Journal-News, Wednesday, May 3, 1995
They danced in High Street on V-E Day as Germany surrendered May 8, 1945
By Jim Blount
Hamiltonians danced in the middle of High Street Tuesday May 8, 1945, when word reached the city that Germany had officially surrendered, ending more than five years of fighting in Europe.
The official proclamation of V-E Day (Victory in Europe) came at 8 a.m., Hamilton time, as President Harry Truman -- who had an occupied the White House less than a month -- opened his radio address to the nation.
"This is a solemn, but glorious hour," said Truman, who became president April 12 upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. "General Eisenhower informs me that the forces of Germany have surrendered to the United Nations. The flags of freedom fly over all of Europe."
"Everyone knew in advance that he was to make the historic proclamation," said the Journal-News of Truman's speech. "But up to the time his quiet, steady voice was heard over the airways, Hamilton was just a work-a-day-city. Then, two minutes after the president started speaking, came the first break in the tension."
Someone set-off the air raid siren atop the Hamilton municipal electric plant on North Third Street. Soon several factory whistles, locomotive whistles and hundreds of auto horns joined the chorus of happiness and thanksgiving.
Impromptu parades formed in minutes in several locations, most advancing to High Street in downtown Hamilton.
Hamilton High School students marched from Sixth and Dayton Streets as senior boys hoped the German surrender would lessen the chance of their instant induction into the armed services after June graduation.
Some industries dismissed workers to celebrate. In other shops, employees made the decision on their own to celebrate.
A foreman at the Mosler Safe Company on Grand Blvd. repeated his action of Nov. 11, 1918, when World War I ended. He was John DeLaCroix, who climbed the 190-foot Mosler smokestack to unfurl an American flag in a salute to victory in Europe.
Stores, cafes and state liquor outlets closed for the day -- as ordered months earlier when victory appeared near. Only food and drug stores stayed open.
Elementary and junior high schools held patriotic assemblies. Many churches conducted previously-planned special V-E Day services.
For those who experienced it, the most memorable V-E Day event was the enthusiastic celebration centered on High Street.
For nearly 16 hours -- from after 8 a.m. until midnight -- thousands joined the party. It peaked between 8 p.m. and midnight as friends and strangers danced, cheered, smiled, laughed, hugged and shook hands in the three-block area between Front and Fourth streets.
Traffic had to be diverted, but there were no major problems. The next day, the Journal-News said "the celebration was one that the city of Hamilton will not be ashamed of. It was just a blowing off of pent-up steam that did not get out of bounds." Only three arrests and one minor traffic accident were reported.
The Journal-News added a solemn note, reporting that "130 young men from this community sacrificed their lives that peace might reign once again in war-torn Europe." The death total would increase later as names were switched from the lists of 48 missing in action, 43 captured and 274 wounded in European fighting.
The next morning, May 9, the city returned to normal. Its citizens appeared to be heeding the warning of President Truman that "our victory is but half won" and "the east is still in bondage to the treacherous tyranny of the Japanese."
It would be a little more than three months before Hamilton and the nation celebrated V-J Day (victory over Japan).
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Journal-News, Wednesday, May 10, 1995
'Judge Lynch' ruled in Oxford in 1892 as angry posse tracked down suspect
By Jim Blount
A defenseless person is killed in cold blood. The murderer is quickly apprehended and placed in the town jail. The evidence seems overwhelming. "Why waste time and money on a trial?" angry citizens ask. "String him up!" hotheads demand. Then a mob of otherwise law-abiding citizens storms the jail. Minutes later, the prisoner's lifeless body swings from a sturdy branch of a nearby tree. Vigilante justice has prevailed.
That's a well-worn plot, usually set in a dusty frontier town in the western United States. It's also a real-life scenario from Butler County's past.
The murder of a woman ignited public sentiment in Oxford, said the Hamilton Daily Democrat. The newspaper called the killing Tuesday night, Jan. 12, 1892, "one of the most cruel and wanton crimes in the history of the county."
"Revenge was the one desire," the newspaper said, as volunteers joined Mayor Beaton and Marshall Flannigan in the search for the known suspect. "People far and near by every means in their power sought to avenge the killing," the report said, "and wreak their vengeance upon one of the vilest murderers that ever disgraced Butler County." The reporter said "the enormity of the crime caused the people of Oxford to know no law. They took it into their own hands."
