Journal-News, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2004
Several factors led to building Hamilton's second hospital
By Jim Blount
Fort Hamilton Hospital is observing its 75th anniversary this year, but its history extends beyond its May 1929 opening. Suggestions that the city needed a second hospital began a few years after Hamilton's first health care facility, Mercy, had started in 1892. One reason was the rapid population growth in Hamilton and surrounding Butler County between 1890 and 1930. Two health crises during that period also encouraged formation of a second hospital.
Mercy Hospital was in the path of the March 1913 flood, the worst in the city's history. Its inundation raised discussion of a new or second hospital on higher ground. Five years later, in 1918, the deadly Spanish flu epidemic overwhelmed Mercy and renewed community interest in a second hospital.
Hamilton's population was 17,565 people in 1890 when civic leaders became serious about the need for the first hospital. Although Mercy expanded, it didn't keep pace with Hamilton's growth to 39,675 inhabitants in 1920 -- more than double the 1890 figure. The pace continued during the 1920s and the 1930 census totaled 52,176, within a few points of tripling the 1890 count. During the same 1890-1930 period, the county's population had more than doubled from 56,870 to 114,084.
Besides population growth, experiences during the flood and flu epidemic and overcrowding at Mercy, a fourth factor in the hospital movement in the mid 1920s was Mercy policies and practices.
Some groups believed Mercy administrators weren't abiding by two of the four conditions that had been part of the original agreement with the 1892 hospital committee and the City of Hamilton. In return for those pledges, the committee had paid $9,500 for a two-story house at 116 Dayton Street and provided about $3,000 for improvements and furnishings, enabling the Sisters of Mercy to open a 15-bed hospital Oct. 5, 1892.
In 1925, those questioned promises were that "the hospital shall be strictly non-political and non-sectarian; open for admission to all, regardless of nationality, creed, occupation, age or condition in life both as patient and visitor, limited only by its capacity," and that "ministers of all religious denominations shall have free access at all reasonable hours to visit patients, and will be sent for at any time on request of a patient."
Community dissatisfaction was expressed at an Oct. 27, 1925, meeting, described as "an enthusiastic gathering which nearly filled the Hamilton High School auditorium to its capacity."
"Hospital facilities in Hamilton are inadequate," declared the Rev. C. L. Langerhans, pastor of St. John Evangelical Church, one of several speakers. "Patients many times do not find room in present hospitals here," he said. "Hundreds are forced to go to Cincinnati every year from Hamilton to receive medical attention which they otherwise would not get here." A city the size of Hamilton required about 470 beds, said the Rev. L. P. English, of Canton, secretary of the American Protestant Hospital Association.
Dr. J. L. Barz, business manager of Bethesda Hospital, Cincinnati, told the meeting that "the hospital is a modern institution. The day is past when we send a person to the hospital to die. Now they go there to get well."
The Rev. F. G. Markley, pastor of the Lindenwald M. E. Church, said "for the sake of modern surgery and modern science, we must have a new hospital, and have it soon." Rev. English added that "operations on the kitchen table are no more. Doctors offices are too small for the modern laboratory. Doctors must rub shoulders with other doctors and all these are not possible with present conditions."
"An increase by expansion of the present hospital does not meet with public approval," said Rev. Langerhans. "That would be a cheaper means, possibly of aiding in solving the housing problem"
"We need a different hospital, under a different management," he continued "The present hospital is under a distinct denominational control and has a distinct religious atmosphere.
"If a hospital is supported by the public," he said, "it should have a voice in the management. The hospital should not be controlled by one denomination, but by the public, so that everyone might feel at home under all conditions."
That meeting helped build the public momentum that led to the establishment of Fort Hamilton Hospital and the admission of its first patient May 1, 1929.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2004
Radio changed local entertainment in 1920s
By Jim Blount
Radio, a new form of entertainment, boomed across the nation in the 1920s, but it wasn't until after World War II that stations established roots in Hamilton, Middletown and Oxford.
The first commercial radio broadcast is claimed by WWJ in Detroit Aug. 20, 1920. Another pioneer station was KDKA in Pittsburgh which aired election results Nov. 2, 1920, but there were only about 5,000 receivers in the entire U. S., most of them primitive crystal sets.
Within 10 years -- as technology improved, listening was simplified and programming expanded -- radio had changed personal and family entertainment habits. In 1930 -- when all that was needed was to plug a radio into an electric outlet -- about 15 million American households were listening to a variety of entertainment and information.
Among the first 100 stations licensed in the United States were WMH and WLW in Cincinnati and WRK in Hamilton.
Powel Crosley Jr. licensed WLW March 2, 1922, and with promotional skill built it into "The Nation’s Station," boasting 500,000 watts of power in the 1930s. Crosley -- once regarded as the world’s largest manufacturer of radios -- reportedly started the Cincinnati station to boost the sales of his Harko radio sets. WMH, licensed Dec. 30, 1921, was later acquired by Crosley.
