Journal-News, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2000
Looking back at presidential elections
By Jim Blount
As Butler County voters prepare to mark their 2000 presidential ballots, it is an appropriate time to look back at the highs, lows, firsts and some significant facts regarding previous local elections for the nation’s highest office.
The closest presidential contest in Butler County was decided by 349 votes. In 1904, Democrat Alton B. Parker, with 7,397 votes, edged Republican Theodore Roosevelt, who had 7,048 votes. Roosevelt -- who had been president since the 1901 death of William McKinley -- won the national contest.
The most lopsided margin was in 1984, when Republican Ronald Reagan captured 72.9 percent of the local ballots in defeating Democrat Walter Mondale. Reagan also was an easy winner on the national level as he earned a second term.
Republican candidates have dominated Butler County in recent decades, winning eight straight elections (1968-1996), and carrying the county in 10 out of last 11 elections (1952-1996). The only exception was 1964, when Democrat Lyndon Johnson topped the GOP’s Barry Goldwater. Dwight D. Eisenhower started the GOP trend with consecutive local triumphs in 1952 and 1956.
Before 1952, Butler County was considered Democrat territory.
From 1856 -- the first time it was Democrats versus Republicans -- Democratic presidential candidates won 17 straight elections through 1920, and 21 out of 23 through 1948. Calvin Coolidge in 1924 was the first GOP victor in the county, followed in 1928 by Herbert Hoover.
Coolidge’s triumph also was the first election outcome reported to Butler County voters by local radio. Hoover’s 1928 win was the first tabulated with adding machines at the Butler County Board of Elections in 1928.
Two Butler County natives have been presidential candidates -- John Granville Woolley, a Collinsville native, leading the Prohibition Party in 1900, and James M. Cox, a native of Jacksonburg, the Democrat nominee in 1920.
That 1920 election -- with Cox facing another Ohioan, Warren G. Harding -- was the first time women were permitted to vote for president.
A future president once served part of his political "exile" in Hamilton. Andrew Johnson of Tennessee was the only southern senator who remained loyal to the Union when the Civil War started in 1861. He resided in Hamilton with Lewis D. Campbell during congressional recesses in the summer and fall of 1861. He became Abraham Lincoln’s running mate in 1864, and succeeded to the presidency when Lincoln was assassinated in April 1865.
Lincoln had some loose Butler County connections. He spoke from a train in Hamilton in September 1859, and William Dean Howells -- who spent his boyhood in Hamilton -- wrote the first official Lincoln campaign biography. Lincoln failed to carry Butler County in the 1860 and 1864 elections.
The 1892 Republican candidates were called the "Miami Ticket." They were Benjamin Harrison, the incumbent president, and Whitelaw Reid, the vice presidential nominee. Both were graduates of Miami University: Harrison in 1852, Reid in 1856. Levi Parsons Marton of New York had been elected vice president with Harrison in 1888.
Harrison occupied the White House from 1889 to 1893, although he lost the 1888 popular vote. That year, Democrat Grover Cleveland had a 96,000-vote edge in popular votes, but Harrison won in the electoral college, 233-168.
One Butler County woman has been the nation’s first lady. Oxford’s Caroline (Carrie) Scott Harrison was the wife of Benjamin Harrison. She died Oct. 25, 1892, a few days before her husband failed to win reelection.
At least one president had Hamilton in-laws. He was William Henry Harrison, elected in 1840. Harrison -- from nearby North Bend in Hamilton County -- had been an officer at Fort Hamilton in 1791. Later, two of his children married people who resided in Hamilton.
Hamilton is credited with playing a pivotal role in the surprising 1948 election.
President Harry Truman was seeking reelection to the office he inherited when Franklin D. Roosevelt died April 12, 1945. He was considered the decided underdog when his 16-car campaign train pulled to a stop at High Street the chilly autumn morning of Oct. 11, 1948.
Later, that whistle stop was seen as the turning point for Truman. David McCullough, a Truman biographer, said "the sight of 10,000 people spilling out in all directions in Hamilton" produced "the most striking change in the Democratic candidate’s demeanor."
