Journal-News, Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2005
Mobs periodically threatened Shaker community
(This is the fourth in a seven-part series on Shaker communities in the area.)
By Jim Blount
Most of the men, women and children who formed the Shaker religious community at Union Village in Warren County in 1805 left Protestant churches in the area to accept the austere life style and strict rules of their new faith. They gave up property and possessions for the communal good, promised celibacy and practiced pacifism to live in what they believed would be a more perfect society.
From a modest start, the Shakers amassed 4,500 fertile acres and erected more than 100 buildings to sustain about 4,000 United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing in the 105 years of Union Village existence. (Today some of the buildings remain as part of the Otterbein Retirement Community, three miles east of I-75 on Ohio 63 and a half mile north on Ohio 741.)
The Shakers, wrote John P. MacLean, "indulged in extravagant expressions of religious emotions, and were excessively strict in their discipline, but this was all within themselves, for they did not encroach upon their neighbors." They were "harmless, kind and considerate," said MacLean, who wrote about the Warren County Believers in Ohio Historical Society publications.
Despite their tranquil nature, MacLean found the Shakers "subject to the passions of a mob" several times. Shaker beliefs and practices ignited some opposition. In other cases, it was religious bigotry that threatened the lives of Union Village residents.
Written and verbal attacks surfaced as soon as the Believers organized in 1805. Angry, armed groups advanced on the village several times in its first 20 years -- in 1810, 1813, 1817, 1819 and 1824.
Typical of the written assaults was one in 1805 indicting the Shakers in "the lamentable departure of two of our preachers and a few of their hearers from the true gospel into wild enthusiasm, or Shakerism." It also said "these wolves in sheep's clothing have smelt us from afar and have come to tear, rend and devour."
A Shaker report published in 1823 said "the great opposition . . . was first instigated by the principal leaders of a class of people who styled themselves Christians." It asserted that opponents "exerted all their influence to prejudice the minds of their hearers and excite them to acts of violence."
The Shaker source said Aug. 27, 1810, "a body of 500 armed men, led by officers in military array, appeared before the principal dwelling of the society in Union Village." They approached the pacifist community "armed in mob array, some with guns and swords, some with bayonets fixed on poles and others with staves, hatchets, knives and clubs." Their ranks included residents from a wide area, including Hamilton, Middletown, Springdale, Lebanon and other parts of southwestern Ohio.
Also present were an estimated 2,000 spectators -- some "to witness the mighty conflict," others "friendly to the society" and hoping "to prevent mischief and preserve peace," said the Shaker account.
A 12-man contingent advanced to present their complaints and demands to Shaker leaders. The spokesman for the intruders was a Hamilton preacher. They demanded "that the society should relinquish their principles and practice, mode of worship and manner of living, or quit the country," the Shaker report said. They also objected to Shakers dancing on Sundays.
Instead of force, the confrontation involved prolonged debate, including participation by "a few respectable individuals" who sought peace. The Shaker history said "the vindictive warriors" were allowed "to examine the youth reported to be held in bondage" and other inspections. After the mob retired, a few Shakers were treated for injuries, including some struck by whips.
Another group arrived in December 1813, seeking the children of a man who had left the society. They were repelled after causing some damage. They tried legal means and when that failed, they rode into the village and took two children against their will.
Custody of children was the basis for other forceful challenges, including a threat to burn the village in 1817. Most contests involved a parent who had moved out of Union Village and the other who chose to remain in the faith. There also were some flaps over adoption of orphans.
In August 1819, a mob numbering 20 to 30 men claimed a woman who wanted to leave the Shaker society had been forced to stay. The woman faced the group and confirmed she wanted to remain. Undaunted, the protesters came back the next day with a force of about 200. A fight continued until Warren County officials appeared, ended the fisticuffs and backed Shaker leaders.
A receiver was appointed for bankrupt Union Village in March 1910. In October 1912 its property was sold to the United Brethren Church with the provision that 17 surviving Believers could reside rent free in one building.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2005
Union Village spawned network of Shaker communities
(This is the fifth in a seven-part series on Shaker communities in the area.)
By Jim Blount
Union Village in neighboring Warren County was an incubator for the Shaker faith in Middle America in the early 19th century, including a colony partially in Butler County. The parent communal society formed in 1805 about three miles east of the Butler County between Monroe, Middletown and Lebanon. Union Village leaders in the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing -- the proper name for people commonly known as Shakers -- organized converts in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky from 1805 to 1824.
Union Village -- covering 4,500 acres and including more than 100 buildings -- has been called "the headquarters of the Shaker bishopric of the West."
Three missionaries -- John Meacham, Benjamin S. Youngs and Issachar Bates -- were dispatched from Mount Lebanon in New York Jan. 1, 1805, to spread the faith. Their first success was converting the Rev. Richard McNemar and members of his Turtle Creek New Light Presbyterian Church. In May 1805 they formed Union Village, three miles east of I-75 on Ohio 63 and half a mile north on Ohio 741.
