Journal-News, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2003
President's bill signing in Hamilton first for Ohio
By Jim Blount
It was a first for Ohio when President George W. Bush signed the $26.5 billion education reform act into law in the Hamilton High School auditorium almost a year ago. The nationally-televised event gave Hamilton the distinction of being the site of the only federal law signed by a president within the state's borders.
There is no constitutional requirement that the official action take place in Washington. The only restriction on a president is a time limit for making a decision.
The Constitution says "if any bill shall not be returned by the president within 10 days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a law, in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their adjournment prevent its return, in which case it shall not be a law."
Within that 10-day period, the signing can be where the president chooses -- the White House, in the Capitol, at Camp David in Maryland, aboard Air Force One, in a presidential residence in his home state, or at a location related to the legislation.
President Bush chose Ohio, not his home state (Texas) for the Jan. 8, 2002, ceremony in appreciation for Rep. John Boehner's work in securing passage of the education bill. The president selected Boehner's district for the distinction, and Hamilton reportedly got the honor because of the school system's recent improvements on the state report card.
Forty-one of the 43 chief executives could have signed a bill in Ohio. Scratch the first two -- George Washington and John Adams -- because their terms were completed before Ohio became a state in 1803. Thomas Jefferson held the office then.
The most likely to have affixed a signature in Ohio are the eight presidents claimed by the state. They were, in order of service, William Henry Harrison, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Howard Taft and Warren G. Harding.
Two on that list weren't Ohio residents when elected president. Ulysses S. Grant and Miami University graduate Benjamin Harrison, both born in Ohio, were residents of Illinois and Indiana, respectively, when in the White House.
William Henry Harrison died after holding the office for only a month in 1841. The hero of the War of 1812 -- who claimed to have raised the first flag over Fort Hamilton Sept. 30, 1791 -- didn't return to Ohio within his brief period in the White House.
Hayes, born Oct. 4, 1822, in Delaware, Ohio, was the 19th president, serving one four-year term, March 4, 1877, to March 3, 1881.
Garfield, born Nov. 19, 1831, in Orange, Ohio, was the 20th president, but served an abbreviated term, from March 4, 1881, to Sept. 19, 1881. He was the victim of an assassin July 2, 1881, in the Washington railroad station. He held the office only four months.
McKinley, born Jan. 29, 1843, in Niles, Ohio, was the 25th president, elected twice, 1896 and 1900. He served from March 4, 1897, until his death Sept. 14, 1901. The fifth Ohio-born president elected within 28 years was shot Sept. 6 at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, N. Y., and died eight days later.
Taft, born Sept. 15, 1857, in Cincinnati, was the 27th president, holding office for one term, March 4, 1909, until March 3, 1913.
Harding, born Nov. 2, 1865, in Corsica, Ohio, was the 29th president, but served only two years and 151 days. He was inaugurated March 4, 1921, and died Aug. 2, 1923, in a San Francisco hotel while on a cross-country trip.
Research in some standard presidential references and Internet sources failed to identify a federal law signed in Ohio. Presidential libraries and museums and congressional sources also were consulted in establishing that Hamilton has a legitimate claim as the first and only Ohio site of a president signing a bill into law.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2003
West Park: ‘Wonderful example of American spirit’
By Jim Blount
West Park was "originated by veterans, promoted by veterans, conceived fundamentally for veterans on a completely cooperative non-profit basis," observed the Journal-New as the Hamilton housing project developed after World War II. Officially, it was the West Park Home Owners Inc., made up of young couples, the majority in their 20s. "It was a wonderful example of the American spirit," recalls Gail Ireland, who, with her husband, Robert, was part of the excitement in the late 1940s.
West Park -- 127 houses platted north of Millikin Woods and west of the west end of Western Avenue -- was built on 52.5 acres purchased from Carl Shultz. Streets in the West Side subdivision include Woodview Lane, Colony Terrace, Glencross Avenue, Brookcrest Drive, Sunset Drive and Washington Boulevard.
The idea originated in the summer of 1946. The subdivision began to take shape in February 1947 and the area was annexed to Hamilton in April 1947. The groundbreaking was Aug. 17, 1947, and West Park was completed by March 1952.
