Journal-News, Wednesday, June 3, 1998
Civil War officer became Miami's 10th president
By Jim Blount
Unlike his Civil War service, Robert White McFarland eventually made a name for himself at Miami University. As a lieutenant colonel, the math professor suggested rearranging numbers on soldiers' caps. In that way, two Union regiments appeared to be 16 to Confederates defending Cumberland Gap in September 1863. The scheme worked, but it never attracted the attention of Civil War historians.
"Only a great-browed mathematician, skilled in permutation and combination, would have hit upon the final plan" which caused southern spies to see a "handful of regiments (as) a vast and crushing army," said Alfred H. Upham, 19th Miami president, in his 1909 book, Old Miami: The Yale of the Early West.
After the Sept. 9, 1863, surrender, McFarland and the 86th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment began a new phase of service at Cumberland Gap.
Fighting was minimal, but nearly five months of occupation duty was hazardous. Continuing shortages of food and other supplies were complicated by a smallpox epidemic and sub-zero weather before the 86th's term ended in February 1864.
McFarland joined several Miami students and Oxford residents -- who had been part of Company A in the 86th -- in returning to Butler Bounty. The professor, who had come to Oxford in 1856 to teach mathematics and astronomy, remained at Miami until 1873.
Leaving Oxford after 17 years wasn't his doing. He didn't have a choice. In 1873, mounting financial problems forced Miami University to close its doors with slim hope that it would ever reopen.
McFarland found work in Columbus at the new Ohio State University (chartered three years earlier in 1870). He taught there until 1885. From 1881 to 1885, he also was Ohio's inspector of railroads.
In 1885, McFarland returned to Oxford to become president of the re-opened Miami University.
He was the 10th person to hold that post, but the first layman. Previous MU presidents had been clergymen. When he ended compulsory attendance at chapel, critics accused him of abandoning Miami's religious foundations.
"To the conservative college with its deference to its own traditions, McFarland brought an awareness that the classical curriculum was no longer adequate, that higher education was inevitably growing secular and scientific, and that coeducation was coming, said Walter Havighurst in The Miami Years.
"He had worked hard if not happily at his office," said Havighurst. "He had been president, librarian, superintendent of grounds and buildings, adviser and admonisher of students, appealer of funds to the state legislature and alumni -- all in addition to teaching 35 hours a week." During his hectic three-year tenure, Miami enrollment climbed steadily. There were 50 students when the university reopened for the 1885-86 academic year. It jumped to 62 in 1886-87, and to 75 in McFarland's final year.
McFarland -- whose Miami service is commemorated by a residence hall -- closed his career as a civil and mining engineer before retirement in 1900.
Until his death Oct. 23, 1910, in Oxford, he resided in the two-story, nine-room brick house he had built in 1857 at southwest corner of Patterson Avenue and Spring Street in Oxford. It was acquired by the university in the 1930s, and razed in 1957 to permit construction of the Shriver Center.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, June 10, 1998
Liberty Twp. seeks its own postal identity
By Jim Blount
One of Butler County's fastest growing townships is seeking its own postal identity. Residents of Liberty Township want their mailing address to reflect where they live instead of saying Hamilton, Middletown, Monroe, West Chester or Lebanon.
Earlier this year, Butler County commissioners added their support. They asked the postal service to "reinforce a sense of community and put an end to the confusion and frustration that having five postal designations has created."
The township's oldest communities were Bethany, Clawson, Flenner's Corner, Fontana, Hughes or Hughes Station, Huntsville, Jericho, Kyles or Kyles Station, Maustown and Princeton and portions of Rockdale and Monroe. Some of those unincorporated towns once had their own post offices.
In the last 30 years, Liberty has added several dozen subdivisions. Their names range from Dutchland Woods, Logsdon Ridge, Evergreen Farm Estates, the Oaks of Woodcreek and Stonehenge to Lakota Ridge, Lakota Meadows, Hunting Creek Estates and the Wynds of Liberty. The new Lakota East High School, in the southeast corner of the township, recently completed its first academic year.
With the completion of the Butler Regional Highway in a couple of years, the township will have its own I-75 interchange.
