Journal-News, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 1997
Butler County's first jail occupied space in former powder magazine at Fort Hamilton
By Jim Blount
If voters approve a half percent sales tax increase next month, Butler County could have its fifth jail before the 200th anniversary of the county in 2003. The present lockup, which opened 26 years ago, can't handle existing penal demands.
The former powder magazine in Fort Hamilton served as the first county jail (1803-1808). In 1803, it was a logical choice for a new county in a new state -- both strapped for funds.
Ohio started to function as a state March 1, 1803. A little more than three weeks later -- March 24 -- the General Assembly, meeting in Chillicothe, created Butler County. Hamilton was chosen as its county seat July 15, 1803. The first Butler County court met in a tavern and soon moved to a 20x40-foot, two-story building left over from the fort.
The magazine had stood on the south angle of the fort, which had been built in 1791 and abandoned in 1795 by the U. S. Army. It was located near the present intersection of South Monument Avenue and Court Street.
The sheriffs responsible for maintaining the make-shift jail were William McClellan (1803-1807) and John Wingate (1807-1809). Both men had served in the Indian-fighting army that had used the building as a powder magazine.
"It was some 15 feet square, constructed of heavy logs, hewed square and laid close together, with a floor and ceiling hewed and laid in the same manner," said L. H. Everts in describing the jail in the Atlas Map of Butler County (1875).
The 1875 account said "a hipped roof came to a point in the center, where it was surmounted by a round ball of wood. The door was of heavy two-inch oak plank and driven full of iron spikes and nails, with a hole in the center, in the shape of a half-moon, for the admission of light, air and food for the occupants."
"Standing isolated, it was, of course, very insecure and escapes were almost as frequent as commitments," Everts observed. It had to be replaced with a stronger, more secure compound.
After it was closed as a jail, the building survived for 105 years -- until swept away in the March 1913 flood.
Butler County commissioners authorized a new jail Sept. 30, 1805. John Torrence and John Wingate won the contract to build the facility on the south side of the public square (now the courthouse square between High, Front, Court and South Second streets in Hamilton).
It was a two-story structure, measuring 33 by 20 feet. The $1,600 building -- mostly of stone taken from the bed of the Great Miami River -- was completed by Sept. 1, 1806, as contracted, but the interior wasn't finished until December 1808. An adjacent building to house a jailer and his family was completed in 1810.
The second jail also was insecure and susceptible to escape, said the 1875 atlas.
It housed prisoners until 1848 under the direction of 10 sheriffs. They were William McClellan (1809-1813), James McBride (1813-1817), Pierson Sayre (1817-1821 and 1829-1831), Samuel Millikin (1821-1825), John Hall (1825-1829), William Sheely (1831-1835), Israel Gregg (1835-1839), John K. Wilson (1839-1843), William J. Elliott (1843-1847) and Ferdinand Van Derveer (1847-1849).
With the opening of the third jail in 1848, the 42-year-old building was sold at auction July 15, 1848. It was purchased by Robert E. Duffield for $194, less than an eighth of its original cost. Duffield demolished the building and removed the stone.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Oct. 8, 1997
Third Butler County jail in service for 123 years -- from 1848 to 1971
By Jim Blount
Butler County's third jail -- in service for 123 years -- helped add momentum to industrial development in Hamilton. The 1846 plans called for cast iron plates and bars for cells to hold about 75 prisoners. The contract for the ironwork went to a new factory on the northwest corner of North Fifth and Dayton streets, then owned by M. D. Ross and Mark Lemmon of Dayton.
Ross and Lemmon aren't prominent in Hamilton history, but the name of the man in charge of installation of the jail ironwork in 1847 has endured. He was Clark Lane, later part of the Owens, Lane & Dyer firm and donor of the public library bearing his name.
The third jail, erected on the south side of Court Street, in the middle of the block opposite the public square, measured 86 by 48.5 feet. It was much larger than its predecessor, a 33x20-foot, two-story structure completed in 1808.
