Journal-News , Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2001
New book spotlights local gun manufacturers, Richard Gwyn and Abner Caruthers Campbell
By Jim Blount
A void in Hamilton's proud industrial history has been filled with the recent publication of Thomas B. Rentschler's book, Cosmopolitan and Gwyn & Campbell Carbines in the Civil War . Gun collectors, Civil War buffs and local history enthusiasts will appreciate the 128-page volume that details the contributions of the city's largest wartime employer.
The well-illustrated book is the result of years of inquiry and research -- complicated by the fact that, according to the author, "after decades of searching, no original factory records have been found."
Rentschler's interest was aroused with the discovery of a carbine removed from the house of his grandmother. The weapon was said to have been carried during the Civil War by his grandmother's uncle, cavalryman Minor Millikin, who was killed in action in 1862.
Rentschler, a retired Hamilton banker and former state representative, clarifies that there were two carbines -- the Cosmopolitan and the Gwyn & Campbell -- not two names for same weapon. They "are generally considered to be the only contract arms made for Civil War use west of the Appalachians," he adds.
Edward Gwyn and Abner Caruthers Campbell were partners in the firearms business that supplied carbines to the Union cavalry.
Campbell, born in Hamilton in 1824, was a brother of Lewis D. Campbell and an uncle of Gov. James E. Campbell, prominent men in Butler County history and also Civil War veterans.
Gwyn, born in London, England, in 1816, arrived in Hamilton in 1855 to operate the Hamilton Gas Light and Coke Co. that provided gas lighting in the town. Gwyn and Campell were partners in the gas works before teaming to produce weapons in 1859.
Their carbines -- among many types available in the 1860s -- "were both maligned and praised" during the Civil War, but "modern writers often repeat the criticisms, seldom the acclaim," Rentschler writes.
The Civil War brought many changes to the cavalry. When the conflict started in 1861, mounted units relied on the hand gun -- usually a revolver -- and the sword. As the war progressed and technology improved, the cavalry switched to shoulder weapons, especially the carbine.
A dramatic example of the transition came in 1863 with an offensive called Grierson's Raid. During that successful sweep into Mississippi in April and May of that year, the Hamilton-made carbines were in the hands of the Illinois troopers who did much to dispel the myth that only Confederates could be effective cavalrymen.
Colonel Benjamin H. Grierson -- the 37-year-old commander of the expedition -- had been a music teacher, bandmaster and produce merchant in Jacksonville, Ill., before the war.
"In 1861, well before his assignment to raid in Mississippi," Rentschler explains, "Grierson's Sixth Illinois Cavalry was without adequate carbines, and he initiated an effort to find some. After correspondence and personal visits by Grierson to Hamilton, Ohio, and Gwyn to Washington, the federal government issued a contract to Cosmopolitan Arms Co. for 1,140 carbines on Dec. 31, 1861, with specific instructions that the carbines were to be shipped to Governor Yates [of Illinois] as he had requested."
Grierson's 1863 raid was part of General Ulysses S. Grant's Vicksburg campaign. Grierson's thrust into Mississippi was designed to divert attention from Grant's crossing of the Mississippi River south of Vicksburg. Grierson's other objective was the railroad that supplied the Confederates opposing Grant.
Starting April 17, Grierson's raiders confiscated more than 1,000 horses and captured or destroyed 3,000 arms during their 16-day, 600-mile campaign from LaGrange, Tenn., 40 miles east of Memphis, to Baton Rouge, La. The 1,700-man force also destroyed more than 25 freight cars, several locomotives, more than 50 miles of track and about 60 miles of telegraph lines.
Grierson's Raid -- the most successful and most widely-acclaimed Union cavalry mission up to that time -- emphasized to army leaders the potential of well-planned, well-provided mounted expeditions.
Tom Rentschler's book, priced at $26.50, including shipping and handling, is available from Andrew Mowbray Publishers, P. O. Box 460, Lincoln, RI 02865, or telephone 1-800-999-4697.
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Journal-News , Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2001
Dunlap Station besieged by Indians
By Jim Blount
Life was precarious for settlers in the Symmes Purchase in January 1791, about nine months before the building of Fort Hamilton. Starting in November 1788, three communities had been built on the north bank of the Ohio River between the Little Miami and Great Miami rivers. In October 1790, Indians had repulsed a U. S. military expedition threatening to destroy Native American crops and villages.
The danger didn't stop about two dozen men, women and children from venturing away from the relatively secure riverside settlements of Columbia, Losantiville and North Bend. Their intent was to select a place to plant crops and establish a new community. They were led by John Dunlap, formerly a surveyor for John Cleves Symmes, who had agreed to buy a million acres of the Miami lands from Congress in 1788.
