Journal-News, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2003
Dry raiders sometimes too eager in enforcing Prohibition regulations
By Jim Blount
Zealous liquor raiders sometimes misfired in searching for violators of state and federal laws, as a Hamilton man explained in the 1970s. Fifty years earlier -- during Prohibition, 1919-1933 -- the man had worked at Champion. Breakdowns at the Hamilton paper mill meant he was called at any hour to join a 12 to 15-man repair crew.
Champion usually sent a Cadillac to taxi the workers to the mill. When the expensive car reached his Lindenwald home, four or five men were in the vehicle, including a not-so-quiet friend.
"Some of the neighbors did not relish being awakened at 2, 3 or 4 in the morning," he explained, "and putting two-and-two together -- the big Cadillac loaded with men -- (they) assumed I was active in bootlegging and reported me to the federal agents."
Agents "searched the house from cellar to attic, went through every piece of paper in my desk," he said. They found nothing, except six bottles of wine he had made, lawfully, before prohibition. "They told me they weren't interested in my homemade wine," he recalled.
He explained his late-night departures to the agents, "who apologized for the inconvenience they had caused and left."
But "my disgruntled neighbor must have assumed his report to the federal agents was ignored," the former Champion employee said, so the suspicious neighbor turned to Mayor Morris Y. Shuler of Seven Mile.
Squire Shuler was mayor of Seven Mile for 14 years and Wayne Township justice of the peace for 24 consecutive years while also working a farm near Jacksonburg. Shuler started in 1922 as JP in Wayne Township (population 1,226 in the 1920 census). Jan. 1, 1924, he became the mayor of Seven Miles (population 369 in 1920).
When the Ohio legislature wrote the state prohibition laws, they gave village mayors the power to enforce Prohibition outside their usual jurisdictions. The mayors could act as raider and judge in the same case. Fines -- decided by the mayors -- went into their village coffers, not the treasuries of the communities where the liquor violations had occurred.
Under the law, Shuler and his deputies roamed Butler County, looking for violators of prohibition laws. Their efforts enriched the village of Seven Mile.
After federal agents decided the Champion employee with irregular hours wasn't a bootlegger or rum runner, the Lindenwald resident had to deal with Mayor Shuler.
"That gentleman (Shuler) lost no time and swooped down on me with his men," the Lindenwald man said. "They, too, searched from the cellar to the attic, even looked under the beds." The only thing Shuler's agents found was the homemade wine, which they confiscated. The mayor "refused to listen to my explanations" about Champion responsibilities, and set a court date.
When he informed his mill bosses of his dilemma, they compiled a list of dates and times when the Champion employee had been called to the mill. "They warned (Shuler) that any more false accusations or false arrests of any of their men would be handled by their (the company's) lawyer."
Shuler dismissed the case. The Lindenwald man was absolved of suspicion and harassment, but he didn't get his pre-prohibition wine back.
This column is the third in a five-part series on the role of village mayor courts during Prohibition. Next week's column will recall the legal battles over enforcement laws.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2003
U. S. Supreme Court decision stopped crusading village mayors
By Jim Blount
Bootleggers, rum runners and soft drink parlor operators celebrated a decision by the U. S. Supreme Court March 7, 1927. That day, Chief Justice William Howard Taft -- a Cincinnatian and former president -- announced the demise of a controversial state law. The justices declared invalid Ohio prohibition legislation that had permitted village mayors to also be judges in prohibition cases.
In Butler County, it was the end for the widespread powers of the village mayor's courts. That included Mayor Morris Y. Shuler of Seven Mile, who had taken advantage of permissive state laws. Shuler -- who also was justice of the peace in Wayne Township -- had been the scourge of bootleggers, rum runners and their customers since the start of 1922.
"Mayor Shuler is credited with obtaining more money in fines for Seven Mile than any other court judge in Ohio," the Journal noted a few months before the 1927 Supreme Court decision.
The case that led to the high court ruling had started in the White Oak and North College Hill sections of neighboring Hamilton County. Ed Tumey, a resident of White Oak, fought the action of Mayor A. R. Pugh from Hamilton County Commons Pleas Court through the Ohio Supreme Court and the U. S. Supreme Court.
