Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 1999
Civil War carnage 'ghastly looking sight'
By Jim Blount
The reaction of Civil War soldiers to the sight of dead and wounded comrades varied, said Frederick W. Keil in his history of the 35th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
Keil explained the difference in recalling the regiment's first experience in seeing casualties after the Battle of Mill Springs, Ky. (also known as Logan Crossroads) Jan. 19, 1862.
"Surgeons had tents . . . where the fierce work of amputating limbs was going on," said Keil, a member of the regiment, also known as the Butler Boys. "The sight was more than most nerves could endure."
"When a contest was going on, men would look on bodies horribly torn by shot and shell; but when the sound of battle had died out, then there were few that could muster courage to look at sights like those to be seen at a surgeon's tent near a field hospital."
Keil also recalled seeing Michigan troops burying Confederate dead after the Battle of Mill Springs near Somerset, Ky.
"The bodies were laid as closely to each other as the rigidness of the dead would admit. There they lay, faces turned upward, hands placed upon the breast -- a ghastly looking sight. We did not linger," Keil said, "as it was no inviting place."
Keil described other sights, activities and experiences in the everyday life of the 959-man regiment raised and trained in Butler County.
"A regimental camp in the field has its attractions," he recalled. "The quartermaster's tent, where the soldier gets his blouses, his shoes, his canteens, his haversacks, his blankets and whatever he needs for equipment, was one of the places of attraction."
"The commissary's tent was not without attractions," Captain Keil said, "for here they issued the rations; and it improved one's appetite to see how scrupulously nice the authorities were that everything should be presented in an appetizing manner."
"Only a limited number of men were interested in the surgeon's tent, and made hasty morning calls, under a mild protest, unless a heavy reconnaissance, or foraging expedition was under way. It was then that some really marched to the surgeon's tent with a seeming smack of satisfaction," Keil added.
"But the real point of interest, and where a large number could always be found, was at the sutler's tent. What the country store is to the village, or to the crossroads, the sutler's tent is to the regiment."
Keil said "the guard house is often a prominent concern, and quite a necessity in some regiments; but the 35th had little use for one, save to coop up suspicious characters that now and then hung about our camp."
The Union supply system wasn't always able to provide enough food for the army. Soldiers often had to take matters into their own hands, according to Keil. "We lived off the country" in some areas, "and foraging was a part of our daily duty."
The plan, he explained, "was to take whatever was needed, and issue a quartermaster's certificate, which enumerated the articles taken, gave value of same in dollars and cents, 'to be paid when the parties proved their loyalty to the union.' The country was filled with that kind of floating indebtedness."
The 35th OVI, originally commanded by Ferdinand Van Derveer, endured three years of Civil War service, including participation in the battles of Perryville, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge and Sherman's Atlanta campaign.
Keil's observations were recorded in his book, Thirty-Fifth Ohio, A Narrative of Service, published in 1894 by Archer, Housh & Co. of Fort Wayne, Ind.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 11, 1999
50-year perspective on HHS Class of '49
By Jim Blount
Trying to summarize the accomplishments of a high school graduating class 50 years later is a daunting task, especially if it is of the caliber of the Hamilton High School class of 1949, which will hold reunion activities Aug. 20-21.
A quick look at the names in a yearbook emphasizes the many achievements and contributions of the 1949 HHS graduates, who could buy a six-ounce glass bottle of Coke for a nickel, or purchase five tokens for rides on city buses for 35 cents.
From Hamilton to Washington, D. C., and beyond, the graduates have heeded the charge of a graduation speaker "to seize every God-given golden opportunity."
Diplomas were presented to 418 class members June 7, 1949, in the HHS auditorium, the school's 88th commencement. A reporter described the group as "poised, clear-eyed and confident."
Graduates speaking on the theme "What Makes America Great" were Virginia Jonson (Annes), Dave Belew, Marie Boggs (Sutton), Donald Wieche and Janet Combs (Joyner). Also, Juanita Ward (Rose) sang, accompanied by Susan Kiehborth (MacLeod).
Four days earlier, the class night program at the Elks City Club included Charles Tankersley, Wally Duemer, Sally Trowbridge (Blackwelder), Jack Goebel, Walter Powell, Eddie Howard, Janet Liehenseder (Wilson), Ronald Lindner and Bernie Griesinger, class president.