The group chose a site where the Great Miami River formed an oxbow, leaving an inviting flat lowland of about 1,000 acres. The tract -- considered fertile for farming -- was about 17 miles from Losantiville (later renamed Cincinnati) and Fort Washington.
Dunlap Station was on the east bank of the Great Miami River, about eight to nine miles southwest of the future site of Fort Hamilton. Today the location -- which also was known as Coleraine, Fort Dunlap and Fort Coleraine -- is along East Miami River Road near Dunlap Road in Colerain Township in Hamilton County. Dunlap called it Coleraine in honor of his home area in Ireland. (Later, the last e was dropped in naming the township.)
In 1790, about six families, some individuals and a dozen soldiers built cabins and one or more blockhouses on the riverside clearing. It was surrounded by pickets on three sides and open to the river.
Saturday morning, Jan. 8, 1791, four men were about to resume their inspection of the land west of the river opposite the station. They were heading north toward what would become Ross Township in Butler County when they were surprised by Indians.
The first shots killed one of the men and caused another to be thrown off his horse and captured. The others rushed across the river to the crude fort and warned of the approach of the Indians. About 30 people crowded into the log enclosure in anticipation of an attack. Nothing happened the remainder of the day or overnight as rain turned to snow, accumulating to at least five inches.
The morning of Sunday, Jan. 9, some men crossed the river, recovered the body of the dead man and buried it without challenge.
The calm ended near dawn Monday, Jan. 10, when some Indians approached the station and sent their prisoner, Abner Hunt, forward as their messenger and interpreter. Through Hunt, they demanded surrender.
Firing erupted while negotiations were in progress. After exchanging shots for about two hours, the Indians renewed their demand and warned that their hostage would be killed if Dunlap occupants refused to surrender.
When that demand was ignored, the Indians proceeded to torture Hunt. During the night, his colleagues at Dunlap Station heard his cries and moans until he died.
Fighting resumed at daylight Tuesday, Jan. 11, and continued until the appearance at 10 a.m. of a relief force from Fort Washington. Despite a numerical advantage -- estimated as high as 350 to 500 -- the Indians ended the siege and disappeared into the woods.
Unknown to those surrounded at Dunlap Station, some hunters near the settlement heard the start of the siege and alerted soldiers at Fort Washington. Thirty-eight soldiers and 33 volunteers from Columbia and Losantiville responded. About six miles from the fort, they met two men from Dunlap Station who had escaped in the darkness to seek help.
Despite the rescue, Dunlap Station or Coleraine -- the first attempt at settlement in the interior of the Symmes Purchase -- was abandoned.
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Journal-News , Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2001
Author Fannie Hurst recalled her Hamilton 'summer palace'
By Jim Blount
Fannie Hurst -- the author of dozens of novels, plays, short stories, essays and screenplays -- wrote mostly about ordinary people and, to better understand their problems and struggles, worked briefly as a nursemaid, sales clerk, waitress and in sweatshops. She took the jobs so she could champion the cause of those suffering economic hardships and prejudice in her writing.
Hurst was born Oct. 19, 1885, in Hamilton, a daughter of Samuel and Rose Koppel Hurst, during a visit to her maternal grandparents, David and Caroline Koppel, 918 Central Avenue (later part of the site of the Hamilton Lumber Company). Her parents had been married in the same house Jan. 11, 1885.
Her parents resided in St. Louis, but Fannie was a frequent visitor to her birthplace. As a child, she spent summer months in Hamilton, which she later called her "summer palace."
"Those summers in Hamilton were practically my first taste of nature in the close-up," she said in recalling her visits in her autobiography, Anatomy of Me . "The wheat-growing sun of Ohio beat into the white dust of Hamilton streets. I was free to roam through meadows, pastures and along streams to smells that were new to me. I can taste and smell Hamilton," she wrote in 1958.
In the same book, Hurst spoke of a May 1955 visit when she saw the Courthouse market. "Aunt Bettie used to take me to market for live fowls, fresh country butter wrapped in cheesecloth, watermelons that you plugged before purchasing," she wrote. "The farm wagons are gone now, and the 25-cent watermelons are a dollar, unplugged."
She was graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 1909. A year later, she moved to New York, telling her parents she was doing graduate work at Columbia University, but a recent biographer found no record of her enrollment. Her purpose in moving to New York -- her residence the remainder of her life -- was "to prowl the city for story subjects," said Brooke Kroeger in her 1999 book, Fannie. Most of her stories had an urban setting.
While accumulating rejection slips, Hurst took acting lessons and had a two-line part in a 1910-11 Broadway show.
She sold her first stories in 1912, and by the end of the year magazine editors couldn't get enough of her manuscripts. Her first book, Just Around the Corner, a collection of short stories, was published in 1914.
"As early as 1916 she had become a sought-after commentator in both lecture halls and the press, which had the added advantage of creating new and lucrative income streams," noted biographer Kroeger.
