Journal-News, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 1999
Duncan F. Kenner, Miami grad, worked to save the Confederacy
By Jim Blount
A Miami University graduate headed a last-ditch effort to preserve the Confederacy near the end of the Civil War. Duncan Farrar Kenner, Class of 1831, believed the South could secure recognition and possibly support from European nations if the upstart government would abolish slavery.
Kenner was one of three Miami alums who served in the Confederate Congress. Others included Robert Ludwell Yates Peyton and John J. McRae, the latter profiled in a previous column.
Kenner, a New Orleans, La., native, studied law after graduating from Miami, but never practiced. Instead, he earned his fortune in farming and horse breeding. After 1836, he served several terms in the state house of representatives and the state senate.
After secession, he advocated a strong central government for the Confederacy. During the Civil War, 1861-1865, he represented Louisiana in the Confederate Congress. Kenner served on the finance, patents and ways and means committees.
In December 1864, Kenner persuaded President Jefferson Davis that slavery was the major obstacle to diplomatic recognition and independence for the Confederacy. Davis authorized Kenner to conduct a secret mission to Britain and France, where he would promise emancipation as a trade for recognition.
Kenner arrived at Wilmington, N. C., his proposed embarkation point, just as the port was closed after the South lost the Battle of Fort Fisher Feb. 15, 1865. In disguise, he went to New York where he sailed for Europe. British and French leaders rejected his emancipation-for-recognition proposition.
Kenner rebuilt and expanded his ruined plantation after the war and held various elective and appointive officers, including the United States Tariff Commission in 1882. Kenner died July 3, 1887, at his New Orleans residence.
Robert L. Y. Peyton -- Miami Class of 1841 -- represented his adopted state, Missouri, in the Confederate Senate from Jan. 21, 1862, until his death Sept. 3, 1863.
He was born in Loudon County, Va., Feb. 8, 1822. As a boy, he moved to Oxford, Ohio, with his parents. Later, he earned a law degree at the University of Virginia before opening his practice in Harrisonville, Mo. He joined the state legislature in 1858. The senator also held the rank of colonel of the Third Missouri Cavalry.
Peyton's congressional assignments included committees concerned with claims, commerce, Indian affairs, post offices and post roads, and engrossment and enrollment.
Among several other Miami alums in southern service was Joseph R. Davis, whose first wife was a half-sister of Robert Peyton. The 1842 Miami graduate also was a nephew of Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president.
Before the war, he practiced law in Mississippi, his home state, and was a member of the state senate when the war began. He entered the CSA army as a captain in the 10th Mississippi. He served briefly on his uncle's staff as a colonel before promotion to brigadier general. Davis was a controversial commander at Gettysburg in July 1863. After being idled by illness, he returned to command in the Wilderness campaign and the siege of Petersburg.
After the war, he resumed his law practice in Biloxi, Miss., where he died Sept. 15, 1896.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 1999
Chrisholm, a work in progress, has multiple historic signifcance
By Jim Blount
Writers of history often concentrate on wars, battles, treaties, politics, elections, revolutions, major technological advances and other headline events instead of the everyday routines of home and work. Among the neglected topics is life on the family farm, especially in the era before chores were lightened by electricity, treated water, sewers, paved roads and gasoline-powered machinery and motor vehicles.
Efforts to preserve Butler County's agricultural past include restoration of the Chrisholm Historic Farmstead in Madison Township, and the reprinting of a related book by Doris L. Page and Marie Johns, local historians.
The two-story house -- at 2070 Woodsdale Road, between Woodsdale and Trenton -- has been described as a Victorian-Italianate brick house. It was built in 1874 by Samuel Augspurger for Christian Augspurger. It replaced an 1830 stone home destroyed by fire.
The Cinergy Foundation donated Chrisholm -- once a 258-acre complex -- to Metroparks of Butler County in 1995.
Restoration is underway on the exterior of the house, said to typify the "stark simplicity and balanced building of Amish Mennonite settlements in Ohio." The Chrisholm work is funded by a community development block grant obtained through the county commissioners and county department of development.
Additional money will be needed to restore the interior of the house, which obviously was more than a residence because the Auguspurger family was involved in numerous enterprises and civic projects in the Woodsdale area.