Class popularity contest winners, announced that night, included Don Wieche and Marie Boggs (Sutton), brainiest; Jim Bailey, best athlete; Janet Coombs (Joyner) and John Estridge, best musicians; Wally Duemer and Joan Kinnear (Cooper), best personality; Bob Mitrione, most handsome; Sally Trowbridge (Blackwelder), prettiest; Bill Wilks and Virginia Jonson (Annes), most friendly; Patty Mackie (Rockwood) and Paul Cawein, most likely to succeed; Dave Belew and Janet Liehenseder (Wilson), busiest; and Pat Gift (Griesinger) and Fred Belden, best physique.
Also, Joan Kinnear (Cooper) was homecoming queen the previous fall and Patty Mackie (Rockwood) was president of the HHS National Honor Society.
Walter Powell shared the class night honor of most pleasing voice with Juanita Ward (Rose). According to the yearbook, Powell was a member of Student Council and active in the Forensic League. Later, the 1949 grad's high school experiences were reflected in his career in education and election to office in the fledgling City of Fairfield, and to the Ohio General Assembly and the U. S. House of Representatives.
Leaders on the local industrial scene later included 49ers Dave Belew (Beckett Paper) and Peter R. Renstchler (Hamilton Foundry). Bill Siebert, sports editor of the HHS Weekly Review, continued his distinguished journalism career at the Journal-News. Jerry Merz, Joe Hazlett and Jerry Rost were long-time members of the Hamilton police department.
Unfortunately, space doesn't permit more than this sampling of the later achievements of class members.
As the seniors approached graduation day 50 years ago, an industrial advertisement in the Journal-News announced the availability of "jobs for men with or without experience," starting at $1.06 to $1.61 an hour. Several graduates took advantage of Hamilton's booming economy and became productive employees of the city's varied industries.
For class night, Kieser's on High Street advertised men's formal attire for sale at $36. Male graduates could buy a summer suit for $35 at Worthmore's on High Street, and for the females, summer dresses ranged from $8.95 to $12.95 at the Robinson-Schwenn Store, also on High Street.
Parents could treat graduates to the renowned smorgasbord at Eaton Manor, 1892 Dixie Highway, on Saturday evenings. The more than 20 entrees included steak, fried chicken and fresh seafoods. The price was $1.60 for adults, 80 cents for children.
For at home celebrations, parents could buy sirloin steak at 59 cents a pound, chicken at 57 cents, smoked ham at 55 cents and ground beef at 35 cents in Hamilton meat markets.
An ideal graduation gift would have been a new-fangled television set, advertised at $299 at Sears Roebeck on South Second Street. The price didn't include an installation charge.
Of course, no account of the HHS 49ers would be complete without mention of their memorable athletic exploits. That will be covered in this column next week.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug.. 18, 1999
1949 HHS athletes rated school's best
By Jim Blount
To start an argument, make a claim that a particular graduating class boasted the best athletes, or athletic record, in the history of a high school. For many long-time followers of Hamilton High School sports, the real debate is which class was second best -- after the class of 1949.
For a starter, consider that five members of the 1949 class have been inducted into the Butler County Sports Hall of Fame -- Jim (Boxcar) Bailey, Jack Gordon, Bernie Griesinger, Don Knodel and Bill Wilks. The recently-established Hamilton Schools Athletic Hall of Fame includes Bailey, Gordon, Griesinger and Wilks. All five also had outstanding collegiate athletic careers, and Gordon and Knodel became coaches.
It is likely that some of their classmates will be added to those distinguished lists in future years. Potential nominees may be a topic this weekend when the HHS class of 1949 holds its 50th reunion.
"Athletically speaking, the class of 1949 is the outstanding one in the school's history," wrote Bill Moeller, then sports editor of the Journal-News, in a 1949 column.
"That can be said without qualification," Moeller declared. "Never have seniors so completely dominated the athletic teams at HHS, and never have said teams been so successful -- state championships in golf, football and basketball within a year's time, plus national recognition for tumblers and good records in tennis, baseball and track."
Coach Chuck Thackara's Big Blue football team compiled a 9-1 record, its only loss a 27-20 upset at Mansfield. It scored 30 points or more in eight of its 10 games, including a 61-12 walloping of Springfield. That team included Wilks at quarterback and Bailey and Gordon as an unstoppable tandem at the running back positions.
Coach Warren Scholler's basketball team finished 25-1, winning the state championship with a convincing 70-52 win over Toledo Central Catholic in the Fairgrounds Coliseum in Columbus. Four of the hall-of-famers were part of that multi-talented team, Bailey, Griesinger, Knodel and Wilks.
The previous school year, three 49ers -- Hugh Quinn, Jim Tewart and Wayne Barrett -- had contributed to Coach Dick Goos' state championship golf team.
