Journal-News, Wednesday, June 4, 2003
Miller Huggins, baseball hall of fame manager, played briefly in Hamilton
By Jim Blount
Local fans watching the Florence Freedom of the independent Frontier League play this summer at Foundation Field could be watching future major leaguers or Hall of Fame candidates. It has happened before on Hamilton baseball diamonds. An example is Miller James Huggins, who was named to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964.
His election was based on his success as manager of the New York Yankees, a team he guided to six American League pennants and three World Series championships (1923, 1927 and 1928). His ‘27 Yankees -- with its "Murderers Row" including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig -- is ranked as one of baseball’s best teams.
The extent of his local playing time is uncertain. As a teenager, he played on Cincinnati semi-pro teams, including the Shamrocks, a rival of Hamilton Krebs in the K-I-O League. Local fans interviewed years ago insisted Huggins also played for Krebs under a different name.
His first professional contract was with Mansfield, Ohio, before moving up to St. Paul in the American Association in 1900.
A Hamilton sports columnist in 1923 -- writing after Huggins had guided the Yankees to their World Series victory -- recalled that "Huggins played many games with the old Hamilton Krebs back about 1902."
His name didn’t appear in a Krebs boxscore that year until October. However, a few days earlier, a news report said his "splendid record" at St. Paul, including a .332 batting average, had caught the attention of Cincinnati Reds management.
About 300 people watched the quickly-assembled Stars beat Krebs, 8-6, Wednesday, Oct. 8, 1902, at Lindenwald Park. Huggins handled five chances at second base and had three hits in five at bats for Krebs, which had at least two major league players in its lineup that day. They were Pitcher Nick Altrock, who had 19 seasons in the big leagues, and Catcher Charles (Red) Dooin, a 15-year major leaguer.
Major leaguers playing for the Stars included Pitcher Jesse Tannehill, 15 seasons in the majors; Jake Beckley, first base, 20 seasons; Sam (Si) Crawford, outfielder, 19 seasons; and Mike Kahoe, catcher, 11 seasons. During the 1902 season, Beckley and Crawford had played for the Reds, Kahoe for the Cubs, Altrock for the Boston Somersets (later the Red Sox), Dooin for the Phillies, and Tannehill for the Pirates.
Huggins was a protégé of Julius Fleischmann (1871-1925), a success in the yeast and distilling businesses and mayor of Cincinnati, 1900-05. Fleischmann, a player in his youth, sponsored Cincinnati teams and helped Huggins negotiate his first professional contracts. (Fleischmann and his brother, Max, were part of a group that purchased the Cincinnati Reds in September 1902.)
Huggins’ major league playing debut was April 15, 1904, the first of six seasons at second base for the Cincinnati Reds. He was traded to St. Louis and played seven years for the Cardinals (1910-1916).
A combination of his size (5 feet 6 inches and 140 pounds), speed and aggressive play earned him the nickname "Mighty Mite" during a 13-year major league career. His career batting average was .265, but his on-base percentage was a respectable .382. Only nine of his 1,474 hits were home runs. As a switch-hitting lead-off batter, Huggins was walked 1,002 times. He also was regarded as an excellent fielder.
His managerial career started as player-manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. Huggins guided the Cardinals for five years (1913-1917) and the Yankees for 12 seasons (1918-1929). His overall record was 1,413 win, 1,134 losses (.555).
His career was shortened by blood poisoning associated with an eye infection. He died Sept. 25, 1929, in a New York hospital, three days after he relinquished his managerial duties to Coach Art Fletcher. His death came as the Yankees were playing the Red Sox in Boston.
Huggins was born March 27, 1879, according to most records, April 19, 1879, by others, in a rough Cincinnati neighborhood, "where he had to learn to fight his own battles," said an obituary. He earned a law degree at the University of Cincinnati and later passed the Ohio bar exam. Although he didn’t practice law, it was reported that his legal training contributed to his business success, including investments in stocks and Florida real estate.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, June 11, 2003
Railroad stock pens were vital to rural economy
By Jim Blount
Decades ago, Butler County farmers didn't have to take their animals and goods to markets in large cities. In the horse-and-wagon era, hauling produce or livestock to Cincinnati would have required two or more days, time most farmers didn't have to spare. Instead, they went to a nearby railroad station, several of which had storage pens for livestock.
Cattle, hogs, sheep and horses were hauled or driven to the station. After completion of the necessary paperwork with the agent, the animals were placed in trackside pens.
The station agent gave the farmer a receipt, indicating the number of animals accepted or the weight of the items awaiting shipment.
Upon arrival of the appropriate train -- passenger, freight or a mix of each -- the animals were prodded up a ramp or chute into a stock car.
