River - Aug. 31.
That plate said:
"The year 1749, we, Celoron, Knight of the Royal and Military Order of St. Louis, Captain, commanding a detachment sent by the orders of M. the Marquis de la Galossoniere, governor-general of Canada, upon the Beautiful River, otherwise called the Ohio, accompanied by principal officers of our detachment, have buried at the point formed by the right bank of the Ohio and the left bank of Rock River, a leaden plate, and have attached to a tree the arms of the king. In testimony whereof, we have drawn up and signed with Messrs. the officers, the present official statement."
Most of the trip had been downstream, but the move from the juncture of the Ohio and Great Miami rivers was upstream, a feat complicated by the condition of the river.
"Owing to the scarcity of water in this river," Blainville wrote, "it took 13 days in ascending it." Because of the low level of the Great Miami, about half of his force had to travel over land to a major stop at Pickawillany (north of present Piqua), then the center of the Miami fur industry.
In preceding years, the French had lost their monopoly in the fur trade with Native Americans in the region to British colonists from Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Instrumental in that business reversal was a Miami chief, Old Britain (also known as Old Briton, LaDemoiselle and Memeskia), who had earned that name switching his allegiance to British interests.
Blainville was there to convince Old Britain that he should revert to his old ways and grant the French exclusive access to fur coming from the Ohio-Indiana region.
But the Miami leader wasn't receptive and by Sept. 20, Blainville began a portage to the north-flowing Maumee River. The expedition -- traveling via Fort Detroit -- returned to Montreal Nov. 9, 1749.
In his report on the five-month campaign, according to one translation, Blainville said "all I can say is that the (Indian) nations of these places are very ill disposed against the French and entirely devoted to the English."
In January 1750, Old Britain punctuated his rejection of the French when he had three captured French soldiers executed and cut off the ears of a fourth man before sending him back to the governor of New France.
In June 1752 about 200 French and Indians returned to Pickawillany, where they destroyed the village on the Great Miami River. Fourteen Miami and one trader were killed in the assault, including Old Britain, who was boiled and eaten.
Historians disagree on the starting event and dates of the French and Indian War. Some consider the 1752 Pickawillany raid the first blow in an epochal struggle between France and Great Britain in North America.
The French and Indian War -- part of the global Seven Years' War -- ended Feb. 10, 1763, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris by Great Britain, France and Spain.
In that document, Spain gave up Florida to England, and France ceded New France (Canada) and its territory east of the Mississippi River to the British, retaining only two islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Within a dozen years of the treaty, the British would face a new challenge in North America. This time its authority would be contested by rebellious English-speaking colonists, not a foreign power.
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