In 1923, Mayor Pugh led a raid on Tumey's residence in White Oak. As was the practice then, Pugh led the raid, acted as prosecutor and sat as judge when Tumey's case was heard in the village mayor's court in nearby North College Hill.
Judge Stanley Struble of Hamilton County common pleas court ruled in Tumey's favor in 1925, but the Ohio Supreme Court later upheld the conviction and the mayor's authority to serve in multiple roles under Ohio law.
Judge Struble had ruled that when a mayor had a financial interest in a case, he should be disqualified from hearing the matter. Chief Justice Taft, in announcing the 1927 decision, said almost the same thing.
The justices ruled that Tumey had a right to a trial before a judge who had no direct personal or financial interest in the case. A mayor who also was a prohibition raider could not be considered a disinterested party, the court said.
The Ohio practice violated the constitutional right to a trial before an impartial judge, the court declared.
In 1925, Ohio legislators -- possibly in anticipation of a federal reversal -- had revised the state law. Under the new system, mayors were to be paid salaries instead of relying entirely on a percentage of fines for compensation.
Critics had charged for several years that payment of enforcers based on the amount of fines they collected encouraged the mayors and their agents to abuse their authority. Under such a fee-splitting system, dry agents could be expected to stretch the law to benefit their income.
Search and seizure safeguards were often disregarded, evidence was loosely handled and courtroom procedures were crude and prejudicial, the critics had complained.
Legal scholars joined bootleggers, rum runners and soft drink parlor operators in welcoming the 1927 Tumey decision. Their ranks included Ohio Attorney-General C. C. Crabbe -- the author of many state prohibition laws -- who had objected to "commercialized" enforcement of liquor laws.
This column is the fourth in a five-part series on the role of village mayor courts during Prohibition. Next week's column reviews the end of the mayor courts in enforcing dry laws.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2003
Court decision ended Seven Mile affluence
By Jim Blount
Only two village mayors -- Seven Mile's Morris Y. Shuler and Monroe's William Stewart -- were conducting liquor courts when the Tumey decision was revealed March 7, 1927. In the early 1920s, there also had been prohibition courts in Oxford and Trenton.
The 1927 U. S. Supreme Court action also eliminated several justices of the peace in Butler County from free-wheeling liquor enforcement.
Until then, village mayors and township justices of the peace had not been restricted to specific geographic territories. The mayors and their agents could raid any place in the county in pursuing violators of Prohibition laws.
In fact, Mayors Shuler and Stewart concentrated their enforcement outside their respective villages. They repeatedly upstaged the police in Hamilton and Middletown by conducting raids in those cities.
Half the fines assessed from prohibition violators went to the state. The other half flowed into the village treasury -- and into the pockets of the mayor, raiding agents, prosecutor and judge.
"No money from taxes in the village of Seven Mile has been collected for general purposes since 1923," the Journal reported after a check of courthouse records when the Tumey decision was announced. Obviously, the mayor was popular in the village.
Mayor Shuler had been paid $200 a month and several agents as much as $300 monthly -- all from a fund swelled by liquor fines.
Testimony a few days later in common pleas court showed that in less than three months in 1927, Seven Mile had income of about $32,000 from liquor fines. Expenses were listed as $13,800, leaving a profit of $18,200 for the village.
Halting the far-ranging raiders wasn't the only impact of the Tumey decision. It also led to freedom for some prisoners in the Butler County jail in Hamilton. Within a few days of Taft's announcement, 18 people filed writs of habeas corpus based on the Tumey ruling.
When the decision was announced, there had been 62 persons in the jail, and 47 were there for failure to pay liquor fines. Those unable to pay their fines had been able to receive $1.50 credit a day. At that rate, some confined in March 1927 would not have been released until some time in 1930.
In one day during the previous week, Mayor Shuler had banked $3,507 in fines from jail inmates. Defendants had been unable to pay when convicted and had to serve jail time while family and friends rounded up the money for the fines.
