Journal-News, Wednesday, April 2, 1997
Physicians answered call in War of 1812; Dr. Squier Littell and Dr. Jacob Lewis
By Jim Blount
Dr. Squier Littell and Dr. Jacob Lewis -- pioneer Butler County physicians with different backgrounds -- served together in the army during the War of 1812. Both men were natives of New Jersey, sons of men who fought in the American Revolution, and both had settled in this area in 1802, but that's where the similarities end.
Dr. Littell -- who is considered the county's first resident physician -- interrupted his medical practice to become a surgeon in an Ohio militia regiment in 1813. Dr. Lewis -- who seldom practiced medicine after arriving in Ohio -- was a surgeon's mate in the First Ohio Regiment, serving under Dr. Littell.
During their six-month military terms, the volunteer doctors were kept busy caring for sick and wounded soldiers in western and northwestern Ohio.
Dr. Littell, a son of a captain in the revolutionary army, was born Dec. 1, 1776, in Essex County, New Jersey. He started his medical practice there before moving to Cincinnati.
Then, about 1802, he came to Butler County, settling in what is now Trenton. Before leaving New Jersey, he had married Mary Pearce, a daughter of Michael Pearce, who in 1800, with Stephen Gard, had founded Bloomfield west of the Great Miami River in Butler County.
Pearce and Gard platted the town Feb. 27, 1816, as Bloomfield. It was named for Joseph Bloomfield (1753-1823), a veteran of the American Revolution, governor of New Jersey (1801-1812) and later an officer in the War of 1812 and a U. S. congressman (1817-1821).
The name was changed to Trenton (after the capital of New Jersey) when the first post office opened March 6, 1821, because there was another Bloomfield in Trumbull County, Ohio.
As Butler County's first resident physician, Dr. Littell had plenty of time for farming, his other occupation. In the early years, his patients were so scarce in Butler County, that he ranged as far as Dayton and Cincinnati to care for the sick and injured.
After six months in the army in 1813, he returned to his farm and medical practice. In 1834, he started seven years as associate county judge and in 1837 added the duties of postmaster of Trenton.
As the area grew, Dr. Littell found plenty of patients in the area, but he wasn't a doctor on horseback. His weight -- which eventually reached 350 pounds -- required that he travel in a spring-wagon. He died in 1849.
Dr. Jacob Lewis was born Oct. 13, 1767, in Somerville in Somerset County, N. J. His father died of a fever contracted while in the revolutionary army, leaving a wife and seven children. Although the doctor's War of 1812 service was noteworthy, it paled in comparison with an earlier experience.
It began in the spring of 1791, when 23-year-old Jacob Lewis visited a sister who had settled in western Virginia. While he slept, three Indians broke into the house, kidnapped his sister and killed his brother-in-law, a niece and a neighbor's daughter. Lewis eventually returned to New Jersey, where he began his medical studies.
In fall of 1793 -- while the Ohio frontier remained in a state of war -- Lewis received a long-delayed letter, which his sister had secreted past her Indian captors. It included instructions to contact an Indian trader at Detroit, who would know her location.
Lewis left Nov. 1, reached Detroit Feb. 3, 1794, and with much assistance, soon found the sister. The squaw who owned her also had a cow. An intermediary agreed to ask the Indian woman to trade a loaf of bread for milk. As expected, the captive sister was asked to translate during the exchange. This provided an opportunity to instruct the sister on how to escape.
The attempt failed because of a misunderstanding, and the bread-for-milk ruse was tried again. It worked this time, and Lewis maneuvered his sister to freedom. They returned to New Jersey in mid October 1794.
Later, he left New Jersey with his wife and practiced briefly in Pennsylvania. In the spring of 1802 they arrived in Hamilton. Dr. Lewis "never really practiced much," said the 1882 county history. After returning from the War of 1812, he settled on his farm in Fairfield Twp. (on Morris Road, north of Tylersville Road). He died in 1851.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, April 9, 1997
Jacksonburg: Legacy of War of 1812
By Jim Blount
The United States experienced its share of triumphs and tragedies during the War of 1812. Butler County soldiers were among those surrendered without a fight at Detroit in August 1812. Others contributed to victories in the battles of Lake Erie and of the Thames in September and October 1813. Most of about 300 area volunteers served in relatively minor, nameless skirmishes in the war against Great Britain and the Indians.
