1996‎ > ‎


420. Aug. 7, 1996 - Republic lost 1910 race with Wright airplane: (Race was Thursday, Sept. 22, 1910.)
Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 1996
Hamilton-built Republic automobile lost 1910 race with Wright airplane
By Jim Blount
A Hamilton-built automobile lost a highly-publicized race in 1910, but not to another car. The Republic's opponent in the mismatch was an airplane piloted by one of the Wright brothers, pioneers of aviation.
It was Thursday, Sept. 22, 1910, a designat°€d as Aviation Day in Dayton by the Greater Dayton Association. The event was highlighted by "the Wright aeroplane in one of the most beautiful flights ever attempted by an aviator," wrote the awed Dayton correspondent of the Hamilton Journal. Orville Wright piloted the primitive craft that day.
Orville and his brother, Wilbur Wright, had achieved the first powered flight Dec. 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Their contraption flew about 10 feet in air as it traveled 120 feet in 12 seconds on its first flight. On their fourth ascent that day, the craft covered 852 feet in 59 seconds.
The Republic Motor Car Company had been established the year before one of its products challenged the Wright plane in the Dayton race. The auto company was founded by George Adam Rentschler, a well-established Hamilton industrialist. Others involved in the company included Charles U. Carpenter, George H. Helvey, C. F. Cousins, C. H. Knowles, Frederick B. Renstchler and Gordon S. Rentschler.
For Frederick B. Renstchler (1887-1956) and Gordon S. Rentschler (1885-1948), brothers, it was early experience which helped them build outstanding international business careers; Frederick in aviation, Gordon in banking.
Gordon had graduated from Princeton in 1907 and had returned to Hamilton to work for his father, George A. Renstchler, in the Hooven Owens Rentschler foundry. Frederick had graduated from Princeton in 1909, the year his father formed the Republic Motor Car Company.
The company built Republics from 1909 until about 1914 in its Hamilton shop. It started in the former Fair Grove Paper Mill at 1900 Fairgrove Avenue (Ohio 4), opposite the Butler County Fairgrounds.
Wilbur Wright was born April 16, 1867, on a farm near Millville, Indiana, northwest of Richmond and east of New Castle. He was 45 years old when he died May 30, 1912, of typhoid fever. Orville Wright was born Aug. 19, 1871, in Dayton. He died Jan. 30, 1948.
The bachelor brothers -- who two older brothers and a younger sister -- were the sons of the Rev. Milton Wright (United Brethren Church) and Susan Koerner Wright.
Orville and Wilbur attended high school in Dayton, but didn't graduate. They formed the Wright Cycle Company in 1892 to sell bicycles. Later, they added repair service and eventually ventured into manufacturing bikes.
After their December 1903 flights -- which received little immediate attention -- the brothers struggled to establish their plane-building business in the U. S. and Europe.
In 1910, they started their highly-successful Wright Exhibition Company with pilots they had trained at Huffman Prairie northeast of Dayton. They entertained crowds at fairs, carnivals, circuses and other events.
In the fall of 1910, both the airplane and the car were still novelties. In Butler County, (population 70,271), there were only about 200 automobiles and no airplanes when the Republic-Wright race was held in Dayton on that clear September afternoon.
Orville Wright's total flight covered about 22 miles in 25 minutes. He reached an altitude of about 2,500 feet, reported as "high as he ever was up."
The newspaper said Wright "looked down on the 60-horsepower Republic going as fast as it could and kept about even with it until it was necessary to go ahead; then he let the wings of his air bird flap a little faster and he went by the Republic like a shot." Wright won by about a mile, the newspaper said, as "the whistles of the city blew and the thousands cheered."
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421. Aug. 14, 1996 - Champion's Thomson Park quiet after 60 years:  (Opened in 1936)
Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 1996
Champion's Thomson Park quiet after 60 years serving employees
By Jim Blount
It has been quiet at Thomson Park this summer. The popular outdoor recreation and social center for Hamilton mill employees is closed, a result of Champion International's struggle to contain costs and make its local papermaking operations profitable.
Camp Chapaco -- its original name -- began 60 years ago as a Boy Scout camp. The rural retreat was the idea of Alexander Thomson, then chairman of the Champion board of directors. °€he Depression-era project was headed by Clarke Marion, plant manager, and Cal Skillman, supervisor of employee activities.
In the summer of 1936, members of the first Champion-sponsored scout troops transformed six acres of leased farm land into a rustic tract, including a lodge. An entrance sign on Hamilton-Richmond Road proclaimed it the Champion Boy Scout Camp.