An indication of the severity of the post-war housing situation was the closing act in the West Park groundbreaking program. A dummy, labeled "Old Man Housing Shortage," was hanged in effigy.
"We felt very fortunate to be one of the original 127 families," recalls Helen Meeker, a retired Journal-News assistant editor. "There was little affordable housing available to returning servicemen and their families since there was little or no building during WW II and there were no large apartment complexes like today." After her husband, Howard, returned from the service, "we lived with my parents until our home was completed," she said.
As ground was broken in August 1947, the Journal-News said in "little more than a year and a half since the close of the war, a total of 473 homes have either been built or planned" in Hamilton. "Despite this upsurge of post-war home building, an acute housing shortage still exists in Hamilton, with conservative estimates placing the need for new homes at about 500," the newspaper noted.
There were 14,547 housing units in the city in 1940. Hamilton housing stock increased 21.2 percent from 1940 to 1950. Of the 3,090 units erected in that period, 2,440, or 72.5 percent, were built after 1946. In mid 1946, to ease the housing shortage, surplus Army barracks were transported by rail from Mississippi to Hamilton. They were rebuilt along South Avenue (now Knightsbridge Drive) in a complex known as Vets Village. The first two families moved into the refurbished barracks in March 1947.
West Park, Mrs. Meeker said, "was a cooperative effort from the beginning. Howard was one of the men who took turns doing guard duty at night at the site to save the corporation money. It wasn't anything new to men who had done similar duty in the services." Their volunteer efforts saved about $10,000.
"As families, we joined together to buy stoves from the Estate Stove Company, refrigerators from Nash-Kelvinator, furniture from Lowenstein Furniture Company, light fixtures from Spoerl Hardware, saving quite a lot of money. We were so glad to be able to buy those things after the war that it didn't bother us that most everybody had the same appliances and fixtures," Mrs. Meeker explained.
She said the concept originated in "informal conversation at the Hamilton YMCA" among World War II veterans. "The idea became a serious plan. Durwin-Schantz Post 138, American Legion, became a sponsor. The F. K. Vaughn Building Co. was willing to be the builder; the First National Bank offered to help work out financing. Frederick Winkler became the architect."
Seven basic plans were offered. Mrs. Meeker said "the price of homes ranged from a four-room frame house, including garage and lot, for $8,340, to a four-bedroom, two-bath home with fireplace and two-car garage for $13,891."
"When we moved into our home in December 1948, our street was still a muddy mess and we often had to park a block away and walk home through the mud.
"Mr. and Mrs. Walter Yordy won the street naming contest with names which suited the site like Sunset Drive and Woodview Lane.
"Many lifelong friendships were made during those years, and it was a time we really enjoyed," said Mrs. Meeker, reflecting the experience of couples that formed West Park.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2003
Electric mule failed to revive canal business
By Jim Blount
The last of periodic attempts to revive the Miami-Erie Canal through Butler County was launched in 1901 when the state authorized the use of "electric mules" for power on the waterway between Cincinnati and Dayton.
The 249-mile canal -- which linked Cincinnati on the Ohio River and Toledo on Lake Erie -- had opened in 1827 from Middletown and Hamilton to Cincinnati. The state-owned system prospered until railroads siphoned off business in the 1850s. In 1851, its peak year, about 400 boats were running on the Miami-Erie Canal.
The state, after spending millions on construction and maintenance, stopped operating the canal in 1877. Some sections, including mileage in Butler County, remained open on a limited basis.
Until 1902, boats in this area were pulled exclusively by mules and horses walking along towpaths at no more than four miles an hour, the speed limit established by the state. In 1901, the privately-owned Miami & Erie Canal Transportation Company (M&ECTC) began installing the "electric mule" system. Electric-powered locomotives or engines, each weighing about 20 to 30 tons, would replace four-legged power.
The improvement required laying tracks along the towpath and erecting utility poles and trolley lines overhead to transmit the electricity purchased from Cincinnati Edison Co. Also, lighting was installed to encourage night passenger and freight service.
