Journal-News, Wednesday, July 2, 1997
Pierson Sayre, veteran of Revolution, served city and county in many ways
By Jim Blount
July Fourth commemorates the Declaration of Independence, a 1776 document that would have been insignificant if the American colonies had not won the American Revolution. Several men who fought to gain American independence later became residents of Butler County.
One of them was Pierson Sayre, a three-term Butler County sheriff who was a prominent citizen of Hamilton for 38 years. He was born Sept. 12, 1761, in Turkey in Monmouth County, N. J.
As a 17-year-old, Sayre enlisted in the Continental Army as a private in Lord Sterling's New Jersey Division, which later came under the command of General Nathaniel Greene. Most of Sayre's two-and-half-year service was in New Jersey.
In his nearly 91 years of life, Sayre had a variety of occupations, starting after the American Revolution as a carpenter in New York City. While there, he was married to Catherine Lewis June 29, 1786. They had 52 years together before her death Dec. 25, 1838, in Hamilton.
In 1790, Sayre moved to Uniontown, Pa., where he remained until 1809 when he came to Butler County. During his Pennsylvania residence, he rose from lieutenant to major in the state militia. He also was sheriff of Fayette County, Pa.
He bought a farm about seven miles north of Hamilton on the road to Middletown. He also operated a tavern, the Cross Keys, on the property. Later, he moved to Cincinnati where he operated the Green Tree tavern.
Sayre soon came back to Butler County, first to a tract in Lemon Township before locating in Hamilton in 1814. He and his wife took over management of the former Torrence Tavern at Dayton and Water streets (now part of the site of the Hamiltonian).
He served three two-year terms as Butler County sheriff, winning election in 1817, 1819 and 1825. His service was interrupted because a state law then limited officeholders to two consecutive terms.
As his third term ended, the Miami-Erie Canal was opening through the county. He was appointed the first collector of tolls in Hamilton (1828-1830).
From 1835 until 1839, he was the toll collector on the Miami Bridge, the first span on the site of the present High-Main Street Bridge.
Sayre also continued as a carpenter while residing in Hamilton. He was involved in building several structures, including an academy, or school, in 1834. Later, that building became the Hamilton town hall (1875-1935). It was razed to permit construction of the present municipal building.
The veteran of the American Revolution had seen many changes in his lifetime, noted James McBride in a biographical sketch. They included conversion of "the primeval forests" in the county "into fertile cultivated fields and gardens;" bridges spanning the Great Miami River; "turnpike roads in all directions;" and the building of "a canal carrying the surplus produce" to market.
"The crowning wonder" for Sayre, said McBride, was Sept. 18, 1851, when "he witnessed the arrival of the locomotive and cars of the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad." According to McBride, "with astonishment, he exclaimed: 'I am ready to die now.' "
Sayre died April 4, 1852, in Hamilton. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, July 9, 1997
Lives depended on George W. Griswold, Hamilton railroad telegrapher for 47 years
By Jim Blount
George W. Griswold's tools were the key and sounder and Morse code, a system of dots and dashes that transmitted messages. He was a railroad telegrapher in Hamilton for 47 years. A smooth flow of commerce and the lives of thousands of passengers depended on such men.
Telegraphers controlled the meeting, crossing and passing of trains traveling in opposite directions, and those connecting from branches to main lines. With adoption of the electric telegraph, railroads dispatched passenger and freight trains with greater efficiency and safety.
Sometimes human error overrode the system. For example, investigators blamed Butler County's worse railroad disaster -- which claimed 24 lives and injured about 35 people July 4, 1910 -- on conflicting orders.
A train dispatcher at West Middletown informed the crew of a northbound freight that they had until 1:07 p.m. to enter a siding at Poast Town. Meanwhile, the engineer on a southbound passenger train, relying on orders from Dayton, believed he already had a clear track on the main line to Cincinnati. The trains collided on the main line at 1:02 p.m.