A national embarrassment was the burning of Washington, D. C., by the British Aug. 24-25, 1814. Less than three weeks later, "The Star Spangled Banner" was a byproduct of the British bombardment of Fort McHenry at Baltimore Sept. 13-14, 1814.
The most spectacular and one-sided U. S. victory of the war was at New Orleans Jan. 8, 1815. It didn't lessen American pride when it was learned later that the battle had been waged after the war had ended. News of the peace treaty didn't reach the U. S. until Feb. 11, 1815.
The Treaty of Ghent had been signed in Belgium Dec. 24, 1814, two weeks before Major-Gen. Andrew Jackson guided an army of frontier militiamen in the brutal beating of a larger British force commanded by Major-Gen. Edward Pakenham.
The battle ended an attempt by a British fleet to gain control of the Mississippi River. Two weeks of maneuvering preceded the Jan. 8 showdown at Chalmette, six miles east of New Orleans. It was fought on a flat, one mile wide strip of ground sandwiched between the Mississippi River on west and a swamp on the east.
British officers ordered their soldiers to charge into a narrowing strip of dry land. This enabled the smaller U. S. force -- positioned behind earthworks -- to concentrate its firepower with maximum effect. The British lost 2,036 killed and wounded. U. S. casualties totaled only 21 men, including eight killed and 13 wounded.
No Butler Countians are known to have been in Jackson's army. Most of his men were volunteers from Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana.
The absence of local participants didn't temper the jubilation in Butler County. Here, as elsewhere, Jackson became an instant hero.
Local enthusiasm was still evident the next year, 1816, when three men laid out a new town in Wayne Twp. in northern Butler County. Henry Weaver, John Baird and John Craig called their community Jacksonboro, in honor of the "Hero of New Orleans." Early in this century it became Jacksonburg.
Although platted in 1816, it wasn't incorporated until 1835. By that time Andrew Jackson was president of the United States (1829-1837).
A post office was established June 19, 1818, as Jacksonboro. After 1851, the spelling was lengthened to Jacksonborough. It was changed back to Jacksonboro March 18, 1892. The government discontinued the post office May 30, 1903.
In 1908, the Hamilton Republican-News called Jacksonboro "the oldest smallest town in Ohio, and the smallest municipality or incorporated city in the United States" with a population of 77 people in 1900.
"Years ago," the newspaper said, "when Jacksonboro was founded, the town gave great promise of being a good sized city. That was before the Miami-Erie Canal was constructed. When this waterway was started, the City of Middletown sprang up and Jacksonboro died by degrees."
In the mid 1820s -- before the canal -- Jacksonboro, with about 300 residents, was second only to Hamilton in population and importance as a commercial center. In 1830, with the canal operating through Middletown, Jacksonboro's population had dropped to127 and Middletown had increased to 530 people.
In the latest census (1990), Jacksonburg -- a legacy of the War of 1812 -- was credited with 50 inhabitants.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, April 16, 1997
Neilan Blvd. -- 34 years from plan to reality By Jim Blount
Like many Butler County thoroughfares, Neilan Boulevard took several decades to evolve from concept to reality. It was suggested in 1920 by Arthur E. Morgan, who engineered the Miami Conservancy District, and Gordon S. Rentschler, Butler County representative on the MCD board. It opened in segments in the 1950s.
Proposed was a boulevard extending from High Street south to the Columbia Bridge, and eventually to River Road, south of Hamilton. The MCD said the road could be constructed on the flood-control levee soon to be built on the east side of the Great Miami River.
A Depression and a war sidetracked the idea. In the late 1940s, with more cars on the streets after World War II, relief was needed for north-south traffic on South Second Street and Central and Pleasant avenues.
Neilan Boulevard -- which parallels South Second, Central and Pleasant -- was designed as a direct link between downtown Hamilton and Lindenwald. Heavy vehicles, such as trucks, were prohibited.
It was built with only two intersections over its 2.25-mile length -- at Knightsbridge Drive and at the Pershing Avenue end of the Columbia Bridge. The 60-foot wide boulevard extends from Williams Avenue on the south to Ludlow Street near the heart of the city.
