Journal-News, Wednesday, March 5, 1997
Hamilton-Rossville unity stressed savings
By Jim Blount
The unification of Rossville and Hamilton wasn't guaranteed when suggested in the early 1850s. There were people in both towns who recalled an earlier failed union of the communities on opposite sides of the Great Miami River.
In 1827 the commercial rivals had incorporated jointly as "the towns of Hamilton and Rossville," but it didn't last long. Rossville citizens petitioned to end the arrangement. The Ohio General Assembly responded by dissolving the marriage in February 1831. Each town then again formed a separate corporation.
In the 1850s, a key figure in the revived merger debate was John Woods, a Hamiltonian and a friend of Rossville. His intellect and political savvy had brought dramatic changes to Hamilton for more than 30 years. He had been a leader in bringing the canal, turnpikes, a hydraulic power system, schools and three railroads to the city.
Woods, a Pennsylvania native, arrived in Hamilton in 1820 to practice law. He also held a range of local, state and national political posts, and headed or was a member of numerous local committees which promoted the economic growth and stability of the area.
His final projects were the unification of Rossville and Hamilton, and the completion of the Junction Railroad (Hamilton to Indianapolis). As president of the railroad, which would serve both towns, he saw great benefits in a merger of the communities.
Woods was a Hamilton representative at an exploratory meeting in October 1853. Also attending from Hamilton were Job Owens, Dr. William Huber, John W. Sohn and William Beckett. From Rossville were John H. Falconer, William Dyer, Stephen Giffen, Dr. W. H. Scobey, J. Schaffer and Jacob T. Miller.
Rossville residents had a chance to debate the issue and express their opinions at a Nov. 1, 1853, meeting at the Odd Fellows Hall (then at the southeast corner of Main and B streets).
During that meeting, a five-member delegation was chosen to continue discussions with their Hamilton counterparts. Chosen to represent Rossville were John H. Falconer and Dr. W. H. Scobey, members of the previous committee, and James Rossman, Jacob Matthias and Joshua Delaplane.
"The expense of one city government would be less than the expense of two governments, and two sets of corporate officers," the joint committee emphasized in listing reasons for the merger. It also concluded that "one name, applicable to the compact territory on both sides of the river, would be much better than two names for a district every part of which is so closely connected in interest."
The report also stressed the importance of "free bridges" -- those free of tolls to users. During the merger discussions, the Miami Bridge (on the site of the present High-Main Bridge) was the only connection. Tolls were charged on that privately-owned span.
A merger would encourage increased trade between the east and west sides of the river, the group believed, and "would secure the construction of several free bridges over the river." It said "two or three free bridges would soon produce harmony and interest, and add greatly to the prosperity of the consolidated city." A second bridge -- and the first free one, the Columbia Bridge -- opened four years after the merger.
In January 1854, Woods invited leading men from Rossville and Hamilton to his home for a dinner. Speaking as president of the railroad, he expressed strong views for the marriage of the rival towns.
Within a few weeks, a joint committee was formed to draft the terms and conditions of uniting the towns. Joining Woods on the committee were Thomas Millikin and William Hunter (Hamilton), and M. C. Ryan, Samuel Snively and Alfred Thomas (Rossville).
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Journal-News, Wednesday, March 12, 1997
Hamilton and Rossville merged in 1855
By Jim Blount
The merger of Hamilton and Rossville won the support of more than two out of three voters in an election April 3, 1854. The marriage was completed in February 1855, and formally accepted by the state March 10, 1855.
The 68.2 percent positive outcome, said the Hamilton Intelligencer, "was a triumph for public spirit and common sense, and we think the step will never be regretted" and people "will in a year or two regard this as the brightest period in the history of our community."
Hamilton traced its origin to the building of Fort Hamilton in 1791. Rossville started in 1804 after the federal government opened land west of the Great Miami River for settlement.
The political and economic rivalry had been intense for most of the 50 years, but Hamilton and Rossville leaders and citizens had been able to work together on many measures. This included building a bridge and securing access to the Miami-Erie Canal.
In the 1850 census, Hamilton counted 3,210 residents and Rossville 1,447, a total of 4,657 people of all ages in the towns on opposite sides of the river.