The telegraph was used to dispatch trains for the first time on the Erie Railroad in New York Sept. 22, 1851, four days after the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad opened through Hamilton, and about the time Griswold was developing his skills.
George Washington Griswold was born July 4, 1837, in Newark, N. J., and as a child moved with his parents to Dayton, Ohio.
Exactly when he was attracted to telegraphy isn't known, but by the age of 16 he managed the telegraph office at Germantown. Five years later, in 1858, Griswold began his 47-year tenure with the CH&D in Hamilton. He rose to superintendent of telegraph for the railroad that extended from Cincinnati to Indianapolis and Detroit. He held that post when he retired in 1905.
"While in that responsible position he had many vivid experiences," his obituary said, "and he taught telegraphy to from 80 to 100 pupils, many of whom are scattered all over the country and a number of whom are now filling high positions in the railway world and other lines of business."
His obituary emphasized that "during his long term of service, no accident ever occurred on the road that could be attributed to any fault of his. He always practiced the strictest compliance with orders and exacted the same duty from those under his control," noted the obituary writer.
By the late 1880s, the CH&D operated 50 daily passenger trains through Hamilton over two mainlines (Cincinnati-Detroit, and Hamilton-Indianapolis). There are no indications of the number of daily freight trains and switching moves which also relied on local telegraphers.
In Griswold's final years of service, Hamilton operators also had to coordinate CH&D interaction with Pennsylvania Railroad trains, which shared tracks north of Hamilton.
"I shall never forget one incident that illustrated George Griswold's character as a conscientious railroad man," said George T. Earhart, whose career as a general ticket agent had paralleled Griswold's CH&D service.
"He came into my office at the depot one day," Earhart recalled, "white as a sheet and trembling in every limb, and he said in a faltering voice, 'Great God, George! A terrible accident is going to occur soon and it isn't in the province of human power to prevent it.' "
Earhart said "it seemed that there had been a misinterpretation of orders or conflicted orders issued in some manner, and George knew that a collision between two fast-flying CH&D trains was inevitable, with no earthly means to stop it."
As Griswold feared, the trains collided "and the loss of life was frightful," Earhart said. "I never saw a man so completely overcome as George Griswold."
The veteran brass pounder died in his Hamilton residence Dec. 16, 1905. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, July 16, 1997
Livery stable was the hub of the horse era; more than place to store or rent horse and buggy
By Jim Blount
"The livery stable served as the hub of this horse-powered universe," said Thomas J. Schlereth, a historian of the Victorian period. "There drummers rented horses and carriages to haul sample cases into the hinterland. Fancy buggies and sleighs could be booked for picnics, fairs and elopements. The funeral parlor's hearse, the doctor's rig, the town water cart, and hotel hacks were usually stored there," wrote Schlereth in his book, Victorian America, Transformations in Everyday Life, 1876-1915.
He is describing Hamilton at the turn of the century, a city of 23,914 people served by a dozen livery stables, according to Williams' 1900 city directory.
Ten livery businesses were located within an area stretching five blocks east of the river and less than two blocks on each side of High Street. Several were on or adjacent to Market Street, which formerly had been Stable Street, a name descriptive of the establishments which once dominated its course.
Most of Hamilton's 1900 livery stables were more than a place to store your horse and buggy, or rent a horse or vehicle. An example was the Flenner & Griesmer Stable at the northwest corner of Market and Second streets, now the site of the Central YMCA.
Sol Flenner and the Griesmer brothers were proprietors in the business, better known as the Grey Eagle Livery Stable. Immediately around the corner from the stable, at 105 North Second Street (also on the future YMCA site), was a funeral parlor owned by the brothers, Charles E. Griesmer and John I. Griesmer. A horse rented for a wedding one day could be pulling a hearse the next day.
Nearby, at 26 North Second Street, was the City Livery Stable Company, owned by T. C. Todhunter, who resided a few blocks away, and W. H. Todhunter, a Middletown resident.