"At that time, we swam in the creek. I was life-saving instructor for five years," said the late Noel Samuels, who was excused from his regular duties in the B Street mill to work at the camp during summers. "We also had basketball, baseball and a lot of hiking, and we did our own cooking," recalled Samuels, who was active with Champion scouts until he entered World War II.
When the camp was dedicated July 4, 1937 facilities on its six and one-half acres included a 24 by 70-foot dining hall. A 10x24 porch separated it from the 15x25 kitchen, which was equipped with Hamilton-made Estate electric stoves. On the grounds were 12 new tents, each 10 by 12 feet, on wood platforms 12 inches above the ground. In each tent were four metal cots with springs.
Beginning in 1938, the camp's July-August program was directed by James Grimm, then a physical education teacher at Wilson Jr. High School in Hamilton. That summer the daily schedule began with reveille and cold showers at 7 a.m. and concluded with "Taps" at 9:30 p.m.
By 1940, Girl Scouts also were using the camp under the supervision of Miss Stella Perrine who was assisted by Mrs. Mildred Shireman, Beulah White, Josephine White and Mrs. Betty Skillman. That season 1,800 camper days were recorded, including 846 for boys and 954 for girls, a 31 percent increase over 1939.
The camp expanded to about 30 acres in 1941. Facilities included a mess hall, kitchen, craft building, hospital building, shower building, camp director's quarters, cook's quarters, pump house, a main council ring and five tribal council rings, outdoor chapel, running track and an outdoor gym.
Campers still slept in tents in 1941, but that didn't discourage attendance which jumped to 30,000 camper days that summer.
In 1941, the camp also became available for other youth activities and for employee picnics, dinners and parties. In 1943, World War II rationing -- including limitations on food, gas and tires -- forced a three-year cancellation of camping.
Youth programs resumed in 1946 after the war and continued until 1950 when it was announced that "starting this year, the camping program is for employees and members of their families, because it was felt there was a lack of family camping opportunities, while ample children's camping facilities are available in the community."
Starting in 1947, and continuing for about 10 years, the camp was occupied for a week by the Hamilton High School football team. In addition to three sweaty practices a day, the team ate and slept at the camp.
After short-term leases on the land for about 12 years, Champion purchased the property Dec. 17, 1947, acquiring about 19.5 acres from Alfred McVicker and 11.5 acres from George and Louise Weckerle. Two years later, the complex was renamed Thomson Park in honor of Champion's founding family. By 1955 it had grown to 52.5 acres.
A 60 by 160-foot open-sided pavilion, capable of serving about 1,200 people, was dedicated in 1953. A Small Fry Baseball program was launched in the summer of 1956.
In recent decades, Thomson Park was a softball center, hosting local, state, regional and national tournaments. Lights were added on the lower-level diamond in June 1964.
Now the property is for sale as Champion chops the costs of maintaining and operating its 102-year-old Hamilton mill.
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422. Aug. 21, 1996 - Southern plantation house in Oxford: (It was built in 1839 by Romeo Lewis.)
Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 1996
Southern plantation mansion in Oxford home to Miami presidents since 1903
By Jim Blount
Where can you find a southern plantation house in Butler County? On High Street in Oxford. Known as Lewis Place, it is Miami University's White House. Starting with Guy Potter Benton in 1903, it has been t°€e official residence of MU presidents.
The 157-year-old structure has been refurbished in recent months for Dr. James Garland and his wife, Carole. Dr. Garland, after 26 years at Ohio State University, was named Miami's 20th president in April.
"The finest old house in Oxford is Lewis Place," declared Mrs. Ophia Smith in her book, Old Oxford Houses and the People Who Lived in Them. It was built in 1839 by Romeo Lewis, a wealthy Connecticut man who came to Oxford via Florida.
In the fall of 1832, Jane North Lewis and her ill husband, Dr. George Lewis, moved from Connecticut to Tallahassee, Fla., hoping the mild climate would improve his health. In Georgia, during the carriage trip, their only child, a seven-week-old baby died. Dr. Lewis died in 1834.
Later she married her brother-in-law, Romeo Lewis. She didn't like Florida and didn't want to return to New England. In 1837, Romeo Lewis left a successful business in Tallahassee to bring his bride to Oxford. They arrived with three orphaned young girls -- two of Jane's sisters, Lucy and Susan, and a niece of Romeo. Later a third sister, Anna North, joined the family and became a teacher in Miss A. M. Smith's Female Academy.
Oxford apparently was chosen because Harry Lewis, a brother, was a merchant in the university town. Also, their mother was living with another son, Theodore Lewis Jr., in nearby Fayette County, Indiana.
Romeo Lewis died in 1843, at age 48, four years after building his Oxford mansion. His widow, Jane Lewis, remained in the house until her death in 1888, at age 80. "Aunt Jane," as she was known, had become a legendary Oxford figure.