Also on the 17-acre site is an impressive Pennsylvania bank barn with a stone foundation. Its bright red exterior has been stabilized, but interior work is awaiting a source of funds.
The house and barn form a postcard rural scene with both structures perched on a knoll overlooking the flood plain of the Great Miami River. The residence is more visible this time of the year with the leaves off the trees that front the house with its full-length porch. The river is about half a mile east of the site.
The property was part of a 1,000-acre tract acquired in 1989 by Cinergy (Cincinnati Gas & Electric) for a generating station. Chrisholm was already on the National Register, and the utility sought an organization to assume responsibility for it.
That led to a coalition including members of the Auguspurger family and descendants, the Trenton Historical Society, MetroParks of Butler County and the Butler County Antique Machinery Club. Representatives from those groups and others form the Friends of Chrisholm, which is promoting the restoration project and educational use of the historic property.
Advocates emphasize that Chrisholm is more than a significant part of Butler County's rich agricultural heritage. It is important also in interpreting Amish Mennonite history in the United States. The Trenton-Woodsdale area was a launching pad for Amish Mennonite settlements in states west of Butler County.
Some of that history is captured in the book by Page and Johns. They first published their book, "The Amish Mennonite Settlement in Butler County," in 1983. A fourth printing, with corrections and new information, was completed in June 1999.
"Our aim," the authors write in the foreword, is "to present a historical narrative of the Amish Mennonite settlement in Butler County . . . interwoven with incidents of daily living, as a tribute to those hardy settlers."
Their effort had its roots in a 1981 survey of older structures by the Trenton Historical Society. "It became evident that many of the farm homes (in the Trenton area) were built by Amish Mennonites who emigrated to this locale from their homeland," the authors noted.
"They established a settlement which was the first to be founded in North America by Alsatians and South Germans following cessation of the Napoleonic Wars."
The Friends of Chrisholm are selling "The Amish Mennonite Settlement in Butler County" for $11.50, including handling and shipping. Orders may be sent to the Friends of Chrisholm, 17 East State Street, Trenton, OH 45067.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 1999
Families of Civil War soldiers aided by generous civilian population
By Jim Blount
"They are, for the most part, made up of small means, very many of them leaving dependent families without the means of support," said the Hamilton Telegraph in its Nov. 28, 1861, edition. The statement referred to men in the Civil War units raised in Butler County and the uncertain economic plight of the families they left behind.
That November, as winter approached, a new unit, the 69th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment, was being formed at Camp Hamilton by Colonel Lewis D. Campbell.
"The colonel informs us that he has been compelled to grant furloughs to men who ought to be in camp drilling, to go home and provide firewood for their families" as winter approached, the Telegraph reported. "This ought not to be -- if the poor men of the country turn out to fight the battles of the country and maintain its honor and integrity," the newspaper said, "it is as little as the wealthy can be asked to do, to provide for the family of the soldier during his absence."
More than a thousand Butler County men, many of them husbands and fathers, volunteered to defend the Union in 1861. Their pay was $13 a month. Unlike later wars, 1the government provided no system for wives and families to receive a portion of the money. In addition, the men often had trouble getting paid on time.
The 35th OVI, the "Butler Boys," for example, went six months without pay while the regiment marched around Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama in mid 1862.
Relief for Butler County families came through local and private efforts, not from federal sources. The response in Hamilton started within days after the first volunteer units departed.
The May 2, 1861, Telegraph said that "75 families of those who have volunteered for their country's defense are now being supported by the citizens of Hamilton, aided also by some liberal contributions from some citizens of the county." The Hamilton relief committee established a storehouse for donations in downtown Hamilton.
Farmers in rural areas were urged to join with their neighbors and collect contributions of food and necessities. "We will send a wagon for the same," the relief committee announced through the Telegraph.
One of the first individuals to respond to the appeal for assistance was Dr. W. Caldwell, who advertised "medical service to the families of the volunteers free of charge."
In December 1861, the Telegraph noted the inaction of the Butler County Commission. The newspaper said the Ohio General Assembly May 10 had passed a measure that "authorizes the county commissioners to levy a tax in the year 1861 not exceeding one half mill . . . for the relief of families of volunteers." The Butler County Commission ignored the opportunity to raise about $10,000 in Butler County.