The new jail was built by Alexander P. Miller of Fairfield Township, who won the contract March 4, 1846. His bid was lowest among 11 submitted to the county commission and he was awarded the contract that day. Miller's talents included stone masonry and carpentry, and he operated sawmills and rock quarries. His extensive land holdings included 562 acres in Fairfield Township when he died in July 1862.
Miller also had been involved in many projects which contributed to the growth and stability of the county. They included the Hamilton & Rossville Hydraulic, the Middletown Hydraulic, the Miami-Erie Canal, and Grand Reservoir, now Lake St. Marys near Celina. He was one of 11 Hamilton men among the original stockholders in the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad. He also was among original stockholders and organizers of Greenwood Cemetery.
The two-story $18,000 jail -- which was supposed to cost $8,581 before additions and alterations -- was accepted and occupied Aug. 9, 1848.
Just a month earlier, the last of about 300 Butler County men were returning from service in the Mexican War (1846-1848). The sheriff who supervised the opening of the new jail was Ferdinand Van Derveer, who had been a captain in the First Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment which served with distinction in Mexico in 1846. Van Derveer was the first of 27 sheriffs to oversee operations of the jail.
For much of its existence, the 1848 jail also was the sheriff's residence, and operating it was a family chore. Living quarters were in the front and on the second floor of the stone building.
The sheriff's wife automatically acquired the title of jail matron. She managed the kitchen and the routine of feeding prisoners. She usually had the help of sons and daughters, who, depending on their age, also shared other jail maintenance duties. When offspring were lacking, or too young, the sheriff's wife hired a woman to help with the baking, cooking and dish washing.
The matron also was responsible for doing the jail laundry. For many years, it was the custom for the matron to prepare a lavish dinner for members of the grand jury on the opening day of each session.
Until the 1930s, there was plenty of room in the building for official duties. Until then the sheriff's staff included only one or two deputies, and sometimes a jailer.
The old jail was the scene of executions before the state assumed that responsibility. Two men, both convicted of first-degree murder, were hanged on temporary scaffolds erected in the southeast corner of the jail yard, one for a Hamilton saloon death in July 1869 and another for killing his mother near Millville in June 1885.
From August 1904 through July 1948, seven men sent from the Butler County jail were executed in the electric chair in the Ohio State Penitentiary in Columbus. An eighth man died of natural causes before his scheduled electrocution.
For more than 20 years, the jail was the target of criticism by grand juries, who deplored its out-dated and inhumane conditions. When built, it had a capacity of 68 male and six female prisoners. By the late 1960s, occupancy averaged 86 men and eight women, or 24 percent above capacity. In addition, by then, the sheriff's department had increased in size and responsibilities and more space was needed for police and administrative functions.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Oct. 15, 1997
County voters approved fourth jail in 1968; obstacles delayed its opening until May 1971
By Jim Blount
It has been more than 29 years since Butler County voters were asked to approve a tax measure to build a new jail. The present $1.323 million lockup -- built to house 157 prisoners, more than twice the capacity of the previous jail -- was completed in 1971.
It had three predecessors -- a one level 15 by 15 foot square log building left over from Fort Hamilton (1803-1808); a two-story 33x20 stone building (1808-1848); and a two-story 86x48.5 stone structure (1848-1971).
Nearly 60 percent of Butler County voters favored a half-mill tax levy in May 1968. The jail issue -- approved by a margin of 14,506 to 9,973 -- provided about $1.1 million for erecting a new jail and demolition of the building opened in 1848. Proponents said the levy would cost the average county homeowner only $3 a year over its three-year period.
One of the major selling points in the campaign was the physical limitations of the jail built during the Mexican War. "A new jail," it was argued, "would permit separation of inmates according to legal status. Convicted criminals with long records of violence would not be housed in the same areas with persons arrested for the first time on minor charges. There also would be adequate facilities for women prisoners," advocates stressed.
The 1968, vote was the third within 11 years involving a jail proposal. In 1957, a bond issue which would have financed a new courthouse and new jail was favored by 54.7 percent of Butler County voters. State law at that time required at least 55 percent approval for passage.