According to some estimates, the 28-square-mile township -- which had 6,500 residents in 1980 and 9,249 in 1990 -- may reach 35,000 population by 2000.
Liberty Township was one of the five original townships established in Butler County May 10, 1803. The others were Fairfield, Liberty, St. Clair and Ross. "It derives its name from the bias of its early settlers, who were men of liberal views and patriotic motives; most of them having fought against the Indians," said the 1875 Butler County Atlas. June 2, 1823, the lower part of Liberty Township became Union Township.
Liberty has three border communities -- Monroe, Flenner's Corner and Rockdale. Monroe originated in Lemon Township and extended south into Liberty earlier in this century.
Flenner's Corner is at the intersection of Hamilton-Middletown Road (Ohio 4) and Liberty-Fairfield Road, so named because John Flenner started a store there in 1850 and also dealt in grain. It straddles the Fairfield Township line.
Rockdale is on the Great Miami River where Liberty and Lemon townships meet at the north end of Rockdale Road, north of Ohio 4. The mill and factory site also was on the Miami-Erie Canal and the Louisville, Cincinnati & Dayton Railroad (now the CSX New Miami-Middletown line).
Kyle, Kyle's or Kyles Station is in Section 28 around the intersection of Kyles Station Road and Maud-Hughes Road. It was settled in 1803 by Thomas Kyle.
A post office was established there Aug. 22, 1872, as Fontana. It was changed to Kyle's Aug. 29, 1879, and to Kyle June 5, 1893. In the 1870s, it became a station on the Short Line Railroad (later the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati & Indianapolis Railroad, New York Central, Penn Central, now Conrail and soon to become Norfolk Southern).
Also on the railroad is Hughes or Hughes Station in Section 27. It was founded in 1822 by Joshua Hughes. A post office was moved from Princeton Dec. 9, 1872, and known as Hughes Station until it was changed to Hughes Sept. 19, 1887. The post office was discontinued May 31, 1906.
The Liberty Township tour will continue in a future column with visits to Bethany, Clawson, Huntsville, Jericho, Maustown and Princeton.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, June 17, 1998
Florida didn't impress soldiers of '98
(This column is the eighth of a series covering Hamilton and Butler County participation in the Spanish-Americaan War of 1898.)
By Jim Blount
For about 75 men from the Hamilton area, their first impressions of Florida weren't suitable for tourist promotion. But soldiers, regardless of the location, seldom send home glowing reports. The men in Company E of the First Ohio Infantry Regiment in 1898 were no exceptions. They found their camp near Tampa "a miserable barren piece of land with no shade," according to a report in a Hamilton newspaper.
Company E had left Hamilton April 26, 1898, a day after the U. S. had declared war on Spain, starting the Spanish-American War. After a few days in Columbus, the First Ohio encamped at Chickamauga, Ga., May 17. Three weeks later, the regiment moved to Florida, arriving in Tampa by train June 3.
"The country down here in Florida is not very picturesque. There is such a sameness that it soon tires the eye. Nothing but sand, sand and pines," said Captain August W. Margedant.
"If I tell you that we are camped on the beach with a view out onto the gulf and with pines overhead and amid a whole forest of palms, you might think we had a lovely spot," Margedant wrote. "But it is not quite as pretty a place as the description would lead you to believe."
Margedant said "the ground is nothing but loose white sand on which the sun is reflected and the palms, which are of the kind that we call fan palms at home, are the meanest things you can imagine for a camp."
He said the palm leaves "grow up, not just from the ground, but from a sort of trunk that lies along the ground. The trunks," he explained, "are intertwined and form a network all over the ground." He said "the leaves are tough and we can hardly force through. We have been doing little else but chop down palms all day and still the camp is full."
The captain described the camp site as on "Palmetto Beach, 10 miles from Tampa and between Port Tampa City and the gulf."
After a trip into Tampa, he noted that "the streets are narrow and nothing but loose sand and the horses sink in up to their knees." He said "dirt and foul smell are every place and this is what breeds the yellow fever."
"The only fine thing here is the water, not that which we drink, for that is brought here in tank cars, but the gulf," Margedant observed. "The beach is long and the water beautifully clear." He said his soldiers enjoyed going into the gulf, "and everyone has brought in most everything that lives in the water."