The roadway honors John F. Neilan (1881-1945), a community leader for more than 40 years. As a lawyer, he was active in the county and state bar associations. As a Democrat, he was twice elected city solicitor. He also was an organizer of the Columbia Federal Savings and Loan Association.
Neilan was best known for his civic leadership. After the 1913 flood, he headed relief and recovery work on the west side of the river. Later, he helped establish the Miami Conservancy District, a flood protection program along most of the 160-mile Great Miami River.
During the Depression, Neilan was the first local director of federally funded relief and employment programs. He also worked on behalf of Mercy Hospital; the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce; the Hamilton Welfare Federation and the Community Chest, predecessors of Butler County United Way.
In July 1951, work started on the first section of the road between the Columbia Bridge and Knightsbridge Drive (then known as South Avenue). That half-mile stretch cost the city about $30,000, including $19,000 for nine pieces of property near the bridge. Although unfinished, it opened to traffic in October 1951.
A year later, at noon Wednesday, Oct. 8, 1952, Mayor George E. Radcliffe opened the second link. It extended a mile south of Knightsbridge Drive. The road wasn't paved, but was opened so traffic would compact the gravel to prepare it for surface treating.
The early opening also may have been influenced by the presence of a $400,000 street improvement bond issue on the Nov. 4 ballot. It included $150,000 for completion of Neilan Blvd. If voters approved, City Manager Charles F. Schwalm said the partially completed boulevard sections would be paved.
Voter approval financed the third portion between the Columbia Bridge and Ludlow Street, and work continued the next year. The northbound lanes between the bridge and downtown were opened Tuesday, July 7, 1953.
The northern entrance at Ludlow Street and South Monument Avenue opened Wednesday morning, Aug. 19, 1953. Blacktopping, curb and gutter construction and landscaping were postponed.
The project -- made possible by the cooperation of the Miami Conservancy District, which provided right-of-way along the river -- was completed in the summer of 1954.
Later, the northern entrance was moved north to an extension of Court Street. When the Fitton Center was constructed in the early 1990s, access was moved back to Ludlow Street.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, April 23, 1997
'Second Prohibition' arrived in July 1919, but without federal enforcement program
By Jim Blount
There wasn't one prohibition law, there were three. The first -- an Ohio constitutional amendment -- was imposed at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, May 27, 1919. A "second prohibition" arrived in Butler County July 1, 1919. The "third prohibition" would come Jan. 10, 1920, the effective date of the 18th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.
The law effective in July 1919 was known as war-time prohibition, which didn't generate much excitement. It had no sting. Federal enforcement procedures were lacking until four months later. And, World War I, the basis for the dry mandate, had ended months ago.
Ohio enforcement legislation also was pending, despite the start of state prohibition four weeks earlier than war-time prohibition..
Congress couldn't agree on a federal enforcement plan until October when it passed the Volstead Act, officially known as the National Prohibition Act. The measure set limits on alcoholic content, established punishments for violators and outlined other details of enforcement. It had been introduced by Rep. Andrew J. Volstead of Minnesota.
"There has been a good deal of illegal selling of whisky in Hamilton up to this time," the Journal reported Oct. 27. That day President Woodrow Wilson vetoed the Volstead enforcement bill. The president said he vetoed it because war-time prohibition wasn't necessary -- the war had ended almost a year earlier, Nov. 11, 1918.
The next day, Oct. 28, Congress overruled the president. The House of Representatives, with 204 members absent, voted 176-94 to override the veto. The Senate agreed, 65-20. War-time prohibition was effective at the stroke of midnight Tuesday, Oct. 28, 1919.
Federal authorities made their first check in Hamilton later that week -- Friday, Oct. 31. Fifteen government detectives arrived that morning. They spent the entire day searching Hamilton saloons and clubs.
"They walked into a man's place of business, flashed their credentials and then proceeded to look over everything from the cellar to the attic," the Journal reported. "The contents of many bottles were sampled to see just what 'kick' was in them."
The Journal said "nothing was found in any Hamilton saloon," but the presence of "the feds" aroused curiosity and led to Hamilton's first moonshine arrest. It came the next day, after the federal agents had moved on to Middletown.
An anxious landlord called Hamilton police Saturday evening, Nov. 1, 1919, to report a tenant in the 200 block of Western Avenue was making whisky. The landlord snitched because she didn't want to be held responsible and possibly arrested.