More checks came as her previously published stories were reprinted as serials in newspapers and became the basis for movies. In the 1920s, the prolific Hurst was regarded as the nation's highest paid female writer.
Back Street , released in 1930, is considered her best known novel. It is set in the 1890s in the Over-the-Rhine section of Cincinnati. She had visited the neighborhood as a child with her grandfather Koppel during his business trips to the Cincinnati stockyards. The book is the story of a woman who devoted her life as a mistress to a married man (Walter Saxel) after he had refused to marry her because of religious differences. Saxel was depicted as a Hamiltonian.
Back Street was the basis for movies in 1932, 1941 and 1961, the latter starring Susan Hayward, John Gavin, Vera Miles, Charles Drake and Virginia Grey. Hurst's stories and novels were turned into 32 movies between 1918 and 1961.
Abe C. Ravitz, writer of a 1997 survey of her work, counted 17 novels by Hurst, "between 200 and 300 short stories, as well as numerous articles and movie⁄radio scripts" and about "100 of her tales, collected from widely circulated magazines of the day," in eight volumes published between 1914 and 1937.
Hurst was still writing when she died in New York City Feb. 23, 1968, at the age of 82. Besides her literature, Hurst's legacies included generous bequests to Brandeis and Washington universities to create professorships in creative writing.
Next week's column will focus on Fannie Hurst as a social activist.
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Journal-News , Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2001
Author Fannie Hurst also social activist
By Jim Blount
Fannie Hurst was more than a successful writer. She was a social activist, chairing or serving as a member of local, national and international organizations on behalf of several human causes, including housing, health, workmen's compensation, racial equality and women's rights.
Hurst -- born in Hamilton Oct. 19, 1885 -- turned out popular novels, plays, short stories, essays and screenplays for more than 50 years. Although literary critics often scorned her writing skills, enough readers appreciated her work to make her the richest American woman writer in the 1920s. Several of her books became popular movies, and in her final years Hurst ventured into radio and television.
Tear-jerkers were her specialty. Hurst wrote about less fortunate people, the deprived and those in subordinate roles. She had a knack "for tapping into the great public heart," said Abve C. Ravitz in his 1997 book, Imitations of Life: Fannie Hurst's Gaslight Sonatas. "From the earliest steps in her writing career, Fannie Hurst manifested a creative intuition perfectly attuned to the sensibilities of her time," Ravitz explained.
Hurst not only wrote about racial inequalities and the abuse of women's rights, she stood up for them in public, generously contributing her name, time and money to correcting social ills. As a recent biographer noted, Hurst was a literary trendsetter who took advantage of her celebrity status to focus attention on her extensive social agenda.
It is not surprising that one of her long-time colleagues in many causes -- and personal friend -- was Eleanor Roosevelt, the activist first lady from 1933 to 1945.
Hurst was a U. S. delegate to the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1932; chaired a national housing commission, 1936-37; served on the National Advisory Committee to the Works Progress Administration, 1940-41; was a member of the New York Mayor's Committee on Unity, 1945-47; and a director of the New York Urban League.
Early in her career, when the U. S. entered World War I, she promoted Liberty Bonds.
In the 1940s, Hurst raised money to help refugees from Nazi Germany. In the 1950s, she rallied support for the new nation of Israel.
"Least heralded of all her accomplishments was her unique and prescient place as a vociferous and incisive commentator on the progress of women's advancement after the granting of the vote in 1920," said biographer Brooke Kroeger. "Fannie had the forthrightness never to hesitate to fault women themselves for the opportunities they squandered, especially after each of the 20th century's two world wars."
Hurst also dramatized social issues in her writing, including Imitations of Life , which focused on racial matters.
The controversial book was published in 1933, followed by an equally controversial movie version in 1934. Stars of the Universal film were Claudette Colbert, Warren William, Louise Beavers, Ned Sparks, Fredi Washington and Rochelle Hudson. Universal did a remake in 1959. That version starred Lana Turner, John Gavin, Sandra Dee, Troy Donahue, Susan Kohner, Juanita Moore and Mahalia Jackson.
Key characters in the Hurst story were Bea Pullman, a white woman left penniless by the death of her husband, and Delilah Johnson, a black woman whose recipes are the basis for a chain of successful coffee shops. Bea and Delilah, each with a daughter, form a household and then a business partnership.
The interaction of the four females highlighted several relationships, including mother and daughter, male and female, and master and servant as well as black and white.
Hurst was married in 1915 to Jacques S. Danielson, a pianist and composer, but the couple lived separately and kept the marriage a secret for five years. They continued the arrangement of maintaining separate living quarters until he died in 1952. They had no children. Fannie Hurst died in New York City Feb. 23, 1968, at the age of 82.