Within six months another community, Watervliet, started in Montgomery County, east of Dayton after encouragement from founders of Union Village. Watervliet -- also known in its early years as Beulah, Beaver Creek and Mad River because of its location -- grew to 1,300 acres. Watervliet, which extended into Greene County, continued until 1900.
Not as lasting were societies in Adams County, Ohio, and in Knox County, Indiana.
Settlers on Eagle Creek and Straight Creek in Adams County -- about 70 miles southeast of Union Village -- accepted Shakerism in 1805. The Rev. McNemar, one of the Union Village originals, had helped establish a Presbyterian church there about 1800. Eleven years later, the 150 Believers at Eagle Creek and Straight Creek were moved to Union Village and to Busro in Indiana.
The Busro Shaker settlement, about 16 miles north of Vincennes, had started in 1808. In September 1812, because of illness and threats from neighbors, Busro Believers were sent to Union Village. Shakers returned to Busro in 1814, but 13 years later it was dissolved and its residents sent to two Kentucky communities.
A third Ohio society, North Union, opened in 1822 near Cleveland with 80 members. It peaked at 300 Believers on 1,355 acres in 1850. It was dissolved Oct. 24, 1889, with remaining members transferred to Union Village and Watervliet. North Union land was sold and developed as the City of Shaker Heights, incorporated in 1912.
Within two years of the start of Union Village in Ohio, two Shaker settlements opened in Kentucky -- Pleasant Hill, near Harrodsburg, Ky., and South Union, near Bowling Green.
In December 1806, forty-four converts created what became Pleasant Hill. The society, started on a Mercer County farm, was called Shawnee Run, for its location on a tributary of the Kentucky River. In 1808 the Believers bought adjacent land better suited for agriculture, relocated there and named the new site Pleasant Hill. Its population was about 500 in 1830. It grew to more than 250 structures on 4,000 acres. By 1810, there were only a dozen Believers at Pleasant Hill. The last member died in 1923.
South Union -- 12 miles southwest of Bowling Green -- had more than 200 buildings on 6,000 acres. It was founded in 1807 and peaked in the 1840s and 1850s with about 350 residents. Its communal land and possessions were sold in 1922 and surviving members were forced to seek residence elsewhere.
Thanks to preservationists, some Pleasant Hill -- now known as Shakertown -- and South Union buildings have survived and are tourist attractions.
Whitewater, the last Ohio Shaker village, evolved in the 1820s, north of New Haven in Hamilton County, just south of the Butler County line. A resident of that area visited Union Village in 1823 and was among 30 Shaker converts by the fall of that year.
A few years earlier, Union Village leaders had been interested in the welfare of a small Shaker settlement at Darby Plains, near Marysville in Union County, about 70 miles northeast of the Warren County society. Some Darby Plains members moved to Whitewater in December 1823.
Land was accumulated from 1825 through 1850, until Whitewater totaled 1,457 acres, 400 of which was in Morgan Twp. in Butler County. The communal society -- that had 77 residents in 1835 -- dissolved in 1909 and the last of its property was sold in 1916.
More details on Whitewater -- including plans for its future -- will be covered in a future column.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2005
Whitewater Shaker village extended into Butler County
(This is the sixth in a seven-part series on Shaker communities in the area.)
By Jim Blount
"Although I had never seen the [Whitewater] Shaker lands, the moment I struck them I knew I was on their possessions," wrote John P. MacLean. "The fences were in good condition, the lands cared for, and there was the general aspect of thriftiness. When I caught sight of the first house, my opinion was confirmed that I was on the lands of the Shakers, for the same style of architecture, solid appearance and want of decorative art were before me."
MacLean was writing about a Shaker community that was partially in Butler County. Ohio's last Shaker village began in the 1820s, north of present New Haven in Hamilton County, just south of Butler County. Whitewater was one of several colonies of Union Village, Ohio's first Shaker settlement.
Union Village was established in 1805 by converts to the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing. Some of its buildings remain at Otterbein Homes, three miles east of I-75 on Ohio 63 and half a mile north on Ohio 741.
MacLean had studied the Shaker faith and its communities and wrote extensively about his observations in Ohio Historical Society publications in the early 1900s. He was well acquainted with Shaker beliefs and customs when he visited Whitewater for the first time.
"The Shaker lands are situated on the Dry Forks of the Whitewater, in the northwest part of Hamilton County, with 400 acres in Butler County," he explained.
"The farms, for the most part, are level, composed of black soil, with a circular ridge of hills surrounding them," he said. "The view is pleasing to the eye and furnishes ample material for a beautiful landscape painting.