For Crosley -- who owned the Cincinnati Reds from the 1930s until his death in 1961 -- radio was just one of many business interests. At various times, his manufacturing ventures included automobiles, furniture, refrigerators, washing machines, stoves, phonographs and baby carriages.
His WLW -- which he owned until 1945 -- was known for its technical innovations and as the "Cradle of Stars" for its lineup of talented performers. The list included Red Skleton, Doris Day, Andy Williams, Rosemary Clooney, the Mills Brothers, Ma Perkins and Red Barber. The station is credited with introducing soap operas, quiz shows and mysteries to the air waves.
Hamilton’s WRK -- licensed Feb. 24, 1922 -- was operated by the Doron brothers until about 1930. "When radio was in its infancy, the Doron brothers on North D Street setup a broadcasting station . . . and their amateur messages were sent over long distances. They also received messages from other operators," the Journal-News recalled in 1936.
City directories through the 1920s list Joseph W. Doron Jr. and Shuler W. Doron as residing at 329 North C Street (not D) and operating Doron Brothers Electric Co. on North B Street. There is no mention of WRK in the directories.
The newspaper said WRK was transferred to John Slade, "who operated the station in the Green Lantern, south of Hamilton on Dixie Hwy., for several years. He also setup broadcasting outlets in the Journal-News, the Anthony Wayne Hotel and other buildings."
"The wave length was not sufficient for a successful commercial station," the Journal-News reported. "With the networks growing in power and influence, it was difficult for the small outlet to get sustaining programs."
By 1940, on the eve of World War II, 92.3 percent of Butler County residences had a radio while only 53 percent had electric refrigerators.
Butler County radio revived after the war with Hamilton's WMOH (1450 AM) taking the air Aug. 15, 1944, and Middletown's WPFB (910 AM) opening Sept. 1, 1947.
WMOH owners in 1944 were Herbert G. Pabst, president; John C. Slade, vice president and general manager; Robert Pabst, secretary-treasurer; and board members J. E. Humbach, Judge Oscar R. Leiser and Warren Pabst. Joseph E. True was commercial and promotion manager and Miss Robin Thomas program director.
Paul Frederick Braden, founder of the Middletown station, added his initials to the mandatory W to form the call letters WPFB.
Miami University entered broadcasting in 1947 with a station heard on the Oxford campus. WMUB -- now at 88.5 FM -- began public broadcasting Feb. 6, 1950.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2004
Miami student's death took mysterious turn
By Jim Blount
Was the death of a Miami University summer student in 1909 an accident, suicide or murder? Could it have been an execution rooted in political turmoil in Europe, or mob vengeance? A newspaper called the incident "one of those disagreeable and puzzling cases."
The only certainty in the mystery is that a 21-year-old student -- who had been in Oxford only three or four days -- was dead. A railroad section foreman found his body along the tracks of the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad about a mile east of Oxford.
The CH&D employee had been alerted when a coat was noticed entangled in the wheels of a train that stopped in Connersville, Ind.
Arthur H. Ketterling -- who had resided with his mother in Cincinnati -- had enrolled May 8, 1909, in what was described in newspapers as "a special course in manual training." He already had graduated from the Ohio Mechanics Institute in Cincinnati.
He was last seen Tuesday afternoon, May 11, and missed the evening meal that day.
When body parts were discovered scattered over about a mile of track the morning of Wednesday, May 12, it appeared he had been hit and dragged by one or more trains. An instant theory was that the victim possibly had become homesick, tried to hop onto a freight car and slipped under the wheels.
But preliminary investigation pointed to suicide, although no note was found. All of Ketterling’s money (about $10) was located. Clothing and other possessions were in order in his dormitory, except a razor. Its case was in the room; the razor was recovered near the body.
Coroner J. A. Burnett believed the student was murdered. Supporting evidence included four cuts on each wrist, three slashes across the throat, ropes and a bloody rock near the tracks and numerous footprints in the area. He ruled that Ketterling had been dead when his body was placed on the tracks, and that he had died as a result of the wrist and throat cuts.
The macabre mystery took a strange turn when letters were delivered to his mother and the police chief in Cincinnati. "This is to let you know that your son tipped us off to the police, and he was a member of the Black Hand Society. For that, he lost his life. Close your mouth," the writer warned the grieving mother.
Was the letter a cruel hoax, or an accurate reflection of motive? If authentic, which Black Hand Society was responsible for the execution? Newspaper accounts in 1909 didn’t explain if it was assumed the group had originated in Italy, Serbia or elsewhere. The term also became generic and was applied to other secret terrorist groups in the early 20th century.