Subsequently, a nephew, Phillip Moore, leased Lewis Place rent-free to Miami. In 1903, President Benton occupied the house. In 1929, the Ohio General Assembly appropriated $25,000 for its purchase and repair.
"Lewis Place was probably reminiscent of Romeo's plantation house in Florida," observed Mrs. Smith in explaining its design. "Broad sandstone steps, flanked by curious iron foot-scrappers set in sandstone blocks, ascended to a long verandah across the front of the house," she wrote. "A wide heavy door with an astonishingly large keyhole was swung beneath a rectangular light and between recessed sidelights of leaded and beveled plate glass."
"The four long windows across the front of the house were set over wooden panels accented by shutters that touched the floor of the porch," Mrs. Smith wrote. "The wooden panels on which the windows rested could be opened inward, like little doors, so that upon raising the lower sash, one could step directly out onto the porch."
Mrs. Smith said "a similar window opened onto the upper verandah from a little sewing room between the two front bedrooms. These were called walk-through windows."
"The house was crowned by a balustraded platform on the roof," Mrs. Smith said in describing the unique house that was originally heated by 17 fireplaces.
In 67 years under Miami ownership, Lewis Place has been modernized to serve as both a presidential residence and the setting for various university functions. Fortunately, the periodic alterations haven't diminished the charm and majesty of the southern plantation house.
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423. Aug. 28, 1996 - Education dates back to Fort Hamilton:
Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 1996
Local education dates back 205 years to lonely soldiers housed at Fort Hamilton
By Jim Blount
Education in Hamilton goes back about 205 years to Fort Hamilton. That frontier outpost, completed in September 1791, was a lonely place for the soldiers assigned there. Boredom probably led to the informal schooling which took place in its log buildings.
One or more educated soldiers reportedly taught reading and writing to some unschooled comrades. Later, officers stationed at the fort arranged for instruction for their children. Most of those early classes were held in the powder magazine.
When the U. S. Army abandoned the fort in 1795, settlers quickly replaced soldiers and created the town of Hamilton around the former supply post. In 1804, a new town, Rossville, was lai°€ out on the west side of the Great Miami River.
Earlier, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 had declared that "schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged" in the territory which became Ohio. Despite that congressional mandate, public schools were slow to develop. Hamilton and other communities looked to the state for funding, but money for schools was scarce.
Private schools, some subsidized by only a few citizens, attempted to fill the void in the early years in Hamilton and Rossville. Most of them lasted only a year or two before the instructor looked for more lucrative employment.
Several pioneer preachers supplemented their income by doubling as teachers. Some wealthier residents hired private tutors who worked only with their children.
John Ritchie, who arrived in Hamilton about 1807, is regarded as the community's first teacher. Ellen A. McMechan, beginning about 1819, was the town's first female teacher.
Ritchie's pioneer status was a hollow one. An 1814 newspaper published his appeal to be paid money owed by some parents. He said he needed the delinquent funds to finance his planned move back to the eastern states. Ritchie never left Hamilton. He was found dead a few days later, his demise attributed to malnutrition. To pay for his coffin and burial, his possessions were sold at public auction.
In 1832, the first public school districts were formed in Hamilton and Rossville. Property taxes paid for the erection of a brick school in Rossville. It opened in 1832 on the northeast corner of South C Street and Ross Avenue.
A larger school was built on the same site in 1857-1858. That 10-room, $17,318 structure was replaced in 1902 by a 12-room, $31,000 schoolhouse. At first it was called the Miami School, but in 1909 was renamed Adams. That building -- abandoned as a school in 1953 -- has been the Murstein House Senior Citizen Center since 1957.
Hamilton's first publicly-financed school building was completed in 1838 on the east side of South Front Street between Ludlow and Sycamore streets (opposite the present site of the Hamilton police headquarters and municipal court). Until then, classes had been held in residences, churches and rented rooms.
By 1843, two more districts had been formed on the Hamilton side of the river, one of them under the leadership of William Bebb, a Hamilton lawyer who became governor of Ohio in the middle of the decade.
Funding problems forced the closing of Hamilton's first public schools in 1849. Similar situations in other towns were called to the attention of state legislators. Early that year, the Ohio General Assembly passed a new education program that became the basis for the present Hamilton public school system.
In a special election in April 1851, Hamilton voters approved formation of a city school district. James B. Thomas, Isaac T. Saunders, William Hunter, John W. Sohn, John W. Erwin and Stephen E. Giffen were elected to the first board of education.
The new system -- including only two buildings -- went into effect for the 1851-1852 school year.
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