Journal-News, Wednesday, March 1, 2000
Hamilton Charter moved quickly from idea in 1925 to law in 1928
By Jim Blount
The climate was right for reform in Hamilton in the 1920s. While perpetual financial problems crippled operations, city leaders seemed more intent on political power than efficient management of municipal responsibilities, especially police and fire services. From the start of Prohibition in 1919, rumors circulated that some city officeholders were influenced by payoffs and favors from bootleggers, rum runners, gamblers and others circumventing the law.
By 1925, prohibition-related crimes in Hamilton and the surrounding area were increasing in number and severity. Even if they had wanted to, Hamilton police were too few and invisible to enforce the dry laws enacted at the state and national levels.
"The feds and the state made the laws, let them enforce them. We don’t have enough manpower to do it" was the attitude here and in many other communities.
Six years into Prohibition, it was no longer just a matter of some people trying to get an alcoholic beverage. By then, gangs fought for control of the illicit liquor business, local gambling and other vices. Competitors resorted to more and more violence -- including murder -- in battling rival criminal groups in the Hamilton area.
Leading the movement for change in Hamilton were the Woman’s City Club and local labor unions. Their initiative led to the adoption of the Hamilton City Charter that brought vast changes in how the industrial city of more than 40,000 people would be governed and operated.
The first official step was the November 1925 election. Hamilton voters had to decide two questions -- should a charter be drafted, yes or no, and if approved, who would be the 15 people to form the charter commission that would draft the document. Twenty-two candidates sought the 15 seats.
The charter was favored by 56 percent of the 8,004 voters -- 4,485 yes, 3,519 no, a margin of 966.
Elected to the commission -- which represented a cross section of the community -- were Morris G. Taylor, Ella Mae Cope, Raymond H. Burke, Dr. Mark Millikin, Eleanore W. Frechtling, E. B. Alston, W. R. Sneed, B. W. Ramsey, Reece Pipher, C. E. Woolford, H. H. Haines, John M. Crocker, Frank K. Vaughn, Louis Nau and E. R. Hall.
Vaughn was elected chairman. Other officers were Nau, vice chairman, and Miss Cope, secretary.
Alston was in real estate and insurance; Burke was with an auto agency; Cope and Woolford were teachers at Hamilton High School; Crocker was a Cincinnati Bell employee; and Frechtling with Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe Co. Millikin was a physician; Hall a dentist; and Haines a lawyer.
Nau was president of the carpenters union; Pipher a confectioner; Sneed was secretary of the Valley Ice Co.; Taylor was an officer of Dollar Saving and Loan; and Vaughn was president of the F. Vaughn Building Co.
The charter -- emphasizing nonpartisan elections, placing city operations in the hands of a city manager and a civil service system to eliminate political patronage and nepotism -- was completed by the summer of 1926. It was circulated in the community in preparation for the November election.
The charter margin was 159 votes out of 10,911 ballots cast -- a slim 50.7 percent (5,535 yes, 5,376 no). It passed in four of the six city wards.
The next step was scrapping the ward representation system in the election of Hamilton’s first nonpartisan seven-member city council in November 1927. In the previous election in 1925, voters had selected a mayor, three council members at large, one in each of the six wards, a president of council, an auditor, a treasurer and a solicitor -- a total of 14 to handle city affairs.
The charter -- effective Jan. 1, 1928 -- has been amended more than 40 times in 72 years. It has served the city well during that period, although some sections are outmoded and others conflict with state and federal laws.
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618. March 8, 2000 -- Miami students helped during flood:
Journal-News, Wednesday, March 8, 2000
Miami students helped during flood
By Jim Blount
Shock and chaos hit Hamilton Tuesday, March 25, 1913. The Great Miami River overflowed into the city that morning. Over the city's previous 122 years, the river had flooded lowlands a few times, but there never had been devastation and death of this magnitude.
At the end of the day Tuesday, more than 10,000 people -- nearly one out of three residents -- were homeless as water invaded 75 percent of the city's homes, factories, schools and stores. The death toll topped 200 within two days, and various complications added 85 to 100 names to the list in following months.