J. L. Burkart, at 135 North Water Street (now Monument), advertised as a carriage manufacturer; "carriages and buggies, new and second-hand; repairing and painting neatly done; also livery, feed and sale stable."
The J. & J. Everson & Son Livery Stable was at the northeast corner of Market and Front streets (later occupied by Central Motors and now a parking lot). It was operated by J. J. Everson and C. S. Everson.
Livery services also were offered at the Hamilton Hack & Baggage Company, 23 North Front Street, which was managed by Thomas Jellison. Until late 1996, that site was the location of the Rialto Theater.
The only High Street livery site was at 425 High Street, on the south side between Fourth and Fifth streets (now the site of the High Street underpass). In his directory ad, Thomas Millikin Jr., described his business there as "livery, coach, feed and boarding stable."
Three livery operations were located south of High Street.
The Frank Kerbel livery was on the north side of Court Street, west of Water Street (Monument Avenue). Kerbel and his wife, Maggie, also operated the adjacent Farmers' Hotel and Saloon, at the northwest corner of South Front and Court streets.
Livery services were part of the Bigelow Cab Company at 122 South Second Street, under the direction of J. C. Bigelow. N. Bonner & Son, 330 Court Street, was Nicholas Bonner and Nicholas J. Bonner, who advertised as "funeral directors, also livery and boarding stable."
The Arcade Livery Company listed two locations, 329 Court Street and 328 Canal Street (now Maple Avenue), but the addresses were back to back. Its owners, C. W. Flenner and Will R. Beckett, promoted "hacks furnished for funerals and weddings."
Only two livery stables were west of the Great Miami River. Charles Warwick, at 18 South B Street, offered a "livery, feed and sale stable" with "horses boarded at reasonable rates."
Charles C. Schmidtman, at 118-120 Main Street, described his business as a "livery and feed stable" with "special attention paid to drummers." In that era, a drummer was a traveling salesman. The sales agent usually traveled from city to city by railroad and, to complete his local rounds, rented a horse and buggy or wagon from a livery stable."
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Journal-News, Wednesday, July 23, 1997
Wilkison Beatty was an unusual soldier
By Jim Blount
Wilkison Beatty wasn't an ordinary soldier. Dr. Henry Mallory, Beatty's first commanding officer during the Civil War, considered him "in many respects the most remarkable man who ever lived in Hamilton."
Dr. Mallory also described Beatty (sometimes spelled Beaty) as "physically the best made man I ever saw." He was 6-foot-2 and weighed 225 pounds "without one ounce of surplus fat," said Dr. Mallory. "His courage and bravery were so well known that few ever antagonized him," he added
Beatty's reputation was well established before the start of the Civil War in 1861. "He was a man of means and owned one of the largest and best farms in Butler County," said Dr. Mallory, "and was an extensive stock raiser and pork packer for years." His numerous awards won at the annual Butler County Fair were added evidence of the skill of the Millville farmer.
There was another side of Beatty. He also was known for his charity and kindness, including his assistance to victims of the 1849 cholera epidemic.
He enlisted in the 35th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the summer of 1861. At age 64, the volunteer was old enough to be the grandfather or great grandfather of many of the volunteers in the regiment, which was known as "The Butler Boys."
Beatty joined the 35th as a private in Company I, which was commanded by Captain Henry Mallory, a Hamilton physician. Colonel Ferdinand Van Derveer, commander of the 35th, knowing the private's reputation as a horse expert, quickly appointed Beatty wagonmaster of the regiment.
Army regulations said the wagonmaster was responsible for the welfare of the regiment's horses and supervised the teamsters and servants who handled the horses and the wagons. Regulations specified that an infantry regiment have at least six wagons which "must carry nothing but forage for the teams, cooking utensils and rations for the troops, hospital stores and officers' baggage."
Beatty was responsible for 96 horses, or 16 teams of six horses, according to regimental histories.
In an average Union regiment, the useful service of a horse was brief, often just a few weeks, because of abusive use and lack of knowledge in feeding, watering and caring for the animals. The 35th's horses -- thanks to Beatty -- were an exception.
