Journal-News, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 1996
Longevity has been synonymous with Carpenter Monuments
By Jim Blount
One of Hamilton's oldest businesses is Carpenter Monuments, started in 1836 by Aaron Potter, a Middletown native who learned marble and stone cutting in Cincinnati. The firm has been operating at its present location for 83 years. Donald E. Carpenter has been part of its management for 50 years.
The enterprise -- usually associated with tombstones -- also was partly responsible for one of the area's most familiar landmarks. The company completed exterior stone work and interior marble finish on the Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument, which was dedicated 90 years ago.
In 1836, after a nine-year apprenticeship, Potter moved to Hamilton and opened his marble and stone works. He is believed to have been the town's first ornamental stone cutter, but that wasn't his only venture.
He was associated with Richard Cole in a sash, door a?d blind factory. He built the Hamilton Flour Mills at Wayne and North B streets. Potter also helped establish the First Baptist Church in Hamilton.
His monument shop was first located on North Second Street, just north of the Hamilton House Hotel. Most the time, his office and shop were at the northwest corner of High Street and Monument Avenue, near the site of the present Hamilton Municipal Building.
Historian Stephen Cone said Potter and his 12 employees worked in Italian and Vermont marble. "The blocks, directly from Italy or Vermont, were sawed into slabs, shaped, polished and carved into tombstones, mantel-pieces, tabletops or any other desired form," Cone wrote.
Frank P. Stewart, only 18 years old, took over management when Aaron Potter died July 1, 1871, at age 62. Stewart was a son of John C. and Elizabeth (Potter) Stewart. At age 11, after both parents had died, Stewart had become a member of the family of Aaron Potter, his uncle.
When Stewart died Feb. 14, 1893, his widow became president of the company, which moved to a new building at 924 High Street in 1913.
In 1918, Claude A. Carpenter moved to Hamilton from Indiana to assume ownership of the F. P. Stewart Granite and Marble Co., described in a city directory as "importers and builders of fine granite monuments, markers and mausoleums."
At age 13, he had entered a similar business owned by his father, Charles A. Carpenter, in Anderson, Ind. He also had served in the Spanish-American War in 1898 and worked as Midwest representative for a wholesale granite company. He died June 13, 1955, at his home in Hamilton.
Sept. 10, 1946, his grandson, Donald E. Carpenter, became a partner. Next week, he will observe his 50th anniversary in the management of the 160-year-old company. Helping him to mark the event will be his son, Donald E. Carpenter Jr., who has been involved since 1975.
Carpenter Monuments, the elder Carpenter believes, "is the oldest continuous business on the north side of High Street." He said it also may be located in the oldest building in continuous use by the same business, especially one built for the company.
Dealing with grieving families is a sensitive responsibility, Carpenter said. He remembers two tragedies as among the toughest situations he has handled. One involved seven people from three families killed in a boating accident on the Ohio River. In the other, six members of the same family died in a fire at Mixerville, Ind.
Among the changes he's seen are the proliferation of special designs and lettering available for markers and monuments. Also, the products are lettered and finished elsewhere, he explained. Those tasks haven't been performed in the High Street shop since the 1950s.
Carpenter also has observed a shrinkage of area monument businesses. "There's only about 25 full-time, full-service operations in the area from Cincinnati to Dayton," he said.
# # #
Journal-News, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 1996
FBI agent killed in 1935 shoot-out with 'Diamond King," George Barrett
By Jim Blount
A 37-year-old FBI agent died in a 1935 shoot-out with a fugitive who had Hamilton and College Corner connections. The tragedy ended with the killer -- a suspected car thief also known locally as the "Diamond King" -- becoming a "first" in criminal annals.
Agent Nelson B. Klein was shot to death by George W. Barrett, 48, Friday afternoon, Aug. 16, 1935, in College Corner, Indiana. Six shots hit the Cincinnati-based agent in the chest and arms during the exchange of shots two blocks west of the Ohio-Indiana line.
The New York native, then a resident of Southgate, Ky., had been an agent with the Department of Justice since 1931. He left a wife and three children.
According to FBI records, Klein was the seventh FBI agent "killed in the line duty as the direct result of an adversarial action." He was the fourth agent killed in the last two years, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover noted in 1935.
