Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 1994
Darrtown was 'high, dry and healthful,' Conrad Darr's 1814 advertisement claimed
By Jim Blount
The "high, dry and healthful situation can not be exceeded by none in the state," boasted a Butler County developer in describing his available real estate. Conrad Darr also emphasized there were "more than 50 never-failing springs" near Darr's Town -- now Darrtown -- in his advertisements in weekly newspapers in 1814.
In 1802, Conrad Darr, Robert Ogle and William Ogle -- all from Pennsylvania -- paid $800, or $1.25 an acre, for the 640 acres in Section 28 of Milford Township. Darr and his wife, Catherine, established their family in the southern half of the section while the Ogles split the remaining 320 acres.
After farming some of the land for 10 years, Darr laid out a town, gave it his name, recorded the plat April 4, 1814, and placed ads in area newspapers. His description of the land started with this 82-word sentence:
"Laid out by the subscriber, a new town west of the Great Miami in Butler County, called Darr's Town, nearly between the towns of Hamilton and Eaton, being about nine miles from the former and about 17 miles from the latter, and very nearly on the line from Lebanon to Oxford; being situated on the farm where the subscriber has lived upwards of 10 years; and for a high, dry and healthful situation can not be exceeded by none in the state."
The ad continued with a reference to the "more than 50 never-failing springs" in the vicinity.
"Also within ninety poles of the town," the ad said, "is a seat for water works, which promises early and superior advantages to almost any in the county. Also, a grist mill, building within one mile of the town, together with a number of both grist and saw mills in complete operation, within three or four miles of said town.
"This town being in the middle of the richest part of the Miami country and uniting so many superior advantages, together with the solicitations of a number of merchants and mechanics, have induced the subscriber to commence on Thursday, the 5th day of May next, and continue from day to day until the whole be sold or offered."
Darr said terms of the sale would "be made known the first morning of the sale," and they "will be easier to be complied with than what is common in this country."
He said "the plan of said town can be seen either at the recorder's office or with the subscriber. All kinds of mechanics, merchants, etc., are particularly invited to attend."
Early county histories identify Abraham (or Abram) Darr -- not Conrad Darr -- as Darrtown's first resident and first merchant, possibly before the town was platted. Later, he was a Milford Township justice of the peace.
Abraham Darr also became the town's first postmaster in 1825, operating the service from his store and tavern. The post office continued for 82 years -- from Jan. 18, 1825, until Jan. 31, 1907.
The early histories report Conrad Darr, the town's founder, donated land for a Darrtown Town Hall, which was built in 1826 or 1827. It doubled as a church. A Darrtown school was built by George Howard, and a cemetery was laid out in by Thomas Cooch and a Mr. Markle.
Now, 180 years after its founding, Darrtown remains an unincorporated community in the southwestern corner of Milford Township, northwest of Hamilton and east of Oxford.
For about 30 years, starting in the mid 1950s, Darrtown received frequent mention on national sports pages because of the accomplishments of a resident.
Walter "Smokey" Alston -- then an unknown minor league manager -- was hired to manage the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954.
His achievements during the 23 years he directed the team in Brooklyn and Los Angeles -- including winning the National League pennant seven times and the World Series four times -- earned Alston induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N. Y., in 1983.
Alston - who remained a resident of Darrtown - died Oct. 1, 1984.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 1994
Irish native Samuel Dick developed land along the Great Miami River
By Jim Blount
Samuel Dick contributed much to the early development of Ross Township and Rossville, the town founded in 1804 on the west side of the Great Miami River, opposite Hamilton. He wasn't an original owner of Rossville and never lived there. But the native of Ireland was instrumental in the growth of the community which merged with Hamilton in 1855.
Dick was born April 21, 1764, in Antrim County, and orphaned at a young age. In 1783, at age 19, he immigrated to the United States, first to Philadelphia and Baltimore. Later, near Gettysburg, Pa., Dick worked as a brandy distiller for a farmer. When he earned enough to buy a horse, saddle and bridle, he crossed the Appalachians to western Pennsylvania. Again, Dick was employed as a distiller.
There he met Martha Allen Gillespie, of Washington County, who became his bride in the winter of 1785-86. Four years later, the couple -- with two children -- risked the trip down the Ohio River to Cincinnati.
