336. Feb. 1, 1995 - Victory Canteen was war mother's dream: Hamilton's Victory Canteen served more than 40,000 men and women in service during two-year existence in World War II.
Journal-News, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 1995
Local Victory Canteen, "a mother's dream," welcomed men and women serving nation
By Jim Blount
"It is hard to express in words what one's feelings are. About all I can do is say thanks for everything," said the letter from Miami, Fla., written by a World War II navy machinist's mate. It was addressed to the Hamilton Victory Canteen, which a newspaper writer described as "a home for servicemen and women while they are in the community."
"I hope your men and women in the service, wherever they may be, will be treated the same as we were in Hamilton, but I doubt it," said the appreciative sailor of his reception.
"I spent six weeks in your city recently," he explained. "I visited the canteen often, almost every day I was in town. I enjoyed very much the coffee, cookies, magazines and the floor shows put on by the children." He also said he had "the opportunity to play the radio and hear the news broadcasts" and "to read the daily papers, which were always handy."
"I enjoyed meeting many of the folks who made this place possible," he said, and "also those who gave their time in working" at the center at the northwest corner of Court and South Front streets, opposite the courthouse.
He was one of many men and women in uniform who visited Hamilton during World War II. Besides those home on furloughs, hundreds of others came on assignments related to the many local war industries. The Victory Canteen -- open 24 hours a day during most of its existence -- offered them some comforts and socialization while they were here.
Facilities included a recreation area, a coed lounge, plus separate areas for men and women, and a kitchen. The space was remodeled through generous gifts of money, materials, equipment, talent and time from people in the community.
It was an ambitious project of the Mothers and Dads of Sons in the Service. In 1943, when the canteen opened, Mrs. Luther Martin was president of the local MDSS organization. Chairing the canteen committee was Mrs. Gus Skalkos.
"Mrs. Skalkos was the driving force behind the establishment of the canteen," the Journal-News reported. "A mother's dream -- visualizing the many services and little courtesies which could be extended the hundreds of service folks in this community while away from their homes -- was the beginning of Hamilton's Victory Canteen," the newspaper explained.
"It is the cheerful giving and the willingness of all the citizens to help which makes an endeavor of this type a great success," observed Mrs. Skalkos when the canteen observed its first anniversary.
That year, more than 17,500 uniformed men and women signed its guest register. More than 40,000 experienced its hospitality before it closed.
The center hosted more than 1,000 visitors the last weekend in January 1944. That included about 400 in uniform who enjoyed a chicken dinner and entertainment Sunday, Jan. 30, to celebrate President Franklin D. Roosevelt's 62nd birthday and highlight the 1944 infantile paralysis (polio) drive.
The center had opened with much fanfare Sunday, Nov. 14, 1943. A parade preceded the ceremonies, highlighted by presentation of the key to the canteen by Mayor Leo J. Welsh to Lt. Stanley Craft, executive officer of the U. S. Naval Training Station on the Miami University campus in Oxford.
Lt. Craft passed the key to E. K. Moore, an Oxford naval trainee, who had selected the Victory Canteen name.
Big-name visitors to the canteen, in addition to military celebrities, included an Ohio governor, Frank J. Lausche; Ruth Lyons, a Cincinnati radio personality; and Waite Hoyt, the Cincinnati Reds radio play-by-play broadcaster.
The Victory Canteen officially closed Oct. 14, 1945, about six weeks after Japanese representatives signed the surrender ending World War II.
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337. Feb. 8, 1995 - Harrison Law spurred land sale:
Journal-News, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 1995
William Henry Harrison wrote law which spurred Ohio land sale
By Jim Blount
Presidents' Day, the third Monday in February, commemorates the birthdays of presidents George Washington (Feb. 22) and Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12). Another president -- one who had much to do with the settlement of this region -- also was born in February. He was William Henry Harrison, whose natal day was Feb. 9, 1773.
He sponsored legislation in 1800 which opened the land west of the Great Miami River. The Harrison Land Act improved two previous laws, the Land Ordinance of 1785 and the Land Act of 1796.
Their terms had favored wealthy land speculators over individual farmers, craftsmen and merchants of modest means. The earlier laws also had failed to produce the revenue the government expected from land sales.
The 1785 law ordered surveying and dividing the Northwest Territory (between Pennsylvania's western border, the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and the Great Lakes) into townships of 36 square miles, each with 36 sections one mile square (640 acres).
The law set the minimum purchase at 640 acres at $1 an acre. Few individuals could afford to move to the frontier because the entire amount ($640, plus a surveying fee) was required at the time of purchase.
The Land Act of 1796 had retained the 640-acre minimum purchase, and at $2 an acre the price rose to $1,280. It required a $640 down payment, but allowed a year to pay the remaining $640. Its subtle changes did little to encourage land sales in the region which eventually became the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. The act was regarded as a failure as only 48,566 acres were sold between 1796 and 1800.