It was 1935 when the Justice Department's Bureau of Investigation was renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Hoover (1895-1972) had started his 48-year tenure as its director in 1924.
Klein "had taken part in a number of outstanding cases," the Journal-News reported, "including the (John) Dillinger mob chase and the Stoll kidnapping." The latter was a reference to the abduction of Alice Berry Stoll in Louisville, Ky., in October 1934.
The FBI was searching for George W. Barrett in connection with car theft charges in other states and for the interstate transportation of stolen vehicles. He was believed to be bringing at least some of the cars to Hamilton where they were altered and sold.
Barrett -- most recently a Lockland, Ohio, resident -- had been tried five years earlier in Kentucky "on the charge of having slain his mother," the Journal-News reported, but was acquitted "because of lack of witnesses."
He was well known in Hamilton, often staying with a brother who resided here. Hamilton police had labeled Barrett the "Diamond King" because he occasionally "carried with him a handful of diamonds" while in the city.
The FBI intensified its search for Barrett in Hamilton after a North College Hill man asked questions about a car he had purchased here. Barrett's name appeared on the bill of sale. A Cincinnati police investigation indicated the car probably had been stolen.
Aug. 16, 1935, Agents Klein and Donald McGovern tracked Barrett to College Corner, where another brother resided. The agents spotted their prey in the town that straddles the Ohio-Indiana line northwest of Oxford.
Before closing in, Klein phoned John Schumacher, Butler County sheriff, and requested assistance. (Part of College Corner is in Butler County.) But Klein and McGovern couldn't wait for help because the suspect appeared to be escaping.
When ordered to surrender, Barrett ran behind a garage and started shooting. Klein, although mortally wounded, returned gunfire. His shots hit the fugitive in both legs. McGovern was unscathed. Sheriff Schumacher and Deputy Charles Walke arrived minutes after the 6:15 p.m. shoot-out.
The wounded Barrett was treated, while under guard, in Fort Hamilton Hospital for five days. After release from the Hamilton hospital Aug. 21, he was taken to Indianapolis.
Barrett -- who was wanted for car theft in San Diego and St. Louis and suspected of the same crime in Ohio -- was convicted of murder in federal court in Indianapolis. The frequent Hamilton visitor was executed March 24, 1936, a little more than seven months after the College Corner confrontation.
Barrett -- who was hanged in Indianapolis -- was the first person to receive the death penalty under a congressional act that made it a capital offense to kill a special agent of the FBI.
# # #
Journal-News, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 1996
Daniel Rumple's three-story building, erected about 1857, stands test of time
By Jim Blount
Daniel Rumple -- who had only about three months of formal education -- would be proud of the structure he erected almost 140 years ago. The former rural blacksmith and farmer moved into Hamilton in the 1850s. Within a few years, he constructed a three-story brick building and placed his name on it.
The Rumple Building, at the northwest corner of Main and B streets, was completed about 1857. It included Rumple's Hall, a popular meeting and entertainment center for many years.
The Rumple Building has housed dozens of businesses, services and professionals. It has been best known for two long-term occupants -- the Beeler drug store for 74 years, and Burg's Men's Clothing for the last 55 years.
Daniel Rumple was "better known as Squire Rumple," wrote Dr. Henry Mallory, who was acquainted with the West Side entrepreneur. In his 1895 book, Dr. Mallory said Rumple "was a self-educated man, never having gone to school but three months in his life."
Rumple saved his earnings as a blacksmith to buy rural property. "He became one of the most prosperous farmers in the county," said Dr. Mallory. In the early 1850s, Rumple came to Hamilton and started Rumple & Smyers, an iron and hardware store.
"Being a man of enterprise, he bought a large lot . . . that had been an eyesore" for about 20 years, explained Dr. Mallory. Joseph Wilson had opened the first Rossville Post Office in his general store on that corner in 1819.
Rumple's Hall on the third floor was "a very commodious hall with a good-sized stage," recalled a 1911 newspaper account. "Some traveling companies were seen" in Rumple's Hall, the article said, especially before the opening of Dixon's Opera House (later the Globe) on High Street in 1866. Later, Rumple's Hall hosted only local productions and "many social events of importance," the article explained.
The Beeler drug business started at Main and B streets in 1867. That year two brothers bought the ground floor store from Joseph Hanaford. John L. Beeler and Dr. Samuel L. Beeler were graduates of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and the Ohio Medical College, respectively.