Four Hamilton officers surrounded a shed behind the house and saw two men operating a still. They were arrested as they processed their first batch of moonshine.
"The copper kettle would hold about 40 gallons of sour mash and this was boiled over gas burners," a newspaper explained. "The steam went through a cooled copper coil and the corn whisky was distilled into a barrel. This same process was repeated several times until the whisky was right around the 100 proof mark." The men said they expected to realize about eight gallons of whisky from the three barrels of sour mash.
The moonshiners were held in the city jail for a few days. Eventually they were handcuffed by federal officers and transported by train to Cincinnati. They were indicted and convicted of prohibition violations in federal court in Cincinnati.
Within a few months, moonshiners in the area would multiply -- and so would the enforcers searching for them. The illicit distilleries and breweries could be closed and smashed by local police, the county sheriff, state agents and federal agents and one of several raiding parties organized by mayors in neighboring villages.
Violators would discover that the prospects of receiving a fair trial and appropriate punishment would depend on which agency arrested them.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, April 30, 1997
'Miami Valley Dew' target of 1920 raids
By Jim Blount
"Miami Valley Dew" was a target in the first flurry of prohibition raids in and around Hamilton in the spring of 1920. The early crackdowns rated detailed news stories and prominent headlines. Violations which seemed flagrant then, later merited only a few lines in local newspapers. Also later, violence and death would become elements of the dry era in this area, which became known as "Little Chicago."
Federal prohibition began Jan. 10, 1920, the effective date of the 18th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. Ohio prohibition -- the result of a state constitutional change -- had started May 27, 1919.
One of the first federal complaints involved roving moonshine salesmen who solicited workers as they entered and left factories, especially on pay days. Federal agents roaming an industrial area stopped three men carrying suitcases at North Fourth and Vine streets on a Friday night in April 1920. It was about 11 o'clock -- just before a shift change at nearby plants.
They found the suitcases filled with moonshine whisky. Two of the men fined $200 each in federal court in Cincinnati. Charges against the third man were dismissed.
Federal agents arrested a resident of Stephen Street on a Monday night in May 1920 on charges of operating a still and having a batch of mash on his property.
He claimed the device produced cheese, not moonshine in fighting the charges in federal court in Cincinnati. An unconvinced judge fined the man $500 and sent him to jail for six months.
Hamilton police cooperated with federal prohibition agents in closing two outlets for "Miami Valley Dew" on a Saturday night in May 1920.
At a residence in the 900 block of South Front Street, raiders found six gallons of moonshine whisky and 50 gallons of grain mash ready to be processed. The dealer and four customers were arrested. A customer admitted paying 50 cents a drink and $2 for two-thirds of a pint of "Miami Valley Dew," a name given local products.
A few minutes later, a house on Walnut Street was raided. The woman residing there was arrested when agents found 100 gallons of grain and molasses mash, but only half a gallon of "Miami Valley Dew" moonshine.
Most of the area's top quality moonshine in the spring of 1920 was either manufactured or distributed from one or more points in East Hamilton. Federal agents believed they had trapped the leader of the East Hamilton operation Sunday night, May 16., when an undercover officer arranged a meeting to buy whisky.
The elusive dealer operated from a car. The transaction was set for 10 p.m. on the street at South B and Arch streets on Hamilton's West Side. The dealer arrived on schedule with 10 gallons of whisky priced at $30 a gallon. Instead of a thirsty customer, he was met by a covey of federal prohibition agents.
About a week later, the feds claimed to have found the source of the fine quality whisky which had been dispersed from East Hamilton. A 50-gallon still was secluded on a farm on Elk Creek Road, about four miles north of Trenton. Raiders found 10 gallons of 110-proof corn whisky from the still and 150 gallons of corn mash awaiting processing.
"The maker of this whisky was an expert," said Dan Madden, chief deputy state prohibition agent, who was one of the raiders. He called it one of the finest taken in Ohio.
Sheriff Frank E. Pepper, who led the May 22 search, said it was "the biggest raid that had been pulled off on a moonshine still in this part of Ohio."
U. S. Deputy Marshal John R. Haught testified to the success of the still operator, a 28-year-old who claimed he was merely a farmer. Haught said the violator had been depositing about $1,500 a week in a local bank, most it profits from the Madison Township moonshine operation.
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