By 2:15 o'clock Wednesday morning, all four Hamilton bridges had been swept away. Utility, telephone and telegraph lines crossing the river were severed. The city of 35,000 inhabitants was divided by flood waters as much as three miles wide.
The surrounding area reacted immediately, raising money and sending food, clothing, bedding and other essentials as Hamiltonians struggled to cleanup and rebuild amid their grief. Hundreds from neighboring communities volunteered to help.
One of the most visible groups was a contingent of more than 40 Miami University students, who arrived by train from Oxford. Their varied services were limited to the West Side because there was no way to cross the river.
The students were deputized and assigned to help the few Hamilton police officers isolated west of the river by the flood. One of their duties was to discourage looting and enforce martial law, which had been declared in the ravaged city.
As the group approached Hamilton, a student recalled later that he had "talked loudly of how I'd shoot to kill if I got a chance." He said "not a one of us doubted but what we would kill several looters each night and were rather worried as to how our mothers would feel when they heard about it."
"I know now how a veteran feels when asked to tell about the war, "he explained. "So many conflicting reports have come to Oxford of the work of the militia from Miami, that I wish to give the authentic account of an eyewitness," the student said in the Miami Student in an article later reprinted in the Hamilton Republican News.
Upon arrival, he and another Miami volunteer were assigned "to help a policeman guard the First Reformed Church of Hamilton. This church (at the southeast corner of Ross Avenue and South D Street) was the relief station and contained (West Side) Hamilton's food supply and bales of clothing sent by citizens of Oxford and College Corner."
"We went on duty at 5:30, and the policeman ordered us to carry provisions and clothing into a vacant house near the church. We unloaded 10 big auto-trucks before 8 o'clock, and nearly filled the house. Of course, a few others helped us."
"At 8 o'clock we joined our policeman who said: I want you two men to guard this church and that house you just left. Divide the watch to suit yourselves."
While his comrade stood watch, the student writer went into the church for a cup of coffee. He stayed longer than planned because he noticed a young Hamilton woman working in the church. "I at once volunteered my services and helped the girl unpack old clothing all night long," he said.
Much of the time the short-term Miami militia patrolled West Side streets during the nightly 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. Only one incident broke the calm, the student writer noted. "We were disturbed about midnight by the report of a musket, and ran outside to find" a student guard "examining a large burnt spot in his mackinaw."
He unknowingly sat on a gun, which discharged, "sending the blank cartridge powder through his coat and several layers of clothing." Only his pride was wounded. He "took the matter very calmly," his classmate observed, "since the mackinaw was a borrowed one,"
After more than week on duty, the students returned to Oxford. None had to explain to a mother why they shot a looter. Nevertheless, their work in maintaining order and assisting with relief was greatly appreciated by about 15,000 Hamiltonians residing west of the river.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, March 15, 2000
Champion leader hero during 1913 flood
By Jim Blount
There were many heroes when Hamilton was devastated by the rampaging Great Miami River in March 1913, but only a handful of the men and women who aided their neighbors ever received recognition for their efforts. One of them was a Hamilton industrial leader. "Logan Thomson, son of the millionaire paper manufacturer, proved one of the real heroes of the flood," said the Republican-News in reporting the disaster.
The youngest son of Peter G. Thomson, Champion's founder, had started working at the Hamilton mill as a roll boy in 1902 at age 18. Logan Thomson was assistant production manager when the flood struck Hamilton March 25, 1913. His father headed the company at the time.
"The family of Colonel J. C. Hooven, at B and Ross Avenue, was marooned in the residence there" as the river rose, according to the 1913 new account. "The home was soon surrounded by water and egress was impossible."
"Neighbors soon discovered the family's predicament and just about this time," the report said, "Logan G. Thomson came upon the scene. Mr. Thomson is an unusually good swimmer. He carried a line to the Hooven home and by careful work, the rescue of the members of the family was accomplished."
In late March 1913, between nine and 11 inches of rain fell in the region within three days. Engineers later explained that with the ground already saturated, 87 percent of the rain ran into the river that bisected Hamilton. Within 48 hours, the Great Miami in Hamilton rose from 4.8 feet to an all-time high of 34.6 feet.