"The Italian Mafia or Black Hand was a Sicilian secret society of a type fairly common since the Middle Ages," said the Dictionary of American History. Pressure in Italy led some members to emigrate to the United States. "Its discipline was drastic," the DAH said, with "members being put to death for crimes against the society quite as ruthlessly as persons of whom the society disapproved."
Sources disagree on when the Serbian Black Hand Society was organized, some claiming 1908, a year before the Oxford tragedy. There is accord on the group’s purpose. It was a secret group headed by army officers and government officials and active in Balkan nations. It employed terror, kidnaping, blackmail and intimidation to promote the Serbian cause.
The situation intensified in October 1908 when Austria-Hungary -- acting on authority granted in an 1878 treaty -- announced it would occupy and administer the provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Six years later, a 19-year-old Serbian trained by the Black Hand ignited World War I. Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his consort, Sophie (Duchess von Hohenberg) June 28, 1914, at Sarajevo, Bosnia. Austria-Hungary held Serbia responsible and declared war July 28, starting a conflict that eventually involved most of Europe and in 1917 the United States.
Had Arthur H. Ketterling enrolled in the special course in Oxford to get away from the Black Hand? If so, what did he know that marked him for death? Those are just two of the many questions associated with the 1908 mystery.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2004
Fox hunters and uninvited game warden collided in 1913
By Jim Blount
On a Saturday afternoon in March 1913 more than 300 hunters -- mostly farmers and their sons -- had been recruited in the Pleasant Run and Symmes Corner areas along the boundary of Hamilton and Butler counties. Most of the older members carried shotguns while some of the younger volunteers were armed with clubs. It wasn't a sporting event with fancy clothing. Their business mission was to rid the countryside of a fox or foxes that had been invading farms.
No residential subdivisions, no strip shopping centers and no fast food restaurants or convenience stores interrupted the landscape in 1913. It was mostly hilly farm country with houses and barns scattered along narrow unpaved roads. Fields were bordered with wooded tracts that provided potential hiding places for the prey.
Except for the periodic hum and rattle of an electric-powered interurban car along Mount Pleasant Pike (now Pleasant Avenue, U. S. 127) and the rare sight of an automobile, the area looked and sounded like it would have 25 to 75 years earlier.
At the start, it was man against animal -- similar to the contests against either squirrels, foxes or wolves that had taken place in all parts of rural Butler County for more than a hundred years. This time it was farmers on horseback and on foot from Springfield and Colerain townships to the south and Fairfield Township to the north, accompanied by dogs who were to track down the foe.
But before this fox drive ended, a third party entered the contest. The uninvited participant was a deputy game warden, accompanied by a Cincinnati lawyer, who, according to a newspaper report, "rushed to the scene of the fox drive in an automobile" that broke down as it reached the hunters -- just moments after they had surrounded a fox.
"They gave the officer respectful attention when he addressed them on the subject of fox driving," a newspaper said, "asserting in vigorous terms that it was not a sport of which the game authorities approved, and would be prohibited hereafter. If it was necessary," warned the deputy warden, "arrests would be made and prosecutions conducted under a state law."
"A fox is not the mischievous and destructive animal pictured in story books," the deputy warden was quoted in a newspaper. "It is a valuable animal, as it rids the grain fields of mice and other creatures that pester the farmers almost to death. Now, if you people don't want this fox, and would rather see it killed, I will see that it is sent either to Adams or Brown County, where such animals are protected by farmers."
According to the report relying on the deputy warden as its source, a vote was taken and most of the hunters believed "the fox should be allowed to roam along the boundary line of the two counties . . . but to the sorrow" of the warden "and many in the crowd, the fox died of exhaustion."
A later edition of the same newspaper disputed the narrative and some details of the original report, this time reporting from the perspective of the hunters.
"The field officers, before the drive was started, issued an order that no fox caught in the circles was to be killed or crippled," said a leader of the fox hunt. "When the circle narrowed" with hunters "looking into each other's faces, we saw that we had trapped a fox -- and the game warden."
The warden, "not having been invited to take part in the drive, and being ignorant of the rules, struck the fox with a club. He held the animal by the throat for an hour and a half, at least, making attempts from time to time to slip away from the crowd," said the alternative account.
"Finally, when he saw that the fox was dead, he started to cross the county line, but a field officer rode up to him and demanded that he be given the animal. The warden did as requested, and then jumped into his automobile and drove away," said the spokesman for the hunters.
"The farmers, after the warden's departure, discussed the state game laws at length, and came to the conclusion that there is nothing in them prohibiting fox drives," the report continued. "It was decided therefore, that interference by game wardens would be an infringement on their rights and should be resisted in an orderly and legal fashion. Notice is now given that there will be other drives in the future."
The report concluded that "Saturday's drive was profitable to the farmers, for $30 was realized from the sale of the fox to a Hamilton man."
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