Journal-News, Wednesday, March 2, 1994
Scouting mission for Wayne's army had strange conclusion in 1794
By Jim Blount
There was a cautious optimism on the Ohio frontier in 1794 as Gen. Anthony Wayne patiently built and honed his American army in preparation for a showdown with the Native Americans in the region.
Fort Hamilton -- completed in September 1791 during a previous offensive -- remained an important supply post as the Pennsylvanian readied his forces.
Wayne feared that the Indians, at the urging of the British, would attack his army before he could launch an assault. To lessen that threat, he organized a scouting system which constantly observed Indian villages and positions.
Many of his spies or rangers had learned Native American ways as captives of the Indians. His chief scout after September 1793 was William Wells, who typified the group.
Wells was born in 1769 or 1770 in western Pennsylvania. He moved with his family to Kentucky, building Wells Station about 30 miles east of Louisville, in 1779. His father was killed there by Indians in 1781, and three years later Wells was captured, taken to the interior of what became Indiana and was adopted by the Miami.
Eventually, he became the son-in-law of Little Turtle, a Miami chief who masterminded the defeat of two U. S. armies in 1790 and 1791. Wells, fighting as an Indian, had distinguished himself in both campaigns.
Sometime after defeating Gen. Arthur St. Clair's army in November 1791, Wells and Little Turtle agreed that Wells would join the American army and work for peace while Little Turtle did the same among the Native Americans.
When Wells became Wayne's chief scout, one of his colleagues was Henry Miller, who had a similar background.
Henry Miller and a brother, Christopher Miller, also had been captured near their Kentucky home and became adopted Shawnee. Henry Miller, at about the age of 24, decided to leave and return to white culture, while his brother remained with the Shawnee.
Wells and Miller were joined in a 1794 mission by Robert McClellan, who later resided periodically in Hamilton with his brother, William McClellan, operator of Hamilton's first tavern and Butler County's first elected sheriff. In 1794, William McClellan was a packhorseman working primarily out of Fort Hamilton.
Wells, Miller and McClellan were ordered to advance near the enemy's villages and take a prisoner who could provide information on Indian intentions and movements.
Their opportunity came on the banks of the Auglaize River - in what is now west-central Ohio. There they observed a trio of Indians preparing a meal, unaware they were being watched.
Wayne's scouts devised a plan -- kill two of the men and take the third prisoner. Their first shots were effective. But the survivor wasn't immediately subdued, and attempted to escape.
Wayne's scouts gave chase. When the Indian jumped off about a 20-foot embankment, McClellan followed and wrestled with him in the water and mud. When he drew a knife, McClellan countered the threat with a tomahawk.
Then Wells and Miller tied the uncooperative captive, placed him on a horse and headed toward Fort Greenville.
As they rode, Miller thought the Indian looked familiar. On impulse, he called the man by his brother's Indian name. The surprised prisoner responded and the Miller brothers were reunited.
Christopher Miller, the captive, subsequently gave Wayne the information he wanted about the Indians. Within a few days he joined his brother Henry in the productive scout detachment commanded by Captain Wells.
After Wayne's victory over the Native Americans later in the year at Fallen Timbers, Christopher Miller served as an interpreter for the Shawnee during the negotiations which led to the Treaty of Greenville in 1795.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, March 9, 1994
Mill whistle, "Voice of Champion," was timekeeper for the community
By Jim Blount
The "Voice of Champion," silent for almost 25 years, once served as a timepiece for the community as well as workers at the paper company founded by Peter G. Thomson 100 years ago. That voice was a brass steam-powered whistle atop the mill.
It announced the time seven times each day -- 7 a.m., 11:55 a.m., 12 noon, 1 p.m., 4 p.m., 4:55 p.m. and 5 p.m. -- "until sometime in the early '70s," according to Larry Anderson, now Champion's superintendent of utilities.
"It was manually operated," said Anderson, who explained "that a man stood and watched the clock" to sound it at the correct time. Another veteran employee, Ron Baker, who believes he had that responsibility, said the last time it sounded on its daily schedule was in 1970.
The Champion whistle -- which, if plans materialize, may be heard again during the Hamilton mill's 100th anniversary observance next month -- continued in limited service until April 1992, according to Bob Claypool, manager of utilities at the mill.
During its final years, it was used for tornado warnings. Its coded blasts were related to various mill operations, Claypool explained. It was last used for a warning about three years ago, Claypool said.