The full force of the flood hit the morning of Tuesday, March 25, creating a pool as wide as three miles by evening . The water spread from present Erie Highway on the east to C and D streets on the west. That day three Hamilton bridges (Black Street, High-Main and the railroad) were swept away within two hours (between 12:12 p.m. and 2:12 p.m.). The fourth, the Columbia, toppled into the river at 2 a.m. Wednesday.
The flood claimed more than 200 lives in Hamilton, plus at least another 85 people who died later of complications associated with the flood.
More than 10,000 people in the city of about 35,000 were homeless. About 2,300 buildings were destroyed, including 300 that washed away in the current.
Government services and transportation facilities also were devastated. It took the city and its citizens several years to rebuild and recover. For many survivors, the emotional scars remained for a lifetime.
For Logan Thomson -- a hero to the Hooven family -- the flood was a major setback.
With the water level topping 15 feet at the paper mill on North B Street, a fire erupted shortly before 1 a.m. Wednesday in the flooded plant, destroying everything above the water line. Later, the Republican-News said "the greatest sufferer in the Miami Valley from the March flood was the Champion Coated Paper Company of Hamilton."
Champion's loss was reported as $1.7 million ($28.3 million in recent dollars). At that time it was Hamilton's worst fire, surpassing the financial cost of a 1901 fire in the same plant.
After the water receded, Logan Thomson joined more than 1,000 paid Champion employees in a massive cleanup, removing mud and debris and salvaging machinery and paper to make way for a new complex. Within three months, the rebuilt mill was in full operation.
Logan Thomson progressed in the family business, working in every aspect of the paper business and playing on the mill baseball team in his youth. His entire career, except for years at Williams College and World War I military service, were with the company.
He became president of the Champion Paper & Fibre Company Aug. 9, 1935, and held that post until his death Aug. 6, 1946.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, March 22, 2000
Martial law declared in Hamilton in aftermath of March 1913 flood
By Jim Blount
Martial law came to Hamilton in the aftermath of the March 1913 flood and some residents felt its wrath. At least two men were "drummed out of town" in military fashion in April as the city struggled to recover from the disaster.
Mayor Thad Straub and other city leaders met Tuesday afternoon, March 25, 1913, as the Great Miami River spilled into High Street and smashed bridges. They saw the situation worsening and agreed that martial law and military enforcement would be needed to keep order and expedite recovery.
Communications washed out by the flood prevented direct contact with Gov. James M. Cox in Columbus. Eventually, the Hamilton request reached the governor via the office of Mayor Henry T. Hunt of Cincinnati.
Martial law went into effect Saturday morning, March 29, as the water receded. Colonel A. K. Zimmerman took command of Hamilton, starting with four companies of Ohio infantry, or about 300 men paid $2 a day for their services..
Martial law meant that civilians in the strickened area were governed by the military which, in this case, was the Ohio militia. Civil government, including courts, was suspended.
Zimmerman, a Clevelander, ruled Hamilton from an office on the second floor of the Rentschler Building at the southeast corner of Second and High streets.
His men patrolled Hamilton streets, guarding against looters, chasing sightseers and enforcing a city-wide curfew between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Military edicts also ordered the closing of all Hamilton saloons (until April 18); prohibited price gauging; urged that candles be abandoned in effort to prevent fires; and requested that water be boiled before being used.
Most violators were reprimanded, but 71 people faced a court martial. All were found guilty by army officers and dispatched to the Cincinnati Workhouse for terms up to 90 days.
In a case with unusual punishment, two Hamilton men pleaded guilty to stealing two cases of ham earmarked for "the homeless and hungry flood sufferers," a newspaper explained.
One of the men had been a city humane officer for more than 10 years. The other was a molder in a Hamilton factory. Also wanted in the same incident was a man who had been a doorkeeper during the previous session of the Ohio General Assembly.
Both men were sentenced to 60 days in the Cincinnati Workhouse, but Colonel Zimmerman suspended their terms on the condition that the men stay out of Hamilton for at least 60 days. Part of their punishment was that they be "drummed out" of the city."
"To be drummed out," says Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, is "to be expelled ignominiously, as a soldier in disgrace was dismissed . . . to the accompaniment of drum beats."
In Hamilton in April 1913, a captain commanded 16 cavalrymen who surrounded the ham thieves. Another soldier walked behind the procession, beating a drum.