Determined Native Americans resisted settlement in the Northwest Territory. In response, President George Washington and Secretary of War Henry Knox raised an army to quell the Indians. It took four years - and the destruction of two armies - to accomplish.
Meanwhile, in two-year-old Cincinnati -- with fewer than 200 residents -- Dick opened a tavern and a grocery business. His customers included the Indian-fighting armies of Generals Josiah Harmar, Arthur St. Clair and Anthony Wayne.
Wayne's Aug. 20, 1794, victory over the Indians at Fallen Timbers and the 1795 Treaty of Greenville, renewed interest in the rich land west of the Great Miami River.
In the 1801 sale of that public land, Dick purchased a full section of rich bottomland in what later became Ross Township in Butler County. In 1802 he moved to his 640-acre tract on the river below the mouth of Indian Creek. There, in Section 34 of Ross Township, Samuel and Martha Dick raised four sons and five daughters.
In October 1803 he won election to the Ohio General Assembly. He didn't seek re-election and never again was a candidate for public office.
Instead, Dick farmed and operated a grist mill, built for him in 1805 by Jacob Hyde. The mill -- in operation for 75 years -- was a commercial center in Ross Township for more than a quarter of a century.
Dick's Mill also became known as Dick's Ford or Dick's Crossing. The ford -- near the county's southern boundary -- afforded one of the few relatively safe crossings along the Great Miami River before bridges were built. An 1882 Butler County history called it "the original ford for the entire northwestern part of Butler County, and a large area of country in Indiana."
A Dick's Mills post office served the area from Jan. 15, 1819, until July 31, 1834. Postmasters at Dick's Mills were George Dick (a son of Samuel), who served from its opening until his death in 1828, and his widow, Jane Dick, who filled the post until the office closed. The post office moved to Venice (Ross) after the opening of the first Venice Bridge, which was built southwest of Dick's Mill in Hamilton County.
Samuel Dick also owned a saw mill on Indian Creek, a little more than a mile below Millville. It was built for him in 1818, but operated by Jesse Monroe before it was destroyed by fire.
Although he resided about six to seven miles south of Rossville, Samuel Dick combined with Sutherland in developing the town. His oldest daughter, Elizabeth, was the wife of Joseph Wilson, a Rossville merchant who became the town's first postmaster in 1819.
Dick also was a charter member of the board of trustees of the Miami Bridge Company, which opened the first span connecting Hamilton and Rossville in 1819. He held that post for nearly 30 years (1817-1846). With 30 shares, Dick was one of the largest stockholders in the privately-owned toll bridge.
The 82-year-old native of Ireland died Aug. 4, 1846. He was buried in Millville beside his wife, who had died 13 years earlier.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 1994
Hamilton High School football started with 16-13 victory in 1891
By Jim Blount
"Hughes came up with their shouters, class yells and banners flying, but went away in silence, having been defeated in a stubborn contest," said an 1891 newspaper report of "the first game of football ever played in Hamilton."
"About 500 people assembled at the Fairgrounds" for the Thanksgiving afternoon game Nov. 26, 1891, won by Hamilton High School, 16-13. "Our boys did nobly," said the Daily Democrat. "The day was a perfect one for the play and the grounds were in good condition" for the game with Hughes High School of Cincinnati.
Hamilton's starting lineup for that inaugural game, according to the newspaper (which didn't include first names), was Morton and Sheehan, ends; Lewis and Hooven, tackles; James and Stace, guards; Giffen, center; Pfau, quarterback; Lewellen and Bender, halfbacks; and Shoemaker, fullback.
Lewellen was Hamilton's star, scoring three touchdowns, then worth four points each, while Shoemaker kicked a pair of two-point conversions. The 13 Hughes points included a field goal (then five points), a safety (two points) and a TD and conversion.
As time ran out in darkness, the newspaper said, "the Hamilton crowd yelled until hoarse, carried Lewellen and Shoemaker to the dressing room on their shoulders, and cheering escorted both teams to the city."
"The Hughes eleven were handsomely entertained by Hamilton at Stroble's" at 13 South Third Street. Stroble's, according to a city directory, offered "cigars, tobacco, sporting goods and restaurant," featuring "oysters, fish and game."