Chickens and turkeys in crates, bales of hay, barrels of wheat and corn, and other agricultural products also could be transported from rural depots. Various commodities were shipped by rail to restaurants, hotels, wholesalers, meat packers and food processors in nearby cities.
In the 1870s, railroads began providing cattle cars -- featuring slatted sides and doors -- to haul animals. Some were double-decked to handle hogs and sheep. By 1900, about 60,000 cattle cars were in use and livestock accounted for about 15 percent of freight traffic.
Most Butler County livestock went by rail to the Cincinnati stockyards -- located in the Mill Creek valley between Spring Grove Avenue and the railroad yards. Several meat-packing companies operated in the stockyards area.
Cincinnati had earned its Porkopolis nickname before the arrival of the city's first railroad in the 1840s. Animals were walked to market or hauled on the canal. But the railroads soon proved to be speedier and more efficient in transporting animals, and meat packing reached new levels in the Queen City. According to an 1881 report, the Cincinnati stockyards annually processed a million hogs, 300,000 sheep, 165,000 cattle and 10,000 calves.
In 1914, according to a Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad document, nine railroad stations in Butler County had stock pens. At capacity, cattle from those pens would fill 37 stock cars. By prior arrangement, stock also could be loaded at stations that didn't have pens.
On the CH&D's Toledo division there were five stations equipped with stock pens within an 18.4-mile stretch of right-of-way in 1914. Those stations, from south to north, were Stockton (Fairfield), Hamilton, Overpeck, Trenton and West Middletown.
On the Indianapolis division, west of Hamilton, five sets of pens were available within a 19.5-mile span -- at Hamilton, McGonigle, Woods, Oxford and College Corner.
Butler County station pens began disappearing after World War I as rural roads were paved and trucks gradually replaced horse-drawn wagons in the booming 1920s.
The changes led to the closing of the rural stations and the elimination of the jack-of-all-trades agents who provided many services. Most station agents also were telegraphers, sending and receiving messages that assured safe operation of the railroad. In all kinds of weather, they stood at trackside and relayed written messages to passing train crews.
Other duties included selling tickets; answering questions about fares, freight rates and schedules; signaling trains to stop, when necessary; loading and unloading freight and mail; keeping a fire to warm the waiting room and sweeping the depot floors.
Some agents, and their families, resided in the station or an adjacent building. Agent Joseph Black and family were living the McGonigle depot that was destroyed by fire Dec. 13, 1889. The family also operated a general store in the same structure.
The McGonigle Station -- which was near the present intersection of U. S. 27 and Ohio 130 -- also included a ticket and telegraph office, passenger waiting room, and a freight and baggage storage area, plus outdoor livestock pens.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, June 18, 2003
Trains were everywhere in Hamilton during World War II
By Jim Blount
Everyone in Hamilton was a train watcher during World War II. There was no choice. Trains were everywhere in a city dominated by industry. Steam locomotive whistles -- blasting signals and warnings -- were a constant sound in the city of more than 50,000 inhabitants.
Through freight and passenger trains delayed vehicle and pedestrian traffic at the city's numerous street crossings. Adding to the annoyance were 24-hour switching operations at dozens of Hamilton factories. A huge majority of local war products was shipped by rail.
The High Street underpass was still a dream. Traffic backups east of downtown -- with two mainline tracks a block a part -- were expected. Another problem for motorists was the Central Avenue crossing in the middle of the B&O's busy South Hamilton rail yard.
"Those damned trains" was a familiar Hamilton complaint from 1941 through 1945.
For a boy aging from six to 10 years, however, it was an exciting time. The closest he came to a tank, anti-aircraft gun or a gun turret for a battleship was when he saw such evidence of war pass through Hamilton on flatcars on the Baltimore & Ohio and Pennsylvania railroads.
If lucky, he'd see a troop train, mostly a series of stark out-dated coaches -- some in storage since an earlier world war -- filled with smiling, friendly young faces.
During the war, 97 percent of troop movements were by rail. About 100,000 men were riding troop trains daily, and more than 2,500 troop trains operated monthly across the U. S. There are no records of how many traveled through Butler County.
For a boy, it was a thrill to see the troops. For adults, he noticed, it was an emotional experience. Almost everyone -- regardless of age -- waved and smiled back at the nameless soldiers, sailors and marines. Some cheered.
For some adults, the troop trains brought tears as they thought of loved ones possibly riding a similar train to an uncertain fate, or those who wouldn't return to a cheerful homecoming at the B&O depot on South Fifth Street or the Pennsylvania station on South Seventh Street.
Some troop trains stopped in Hamilton, usually to take on water for the steam locomotives. Others paused for pre-arranged deliveries of food and beverages. The train movements were supposed to be secret. But some residents knew when they were arriving and met the trains with cans or boxes of homemade candies, cookies and confections for the troops.
On the other extreme were occasional prisoner of war trains, starting in 1943 and increasing in frequency after D-Day in June 1944.