In 1962 -- when only a majority was needed for passage -- a levy for a jail and courts building received the support of only 39 percent of those voting.
After voter approval May 7, 1968, it took Butler County commissioners until Sept. 10 to decide the location of the new jail. That day, the commission instructed the architects to plan it on county-owned land at the rear of the existing compound, which was on Court Street facing the Butler County Courthouse.
The commission also had considered erecting the new jail on the courthouse lawn.
Architectural details for the three-story complex were handled by two Hamilton firms, Winkler, Ranck and Beeghly, and Siegel, Steed and Hammond.
After rejecting one set of bids in March because they exceeded expected income, commissioners opened bids on revised plans May 1, 1969 -- nearly a year after the vote.
Carl J. Conradt & Sons Co., Hamilton, won the general contract. In the process, the inmate capacity was reduced from 192 people to 157, a 20 percent cutback.
The ceremonial groundbreaking was May 19, 1969, with completion anticipated in August 1970. But complications delayed the project for several months. A major setback was a strike by cement masons which extended from June 1 until Oct. 26, 1970. Practically no work was completed during that period.
The building was finally dedicated Sunday, May 2, 1971. The next weekend, equipment and prisoners were moved from the 123-year-old jail to the new facility under the direction of Sheriff Harold J. Carpenter.
Carpenter (1969-1976) was the first of four sheriffs to supervise the jail. The others have been Robert Walton (1976-1989), Richard Holzberger (1989-1993) and Harold Don Gabbard (since 1993).
In November 1989 -- to reduce pressure on the Court Street jail -- the county opened an 85-bed minimum security jail (Resolutions I) at 442 South Second Street for non-violent offenders. In October 1994, ground was broken next door (438 South Second Street) for Resolutions II, a 160-bed minimum security facility.
In less than three weeks (Nov. 4), voters will be asked to increase the county sales tax from 5.5 to 6 percent to provide funds for the construction and operation of a fifth maximum security jail to replace the over-crowded 1971 building.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Oct. 22, 1997
Phone tip led to rare arrest of rum runner
By Jim Blount
The phone rang about 11 o'clock Wednesday morning, Nov. 10, 1920, in the Butler County sheriff's office on Court Street in Hamilton. Sheriff Frank E. Pepper answered the call.
"Look for two machines (cars) heading south on the Dixie Highway," said the anonymous caller. "They're running whisky out of Hamilton towards Cincinnati."
The tipster could have been a law-abiding citizen who favored strict enforcement of state and national prohibition laws.
More likely, the call came from a rival bootlegger or rum runner who (1) wanted to hurt a competitor or (2) divert the sheriff's attention. By stopping or limiting a rival, a dealer could reduce the supply and justify increasing his price.
Whatever the motive, the call led to a rare occurrence in Butler County -- apprehension of a rum runner by a local enforcement officer.
After receiving the tip, Sheriff Pepper drove alone into Fairfield Township along lonely Dixie Highway (later Ohio 4).
Just south of Hamilton, he saw two cars approaching. The sheriff blocked the narrow two-lane road with his vehicle. Both cars stopped.
The first car -- an Apperson -- was driven by a woman, who permitted the sheriff to search the vehicle. He found no liquor and gave her permission to continue.
When the sheriff moved his car off the road, the man driving the second car -- a Cadillac -- tried to take advantage of the opening in the roadblock.
Pepper took a chance, jumped on the running board, drew his pistol, pointed it at the driver and ordered him to stop. The man halted at Schenck's Station (at the present site of the Ohio 4 underpass under the CSX tracks, just north of St. Clair Avenue).
The sheriff found 22 cases of whisky and placed the man under arrest. He was ordered to drive to the sheriff's office and jail on Court Street while the woman in the Apperson followed.
When the three people in separate cars arrived in downtown Hamilton, the woman accosted the sheriff in an attempt to permit the man to flee. Instead, she was arrested and both drivers were jailed.