In January 1863, in an attempt to strengthen the Union cavalry, camps were searched for horses which could be transferred to mounted regiments. Beatty reluctantly surrendered his 96 charges to artillery units, which sent their faster horses to the cavalry. In return, the 35th received "scrubby army mules" to pull its wagons
Members of the regiment noted that when the trade was made, the 96 horses were the same animals that the 35th had acquired when its service began in September 1861.
One reason for their endurance was Beatty's insistence that no one ride the horses, including the regiment's wagonmaster. In more than 17 months of service, the 96 horses -- and Beatty -- had marched hundreds of miles through Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama.
Beatty resigned as wagonmaster in December 1863, some believe because of his disappointment in losing his original contingent of 96 horses.
Before returning to Butler County, he operated a hotel in Chattanooga, Tenn. The 69-year-old Millville strongman died Sept. 30, 1866, or 17 months after the Civil War ended.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, July 30, 1997
No challenge too great for Wilkison Beatty
By Jim Blount
Wilkison Beatty "had not one particle of education, but a great deal of natural sense," said Dr. Henry Mallory, who ranked the Civil War wagonmaster as "in many respects the most remarkable man who ever lived in Hamilton."
Beatty's lack of schooling apparently was his choice. He was born into a land-rich Butler County family, which apparently could have afforded to educate him. When as a teenager, he was apprenticed to an uncle, Beatty ran away.
The strong-willed Beatty also was a man of several names. He was named for the controversial and contriving General James Wilkinson. The general, who periodically resided at Fort Hamilton, was second in command to General Anthony Wayne.
Instead of Wilkinson, Beatty wrote his first name as Wilkison or Wilkason. His surname was spelled both Beaty and Beatty.
Through inheritance and purchase, he acquired land in several Butler County locations, including Hamilton and Rossville. Despite his relative affluence, Beatty was a hard worker, not a gentleman farmer.
Beatty had several business ventures, including a butcher shop in the 1840s in Rossville (which merged with Hamilton in 1855). He was best known as a successful farmer and breeder of horses, cattle and hogs on his Butler County properties.
Although 64 years of age, Beatty joined the 35th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment in 1861, soon after the start of the Civil War. As detailed in a previous column, he was assigned as the regimental wagonmaster because of his extensive experience and knowledge in breeding and handling horses..
Dr. Mallory, his first commander during the Civil War, was impressed with the strength of the 225-pound, 6-foot-2 farmer. Mallory said Beatty "was fully conscious of his own strength, and yet not quarrelsome. But woe to the man who tramped on his toes."
In his 1895 book, Gems of Thought and Character Sketches, Dr. Mallory recalled an incident in 1861 soon after the 35th OVI had left Hamilton. The regiment departed Sept. 26, assigned to guard the railroad line between Covington and Lexington, Ky.
"The command was ordered to Cynthiana, Ky., where it arrived during the night, and where it was hoped to surprise a rebel command that was understood to be at that place," the former captain explained. "The (Confederate) force, however, had left some hours before we reached there."
"As this was the first Union command that had gone into Kentucky, the citizens in large numbers visited the camp to see what a Yankee regiment looked like," Mallory said. One of the curious visitors was the mayor.
Addressing Beatty, the mayor boasted "there were 300 southern soldiers here yesterday and they could have whipped this whole regiment," which numbered more than 900 men.
"You're a liar," the 64-year-old Beatty replied.
"The mayor asked Beatty if he was responsible for what he said," Mallory said, "and intimated that he would send him a challenge.
"Beatty replied at once that he would accept, and while he knew nothing about the code of dueling, he believed that the challenged party had the right to choose the weapons."
Mallory reported that Beatty "said that they would select butcher knives, adding that he followed gutting hogs for a living when at home, and that he considered it slow work when 1he could not gut three a minute."
"That settled the mayor, and Beatty heard no more of him after that," recalled Mallory, who left his medical practice in Hamilton to captain a company in the 35th OVI.
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