"There was one saving feature about the camp," wrote Karl W. Heiser in his book, Hamilton in the War of '98. "The clear, blue surface of Tampa Bay could be seen stretching far away to the Gulf, and the bathing and fishing were fine." He said "collecting of seashells and souvenirs of all kinds was a common diversion with the soldiers," and some indulged in alligator hunting. The troops also were entertained, Margedant said, by watching "the large army of fiddler crabs that come out at high tide."
An officer in the Third Ohio told a Hamilton friend that "I am in this damnable hot country without a cooling drink." He said "the nights are cold and we sleep with two blankets over us, although it is almost unbearably hot in the day time. Water is what we need more than anything else, and for a good drink," he said, "I would give a great deal."
The frustration increased after a false alarm. Tuesday, June 6, the Ohio soldiers were ordered to pack baggage and board transport ships, an indication they were headed to battle in Cuba. After waiting three days at dockside, the First Ohio was ordered back to its camp.
When the military showdown came in Cuba, the men of Company E were still fighting the sand and heat -- and shortage of good drinking water -- on the Florida beach.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, June 24, 1998
Soldier described San Juan Hill fight
(This column is the ninth of a series covering Hamilton and Butler County participation in the Spanish-American War of 1898.)
By Jim Blount
The climatic battles of the Spanish-American War were waged in Cuba in July 1898. Among those involved in the fighting was Private Jacob Morton, one of at least five Hamiltonians in the Sixth U. S. Infantry Regiment.
American forces were victorious in the battles of El Caney and San Juan Hill July 1. But it wasn't until July 17 that about 24,000 Spanish troops surrendered at Santiago. The Spanish government in Madrid asked for peace nine days later.
Morton, better known in Hamilton for his baseball prowess, shared his experiences of June and July 1898 in letters that were reprinted in Hamilton newspapers.
June 17, he wrote while aboard the Miami, a transport ship that took him from Tampa. "We have been out of sight of land for seven days," he reported. The night before, lightning had struck the ship, "and we rolled and tossed all night," he said, "and I never want to see the like of it again."
The Sixth was one of several U. S. regiments in the July 1, 1898, attack on San Juan Hill. The most publicized unit was the Rough Riders, a dismounted cavalry regiment that included Lieutenant-Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, a future president.
"It was awful and when we charged up the hill and took the forts and hill, I thought every minute that I would go down," Morton wrote July 4, describing combat July 1 near Santiago. "Out of 64 men in our company, 24 are missing."
During the early fighting, the Hamilton soldier said a companion "was shot through the body, and all I could do for him was to carry him to a place of shelter and then keep on moving for my own safety."
As the advance continued, Morton met a soldier who had been a cook. During the fight, he "grabbed up a gun and was now fighting for his own life. He and I were in the charge together, all the way up the hill, and when we reached the top of the hill," Morton said, "a bullet caught him (the cook) in the cheek and tore part of his jaw away."
Morton reported that the Sixth Regiment "had 563 men when we started in the battle and we lost 246 men at the first charge."
"It is certainly a wonder that I was not killed for men were falling all around me," he said. "I expected every moment to be my last."
After that fight, Morton said "we dug rifle pits around Santiago." The Spanish charged before the digging was completed. "We saw them coming when they were about 800 yards away," he recalled. "They came on and when about 150 yards away, the command 'fire' was given and all our men and four Gatling guns were turned on the advancing Spaniards." After repelling the assault, the Sixth Regiment resumed its digging on the prominence about half a mile from Santiago harbor.
"A rifle pit in which each man is stationed is a hole in the ground four feet deep, six feet long and three feet wide, and in front of that is five sacks of earth under which is a hole just large enough to stick a rifle through," he explained.
During the relative lull, Morton said the enemy "killed a large number of our officers. They have sharpshooters up in trees and when we go for water or leave camp, they pick us off, but we are picking them out and there are few left now."
Amid the terror of war, Private Morton had time to appreciate the Cuban countryside. "This is a most beautiful place, and the fruit which is so good grows in abundance," he wrote in a July 11 letter, six days before fighting ended in Cuba.
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