Only 719 voters decided the merger question. The outcome was 331-149 in Hamilton, 159-80 in Rossville, or a combined 490-229 decision.
Unfortunately, John Woods didn't live long enough to appreciate the long-term results of his determined unification efforts. The 60-year-old leader died July 30, 1855, about five months after Hamilton and Rossville combined.
Woods -- a leader in business and politics for 35 years -- was the catalyst for the union. A key event was in January 1854, when Woods invited leading men from Rossville and Hamilton to his home for a dinner. As president of the Junction Railroad, which was being constructed in both towns, Woods took a strong stand for the merger of the rival towns.
The 10 sections of the merger agreement -- written before the 1854 vote -- covered such matters as boundaries of wards, the sharing of money and debts, and other mundane matters.
One of the immediate benefits to Hamilton was a reduction of its debt. As they combined, Rossville was free from debt and had an $11,000 surplus in its treasury. Hamilton was $15,000 in debt.
Controversial areas in the negotiations had been the location of schools, city offices and the public market house. The latter was then an important part of the local economy, not only for townspeople, but for farmers in surrounding Butler County.
The market house, the agreement stipulated, "shall remain where it now is on the east side of the river on High Street, west of Front Street, and whenever an additional market house shall be required, one of them shall be erected on the west side of the river."
The schools, the pact said, "shall be organized and governed by one board of education" and land "shall be procured on the west side of the river . . . for the purpose of the central high school for the city, which shall be erected thereon within five years."
Regarding city offices, the pact said "a suitable building, or buildings, shall be erected or purchased for a mayor's office, council chamber, post office, city court and other city offices on a lot or lots to be procured for that purpose west of, or on Front Street, and not further north than Stable Street, nor south of Basin Street, on the east side of the river." Stable Street later became Market Street, and Basin Street became Court Street.
Hamilton City Council adopted the ordinance May 20, 1854, with James Daugherty, mayor, and Alexander F. Hume, recorder. Rossville Council added its approval to an identical ordinance Feb. 15, 1855, with Robert Hargitt, mayor, and Samuel Shaffer, recorder.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, March 19, 1997
Rumor saved Hamilton lives during 1913 flood
By Jim Blount
A rumor that circulated through Hamilton the morning of Tuesday, March 25, 1913, saved hundreds, perhaps thousands of lives. If others had responded to the unfounded story, it’s likely that the city death toll would not have exceeded 200 during the two days.
About an hour after classes had started, a warning reached Hamilton school leaders from Dayton, also located along the restless Great Miami River. The report said a dam had broken at Dayton, about 35 miles northeast of Hamilton.
In 1913, there were no radio or television stations to confirm or deny the statement. There were telephone and telegraph communications, but most local connections had been lost that dreary morning. Railroad and interurban travel also had been disrupted.
In previous hours, about 10 to 11 inches of rain had drenched the area. The Great Miami River and its tributaries already were out of their banks in many places. On Easter, March 23, the river's depth had been three feet in both Hamilton and Dayton. The next day, Monday, March 24, the Hamilton level had increased to 4.8 feet. In Dayton it had more than doubled to seven feet.
Those facts -- plus the rumor of the Dayton dam collapse -- caused Hamilton educators to close schools and order the pupils to return to their residences. Fortunately, there was no school busing in the city in 1913.
As they walked home, many children repeated the dam rumor to adults on the streets and in businesses and industries. The adults, in turn, spread the story. Soon there was an exodus of workers from offices, stores and factories in the city.
Those believing the story rushed home to encourage family members to move to higher ground east and west of the river.
No dam had collapsed, and there wasn't a "wall of water rushing down the river," as some recalled the report. But there was immediate danger. The river had never risen as fast as it did that morning. By 11 a.m., the river in Hamilton had reached 24.3 feet, topping the record set during a March 1898 flood.
At 12:12 p.m., as hundreds of people watched, the surge washed away the Black Street Bridge. A few moments later, the High-Main Street Bridge collapsed. At 2:12 p.m., the railroad bridge fell into the turbulent Great Miami.