Through the 1950s, the Champion whistle was part of a Hamilton industrial chorus which included similar steam-driven signals at other plants. Hamilton factory whistles announced shift changes, lunch breaks and other work routines. They also served the surrounding community in various ways.
For some Hamiltonians, the whistles were wakeup calls or convenient times to check the accuracy of a watch or a household clock. For others, including boys and girls out of the sight of a parent, they were commands to go home for lunch or dinner.
But Wednesday afternoon Feb. 21, 1968, mill workers and city residents heard too much of the "Voice of Champion." That day the 1 p.m. blast continued for about 10 minutes when a valve stuck.
The Champion whistle also served the tense community in the early years of World War II when it was feared that German and Japanese planes could bomb American cities, including Hamilton.
As the city prepared for the worst, the Champion whistle sounded the start and finish of a 15-minute dim-out on the West Side during Hamilton's first air raid alert Sunday evening, Aug. 2, 1942.
The first city-wide dim-out Sunday night, Oct. 4, 1942, utilized six factory whistles (Champion, Ford Motor Company, Shuler & Benninghofen, Economy Pump, Estate Stove and Black-Clawson) to alert the community.
By late 1943, the threat of enemy bombs falling on Hamilton had ended and the whistles were no longer needed for civilian defense. But twice in 1945 the "Voice of Champion" joined a prolonged concert of industrial whistles and church bells in proclaiming V-E Day (Victory in Europe) Tuesday, May 8, and V-J Day (Victory over Japan) Tuesday, Aug. 14.
Two versions of the origin of the Champion whistle appeared in employee publications in 1954 and 1968.
"Actually, nobody knows how long men have sent a flow of steam through those steel vocal chords to make her sound off," reported the June 1954 edition of The Log. That article said it dated back to the early 1930s. But some Champion retirees and former neighbors to the North B Street mill believe there may have been an earlier whistle, and the one reportedly acquired in the 1930s was a replacement.
"She was a ship's whistle before being sent to Hamilton," said the 1954 Log article. "Herb Randall relates that Bill Wolff located the whistle at a ship salvage dealer in New Jersey," an anonymous writer explained.
A slightly different history was reported in a 1968 Chips article, based on the recollections of two Champion retirees, Charlie Moyers and Clyde Norcross.
In 1931, that article said, Herb Randall asked Clarence Bartlett to select a whistle to signal shift changes. Bartlett, a native of Chilo on the Ohio River, went to his hometown and listened to steamboats on the river. He selected a sound and "one like it was ordered to be positioned on top of the power plant," the article said.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, March 16, 1994
Quick action by workers saved equipment when 1898 flood struck Champion mill
By Jim Blount
Water, a necessity for papermaking, also has posed periodic problems for Champion's Hamilton mill during its 100-year history. Peter G. Thomson's Champion Coated Paper Company was less than four years old when the Great Miami River flooded for the sixth time in Hamilton history.
The river had inflicted damage the previous times (1805, 1814, 1828, 1847 and 1866), but in March 1898 reached a new high of more than 24 feet in the city.
Tuesday, March 22 -- after a week of rain in Hamilton -- a thunderstorm caused flash floods and washed out railroad tracks.
About 500 people were evacuated from low areas in the city overnight as the river rose an average of 2.5 feet an hour. Several parts of Hamilton were flooded by dawn Wednesday, March 23.
Water started rushing through floor boards at Champion at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. Superintendent Frank Williams had already directed action to save property and inventory.
Off-duty employees -- those residing nearby and others who could be easily contacted in a city of about 23,000 people with fewer than 250 telephones -- were called into the plant.
Belts were removed from the machinery, all of which were connected to the mill's Hamilton-built Corliss engine. The belts were stored in high places. Then crews concentrated on preserving paper. Rolls were stacked as high as humanly possible. There were no forklifts or other power-lifting devices to aid or speed the process. Rolls weighing 400 and 500 pounds were piled four and five high in the warehouse. In some instances, workers braved water waist deep and a swift current to save paper.
By 10 p.m., nothing else could be done. It was just a matter of how high the muddy water would reach - and how much damage it would cause. The workers were sent home, all but four, who couldn't reach their residences because of high water.
Harry T. Ratliff, shipping clerk; Dad Cook, millwright; Charles Soule, reel man; and Jack Weber, night watchman, remained in the mill, determined to monitor the worsening situation and minimize the loss.