In an editorial the Telegraph said one commissioner had "neither bowels nor gizzard" and of a second declared that "if, of soul he has any, he fails to display it in sympathy for the suffering of his fellow man." The newspaper charged that commissioner would prefer to "place the wives and children and mothers of those brave and loyal men in the poorhouse."
In contrast, the Telegraph noted that Hamilton City Council had appropriated $1,200 to the cause and had established a commissary for distribution of donated food and goods.
The county tax would have provided enough money to sustain soldiers' families, based on reports on local food prices. At the farmers' market in downtown Hamilton in November 1861, a pound of butter cost 15 cents and a dozen eggs ranged from 12 to 15 cents.
At its Nov. 17 meeting, Hamilton City Council adopted a resolution noting "that considerable suffering now exists among the families of our soldiers in the service of their country from this city, and still more suffering is apprehended from the rigors of the approaching winter." City leaders extended a loan of $2,000 to the county "to grant the necessary aid that should be immediately rendered to such families."
The relief efforts continued until the end of the war in 1865. Collections included cash and merchandise from city well-to-dos and food and firewood from affluent farmers.
Other means supplemented the campaign, including frequent dime-a-dance parties at Beckett's Hall (northeast corner of High and North Second streets). Dance proceeds went to the local relief commission.
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Journal-News, Wednesday Dec. 22, 1999
Christmas shopping simpler in 1899 as economy, employment improved
By Jim Blount
Christmas shopping was simpler in December 1899. Buyers had only advertising in newspapers and a few magazines and store displays to inform them as they searched for gifts 100 years ago. They weren't barraged with tempting radio and TV commercials, telemarketers, junk mail, catalogs and the Internet.
The last Christmas of the 1800s was a good one, according to the Republican News. The newspaper said "the commerce . . . has been good" and "men who were formerly idle are now at work."
Christmas trees were popular that year. "These trees are mostly bought by German families, who attach a sentimental value to the tree that takes them back to the customs of the fatherland," the newspaper noted.
There were few ads for toy. Kullman Brothers said their toys, "former cheap prices, (were) cut in two" as Christmas approached. The ad didn't cite specific prices. The New York Racket Store -- open from 8 to 11 Christmas morning -- sold stuffed animals for 5 and 10 cents, rocking horses at 98 cents, and iron toys from a penny to $2.10 each. The Charles D. Mathes Store promoted dressed dolls for 50 and 75 cents apiece.
The Dan W. Charles Store -- open until midnight Christmas Eve -- featured almonds, walnuts and pecans at from 12 to 15 cents a pound, and a variety of candy from 4 to 9 cents a pound. It also offered tree decorations from 4 to 10 cents each.
Morris the Tailor at the Peoples Store boasted "prices to astonish everybody that needs a suit or overcoat." For example, men's suits and overcoats -- formerly priced from $6 to $8 -- were on sale for $5. Silk initialed handkerchiefs were five cents.
Strauss Clothiers had ladies and gents umbrellas for 98 cents, and the Red Trunk promoted men's slippers from 50 cents to $1.50.
The D. W. Fitton Company had juvenile books from 6 to 14 cents, and "standard works of eminent authors" from 32 to 98 cents, including the works of Louisa May Alcott.
Dec. 25 was a Sunday in 1899 and some Christmas observances were Monday, Dec. 26. Holding services Monday were catholic churches, Trinity Episcopal and German Protestant churches.
The Hamilton post office stayed open until 9 o'clock Saturday, Christmas Eve. In addition, the newspaper said "the holiday business in the various express offices . . . has been unprecedentedly large this year." Three express companies -- United States, Adams and Wells-Fargo -- operated until 9 p.m. Christmas Eve, handling packages sent out of the city.
Among the restaurants open all-day Christmas was one operated by Mrs. Schertz on High Street. The featured meal -- no price advertised -- included roast turkey, oyster dressing, cranberry sauce, lobster salad, French peas, mushroom sauce and celery.
The YMCA hosted about 170 boys, ages 8 to 16, for a Christmas dinner, including a gift for each attendee.