Moeller also noted the achievements of two of Coach Jim Grimm's prot?g?s -- "Dennis Hargett, national high school trampoline champ, and his associate, Fred Belden, one of the outstanding tumblers in the country."
Speaking of graduation ceremonies, Moeller said "most prominent on the program will be Don Wieche, the basketball defensive star and tennis player, who will be one of the commencement speakers." Wieche became a physician.
"First in alphabetical order to get his diploma will be Jim Bailey, one of the all-time greats in football, basketball and track," Moeller continued.
"Voted the outstanding senior of the year," Moeller wrote, "was Bernie Griesinger, who sparkled on the basketball team and on the tennis aggregation," and also class president.
"All the coaches," Moeller said, "will weep in unison as Bill Wilks gets his diploma, for the blonde youngster not only was one of the greatest basketball players in the school's history, but a fine quarterback, a good tennis player and a wonderful boy to handle."
Moeller also added that "this history-making class was composed of gentlemen, credits to their school on and off the field."
Of course, it is impossible to name everyone who contributed to the athletic successes of the class of 1949. And, to emphasize how high school athletics have changed in 50 years, note that Bill Moeller, known for his fairness and sensitivity, made no mention of female athletes in the class. He was not alone -- the 1949 yearbook doesn't include a picture or list any woman's team in any sport.
In concluding his column, Moeller declared that the "feats of this class will live forever in Hamilton sports annals and it's improbable that any class ever will surpass it." Few would argue with that 50-year-old statement.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 1999
Is Hamilton violating merger pact by moving to Renaissance Center?
By Jim Blount
Is Hamilton about to violate one of the stipulations in its merger agreement with Rossville when it moves city offices to a new building under construction at the southwest corner of High Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.?
The city is set to occupy a portion of One Renaissance Center, a seven-floor privately-developed office complex adjacent to the 11-story Government Services Center. Most operations would be shifted from the Municipal Building at the northeast corner of High Street and Monument Avenue.
The relocation ignores the 1854-1855 agreement forged by leaders in the two rival towns -- Hamilton on the east bank of the Great Miami River, and Rossville on the west side. Hamilton grew around Fort Hamilton, built in 1791. The town became the county seat in 1803. Rossville formed as a separate community in 1804.
Civic and business leaders in the two communities began discussing merger in 1853, and the idea soon gained momentum. When the question appeared on the ballot April 3, 1854, it was approved by 68.2 percent of Hamilton and Rossville voters (490 for, 229 against).
The combination was completed in February 1855, and won formal state authorization March 10, 1855, creating a city of about 5,000 people. In the 1850 federal census, the two towns had a total of 4,657 inhabitants; 3,210 in Hamilton and 1,447 in Rossville.
"A suitable building, or buildings, shall be erected or purchased," the merger compact said, "for a mayor's office, council chamber, post office, city court and other city offices on a lot or lots . . . 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 is now Court Street.)
The present Municipal Building, completed in 1935, met the criteria. So did its predecessor. From 1875 until 1935, Hamilton's two-story city hall was on the south side of Market Street between Monument Avenue and North Front streets.
Moving city offices east of the boundary line will not be the first time the 1855 agreement has been ignored. Post offices, high schools and the market have been east of the Front Street demarcation line.
Regarding a market, the agreement said as long as the merged city had "but one market house" it "shall remain where it now is on the east side of the river on High Street, west of Front Street." It also stated that "whenever an additional market house shall be required, one of them shall be erected on the west side of the river."
Since 1912, the market has been centered around the Butler County Courthouse, which is east of Front Street.
In 1853, Hamilton's few high school students attended classes in a building on the east side of South Front Street, between Ludlow and Sycamore streets. In 1858, after the merger, high school classes were moved to the third floor of the former Rossville School at the northeast corner of Ross Avenue and South C Street.
The terms of consolidation of the two towns stated that education leaders would acquire land "in a convenient situation . . . on the west side of the river . . . for the purpose of the central high school."
In 1879-1880, over West Side objections, the high school was relocated to the Fourth Ward, on the approximate site of the present Jefferson Elementary School. In 1892, a new high school was built on the northwest corner of South Second and Ludlow streets. That school -- known as Central High School -- was replaced in 1915 by Hamilton High School, erected at the southeast corner of Dayton and North Sixth streets. Both were east of the agreed upon area.
Two high schools opened in 1959 -- Garfield east of the river and Taft on the west side. During the 1980-81 school year, Hamilton reverted to one high school in the former Taft building on Eaton Avenue -- a move in compliance with the 1855 Hamilton-Rossville merger agreement.
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