That Hamilton rejuvenation was considered a key in Truman’s upset victory over Thomas Dewey the next month.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2000
WAVES attracted Hamilton teacher in 1942
By Jim Blount
Dorothy S. Harris planned to return to teaching in Hamilton in September 1942 until her father suggested an alternative. Arthur E. Harris encouraged his daughter to enlist after he read that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had signed the Navy Women’s Reserve Act July 30, 1942.
She volunteered in August, but had to wait until December 1942 to become a Woman Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, an awkward name soon shortened to WAVES. Butler County’s first WAVES volunteer left her family home on Harris Road, near Collinsville, in Milford Township a few days before Christmas.
At Mt. Holyoke College and Smith College in Massachusetts, the 1938 Miami University graduate was trained in such basics as typing, naval history, recognizing the silhouettes of friendly and enemy ships, and naval abbreviations. The recruits were expected to memorize 300 abbreviations over a single weekend.
The future Mrs. Wilbur Pierson was assigned to navigation information duties at Sixth Naval District Headquarters in Charleston, S. C.
Either because the presence of women was so new or so many details confronted naval leaders, she had to find her own housing upon arrival in Charleston.
The World War II legislation that created the WAVES said its purpose was "to expedite the war effort by releasing officers and men for duty at sea and their replacement by women in the shore establishment of the Navy."
That’s the way it worked in her case. There were five navy men and a civilian clerk when she arrived. Soon there was only one male officer in her group that was responsible for charting the ever-changing locations of mine fields, buoys, lighthouses and swept channels in Atlantic waters off U. S. and European coasts.
Mrs. Pierson’s office received varied data from many sources and provided information to men navigating U. S. ships.
Once, after assembling reports, she charted a mine field off he French coast that seemed extremely large. She asked an officer to check her work, and he came to the same conclusion. It was a prelude to D-Day June 6, 1944.
As with many war-time assignments, Mrs. Pierson was ordered not to disclose her duties. "We weren’t supposed to tell anybody what we were doing," she recalled, despite publication of an article about the responsibilities of the WAVES in a national magazine.
Her navy term extended from Dec. 21, 1942, to Jan. 23, 1946, a four-year interruption in her teaching career, that had started at Amanda, near Middletown. "The Lord was good to me," she said of her war service. "I had an interesting job, and worked with interesting people in a safe place. I couldn’t complain." WAVES pay started at $50 a month.
After the war, she returned to teaching in Hamilton. The U. S. Navy Women’s Reserve lieutenant spent more than 30 years in classrooms, including stints at Wilson Jr. High School, the former Roosevelt Jr. High, the old Hamilton High School and the former Taft High School before retirement.
In 1947, she married Wilbur Pierson, also a World War II veteran. They had met while attending Milford Township schools.
Dorothy Harris Pierson was among more than 84,000 women who served in the WAVES by the end of the war in 1945.
Although women had roles in all previous American wars, their right to serve had to be re-established during World War II.
In May 1941, Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts introduced a bill enabling women to serve in the U. S. Army, but it languished until the attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. With support from Gen. George C. Marshall, Army chief of staff, Congress passed the measure and it was signed by the president the next day, May 15, 1942.
It created the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, or WAAC, which was later changed to the Women’s Army Corps, WAC or WACS. Within a few months, other services also welcomed women.
As a wartime government publication noted, "never in history have American women been offered such a chance to serve their country. Never has there been such an urgent need for their service."
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2000
Dorm fire threatened to level Miami in 1908
By Jim Blount
"Miami University is burning. It is destroyed," said startled reports circulating in Hamilton on a winter evening in January 1908. Fortunately, it was an exaggeration, although school and Oxford officials had earlier believed it possible that a dormitory fire could spread to other buildings. Concerned officials asked the Hamilton fire department for assistance when destruction threatened the campus.
Most of the students were in their rooms at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15, 1908, when a construction worker on a nearby building saw flames in the attic of Hepburn Hall. The $45,000 dormitory -- dedicated in June 1905 -- housed 96 female students. Reports said they were among about 600 people attending Miami in 1908.
Thanks to the warning, the residents were able to escape, although some lost clothing and personal possessions. Before the blaze intensified, male students entered the building and helped remove some belongings.