Radical change came under the leadership of Harrison, who had been elected territorial delegate to the U. S. Congress. He had won the post by one vote (11-10) in the territorial legislature in Cincinnati in 1799. In Philadelphia (then the nation's capital), he could participate in congressional debates, but couldn't vote -- an arrangement expected to limit his influence.
Instead, as chairman of the committee on public lands in the U. S. House of Representatives, Harrison forged precedents which were central to the government's public land policy until the frontier vanished in the American West at the end of the century.
The Harrison Land Act, approved May 10, 1800, halved the minimum purchase to a half section, or 320 acres, still at $2 an acre. More important, it permitted payment to be extended over four years.
It required only a $160 down payment -- making it more affordable for Americans to buy land in the Northwest Territory. (Later, Congress cut the minimum to 160 acres in 1804 and to 80 acres in 1820.)
Harrison also was instrumental in Congress dividing the Northwest Territory in 1800, creating the Territory of Indiana. The new area included most of the former territory, except that which became Ohio. The territorial division and the land act opened the way for Ohio statehood. effective March 1, 1803.
Harrison, born Feb. 9, 1773, in Virginia, came to the territory in 1791 as a new officer in the army of Gen. Arthur St. Clair. He claimed to have raised the first flag over Fort Hamilton when the outpost was completed Sept. 30, 1791. He also served in Gen. Anthony Wayne's victorious army and participated in negotiations leading to the Treaty of Greenville in 1795.
Harrison -- who in 1795 married Anna Symmes, daughter of land owner John Cleves Symmes -- was appointed territorial secretary in 1798, a post he held until elected territorial delegate to Congress a year later.
As governor of Indiana Territory (1800-1812), he negotiated treaties which opened that area to settlement. As an Indian fighter, he won the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. During the War of 1812, Gen. Harrison defeated British and Indian forces in the Battle of the Thames in 1813.
Returning to Ohio, Harrison served in the U.S. House of Representatives (1816-1819) and the U.S. Senate (1825-1828). In 1840, as the "log cabin and hard cider" candidate, Harrison won the presidency in a campaign which featured the "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" slogan.
Standing in the rain, he gave the longest inauguration speech in history. He died of pneumonia a month later. The first president to die in office is buried at nearby North Bend on the Ohio River.
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338. Feb. 15, 1995 - Barge canal proposed through Hamilton:
Journal-News, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 1995
Barge canal through Hamilton proposed during booming post-World War I era
By Jim Blount
In an effort to contain the costs of power and raw materials, Hamilton's expanding industrial community supported plans for a barge canal through the city in the post-World War I era. With a Lima congressman leading the way, cities in Southwestern Ohio united in urging the federal government to create an inland waterway linking the Ohio River and Lake Erie.
Backing Rep. Benjamin F. Welty in Congress was Rep. Warren Gard of Hamilton, a fellow Democrat.
Welty gained congressional approval for a survey and cost estimate of transforming the unused Miami-Erie Canal into a barge canal. The study was supposed to include the price tag for building and maintaining locks, dams and reservoirs.
After the House Canals and Railway Committee adopted Welty's resolution, a Dayton newspaper described it as the "first step toward a barge canal connecting the Great Lakes with the Gulf of Mexico -- a transportation system of such gigantic proportions as the mind can scarcely conceive and an improvement worth millions of dollars to the State of Ohio alone."
The Dayton Journal in January 1919 saw the proposed western Ohio waterway as "second in importance only to the great Panama Canal." That 51-mile ship canal had opened less than five years earlier (Aug. 15, 1914).
"The Miami-Erie Canal is to have a new birth of usefulness," the newspaper said, assuming it would happen. "Lying for more than 40 years as a weed-fringed reminder of primeval transportation projects, it is to be widened, deepened, equipped with modern locks and harbors, and made to serve the manufacturing and agricultural interests of the entire Middle West."
The Miami-Erie Canal -- built with more than $8 million in state funds -- started with groundbreaking south of Middletown in July 1825. It opened between Middletown and Cincinnati in 1828, entered Dayton in 1829 and reached Toledo and Lake Erie in 1845.
The canal, claimed the Dayton newspaper, "accomplished more toward the upbuilding and prosperity of the state of Ohio than any other single agency. Through the entire 249 miles of this successful engineering project its benefits were so numerous, so striking and so obvious that no great argument for its restoration is needed at this time."
Its steady decline started in the 1850s as railroad construction boomed in Ohio. Welty, in championing its rebirth, said the "canals were built and operated until they were destroyed by the selfishness of the railroads."
The canal's case had been boosted by the inability of U. S. railroads in the winter of 1917-1918 to deliver both war materials to eastern ports and coal and food to the remainder of the nation. New inland waterways, asserted Welty, would be "capable of solving such railway congestions as this country passed through last winter."
The new canal would follow the route of the Miami-Erie, which had a minimum depth of four feet. Its width was 26 feet at the bottom, sloping up to 40 feet at the water line. Beside it was a 10-foot towpath for horses and mules, the source of power for the canal boats.