As about a thousand people watched, the soldiers escorted the errant civilians east on High Street as far as Poorhouse Hill (the hill east of Garfield Jr. High School). They were left there, outside the city limits, on their own to find food and shelter in an area where most farmers already had taken in relatives, friends and others from the flooded city.
In a separate matter, a laborer was sentenced to 30 days in jail for buying liquor, also a violation of martial law.
Men who didn't help with the cleanup and recovery also were targeted by the militia.
"Lazy men who refuse to work will be horsewhipped on the public square and sentenced to do time on the streets," Zimmerman announced in April. "The authorities all over town are looking for this class of men."
The colonel responded after soldiers patrolling Hamilton reported some men, although supplied with food and shelter for their families, "refused to do their share in cleaning up the city and remove the debris, despite wages paid by the city."
Later, Zimmerman yielded command of Hamilton to Colonel W. H. Howard of Toledo and a new contingent of troops, who eventually returned the city to the control of elected officials.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, March 29, 2000
Horror followed shock of 1913 flood
By Jim Blount
After the shock of the March 25, 1913, flood came the realization of the horror of Hamilton's greatest natural disaster. At first, there were thousands of people desperately seeking information on the fate of family members, relatives and friends in the city divided by the rampaging Great Miami River. Later, some survivors had to turn their attention to finding and identifying the bodies of unfortunate loved ones.
That unpleasant, but necessary task was shared by local men, military sent to the community and professional volunteers from Cincinnati. Their assignment was immense.
The death toll in Hamilton exceeded 200 immediately and at least another 85 people who died later of complications caused by the flood. More than 10,000 people in the city of about 35,000 were homeless. Thousands of structures were destroyed or uninhabitable, and utilities, communications and travel were disrupted.
The flood also created many health hazards, including washouts of the numerous outhouses, chicken coops and stables still in use in the city in 1913.
Two bankers directed the gruesome job of recovering bodies and managing a morgue. They were Ernst G. Ruder, cashier, and John M. Beeler, assistant cashier, of the First National Bank. Their assignment was complicated because the raging river often swept bodies various distances from their residences, and many victims carried no identification papers.
Their volunteer assistants, who also provided their own equipment, included several undertakers from Cincinnati: Edward Busse, John J. Gilligan, Michael Rebold, John E. Sullivan, Markus Suntheimer, Joseph Vitt and Frederick Wrassman,
The city health officer, Dr. A. L. Smedley, was named military health officer as the city came under martial law. He headed the sanitary cleanup work.
Before his appointment, the doctor had been stranded for a day in his East Avenue residence. Then on his own he setup an aid station and emergency housing at the old Jefferson School, feeding "over a thousand persons with supplies confiscated from groceries and butcher shops," according to the Republican-News.
His assistants included 20 soldiers from the U. S. Army hospital corps at Fort Monroe, Va.; 50 men from the Ohio National Guard medical corps; and other men from the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers.
One of the Cincinnati guardsmen almost because a casualty when, during a rescue attempt, his boat capsized near North Ninth Street and Campbell Avenue. He spent several hours in a tree before he was rescued.
Some the specially-trained military men worked in temporary hospitals and shelters as Hamilton and its citizens began the agonizing recovery from what is regarded as Ohio's worst natural disaster during the 1900s.
Dr. Smedley and Captain A. Tedesche of the Cincinnati hospital corps, ONG, erected a chlorinating plant. They combined old whisky barrels and iron pipes to provide a limited source of safe drinking water.
Another detachment of soldiers specialized in collecting the bodies of thousands of animals drowned in the flood. According to one report, at least 260 horses and thousands of dogs, cats, chickens and other animals were collected and cremated in a city park.
Dr. Smedley divided his personnel among 52 sanitary districts that he established within the stunned city.
"Various non-commissioned officers were detailed to supervise the work and a house-to-house canvas was made and reports turned in for each house," reported the Republican-News. "If a resident refused to cleanup," the newspaper said, "a detail of militia was hurried there and he was ordered to cleanup, or be locked up." The paper said "it was this (insistence) that made Hamilton the first city to get rid of the debris on the streets."
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