A lack of water pressure limited the reach of fire hoses to just 20 feet. After a few minutes, Oxford firefighters realized they had to concentrate on preventing flames from reaching nearby Brice Hall and other campus buildings.
Hepburn seemed doomed, a newspaper said, "and there was every indication that with the high wind prevailing, other buildings . . . might become ignited." That’s when Oxford officials requested aid from Hamilton in fighting what a reporter called "one of the most disastrous fires that ever visited Oxford."
Excitement and rumors intensified in Hamilton as a fire engine, a hose wagon and five firemen, including the chief, rushed to the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton station at South Fifth and Henry streets. The railroad provided two flat cars and a coach for a special train that sped to Oxford. Hundreds of Hamiltonians went to the station to observe the response.
During the Hamilton preparations, passengers and crews on trains that had passed through Oxford related what they had seen. Soon, the Journal noted, "rumors were circulating that Miami University and every building connected with the institution were burning."
By the time the Hamilton vehicles and firemen arrived, the threat of Miami’s destruction had passed. They joined Oxford colleagues in confining the fire to Hepburn Hall. "That at least some of the other buildings . . . are still standing and free from damage is almost a miracle," the Journal reported. That miracle was credited to the firemen.
Hepburn Hall was the first women’s dormitory, named in honor of Dr. Andrew D. Hepburn, a Presbyterian minister who had arrived at Miami in 1868 as a professor of English and literature. He was the university’s president from 1871 until 1873.
"Hepburn Hall could not have been less appropriately named," said Walter Havighurst in his book, The Miami Years. "He was a staunch foe of co-education," said Havighurst.
That January 1908 evening, Hepburn was among the many people who came to the aid of the homeless young women. A report said "male students, at the request of Dr. Hepburn . . . canvassed the town for quarters for the young women." Oxford residents responded by providing shelter and clothing. Assistance also came from the nearby Western and Oxford female colleges
Later that evening, activity shifted to the Oxford telegraph office as students wired parents that they were safe, "and almost unanimously," the newspaper said, asked that clothes be sent from home.
A few of the telegrams also relayed student observations and reactions, including some accounts based on a "good imagination," according to the Journal. "Some very wild stories were sent out concerning the rescue of some of the girls," the newspaper said, "but those on the scene of the conflagration failed to see any of these heroic deeds enacted."
The original Hepburn Hall, rebuilt after the fire, was demolished in 1968 in preparation for construction of the new King Library. A new dormitory was built elsewhere bearing the name.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2000
Hamilton once relied on coal
By Jim Blount
There are seniors who remember the dirty, back-aching job of handling the household coal supply. The lucky family had an accessible coal chute that enabled the fuel to be dumped directly from a delivery truck into the coal bin in the basement.
In most residences, the lumpy load was deposited in the yard, driveway or garage and then had to be shoveled into the storage area, usually by younger family members.
Maintaining the desired temperature in the house required constant furnace checks and periodic coal shoveling to retain an adequate fire. Removing ashes involved more shoveling and toting of buckets and cans.
Dust and soot were annoying byproducts of these unpleasant chores. They were inhaled, and settled on clothes, furniture and other household objects.
The magnitude of the necessary coal tasks is better appreciated when statistics are considered. The average Hamilton household in the 1920s handled and burned five tons of coal a year.
That figure is from a 1922 survey by the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. The chamber compiled the local data for federal fuel administrators who monitored the movement of coal on the nation’s railroads to maintain adequate supplies.
The study showed about 500,000 tons of coal consumed annually in Hamilton with 50,000 tons, a tenth of the city total, for household use, mostly for heating. The chamber said consumption averaged about one and a quarter tons of coal for every man, woman and child in the city.
The 1922 survey was reported in mid October, a few days after the first frost and "the first real demand for coal for domestic use." A newspaper said "there are almost 3,500 tons of coal in the Hamilton retail yards, and the manufacturing concerns have on hand an average of 55 days supply."
In the early 1920s, according to city directories, there were at least 10 retail coal dealers in Hamilton, most located beside the tracks of the Pennsylvania and Baltimore & Ohio railroads to accommodate the unloading of hopper cars.