The Columbia Bridge held until 2 a.m. Wednesday, March 26, the day the river officially reached 34.6 feet in Hamilton.
By Wednesday morning, the swollen river was three miles wide in the city. The water extended from present Erie Highway on the east to C and D streets on the west. Later, engineers measured its depth at more than 43 feet at several locations, including at the intersection of Vine and North Seventh streets.
Much of the Midwest was flooded in the last full week of March 1913. In Ohio, 94 towns listed millions of dollars worth of flood damage and 367 deaths.
Hamilton was the hardest hit in terms of loss of life. More than 200 people died in the city, including some whose bodies were never recovered. There also were victims found later, but never identified.
Hamilton property losses included more than 300 houses destroyed and 2,000 so severely damaged they had to be demolished. In addition, many businesses, factories, schools, churches and institutions were destroyed or damaged.
The flood left more than 10,000 people homeless in a city that had 35,279 inhabitants in the 1910 census. Health problems created by the flood claimed more lives after the water receded.
Unknown, of course, is how many Hamiltonians would have died March 25-26, 1913, if someone hadn't started the baseless report of a dam breaking somewhere north of the city.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, March 26, 1997
Daniel Millikin, first Hamilton doctor, volunteered as surgeon in War of 1812
By Jim Blount
Hamilton's first resident doctor volunteered as a surgeon and quartermaster during the two-and-a-half-year War of 1812. But his military stint rates only a brief note in his outstanding record of 42 years of community service.
Dr. Daniel Millikin -- who arrived in 1807 -- wasn't the first doctor to practice in Butler County or Hamilton. He was, however, "the first regular physician who practiced" in Hamilton "for a long time, and whose history was identified with it," stated the 1882 county history.
He was born Feb. 4, 1779, in Washington County, Pa., and studied medicine in that area. Dr. Millikin visited the Miami Valley in 1804, three years before moving his first wife (Joan Minor) and their three children (the first of 12) to Hamilton.
From Fredericktown, Pa., they traveled via flatboat over the Monongahela and Ohio rivers to Cincinnati. The family reached Hamilton May 7, 1807.
A brother, Dr. Samuel Millikin, also arrived in 1807 and opened the town's first apothecary shop. Another brother, Dr. Robert B. Millikin, started a medical practice in Rossville in 1817.
Although Dr. Daniel Millikin located in Hamilton, he reached most of his patients on horseback over primitive roads and rough trails. His practice extended throughout Butler County and into neighboring counties. Common ailments then were pneumonia, malaria, typhoid fever and milk sickness, afflictions seldom found today.
As customary in those years, the doctor accepted payment from patients and their families in many forms, including wheat, corn, oats, flax, sugar, meat and linen.
In 1824, when it was organized, Dr. Millikin was the first president of the Second Medical District of Ohio, which covered Butler and Preble counties. District officers were responsible for examining persons seeking state medical licenses.
Throughout his career, he was outspoken on public health issues. In 1833, during a local cholera epidemic, Dr. Millikin promoted formation of a Hamilton board of health. When a board was appointed, he was one of its first four members.
When the Butler County Medical Society formed in 1837, Dr. Millikin was elected its first president and helped draft a code of ethics for local physicians.
His service extended beyond medicine. Soon after his arrival in Hamilton, he was a town trustee. After serving in the War of 1812, he was a major general in the Ohio militia. Hamilton's pioneer doctor also represented Butler County in the Ohio General Assembly and completed three terms as an associate judge of common pleas court.
For 11 years, Dr. Millikin was a Miami University trustee. He held office from 1812
to 1821 and again from 1822 to 1824, years when the Oxford institution was struggling to open its doors and attract its first students.
In 1815, he was on a three-man committee charged with building a brick church in Hamilton -- its first -- to be shared by Presbyterian and Associate Reformed congregations.
In the same year, Dr. Millikin was a trustee of the Hamilton Literary Society and built a log school on his property, hired a teacher and made the instruction available to other families in Hamilton.
Dr. Millikin -- the son of an Irish immigrant -- died Nov. 2, 1849. For 42 of his 70 years, residents of Hamilton and the surrounding area were beneficiaries of his varied talents and interests.
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