The expanded 1920s version was to be at least 12 feet deep and no more than 16 feet deep. Welty's resolution didn't specify a minimum width. It said the canal should be wide enough "to permit the passage of vessels now used in coal, grain and iron ore traffic on Lake Erie."
It was assumed that towboats on the new canal would be steam-powered, but Welty said "gasoline and electrically-propelled tugs or towboats could be utilized."
Industrialists and civic leaders elsewhere advocated expanding Welty's plan. One idea was to also rebuild the Wabash-Erie Canal which had connected Fort Wayne and Toledo along the Maumee River valley. Backers said access to Chicago could be accomplished by extending that waterway from Fort Wayne to Lake Michigan at Michigan City, Ind.
A delegation from the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers inspected the proposed Miami-Erie route in October 1920, about a week before the presidential election which pitted Ohioan against Ohioan. Republican Warren G. Harding bested Democrat James M. Cox, a native of Butler County, in that contest.
The Republican trend that November also ended Welty's two-term congressional career. Hamilton's Warren Gard, after four House terms, didn't seek re-election in 1920.
Without congressional backing, the proposed Cincinnati-Toledo barge canal went into limbo for a few years.
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339. Feb. 22, 1995 - Barge canal plan revived in 1931: (Part 2 of 4)
Journal-News, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 1995
Ohio barge canal plan revived in 1931; proposed site shifted from canal to river
By Jim Blount
Hamilton civic leaders renewed their plea for construction of a barge canal through the city in 1931. A board of senior officers of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers convened in the Butler County Courthouse to hear testimony on the proposal, a major revision of a 1919 plan which had died after a $500,000 federal study.
That scheme would have rebuilt the 249-mile Miami-Erie Canal between Cincinnati on the Ohio River and Toledo on Lake Erie. In 1931, area business and government officials backed canalization of a portion of the Great Miami River instead of revival of the state canal built in the 1820s and officially abandoned in 1929.
The 1931 campaign sought widening the Great Miami River from Dayton south to its mouth on the Ohio River at the Ohio-Indiana border. It would have included building three locks and dams. One would have been at Woodsdale between Hamilton and Middletown. The others would have been at New Baltimore and Cleves in Hamilton County.
Area leaders envisioned the 41-mile project as a logical addition to the recently-completed Ohio River navigation system.
"The development of our rivers is a never finished accomplishment," declared President Herbert Hoover in October 1929 as he dedicated the last of 50 locks and dams, creating a nine-foot pool over the length of the 981-mile Ohio River.
The first dam, authorized by Congress in 1875, had been completed in 1885. By 1929, the government had spent $125 million for the river complex, which featured lock chambers 600 feet long and 110 feet wide. The system -- designed for 13 million tons of cargo annually -- handled more than 25 million tons in its first year. (In 1990, more than 225.7 million tons traveled through larger and more modern Ohio River locks.)
"It was partially in a desperate sectional effort to block the railroads that the federal government was pushed into western river improvements after 1879," noted historian Leland D. Baldwin. The "magnificent system," said Baldwin, made "the rivers of the Mississippi Basin important highways for heavy freight, such as steel and coal, carried chiefly in barges."
Another advantage, he said, is that it serves as "a check to railway rates," a factor emphasized by Hamilton leaders in the 1931 campaign for canalizing the Great Miami. That point was stressed repeatedly by area industrialists during the Feb. 18, 1931, courthouse hearing before the Corps of Engineers officers.
Speakers supporting the barge canal plan included local bankers, the Hamilton Merchants Association, the Hamilton Retail Coal Merchants Association and other business and industry leaders. Chairing the project for the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce was H. T. Ratliff, traffic manager of the Champion Coated Paper Company.
Preliminary government studies estimated the canal would handle 1,080,521 tons inbound and 490,476 tons outbound annually, conservative figures based on local information presented at the hearing.
Middletown industries reported annual inbound freight at 1,139,775 and outbound tonnage of 308,471 tons, most of which could be transported more economically by barge.
In Hamilton, based on data form the city's largest industries, annual tonnage was 1,650,553 inbound and 1,132,715 outbound, a total of 2,783,268 tons.
Cheaper transportation for industry wouldn't be the only advantage of a barge canal, advocates emphasized. City Manager Russell P. Price cited potential benefits for Hamilton citizens.
"It would assure Hamilton of a dependable source of water, where now it must depend upon wells as a source of supply," Price said. "In years hence, as Hamilton's population increases by normal growth, it must look for a more dependable source for its water supply, especially in times of drought. By canalizing the river, infiltration plants could be built and surface water used instead of the wells."
In 1930 Hamilton's population was 52,176 people. That represented a 31.5 percent increase during the 1920s, a boom period for the city. The 1930 total was 12,501 greater than the 1920 census of 39,675.
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