Some members of Wetzel-Compton Post 96, Grand Army of the Republic (Civil War veterans), met on Christmas Day, enjoying ginger cakes, cider, hickory nuts and cigars.
Those traveling could take advantage of special holiday round-trip fares on the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad -- 75 cents to Cincinnati and $1 to Dayton -- effective Dec. 23-25, 30-31 and Jan. 1-2. The CH&D operated as many as 24 southbound trains daily.
Events the week preceding Christmas included the Journeymen Horseshoers Ball at Jacobs Hall, described as the largest in the city during the holiday season. "The hall would not accommodate all in the grand march," a reporter noted.
Several industries provided turkeys for their employees, including 410 workers at the Champion paper mill.
The simple gaiety of season was saddened by news from the Philippines, where U. S. troops were still trying to resolve a resolution that was a by-product of the Spanish-American War of 1898. Mr. and Mrs. John H. White learned that their son, Sgt.-Major Charles E. White of the 13th U. S. Infantry, had died Dec. 7 of a wound received in action.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 1999
Streetscape recalls 1936 improvement and celebration along Main Street
By Jim Blount
Completion of the downtown Streetscape is scheduled next year. Hamiltonians and visitors will welcome the end of the renovation program that some say has given the city's core the look of a bombed-out war zone. The ceremonial ground breaking for the $5.6 million project was Sept. 23, 1998, a little more than two years after formation of a downtown SID (special improvement district).
The SID was created by property owners whose self-imposed assessments are paying for part of the Streetscape program. The downtown group proclaims its mission is "to create, maintain and promote a business environment that is attractive, welcoming and conducive to economic development for business, cultural activities and recreations."
The SID said "it found it imperative to undertake the major capital improvements of the Streetscape project that will form the backdrop for continued development and growth."
From Monument Avenue to Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and between Court and Market streets, Streetscape has included new curbs, gutters and sidewalks, repaved streets, new street lights and traffic signals and other improvements.
When another business district in Hamilton completed a comparable transformation more than 63 years ago, it was cause for a parade and celebration. The July 8, 1936, event, according to the Journal-News, "marked the fulfillment of a long-awaited improvement program" along Main Street.
"New York has its Broadway, London its Strand or Picadilly, Paris its Champs Elysees and Berlin its Unter den Linden, all great streets," said Robert M. Sohngen. "I have seen them all, but none of them ever looked as good to me as Main Street looks tonight," boasted Sohngen, the principal speaker that hot evening.
"It was a gala evening," a newspaper said. "Main Street was bedecked in red, white and blue bunting, stores were 'dressed up' for the occasion, and everyone was in a jovial mood" as "thousands of Hamiltonians from all parts of the city" attended and participated.
Main Street had been modernized from the bridge to the Millville-Eaton avenues intersection, thanks to money from the Works Progress Administration, a federal Depression program aimed at stimulating the construction industries and providing jobs.
Main Street improvements included a repaved street, new sidewalks, replacement of storm sewers and utilities, removal of unused streetcar tracks, and installation of "a 54-unit boulevard lighting system," the newspaper explained.
"The program opened with a parade of more than 250 vehicles, most of them decorated. Two Hamilton bands also were in the procession," said the Journal-News.
"Also marching were many of the 300 WPA workmen who had a part in the job.
They bore a banner reading: 'We Are Proud of Our Work.' "
The parade -- which started a few hours after the temperature had reached the day's high of 106 degrees -- originated at Fifth and High streets.
As it moved over the High-Main Street Bridge, "it was met by a group of girl bicyclists," the newspaper noted. As the procession crossed the bridge, the cyclists broke a ribbon, symbolic of the formal opening of the improved thoroughfare. The parade ended at Millville and Eaton avenues.
The program continued with ceremonies and speeches from a temporary stand built at Main and D streets. There, after recounting some Main Street history, Sohngen explained what the project would have cost without federal WPA funds.
"If this improvement had been made under the ordinary procedure of assessing abutting property owners, the cost . . . would have been approximately $46 per front foot," Sohngen said. Later, a breakdown of the Main Street renovation showed $33,163 paid from city funds and $132,834 provided by the WPA.