Wednesday and Thursday, Jan. 13-14, posses searched the Oxford area. Despite a snow cover which should have revealed the killer's trail, nothing was found. A break came at about 6 o'clock Thursday evening.
"Hunger drove him to desperation," the newspaper said, he left his hiding place in a barn to ask a boy who worked on the farm to get him food.
Philip Zerfass, a young deputy marshal, "saw the lad enter a bakery and buy some rolls; his suspicions were at once aroused and he questioned him closely and upon receiving unsatisfactory answers placed him under arrest." Then the boy "confessed all," the Democrat said, and revealed the suspect's hideout about a mile outside Oxford.
"Before departing for the farm" at 6:30, the report said, "Mayor Beaton formally addressed the crowd and warned them that they must do no violence. His words were respectfully listened to, but many in that crowd had their minds made up."
As an advance posse of three men approached the barn in moonlight, they heard a shot. "The murderer within saw the party and he knew his doom was sealed," the Democrat surmised, "and, unable to bear it longer, he placed his 32-caliber pistol to his right temple and pulled the trigger."
Moments later, a cautious Marshal Flannigan and others entered the barn. They found the man in a pool of blood. With a board torn from the barn as a stretcher, the posse carried the man toward Oxford. Near the village, it was discovered that he was still alive. "Hang him!" yelled the angry crowd which had gathered in the town.
"Near the mayor's office, a rope was attached to the man's neck, and it was evident that Judge Lynch would soon open his court," the newspaper said, but cooler heads prevailed -- momentarily. Later, as doctors examined the wounded man, the mob forced its way into the jail and placed a rope around his neck. He was dragged a block through the snow to the public park where the mob "swung him to the limb of a tree" at about 8:55 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14, 1892.
"The crowd then amused themselves by firing bullets into his suspended corpse," the Democrat said. "At least 50 bullets found a lodging place in the body" before it was cut down at 10:30. "The squire at once rendered a verdict that he came to death by his own hands."
Pieces of the rope were taken as souvenirs. "Relic hunters have even gone so far as to take buttons from the murderer's clothes to preserve as curios," the newspaper said
During a special meeting the next morning, Oxford Council granted a $500 reward to the young man who had reported the suspect's location. At a later meeting, council changed its mind and reduced the boy's reward to $50.
He was denied a $200 reward offered by the county commissioners because it had stipulated the money was for "the apprehension and conviction" of the killer.
Jan. 14, 1892, wasn't the only time some Oxford citizens tried to take the law into their hands. A future column will recall another incident.
Journal-News, Wednesday, May 17, 1995
Deputy defied Oxford lynch mob in 1903, saving brothers from town's 'hanging tree'
By Jim Blount
"The Streets of Oxford Run Red with Blood," yelled the headline across a Cincinnati newspaper in 1903. It topped a story about a melee and lynching party, an unscheduled attraction during Oxford's Fourth Annual Street Fair and Farmer's Exposition.
Five people were shot Thursday night, Oct. 1, 1903, including John Woodruff, the village marshal; his deputy, Jacob Manrod; a Miami University student; and a teacher. One of the two brothers responsible for starting the brawl also was shot.
"Through the bravery of Deputy Sheriff Luke Brannon," the Hamilton Sun said, a Middletown tobacco worker was saved from "an awful death at the hands of an infuriated mob."
At about 6 p.m. the brothers and a drinking companion entered a saloon in "a quarrelsome mood," the newspaper said. They were ordered to leave.
Outside, one brother insulted the marshal, who ordered them to halt. Instead of obeying, the same brother opened fire with a revolver. As Woodruff slumped to the ground, a second shot hit Deputy Manrod.
The unruly man also fired into the crowd, the newspaper said. Outnumbered, the brothers tried to flee, but were overwhelmed by the mob after a pursuit of several blocks. One brother -- believed responsible for the shooting -- was beaten. The other was shot before Mayor Muddell took charge and marched the pair to the city jail.