In February 1901, to support the private effort, the state began repairing embankments and dredging the right-of-way to a depth of five feet between Dayton and Cincinnati. But the ambitious plan ran into several obstacles and legal hurdles.
In March 1902 the City of Middletown filed an injunction against the company because it had failed to apply to the city for permission to construct track, poles and wire.
Railroads and electric-powered interurban companies opposed the scheme, believing the M&ECTC would eventually abandon the waterway and use the towpath tracks to establish rival rail service. South of Middletown, for example, the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad never allowed the M&ECTC to cross its tracks. The CH&D created a physical obstacle by stationing a locomotive, caboose and crew at the proposed crossing point.
In April 1902, the company announced its first electric mule had completed a trip between Hamilton and Port Union. An engine pulled six boats loaded with materials for men working on the line. (Since the canal had been built in the 1820s, the segment between Hamilton and Port Union had been known as the "Five Mile Level" because there were no locks in that stretch.)
In October 1902, the M&ECTC was still struggling to complete construction, but the delay didn't discourage the company's general manager.
"More freight is offered us than we can handle, and we have now contracted for every pound of freight that our boats can transport this fall," the GM told a Hamilton reporter. "We will work 40 or 50 boats, too, and will enlarge the fleet as fast as necessary and as fast as we can build the boats."
He also said that "our rates will not be much lower, if any, than those of the railroads, but we believe that by saving the manufacturers along the canal cartage, we will enable them to effect a great saving, enough to make it worth their while to patronize us."
"Our boats will not make the maximum of four miles an hour, which we are permitted to make under the charter, until we are thoroughly acquainted with the conditions we must work under," he said. "In any case, we will not haul them fast enough to wash the banks."
But the project faced too many obstacles. Its northern terminus was just south of Middletown and on the southern end, it never extended into Cincinnati. The canal revival officially ended May 3, 1905, when the electric mule plan was abandoned, leaving debts topping $2 million.
Nov. 20, 1912, a Hamilton newspaper reported "a large number of workmen have been busy during the past few days tearing up the tracks of the old electric mule along the Miami-Erie Canal."
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2003
Squire Morris Y. Shuler enforced Prohibition
By Jim Blount
Less than $600 in fines was collected in Butler County in the first 10 months of Ohio prohibition enforcement in 1919-1920, but that was before Morris Y. Shuler started collaring dry law violators.
Ohio prohibition began in May 1919, but lawmakers were slow to draft enforcement legislation. Federal war-time prohibition -- a temporary measure -- started in July 1919, but it took Congress a few more months to setup enforcement machinery.
Initially, bootleggers and rum runners also took advantage of the confusion about who would enforce the state and federal mandates, including "permanent" federal prohibition that was effective in January 1920. Many local agencies -- city police and county sheriff -- argued that they lacked the manpower to shoulder responsibilities of prohibition enforcement.
Squire Shuler, as he was called, became the bane of those who ignored Ohio's prohibition codes and took advantage of the enforcement fiasco. He ranged over Butler County under two titles -- first as justice of the peace of Wayne Township, later as mayor of the village of Seven Mile.
How many bottles, crocks, cans and barrels of home brew and moonshine he smashed or dumped; how many stills he wrecked; and exactly how many thousands of dollars in fines he assessed, is unknown. Based on available information, he levied fines totaling at least $400,000 in less than six years of trying prohibition cases.
Shuler started in 1922 as JP in Wayne Township (population 1,226 in 1920). In that year he collected $16,000 in liquor fines, "for the most part paid by Hamiltonians," a newspaper observed. The next year, he surpassed $27,000.
After Jan. 1, 1924, most of the money went to the village of Seven Mile (population 369 in the 1920 census). That's when he raided, arrested and then tried those apprehended in mayor’s court. The village hired Harry Wonnell, a Hamilton lawyer, as legal counsel and prosecutor in the Seven Mile court. He received 10 percent of the fines, which ranged from $500 to $1,000 per conviction.
Until Jan. 1, 1924, the agents assisting Shuler in tracking down liquor violators were compensated $5 to $7 per raid, if there was an arrest. No arrest, no pay.