Despite the success, Hamiltonians had to wait seven years to see another high school game in the city. Hughes returned on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 24, 1898, to meet Central High School at Lindenwald Park.
"The Hamilton boys were to play the Miami University picked team," the Democrat said, "but, for reasons best known to themselves, they let the management of the local team know that they could not come."
The newspaper said Hughes "holds the Tri-State high school championship, having won the honor in a hotly-contested series of games."
It also said Hamilton prepared by taking "additional brawn from outside the school." Using ringers -- players who had graduated, or were not attending school -- was a practice common in the early decades of unregulated high school sports.
The reported Hamilton starting lineup included Zeller at center; Forbes and VanDerveer, guards; Van Ausdall and Rook, tackles; Linn and Frechtling, ends; W. Semler, quarterback; P. Semler and Morton, halfbacks; and Andrews, fullback.
The 1898 game, observed a writer for the Democrat, "was not a brilliant success from a point of playing or of attendance. Neither side showed much skill and at the end of two 25-minute halves, the contest was declared a draw without a point having been scored."
"The Hughes team showed considerable practice and did comparatively good work, but where they excelled in practice, they fell off in weight and were not strong enough to make a good showing with the Hamilton players.
"On the other hand," the writer said, "the Hamilton team had no practice whatever and, while all of the members had played football before, they had never played together and with their want of concerted action, their superior strength made it but an even battle with the visitors."
"The small crowd," the writer said, "had a depressing effect on the players and they manifested but little interest in their work." The 1898 players were seeking more than moral support. They shared the admission income.
"There were about 100 spectators, and each football player's pro rata of the gate receipts was 30 cents," the writer explained. By contrast, he said, the 1891 game at the Fairgrounds had netted each player $12.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 1994
Hamilton High School's Athletic Field hosted first football game in 1922
By Jim Blount
"Hamilton is favored with one of the best athletic stadiums in this section of the country for a high school, and with one or two more slight improvements, the field will be perfect," proclaimed a local sports writer after the first game at the Athletic Field, known in recent years as Garfield Stadium.
The facility on the northwest corner of Dayton Street and Fair Avenue was the home field for Big Blue football teams for 45 seasons.
Games were played there on Saturday afternoons and Friday nights from 1922 until the school was split after the 1958 season. It also was home for the reunited Big Blue from 1986 through 1993. Both Taft and Garfield high schools used it during the 1959 season, and Garfield through 1979, the last season for two public high school teams in Hamilton.
This year, the Big Blue will return to the field behind the school on Eaton Avenue, site of its home games from 1980 through 1985.
Thanks to the generosity of a 1922 graduate, Coach Ed Mignery's team will be playing in an enlarged and modernized complex. It has been named Virgil M. Schwarm Stadium in honor of his $500,000 contribution to the project. The first game will be Friday, Sept. 2, vs. Western Hills.
Coach Dana King's team christened the Athletic Field in impressive style Saturday afternoon, Oct. 7, 1922. After opening the season with a 20-0 win Sept. 30 at Richmond, Ind., HHS overwhelmed Miami Military Institute of Germantown, 84-0, in its home debut. The 84 points surpassed an 83-0 shellacking of Lawrenceburg, Ind., in 1915, and remains the most points ever scored by a Big Blue football team.
Hamilton's starting lineup that day included LaVerne Leichtle and Mark Crawford, ends; Edward Redlin and David Redlin, tackles; Theodore Richardson and Stewart Crull, guards; Herbert Rapp, center; Charles "Ludd" Mason, quarterback; John Mancos and Al Stephan, halfbacks; and Stanford Bartlett, fullback.
The field was dedicated two weeks later, Saturday afternoon, Oct. 21, with the Big Blue beating Cincinnati East Side (later Withrow), 21-12. In Columbus that day, the new $1.5 million Ohio Stadium was dedicated as Ohio State played Ohio Wesleyan.
"Surrounded by a high board fence is a beautiful gridiron, laid out to perfection and with sod on every inch of it," reported Don B. Reed in describing the new Hamilton layout. "As a background, bleachers rise on both sides of the field, capable of seating more than 3,000 rooters."
"Local football fans were more than pleased with the fine appearance of the new athletic field," Reed noted after the first game. "The new bleachers on both sides of the field proved a wonderful improvement over the old method of standing along the sidelines." Previously, home games had been played in the infield of the race track at the Butler County Fairgrounds.