That's when a relative of one of the wounded officers arrived, "almost insane with grief and rage at the shooting," the Sun reported. "He procured a sledgehammer and crying to the mob to follow him, rushed upon the defenseless Bastille."
About 200 people, according to one estimate, accepted the challenge to storm the jail. They believed Woodruff had died. The angry relative led the way, using the sledgehammer to beat down the door and crash into the cell.
The mob pulled the battered man to a tree which had been used to lynch a murderer in January 1892. Then began what some accounts say was a 12-minute ordeal for the prisoner.
"Clutching wildly at the taut rope, the unfortunate wretch writhed and twisted in the agony of strangulation," the newspaper said. As he struggled, he begged for a chance to write a farewell note to his wife. The Sun said "the mob relented and the swaying body was lowered to the ground." Although nearly blinded by tears and blood, he produced a pencil and an envelope, and "scrawled a last good-bye to his wife."
He was hoisted again on the strong limb. But moments later he asked for time to pray. His plea was supported by the Rev. T. J. Porter, an Oxford Presbyterian minister. "Again the mob relented," the newspaper said. The preacher knelt beside the doomed man as they prayed.
The Sun said "at this juncture, Deputy Luke Brannon, who had just arrived (on the 8:15 train) from Hamilton in response to a call by telephone, burst through the crowd."
"With his tall, spare form towering high above the crowd, the plucky sheriff, at the same time he issued his command, jumped for the rope from which swung the half-conscious body of the mob's victim."
The newspaper said Brannon, "hurling the ringleaders aside, leaped into the air, grasped the rope above the head of the hanging man. The added weight of the deputy on the rope brought the body to the ground."
Brannon warned the crowd not to interfere and raced about 200 yards back to the guarded jail with his prisoner. But the 43-year-old deputy didn't stay. Instead, he hid the brothers in a neighboring building until an Oxford liveryman provided a carriage and horses for a dash to Hamilton. They reached the safety of the Butler County jail shortly after midnight.
A month later, Brannon won election to the first of two terms as Butler County sheriff. Later he was elected a county commissioner. He died in 1918, a victim of the world-wide Spanish flu epidemic.
Both Oxford officers survived their wounds. Both brothers went to prison, but only one came out alive. The unarmed brother -- who was shot in the confusion -- died of his injury in jail.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, May 24, 1995
Do you remember the hitching posts that once lined Hamilton's High Street?
By Jim Blount
"The history of the world is the record of a man in quest of his daily bread and butter," declared Hendrik van Loon, whose The Story of Mankind earned him the first Newberry Medal in 1922.
Van Loon would have been pleased with the snippets of local history once published in Hamilton newspapers. "Do you remember" -- which was used as filler on the editorial page -- featured brief recollections of day-to-day activities.
From time to time, this column will reprise some of those anonymous tidbits which portray Hamilton and environs of earlier decades. Few dates and details were included as most entries were only one sentence. This is the first collection.
Do you remember when . . .
High Street was lined with hitching posts for horses?
Corn husks were sold on the Hamilton market to be used in bedticks, bolsters and other articles which went to make up the bed clothing?
Peacock feather flybrushes were a valued possession of Hamilton families? Those not fortunate to have such valuable assets used asparagus stocks to keep the flies from the table, while others made fly chasers from newspapers.
The first mains for the Hamilton waterworks were laid in Front Street, west of the courthouse, a number of human bones were disinterred?
The grocer scooped butter out of a tub with a ladle which was kept in water when not in use?
On baking day the women of Hamilton would buy two cents worth of liquid yeast from the grocery store, getting about a pint of yeast for this amount?
Hamilton drug stores kept open 24 hours a day, Sundays included?
One could buy a pound of apple butter for five cents?
Smaller girls of Hamilton played ring around the rosey and London bridge, rolled hoops and played bean bag?
Physicians wore silk hats and Prince Albert coats?
Mother and father read the newspaper and the children studied their lessons by candlelight?
Men of Hamilton drank their coffee from a mustache cup?
Meat in Hamilton butcher shops was covered with mosquito netting to protect it from the flies?
Mothers would knit wool stockings for members of the family?
The first ice cream soda was sold in Hamilton by John Hibner who then had a confectionery at the northeast corner of Third and High streets?