According to memory, every POW train was westbound and often stopped along Sycamore Street between South Second and South Fourth streets. They were headed over the B&O line through Oxford and Indianapolis to POW compounds, including Camp Atterbury and Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana and Camp Butler, Camp Ellis, Camp Grant and Camp Sheridan in Illinois.
There were no cheers for the German prisoners when the trains halted in Hamilton. Instead, the atmosphere was somber and relatively quiet, except for train noises.
Hamiltonians who somehow learned of the unscheduled POW arrivals came to stare at the enemy. Little was said. Emotions were suppressed. No one approached the cars.
From watching newsreels at the movies and listening the radio, the Madison Elementary School boy expected to see something of a cross between the indestructible Superman and a blood-thirsty Count Dracula. Instead, Hitler's soldiers looked human. Some even smiled. A few waved to curious Hamiltonians gathered beside the tracks.
Nearly half a million enemy prisoners -- including more than 370,000 Germans and in excess of 50,000 Italians -- were distributed among 511 POW camps in almost every state during the final years of World War II.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, June 25, 2003
Butler County's joy turned to fear in July 1863
By Jim Blount
Butler Countians welcomed good news July 5, 1863 -- Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's long campaign against Vicksburg on the Mississippi River had ended with Confederate surrender, and in Pennsylvania the southern forces of General Robert E. Lee were retreating after a showdown at Gettysburg. War-weary residents 140 years ago knew the victories would be followed with the shock of casualty lists. But for a few days, at least, the reaction was joy and celebration.
Some Butler Countians also noted July 5 reports from Cincinnati, quoting Major-General Ambrose E. Burnside, commander of the Department of the Ohio.
Burnside boasted that his watchful troops in Kentucky would head off any Confederate force before it could threaten or reach Cincinnati or other points north of the Ohio River. He claimed that Cincinnati would have "at least 11 days warning" of any possible invasion.
Unknown to Burnside, a Confederate expedition had reached Lebanon, Ky., July 5. Three days later it would cross the Ohio River from Kentucky into Indiana.
July 13 the enemy would threaten Cincinnati and Hamilton -- but residents of both cities didn't learn of their peril until 24 hours before the raiders arrived from the west.
The Confederate force -- originally 2,460 men -- was commanded by Brigadier-General John Hunt Morgan, who had attained a romantic reputation as a bold leader of Confederate cavalry. The veteran of the Mexican War was a prosperous businessman and textile manufacturer in Lexington, Ky., when the Civil War started in 1861. Although born June 1, 1825, in Huntsville, Ala., he grew up in Lexington and attended Translyvania University.
Morgan rose rapidly in the southern army -- from a captain leading a cavalry squadron in September 1861 to a brigadier-general commanding independent forces in late 1862. The 38-year-old Morgan had been successful on previous forays into Kentucky in July, October and December 1862. He also had directed Kentucky cavalry in the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee in April 1862.
Morgan invaded Kentucky in July 1863 to create havoc in the rear of the Union armies that were advancing toward Chattanooga. The campaign began July 2 when Morgan moved into Kentucky and crossed the Cumberland River near Burkesville, Ky.
July 7 Morgan's advance units arrived at Brandenburg, Ky., on the Ohio River, west of Louisville, and, thanks to captured steamboats, completed crossing into Indiana July 8.
As the Confederates entered Indiana, military and civilian leaders in Southwestern Ohio remained in the dark. They were unaware of Morgan's movements and apparent intentions.
One reason for the false security was Morgan's rapid movements. Another was his effective use of deceit. A favorite trick was to use captured telegraph lines to spread false reports of his maneuvers and destinations.
The key player in this ploy was George A. (Lightning) Ellsworth, a telegrapher who had the knack of imitating the telegraph touch of other operators. This gave credibility to false reports of location and intentions, and helped to inflate estimates of Morgan's strength to as many as 10,000 or 20,000 men instead of a dwindling force of 1,500 to 2,000 soldiers.
Word of Morgan crossing the Ohio River finally reached Cincinnati and Hamilton leaders July 12. By then, the Confederates were at Versailles, Ind., about 55 miles west of Hamilton and about 45 miles from Cincinnati.
Hamilton and Cincinnati had about one day to brace for possible attack. That day, a check of Hamilton's defensive capabilities "discovered that there were not arms in the city for more than 200 men," said a contemporary source.
That Hamilton could be an objective of Morgan's raid was not surprising.
Railroads and the Miami-Erie Canal passed through the town, vital supply links to the army's quartermaster depot in Cincinnati. Hamilton had several shops and mills contributing to the war effort. Its largest industry was an arms factory that produced carbines for Morgan's counterparts in the Union cavalry.
(This column is the first in a series on Morgan's 1863 raid into Ohio.)