The new facility was tested Nov. 11, 1922, when Middletown came to town. "By far the greatest crowd that ever gathered in Hamilton for a football game was present. Estimates ran all the way for 4,000 to 8,000 and in our opinion about 6,500 people crowded into the enclosure," said Reed in reporting a 21-0 Big Blue victory.
HHS won eight of its nine games in 1922, including six shutout victories, and claimed to be "champions of Southern Ohio." The only loss, 13-7, was at Dayton Stivers Oct. 14.
In its initial season, the Athletic Field was shared by three teams. It also was home for two teams sponsored by the American Legion (football and soccer). Later, it also would be the home field for Hamilton Catholic and Badin high school teams, and Hamilton's junior high schools.
Improvements were made at the Athletic Field in succeeding years, including the addition of a pressbox and more fencing in 1923.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 1994
Night football introduced in 1934; $2,400 lighting system installed
By Jim Blount
Night high school football started in Hamilton 60 years ago when city and school officials cooperated in installing a $2,400 lighting system at the Athletic Field at Fair Avenue and Dayton Street.
"The system will be erected next week by the city under supervision of Charles Miller, superintendent of the municipal electric department," said the newspaper in reporting the outcome of a meeting Friday afternoon, Sept. 7, 1934, in the city manager's office.
Making the decision were City Manager Russell P. Price; C. N. Teaff, director of public works; D. R. Baker, superintendent of schools; C. W. White, Hamilton High School principal; Kenneth Koger, faculty manager; and Ray Tilton, head football coach.
"The system is to be erected at a cost not to exceed $2,400," said the meeting report. "The cost will be paid from athletic association funds. Although the athletic funds are reported to be low at this time, a satisfactory arrangement was made for payment to the city for all labor and materials."
The newspaper said "night football had been under serious consideration here for the past five years, but it was not until the past week that plans began to take definite form."
Hamilton was not among the leaders in switching from Saturday afternoon games to night contests. "Practically every other major high school in Ohio is equipped with a lighting plant for night football," the newspaper observed.
The opener - scheduled for Friday night, Sept. 14 - was postponed 24 hours when the installation of lights on eight standards required another day of work.
Saturday, Sept. 15, 1934 - eight days after approval of the project - Hamilton High School whipped Terrace Park, 45-0, before "a near capacity crowd . . . in spite of threatening weather," observed the Journal-News.
Ticket prices for the game, which started at 8:15 p.m., were 35 cents for adults and 10 cents for children.
Hamilton's starting lineup for the first home night game included Homer Barger and Jim Stephenson, ends; Art Larrison and John Berglund, tackles; Walter Beer and Tom Blevins, guards; John Morner, center; Harold Stapleton, quarterback; Ray Wright and Dave Warford, halfbacks; and Frank Clair, fullback.
For Clair, it was the start of a distinguished football career. After HHS, he played at Ohio State and professionally for the Washington Redskins. Following assistant coaching jobs in U. S. colleges, Clair became a head coach in the Canadian Football League (professional). His teams won the Grey Cup five times between 1951 and 1969, earning him induction into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.
The 1934 schedule included five home games under lights. All of the games were shutouts with the Big Blue amassing 143 points in winning four of the contests: Terrace Park (45-0); Hartwell (38-0); Dayton, Ky. (47-0); and Cincinnati Purcell (13-0). The only home night loss that season was a 13-0 decision to Cincinnati Withrow.
Additional bleachers also were installed for the 1934 season, increasing seating capacity to 4,000. The Athletic Field -- known in recent years as Garfield Stadium -- had opened in 1922 with seats for about 3,000 fans.
The stadium was home for HHS teams from 1922 until 1958, and from 1986 through the 1993 season. This year, Big Blue home games will be played at Virgil. M. Schwarm Stadium behind the school on Eaton Avenue. The first game will be Friday, Sept. 2, vs. Western Hills.
Ray Tilton -- who later served 15 years as Butler County auditor -- was in his first season as head coach in 1934. He replaced Lew Hirt (1930-1933).
Tilton's 1934 squad won seven of 10 games. In eight seasons (1934-1941) his Big Blue teams won 60, lost 10 and tied four times, an 81 percent win rate, and two of his teams claimed state championships.
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