High and Main street merchants paid to have the streets in front of their places of business sprinkled by sprinkling carts operated by Mrs. Knox, who lived on Maple Avenue?
One horse car (streetcar) was run from High Street to Greenwood Cemetery?
Blondell, the tightrope walker, pushed a wheelbarrow containing a man on a wire from the Globe Opera House (southeast corner of High Street and Journal Square) to a building on the opposite side of the street?
Louis A. Boli operated a soap factory on South A Street, just south of Arch Street?
Popping corn, pulling taffy and eating apples were the chief amusements of an evening at home?
Hamilton saloon keepers would give their patrons Easter eggs, roses, carnations and shamrocks?
Hamilton barber shops had racks filled with special shaving mugs and brushes of their customers?
Democratic victories were the signal for the starting of gigantic bonfires at Front and High streets and Second and High streets.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, May 31, 1995
John S. Earhart's legacy endures: Hamilton's stone railroad arches
By Jim Blount
John S. Earhart's legacy is a highly-visible one -- the stone arches which have carried the railroad over the low land and into the hill immediately west of the Great Miami River for more than 135 years.
He was born March 10, 1824, in Jacksonburg in northern Butler County, one of five children of John S. and Elizabeth Tapscott Earhart, who moved their family to Hamilton in 1826.
Following in his father's footsteps, John S. Earhart studied civil engineering at Ohio Farmer's College in College Hill (now a Cincinnati suburb), and assisted his father in several projects, including the building and maintenance of turnpikes, hydraulic canals and railroads.
The Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad -- the first to enter Hamilton (1851) -- was more than three years from completion when another line was planned, this one extending west from Hamilton.
The Junction Railroad was incorporated Feb. 15, 1848, by the Indiana legislature to connect Hamilton, Oxford, College Corner, Connersville, Rushville and Indianapolis. Similar action was taken March 8, 1849, by the Ohio General Assembly.
The Junction Railroad faced several obstacles, including rival railroads which hoped to capture a portion of the promising Cincinnati-Indianapolis business.
The Junction's original plan was to approach Oxford via Darrtown, a more gradual grade than the route it eventually followed. The scheme was thwarted when a rival, the Four Mile Valley Railroad, gained the right-of-way through Darrtown.
Planners and investors realized that building the Junction Railroad directly west from Hamilton (elevation 601 feet) to Oxford (elevation about 1,000 feet) posed some engineering challenges. The grade from the CH&D depot in Hamilton for four miles west to the summit averaged 65 feet to the mile.
Major tasks included bridging the Great Miami River and climbing the steep Rossville hill (between present South C and South D streets).
Earhart decided to overcome the Rossville incline by building a gradual approach from Hamilton on the east side of the river. This would include (1) embankments on the east side of river, (2) a high bridge of about 700 feet in length over the Great Miami, (3) a stone viaduct over the low area in Rossville and (4) cutting the railroad into the hillside below ground level for several hundred yards to a point near present Millville Avenue.
A key to Earhart's plan was the 665-foot, 17-arch viaduct through what is now Hamilton's West Side.
The coping and heading stones for the viaduct were purchased from Dayton quarries, but the bulk of the stone was taken from what then was the farm of C. K. Smith on then Eaton Turnpike, near the mouth of Four Mile Creek.
Work on the 98-mile railroad began in September 1853 -- two years after the CH&D started operations into Hamilton. Thanks to Earhart's engineering skill and the financial and political leadership of John Woods, the new president of the railroad, the Junction opened to Oxford June 4, 1859. The railroad reached the Ohio-Indiana line at College Corner in November 1859.
When the Civil War started in April 1861, Earhart was chief engineer on the middle section of the Miami-Erie Canal, which connected Cincinnati on the Ohio River and Toledo on Lake Erie, via Hamilton and Middletown.
He left the job to take command of Company C of the 35th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment, known as "the Butler Boys" because of the predominance of men from the county.
In the spring of 1863, Earhart was appointed a topographical engineer, service which appropriately capitalized on his civilian training and experience. Earhart became ill while serving at Camp Thomas, near Winchester, Tenn. He died Aug. 10, 1863, at age 39. The designer of the enduring railroad arches is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Hamilton.
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