Several generations of West Side children recalled Beeler's impressive pharmacy accouterments, particularly the large, colorful apothecary jars with glass stoppers.
Although remembered as a drug store, it offered many products. Advertisements and store signs touted glass, paints, dyes, perfume, oils, varnishes, cigars, wines, brushes, candy, stationery, school books and a range of other items.
The drug store also was a gathering place. Politics, civic affairs, business and social activities were discussed and debated there by a variety of citizens and visiting businessmen. In 1887, John L. Beeler and others started the West Side Federal Saving and Loan Association in the building.
For several years, starting in 1897, it was an unofficial waiting room. The corner of Main and B streets was the southern end of the electric-powered interurban line between Hamilton and Dayton.
The drug store was known as Dr. Beeler & Brothers until 1892 when John L. Beeler retired to become manager of the West Side Saving and Loan Association.
Later, two of Dr. Beeler's sons joined him in the firm -- R. K. Beeler in 1901, and C. S. Beeler in 1907. Still later, the store was managed by Hughes Beeler, a son of R. K. Beeler and a grandson of Dr. Samuel Beeler.
For several years, the Beelers also had a drug store at the northwest corner of Second and High streets. In 1925, they sold the business to the Dow Drug Company.
R. K. Beeler was managing the Main and B store when it closed Saturday, July 5, 1941. He joined his son, Hughes Beeler, who had established a drug store at the northeast corner of Main Street and Eaton Avenue.
# # #
Journal-News, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 1996
Burg's Men's Clothing has operated at Main Street locations for 75th year
By Jim Blount
One of Hamilton's most visible retail locations -- built about 140 years ago -- has been the long-time home of a clothing business that is observing its 75th anniversary this year.
The building at the northwest corner of Main and B streets started about 1857 as the Rumple Building. It was named after its builder, Daniel Rumple, a former blacksmith and farmer turned entrepreneur.
In addition to retail operations, its third floor housed Rumple's Hall. The auditorium was a popular showplace, meeting hall and social center for many years.
One of its best known tenants was the Beeler drug store, which operated in the corner structure for 74 years. R. K. Beeler was managing the store when it closed in July 1941. He joined his son, Hughes Beeler, who had started a drug store at the northeast corner of Main Street and Eaton Avenue.
Elmer C. Burg started Burg's at 125 Main Street in 1921. He was experienced in retailing, having worked at the People's Store on High Street in downtown Hamilton.
In 1941, when the Main and B location became available, Burg moved his 20-year-old shoe store across the street and down the block.
Although he added clothing, Burg's operated from just one room and shared the building with other businesses until the 1950s.
Earlier, said Don Burg, the second floor had been used as a boarding ?ouse. Later, tenants on the upper floors included several artists who maintained studios there.
Burg's 1941 move and business expansion came four months before the United States entered World War II. The war placed new restrictions and demands on retailers and their customers. One was shoe rationing. On the street outside Burg's, it produced "a long line from the store west along Main Street to C Street before each rationing stamp was about to expire," recalled Don Burg.
He also remembers "shoes shipped in the old days in wood boxes," which meant the Burg family "didn't have to buy kindling wood to build fires" in the era of coal heating.
Don Burg and his brother, Robert J. Burg, took over the business in 1954 from their father. (Another brother, William Burg of the U. S. Army Air Corps, died in a crash on a flight from North Africa to Sicily during World War II.)
Don Burg said Burg's and other West Side businesses received a boost in the 1960s when the city razed the old buildings on both sides of Main Street between the High-Main Street Bridge and B Street. "That block was a disaster," he recalled, and their removal "helped business by giving us greater exposure."
The project was aimed at improving traffic by connecting the bridge directly to Park and Ross avenues as well as Main Street. The one-way ramp west to Park Avenue opened in May 1970, and the eastbound link from Ross Avenue to Main Street was finished in October 1970.
Since then, the three-story Burg building has dominated the view for westbound travelers leaving the bridge.
In April 1990, Burg's was acquired by Tom and Suellen Stretch. They have launched an extensive remodeling of both the exterior and interior of the historic building. They have renamed the structures housing their men's clothing store and adjacent businesses and services as Burg's Square.
# # #