After that date, the agents split 15 percent of the fine. If a defendant was fined $1,000, the agents divided $150. In 1924, Shuler tried about 200 cases and levied fines of more than $61,500. That was about $9,200 to be shared by the agents.
An Ohio law change in 1925 stopped payment of lawyers and agents entirely on a percentage basis, but still permitted their salaries to be paid from the village fine income.
Seven Mile agents were placed on a salary of $300 a month, based on full-time work. That was better than the $125 a month for a Hamilton detective and $296 a month for the sheriff. Shuler's compensation was $1,200 a year, plus a small percentage of the fines he collected. Village council more than doubled his annual pay to $2,500 Jan. 1, 1926.
While Shuler hit prohibition violators with more than $61,500 in fines in 1924, the amount assessed for all crimes in Hamilton Municipal Court for two years, 1924 and 1925, was a relatively meager $35,528.
This column is the first in a five-part series on the role of village mayor courts during Prohibition. Next week's column will report a Seven Mile celebration in 1926.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2003
Seven Mile celebrated Prohibition wealth in 1926
By Jim Blount
Thursday night, Sept. 9, 1926, Seven Mile officials and residents held a dinner to celebrate the filing of the 1,000th liquor charge in the village court. Mayor Morris Y. Shuler was the honoree, and for a good reason. That year, Squire Shuler and his six agents arrested 578 people and 476 were convicted (82.4 percent). They paid fines totaling $157,166.62 into the treasury of the village of about 375 to 400 inhabitants.
In Hamilton -- with population exceeding 42,000 -- about 40 police officers made 2,687 arrests in 1926, but only 60 were charged with ignoring dry laws.
There were risks as well as rewards for Shuler and his deputies as they roamed Butler County, looking for violators of prohibition laws that had been effective in Ohio since May 1919.
Two of his agents were killed during liquor raids, Wilbur Jacobs and Robert Gary. Other agents had close calls and suffered minor injuries in scuffles.
Shuler also was the target of many threats -- mostly verbal. One went beyond words. At 12:48 a.m. Wednesday, May 14, 1924, a dynamite charge exploded in a cellar window at Shuler's residence in Seven Mile. No one was injured, but damages totaled several hundred dollars. A $1,000 reward (including $500 donated by his neighbors) failed to lead to an arrest.
Shuler wasn't popular with civic leaders in Hamilton. The animosity was a product of liquor raids conducted in Hamilton by the mayor of Seven Mile and his agents.
Prohibition violators apprehended in Hamilton by Shuler's agents from throughout the county were tried before Shuler in Seven Mile. Fines levied by Shuler on Hamilton violators went into Seven Mile's treasury, not to Hamilton. Seven Mile became an affluent village in the mid 1920s, thanks to the liquor transgressions. Hamilton was in sad financial straits.
Resentment led to a verbal battle between Shuler and his counterpart, Mayor Howard E. Kelly of Hamilton.
"Confine your activities to the outside," Kelly told Shuler, in demanding that the Seven Mile raiders stay out of Hamilton. "I can care for things on the inside," Kelly said soon after assuming the mayor's office in 1924.
"Butler County is my parish," Shuler replied, "and I am perfectly within my rights and will continue to make liquor raids as long as I am mayor of Seven Mile." His response referred to Ohio Prohibition laws, which gave village mayors the power to make liquor arrests outside their usual jurisdictions.
"I believe that if he (Kelly) is sincere in his desire to clean the city, he would be glad to have outside help," said the Seven Mile mayor.
The mayor of College Corner sided with Shuler. "My town is located in two states and in three counties," he said, "and, consequently, most of our liquor violations are in liquor running. Perhaps if Mayor Kelly would clean out his city, we would not be bothered with so much booze-running."
Shuler was mayor of Seven Mile for 14 years and Wayne Township justice of the peace for 24 years, handling both jobs most of the time. He also worked a farm near Jacksonburg until May 1944. The native of Pennsburg, Pa., died at age 79 in December 1951 while residing in Hamilton.
This column is the second in a five-part series on the role of village mayor courts during the Prohibition era, 1919-1933. Next week's column will report on some objections to attempts to enforce dry laws.