East and southeast of downtown were Martin Lingler, South Fourth Street and Maple Avenue; Schwenn Coal Co., South Fifth and High streets; Wirtz Coal Co., 630 Maple Ave.; Independent Coal Co., East Avenue at the Pennsylvania Railroad; Duersch Coal Co., Maple Avenue and South 13th Street at the PRR; Jessie Payne, Walnut Street and the B&O Railroad; Edward F. Duerr, 522 South Ninth St.; and Henry Pater & Son, East Avenue and Grand Boulevard.
Others were John McIntosh, 830 Williams Avenue, in Lindenwald, and the Anderson-Shaffer Co. at South E and Puthoff streets on the West Side.
In the post-World War II housing boom, oil and gas were favored as heating sources. In many older residences coal furnaces were converted to use the cheaper, cleaner fuels.
In the 1970 Williams’ Hamilton City Directory, only three retail coal dealers were listed -- McCracken Coal & Oil Co., 1400 Pleasant Ave.; H. Pater Coal & Supply Co., East Avenue and Grand Boulevard; and Rapp Coal & Coke Co., 431 South Sixth St.
In the 1995 directory there were none.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2000
Book offers new slant on Blue Jacket
By Jim Blount
For more than 120 years, Blue Jacket has been described as a young white captive who, at about age 17, rose to become a fabled war chief of the Shawnees in the Midwest. Marmaduke van Sweringen (or Swearingen) acquired his Indian name because he wore a blue shirt or jacket when captured during the American Revolution.
But John Sugden doesn't buy that story. In his new book, Blue Jacket, Warrior of the Shawnees , he attributes the baseless biographical information to an imaginative writer whose unchallenged account appeared in a Columbus newspaper in 1877.
"He was born in the early 1740s," not 1763, Sugden writes, "and made his debut in historical documents as a leading man among the Shawnees in 1773 -- before the Revolutionary War had begun."
But the meat of the book is about Blue Jacket as an adult, and his role as a leader of Indian resistance to settlement in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana.
The book includes the expected cast of the period: President George Washington, Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton, Anthony Wayne, Arthur St. Clair, James Wilkinson, Simon Girty, William Henry Harrison and Richard Butler, the county's namesake. Blue Jacket's Native American contemporaries include Little Turtle, Joseph Brant, Cornstalk, Buckongahelas and Tecumseh.
Among the major events are the two military campaigns that relied on Fort Hamilton as a supply center -- St. Clair's disastrous 1791 expedition and Wayne's victorious campaign that stretched from 1792 through 1794.
The author discounts Little Turtle's leadership in the Indian annihilation of St. Clair's ill-prepared army. "Little Turtle may have been given some executive authority during the campaign against St. Clair," he says, "but if he was the principal leader he said he was, it is strange indeed that some who were in that Indian army -- independent witnesses with no apparent axes to grind -- named Blue Jacket, not Little Turtle, as their leading war chief."
Elsewhere, Sugden notes that "Blue Jacket may have been the principal spokesman" in planning action against Wayne's army, "but his position was far from that of an American or British commander in chief. The Indians did not fight that way," he explains. "Their plans emerged from council composed of the leading war chiefs and warriors, councils that were often heated and recriminatory."
In fact, Sugden depicts Blue Jacket spending the majority of his time coaxing other Indian leaders to his viewpoint -- sometimes to fight, sometimes to wait, sometimes to seek peace.
After Wayne's army bested Blue Jacket's Indian alliance in the Battle of Fallen Timbers Aug. 20, 1794, Sugden says the two leaders forged a strong bond as they cooperated in trying to bring peace to the Ohio region.
Wayne's faith in the Indian leader was expressed in a letter to a friend. "The famous Blue Jacket," he said, "has pledged himself as a man of honor and as a war chief that he will now make a permanent peace and be as faithful a friend to the United States in the future as he has lately been their inveterate enemy."
What emerges in the book is a chief who is much more than a warrior and strategist. He also is a tough negotiator, a patient diplomat and a savvy businessman.
This readable book -- billed as the first serious biography of Blue Jacket -- is for readers seeking a better understanding of the events and people involved in the struggle for control of our region, the Old Northwest.
Sugden -- who also wrote Tecumseh: A Life -- is a former associate editor of Oxford University Press's American National Biography project. Blue Jacket ($29.95) was published this year by the University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln.
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