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Journal-News, Friday, Dec. 31, 1999
Flood leading local influence of 1900s as era ends with many positive events
By Jim Blount
What were the 10 events and trends that most influenced and changed the Hamilton-Fairfield area during the 1900s? Some were dramatic and sudden; others gradual developments. Most were under human control. One was a major natural tragedy.
1. Great Miami River flood of March 25, 1913:
With Hamilton divided by a lake three miles wide, the rampaging river claimed more than 200 lives immediately and about 85 to 100 more within weeks. The city was in shambles: about 300 buildings destroyed; another 2,000 damaged houses and structures razed later; property damage topped $10 million in 1913 values (or about $167 million in recent dollars).
After the disaster, leaders in nine counties along the river formed the Miami Conservancy District to prevent a reoccurrence. The MCD was funded by those counties. No federal money paid for retarding basins, dams, levees and channel improvements.
Terrifying flood memories caused most Hamiltonians to turn their backs on the river for about 75 years. The Great Miami was feared, not considered a useful resource.
After some failed attempts, Hamilton voters in 1988, by a 2-1 margin, approved a river appearance improvement. Work on a low-level dam was completed late in 1989, replacing mud and gravel with a constant pool of water. Residents soon viewed the river an asset, not a threat.
2. The Little Chicago era, starting in 1919:
The nickname -- and reputation -- wouldn't go away because of the widespread disregard of state and federal prohibition laws, starting in 1919. Hamilton and vicinity were called Little Chicago for resemblance to the crime-plagued Windy City on Lake Michigan.
In 1925, a minister said it was easier to buy illegal whisky than milk in the city. The infamous period -- rampant with political corruption, gambling, prostitution, murder and other vices -- stretched into the early 1950s, despite the end of Prohibition in 1933.
Changes started during the dark period. With leadership from local women, voters in 1926 approved a city charter. It aimed at reducing partisanship and political patronage and introducing professional management to city government. The new system became effective in 1928, a year before a stock market crash ignited the Great Depression. Reform wasn't immediate, but the charter was a start in changing city government.
3. World War II, 1941-1945:
Hamilton industries plunged into defense work in the late 1930s, two to three years before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. The agony of the Great Depression had ended as 11,800 Hamiltonians, 23.3 percent of the city's population, worked in local factories.
By mid 1942, women and teenagers swelled the labor force to more than 15,000 in factories operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In excess of 16,000 Butler County men -- including 8,161 Hamilton draftees -- served their country. More than 480 Butler Countians died during the war.
4. Industrial exodus of late 1950s:
"Known in the World's Markets" boasted Hamilton about 90 years ago. The realistic slogan was reinforced by periods of dramatic industrial expansion through the mid 1950s. In 1953, as the Korean War ended, 20,680 people worked in more than 125 Hamilton factories.
But corporate mergers, old buildings, worn out equipment, product changes, shifting markets, new manufacturing technology and government Cold War defense policies contributed to a demoralizing industrial exodus. The flight began in the late 1950s. By 1962, by various estimates, from 25 to 43 percent of the city's industrial jobs had vanished.
5. Fairfield formation, 1954-1955:
Just before Hamilton's industrial setback, city leaders envisioned new plants and new tax sources in rural areas surrounding the corporate limits. In 1954, Hamilton civic leaders proposed annexing much of Fairfield Township. Instead, the Village of Fairfield formed to thwart Hamilton's southern expansion. A year later, the village became the City of Fairfield.
For several years, the city's tax base was anchored by the Fisher Body plant on Dixie Highway. Production at the General Motors plant began in September 1946. Employment ranged from a high of 4,234 people to about 2,500 when production ended 41 years later.
By the time Fisher Body closed in 1989, Fairfield's tax base had expanded and diversified. It was a formidable loss, but not crippling, as it would have been earlier.
Fairfield doubled its population in the 1970s (14,680 people in 1970 to 30,707 in 1980),a 109.7 percent increase, highest in the county. By 1990, it reached 39,729 as growth continued.
Commercial and industrial development gained momentum in the 1970s. In 1998 and 1999, a Downtown Fairfield began to take shape with initial work on Village Green, a residential and commercial complex west of Pleasant Avenue at Wessel Drive.