Their attempt to use fictitious names also failed and they were booked as a husband, age 30, and wife, 34, from Louisville, Ky.
After admitting they had purchased the whisky in East Hamilton, the couple was turned over to federal agents in Cincinnati for prosecution.
Prohibition had been in effect less than 18 months in Ohio when Sheriff Pepper executed the single-handed capture of the rum runners. The rarity of his feat wasn't appreciated then.
The odds of operating unhindered in Butler County were heavily in favor of the rum runners. There was little chance that persons hauling beer, whisky or wine would be seen or stopped by local law officers.
The sheriff's department in 1920 included only four people who shared one automobile. Besides the elected sheriff, there was a jailer, a field deputy who served legal papers and the office deputy, who usually directed the small staff and doubled as a detective when he had time.
There were no road patrols and little effort at crime prevention -- particularly prohibition violations. There simply wasn't time for those duties.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 1997
Tylersville named after John Tyler, occupant of White House in 1942
By Jim Blount
Today's column concludes a tour of historic Union Township communities with visits to 18-Mile Stand, Gano, Maud, Pug Muncy, Shoemaker and Tylersville.
John Tyler was occupying the White House in 1842 when Daniel Pocock laid out a village in Sections 29 and 30 in the township. He named it Tylersville in honor of the first vice president to succeed to the presidency. Tyler became president in 1841 upon the death of William Henry Harrison. The area's original name is believed to have been Pug Muncy. That was said to have been the name of a popular early African-American settler who shared water from his well with his neighbors.
Tylersville -- which was at the intersection of LeSourdsville-West Chester and Tylersville roads -- had its own post office from July 15, 1889, until July 15, 1902. Maud -- its neighbor to the east -- wasn't named after a woman, as commonly assumed. The town -- in Section 23 around the intersection of Tylersville and Cincinnati-Dayton roads -- also has been called Maud's and Maudville.
Families had resided near the crossroads for several years before the railroad arrived in 1872. Cincinnati-Dayton Road (later U. S. 25) had been an important wagon and stagecoach route between the two cities in its name. Then it was known as the Great Miami Turnpike.
The community developed as the Short Line Railroad (now Conrail) was built between Cincinnati, Middletown and Dayton.
A post office was established Aug. 22, 1872, as Shoemaker. It was changed to Maud's May 19, 1874, and Maud June 7, 1893. Richard Maud, who had been born in the township, was the first postmaster.
The railroad also spawned Gano in Section 20 on the Butler County-Hamilton County line. It was established as a station on the Short Line Railroad. (The railroad has been known by several names -- the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati & Indianapolis Railroad; the New York Central; Penn Central and Conrail, and soon to be acquired by Norfolk Southern.)
Gano was platted May 12, 1873, by Charles Gano, a promoter of the Short Line. A Gano post office existed from Dec. 19, 1872, until Feb. 28, 1910.
An older community was 18-Mile Stand, at the juncture of sections 5, 6, 11 and 12. A more familiar description of its location is the intersection of Tylersville and Princeton (Ohio 747) roads, just west of the former Lakota High School.
James Patchell, a native of Ireland and a veteran of the War of 1812, moved from Pennsylvania to Ohio in 1816. In 1830, he moved from hip from William Wright.
Later, a son, James Jr., expanded the Patchell holClermont County to Butler County, where he bought 80 acres in Section 11 of Union Townsdings to 244 acres at the southeast corner of Tylersville and Princeton roads.
A road marker in front of the Patchell house formerly identified the location as 18 miles from downtown Cincinnati. "It was a rather busy corner, and it is unusual that a community did not develop there as they so often did at other intersections," observed Virginia Shewalter in A History of Union Township (1976).
In 1996, the 18-Mile Stand intersection was transformed from an out-dated, congested crossing of a pair of two-lane roads (Tylersville and Princeton roads). Turn lanes were added to ease traffic flow. In a few years, Ohio 747 will be upgraded to a multi-lane highway more suited to the Union Township travel demands of the 21st century.
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