They took refuge from the water atop a paster in the south part of the damp, unheated mill. Meanwhile, railroad cars loaded with coal washed away as the water swept along North B Street before the river peaked at 3 a.m. Thursday, March 24.
After the river returned within its banks Friday, March 25, Champion employees tackled the nauseous task of cleanup. With shovels, brooms and mops, the workers removed mud, water and debris.
Thanks to the preventive efforts of the night shift and other workers, the down time was slight. Three days later, machines had been repaired, the mill cleaned and all employees were back on their regular jobs.
Champion operations also were hampered by the flood's impact on the city and the region. A city water line across the river had been snapped by the undercurrent and city water, electric and gas facilities had suffered heavy damage.
One bridge, the Columbia at the south end of town, had been destroyed and the High-Main iron truss bridge was damaged. Railroad and interurban lines were disrupted for several days.
The flood took seven lives in Hamilton, four other people were reported missing and more than 170 families required assistance because their homes had been severely damaged or destroyed.
Three and a half years later, Thomson was employing more than 400 people and a newspaper noted that in less than six years -- since its opening in April 1894 -- Champion "has doubled the capacity of its plant six times, and developed from a puny infant into an industrial giant."
But Champion hadn't seen the last of the surging waters of the Great Miami River. There would be another encounter in March 1913.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, March 23, 1994
Double tragedy hit Champion in 1913; devastating fire followed record flood
By Jim Blount
A double tragedy struck Champion's Hamilton mill in March 1913 when a record flood of the Great Miami River was followed by a fire.
Between nine and 11 inches of rain had drenched the region in three days. Within 48 hours, the river in Hamilton rose from 4.8 feet to an all-time high of 34.6 feet. The full force of the flood hit Tuesday morning, March 25. By that evening, the river was as wide as three miles, stretching from present Erie Highway on the east to C and D streets on the west.
The water rushed into Champion at about 9 a.m. Tuesday and soon the boiler room was submerged. As in the March 1898 flood, employees rushed to remove belts from machinery and place them above the water's probable path.
Paper was hoisted off the floor until after 2 p.m. when the water reached shoulder level. By then three Hamilton bridges (the Black Street, High-Main and railroad) had been swept away within two hours (at 12:12 p.m. and 2:12 p.m.). The fourth, the Columbia, fell into the river at 2 a.m. Wednesday.
Leaving the mill was a challenge for the last 15 to 20 employees because the water was dangerously deep and swift. The last man in one part of the mill escaped through a skylight to the roof and then jumped to the hillside west of the plant.
Elsewhere, 10 men were stranded on the east side of North B Street without access to the safe, high ground along North D Street. Alfred Anderson was in that group. His boss in March 1913 was Homer Ferguson.
"When the water started to rise, orders came for everyone to get to safety, but Mr. Ferguson hated to see all that good paper in the shipping room being spoiled by the flood waters, and he asked us all to stay and move all the paper that we could upstairs," Anderson recalled.
"We worked as long as possible," he said, "but the water was getting too high, and was too full of logs washed from the woodpile for safe crossing."
"By 6 in the evening, the water was 15 feet high on B Street. To get across the street to No. 1 mill from where we could reach safety, we had to lay a board across three electric cables -- which were by then without electricity -- and by sitting on the board, pulled ourselves across the cables," Anderson explained. "Homer Ferguson, the head of the department, refused to cross the cables until the last of his men was safely over."
During their perilous escape, the board and additional ropes were placed across the cables, enabling the 10 men, one at a time, to be pulled across the raging water to the roof on the west side of the street -- and then to safety on the hillside.
Shortly before 1 a.m. Wednesday, March 26, fire erupted in the flooded mill, destroying everything above the water line. The loss was $1.7 million. It replaced the 1901 Champion conflagration as Hamilton's costliest fire, but it could have been worse.
Disruptions caused by the flood complicated the job of the Hamilton fire department. Only one truck could reach Champion and it was a hose wagon, not a pumper. Eventually, a pumper was brought from the Oxford.
Meanwhile, several mill employees joined the undermanned group fighting the Champion blaze. One of them was Charlie Soule, who had been one of the 10 original employees in 1894.
Soule responded when a hose connection, which was below the surface of the flood waters, broke loose. Twice he dove about 12 feet to the bottom, but to no avail. On a third try, Soule plunged into the icy, muddy water and repaired the broken line, which, according to observers, enabled firefighters to bring the flames under control and save the mill from complete ruin.