6. Development in Union and Liberty townships:
The southeastern area was Butler County's next growth center. Population in Union and Liberty townships jumped from less than 5,000 people (4,740) in 1950 to nearly 50,000 (48,952) in 1990. In the latter census, Union counted 39,703 inhabitants, Liberty 9,249. In 1950, only about one in 31 county residents lived in the area; by 1990, it was one in six.
Most residential expansion came after the 1960 opening of I-75 through the two townships. Industrial and commercial activity has surged since the 1970s, and promises to gain more momentum with such improvements as the Union Centre interchange on I-75 (1997) and the extension and widening of Muhlhauser Road (1999).
7. Fernald and the Cold War, 1951-1989:
Fernald -- only partially in Butler County -- became the area's best known Cold War facility. Officially the Feed Materials Production Center, it was built by the Atomic Energy Commission to refine uranium ore.
Operations began in October 1951, three years before completion of the plant, and continued until July 1989, four months before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Employment peaked at more than 2,800 people in the 1950s. Federally-directed cleanup at the often controversial site is in its 10th year.
The undeclared Cold War (U.S. vs. USSR) included the Korean War (1950-1953) and the Vietnam War (1964-1975). Fifty Butler Countians died in Korea and 81 in Vietnam.
8. The High Street Underpass, 1981, a turning point:
Since 1919, Hamilton had planned an underpass at the bottleneck created by High Street crossing two busy mainline railroads a block apart on the eastern edge of downtown.
Sixty-two years later, ground was broken, but it was more than a start on a traffic solution. Sharing the credit Sept. 24, 1981, were local government officials and business leaders who had joined forces to lobby for the underpass.
The project, completed in 1985, seemed to revive the community with a spiritual injection of optimism and determination. After years of seeing plans gather dust, the partnership of government and private enterprise charged ahead on several other proposals with a "can-do" attitude.
Hamilton, Fairfield and the county acquired the threatened Hamilton Airport in 1984. A year later, the Hamiltonian Hotel opened -- 21 years after the Anthony Wayne had closed. The previously-mentioned low-level dam in the river was completed in 1989.
9. Hamilton development in the 1990s:
When Hamilton sought an appropriate way to observe its bicentennial in 1991, the result was a lasting gift from generous individuals and businesses -- the Fitton Center for the Creative Arts that opened in 1992.
Early in the decade commercial development began on West Main Street around Washington Boulevard, leading to a complex of stores and restaurants that has brought tax dollars and jobs to Hamilton.
Highway improvements of the decade include widening of Symmes Road, the creation of north-south Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard through the city's center, and two extensions of Washington Boulevard between Cleveland Avenue and West Elkton Road, and from Brookwood Avenue across Main Street.
In 1996 Hamilton acquired 263 acres between Tylersville and Hamilton-Mason roads that is being developed as Hamilton Enterprise Park. In 1999, the 11-story Government Services Center opened on High Street at Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. In 2000, city offices will move into the adjacent One Renaissance Center.
10. Hamilton's belated link to the interstate system, 1999:
Hamilton was skipped in the 1950s, despite a 1956 federal promise to make cities of 50,000 or more people part of the interstate highway system. I-75, when opened in 1960, was 10 miles to the east, accessible by antiquated rural roads. For nearly 35 years -- and more unfulfilled promises -- nothing changed as Hamilton's economy suffered because of isolation from the interstate network.
Thanks to the efforts of several local governments, the county and private interests, the city and its neighbors have a 10.7-mile four-lane divided road running through Liberty and Fairfield townships between Ohio 4 and I-75.
It was built by the Butler County Transportation Improvement District, created in 1994 by Ohio legislators, and including representatives from the cities of Fairfield and Hamilton and Fairfield, Liberty and Union townships, and Butler County government.
The Michael A. Fox Highway (a⁄k⁄a Ohio 129 and the Butler County Regional Highway) opened Dec. 13, 1999. It serves the Hamilton-Middletown Metropolitan Area (Butler County), declared recently as Ohio's leading growth area in the 1990s with a 13.4 percent population increase in the decade -- to about 330,428 residents and still developing.
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