Monday, March 21 -- two weeks after the Tumey decision -- Judge Clarence Murphy of Butler County common pleas court ordered the release of most prisoners who had been sent to the county jail from the Seven Mile and Monroe courts. Those who had entered guilty pleas remained incarcerated.
March 15, 1927, Seven Mile council unanimously rescinded the ordinance which had paid Shuler's salary directly from liquor fines.
In some Ohio villages and townships, the mayors and JPs turned their attention to other revenue-producing duties -- such as stopping speeding motorists and performing quick marriage ceremonies.
Their removal from the Prohibition scene left the responsibility for dry law enforcement on under-manned police and sheriff's departments, state prohibition officers and federal prohibition agents.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2003
Miami's Ron Tammen mystery began 50 years ago in April 1953
By Jim Blount
The Ron Tammen mystery is nearly 50 years old, and no closer to solution than it was that cold night when the 19-year-old sophomore, who had been seen studying in his room in Fisher Hall, vanished from the Miami University campus in Oxford. His disappearance Sunday night, April 19, 1953, perplexed investigators and reporters for decades.
At about 9 p.m., Sunday, his roommate, Charley Findlay, returned from a weekend visit to Dayton. He discovered Tammen’s radio playing and his psychology book open on his desk in Room 225, but Tammen wasn’t there. There was no note reporting his whereabouts.
Also left behind were his watch, wallet, keys and a coat. His 1939 Chevrolet was in its usual parking place. Later, it was learned that $200 remained in his bank account. He hadn’t contacted a brother, Richard Tammen, then a Miami freshman.
Ron Tammen -- 5-10 and 175 pounds -- was last seen about 8:30 p.m. when he was issued fresh linen for his room.
The graduate of Maple Heights High School in suburban Cleveland was a 3.2 business student, a varsity light heavyweight wrestler, a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity and played bass in a local dance band, the Campus Owls.
According to 1953 reports, his friends described him as stable, responsible and friendly -- not a person expected to run away without telling anyone.
Theories have ranged from amnesia and foul play to the possibility that Tammen, who was enrolled in the U. S. Navy ROTC program, ran away to avoid the chance that he would be ordered to serve in the Korean War (1950-53).
There were no signs of a struggle in his room, and kidnaping was dismissed because there was no ransom note or demands for money.
Wednesday evening, April 22 -- three days after his disappearance -- television stations in the area flashed a picture of Tammen on the screen and appealed for help in locating the missing student.
It brought only one response -- from a woman in Seven Mile, who reported a strange acting, but polite young man had knocked on her door about midnight Sunday. He asked directions to a bus stop, she recalled. She directed him into Hamilton. She thought it odd he wasn’t wearing a coat or hat on such a cold night.
Despite investigations, including the FBI, Ronald Henry Tammen was never seen again. He left a trail as cold as the night he disappeared -- the temperature near zero with snow flurries.
A few weeks after his disappearance, some residents of Fisher Hall reported hearing mysterious singing and seeing a ghostly figure in the formal gardens near the dormitory.
The Tammen mystery, some have said, is just another example of strange happenings in and about Fisher Hall, the base for several ghost stories. It was built in 1856 by the Oxford Female College. It was the Oxford Retreat, a sanitarium for the mentally ill from 1882 until 1926, when Miami acquired it from the Cook family.
When the U. S. Navy moved into Oxford June 1, 1942, trainees were bunked in Fisher Hall, which was commissioned the USS Fisher Hall for the duration of World War II.
From 1958 to 1969, it housed Miami’s theater department. Fisher Hall was abandoned in 1969 and demolished after efforts to preserve it failed in July 1978. Later, the Marcum Memorial Conference Center was built on the site.
On Halloween night 1975, a student group sponsored a seance inside a boarded-up Fisher Hall. About 200 students attended as a California spiritualist sought the spirit of Ron Tammen. He claimed to have a vision of a young man going from a second floor room to the basement, attracted by loud noises. In the basement, he confronted two "men of evil," who attacked him. His vision ended, he said, as the men dragged the body out of the building.
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