After the water receded, more than 1,000 Champion employees began a massive cleanup. They toiled with heavy hearts as the flood had taken more than 200 lives in Hamilton. At least another 85 people would die later of complications. More than 10,000 people in the city of about 35,000 were homeless.
The Hamilton Daily Republican News, in a special flood edition, said "the greatest sufferer in the Miami Valley from the March flood was the Champion Coated Paper Company of Hamilton." But within three months, the entire mill was in full operation.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, March 30, 1994
Hamilton Rotary Club 75 years old
By Jim Blount
For nearly 75 years residents of Hamilton and vicinity -- especially young people -- have been the beneficiaries of the Hamilton Rotary Club's practice of its "service above self" philosophy.
Now 165 men and women, it started in June 1919 with a nucleus of 25 men. Dr. Charles M. Brown, pastor of the Presbyterian Church, was identified as "one of the prime movers" in news accounts of its founding. The organization began Thursday, June 12, 1919, at a meeting at the YMCA chaired by Dr. Lee Good.
Two weeks later, Dr. Brown was elected president. Other founding officers were: vice president, George G. Griest, general manager of the Niles Tool Works; secretary, F. D. Chadwick, general secretary of the Hamilton YMCA; and treasurer, Max Strauss of the Strauss Brothers clothing store.
Other charter members, besides those named, were A. T. Good, Charles E. Mason, Charles D. Mathes, Charles J. Parrish, Darrell Joyce, S. D. Fitton Jr., Malcolm Bronson, Fred G. Mueller, Percy Todd, Robert D. Fisher, C. M. Eikenberry, Frank E. Barker, Frank K. Vaughn, Thomas Beckett, Father L. L. Denning, Walter L. Tobey, Homer Gard, I. T. Lincoln, Clarence Murphy and Gordon S. Rentschler.
The Hamilton club in 1994, explains Kenneth H. Snyder, sergeant-at-arms, continues as "a service organization of business and professional people who combine fellowship with a commitment to their community," but its activities and its benefactors have changed during the 75 years.
Snyder said initially the local focus was on crippled children, especially victims of polio. The children were treated to summer camp and furnished with equipment (braces, wheelchairs and iron lungs). Treatment and sometimes surgery were provided by the club. "As the devastating impact of polio diminished, the club turned to other broad-based community needs," said Snyder, a Rotarian for about 15 years.
In February 1954 the club experimented with bringing live theater to Hamilton when a member, Ryan Hall, produced and directed a variety show, Rotary Revels. In two nights on the Hamilton High School stage (then at N. Sixth and Dayton streets), the show realized more than $3,400 with tickets at $1 and $1.50.
Hall, who is still active in Rotary, also acted in a 1954 skit. Helping him produce that show were Cy Bullock, director of music; Russell Katz, director of settings and lights; Robert M. Clark, stage manager; and Ralph Colegrove, general chairman.
Rotary Revels, recently featuring popular Broadway productions, "has been the primary fund-raising source for the club," said Snyder. With proceeds from six performances of the 1994 show, "Kiss Me Kate," at Parrish Auditorium on the Hamilton Campus of Miami University, Rotary Revels will have returned more than $260,000 to community programs.
Another project, started in 1964 at the urging of the late Andrew Kornylak, is the Rotary Science Fair, sponsored jointly with the Hamilton schools. Recently more than 600 students have participated, and more than 100 people organize and judge the yearly showcase of science projects.
This year, the club completed its four-year pledge to Hamilton's bicentennial -- a $65,000 contribution which made possible the Rotary Vista Room in the new Fitton Center for Creative Arts.
The Hamilton club also has raised more than $55,000 for a worldwide project related to its original program. It's Rotary International's PolioPlus program -- launched in 1988 -- to eradicate polio, and some other children diseases, by 2005.
"The Hamilton club, since the early 1970s, has maintained one of the most active youth exchange programs in Southwest Ohio," said Snyder.
"This program arranges for foreign students to spend a year in the U. S., living in private homes as a 'family member.' It also provides the same opportunity to local students to go abroad." Snyder said participants usually develop lasting friendships and create lasting goodwill."
The Hamilton group is one of 26,000 clubs sanctioned by Rotary International in 149 nations. The world membership of more than 1.17 million men and women is guided by the Rotary motto: "Service above self."
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