"The possessions comprised, in one body, are 1,457 acres," MacLean noted, and then listed the acquisitions. "In 1825, there was purchased on Dry Fork Creek, 215 acres at $6.50 per acre; in 1827, 40 acres at $1.26 per acre; 305 acres of Congress land at $1.20 per acre; in 1829, 135 acres for $2,000; 1835, 137 acres for $3,000; 1838, 197 acres for $7,000; 1847, 30 acres for $1,000; 1850, 200 acres for $10,000. In 1827 Joseph Boggett, a member, deeded his farm of 160 acres."
Whitewater extended north from Crosby Township in Hamilton County into sections 33, 34 and 35 in Morgan Township in Butler County -- the area around present Howard's Creek, Race and New Haven roads.
A community known as Morgantown had existed from 1810 to about 1830 with mills and shops on Dry Fork in Section 34 of Morgan Township. The 1882 Butler County history said "Morgantown began with either Hugh Smith's gristmill or else the John Iseminger still house. There were at this settlement, at various times, a flax seed oil mill, by Smith & Robinson, a sawmill, and a brewery; also a blacksmith's shop and an extensive cooper's shop. These establishments were in active operation from 1810 to 1830."
"At this time  there are no traces of the place left except an old log house," said the 1882 history. "In 1810 George Iseminger had a store here; also Smith & Robinson. Iseminger was at one time a miller and sawyer in the village. His brother-in-law, Rephart, was the brewer."
Although engaged in a variety of agricultural pursuits, the Whitewater community was known for producing and marketing garden seeds. According to MacLean, "it was in 1847 that the Whitewater brethren started on a successful career of raising garden seeds for the markets."
"Trips for selling the seeds were made in different parts of the country. One trip was called the Northern, another the Missouri River, another the Western Land, another the Kentucky, etc. The greatest amount received for one year -- if I correctly notice -- was in 1857, when $5,704 was realized, with a total traveling expense of $416.
"This enterprise came to an end in 1873, because many firms began to put out garden and flower seeds in fancy colored papers and boxes, also in different size packages," marketing steps contrary to Shaker devotion to simplicity.
A Whitewater report explained the demise. It said "our seeds did not take, as they were put up in a brown colored paper and a plain stained box. It was conclusive we must keep up with the times or step down and out, which we did."
The Whitewater communal society dissolved in 1909 and the last of its property was sold in 1916, but many of its buildings survive. The Whitewater Shaker Settlement was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. The register describes it as 20 buildings on 3,840 acres. The Friends of Whitewater Shaker Village formed a few years ago to encourage preservation of the site.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2005
Despite Depression, residents partied for FDR's cause
By Jim Blount
The Depression was still strangling Butler Countians in 1934, but that didn't stop some residents from celebrating President Franklin D. Roosevelt's birthday and contributing to a cause championed by the popular chief executive who had been inaugurated in March 1933. FDR's 52nd birthday was Jan. 30, 1934, a perfect time to highlight the need to finance medical research for polio.
In 1921 Roosevelt was stricken with poliomyelitis at age 39. While pursuing his political career, he became a leading advocate for research and new treatments for victims of infantile paralysis. In 1924, he was attracted to the therapeutic water of Warm Springs, Ga., and contributed his money and leadership to the facility. He also established a home in the Georgia community.
Roosevelt, although paralyzed below the waist, was elected president in November 1932, promising a "New Deal" that would lead the nation to relief and recovery from the Great Depression. But he didn't abandon the campaign for polio research and treatment.
FDR used his first birthday in the White House to call nationwide attention to the polio cause. Hamilton, Middletown and Butler County villages were among more than 4,375 communities that participated in the first Birthday Ball, raising more than $1 million for the Warm Springs Foundation.
There were several parties in Hamilton the evening of Jan. 30, 1934, the largest at the Elks Temple, with about 800 people attending, and the Eagles Temple with about 400 participants. Both locations featured "a gala evening of dancing and entertainment."
"The only drawback to either affair," the Journal-News said, "was the lack of space, both buildings being filled to capacity." Those two celebrations grossed about $1,000.
Smaller parties were held in local churches and other locations that day. An example was an afternoon party sponsored by the ladies of the St. John Church, attended by about 200 women. In Middletown, the largest events were at the Eagles, Elks, the armory and the Manchester Hotel.
One of the nation's largest observances, with 5,000 attendees, was at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. Patriotic music was a part of parties across the nation.
"Ten million Americans danced, ate, listened patiently to speeches, and the result is over a million dollars to be spent fighting disease and diminishing suffering, besides giving the president great pleasure in connection with his 52nd birthday," wrote Arthur Brisbane, a syndicated newspaper columnist.
"It is with a humble thankful heart that I accept this tribute through me to the stricken ones of our national family," Roosevelt said in response to the national turnout.
The birthday balls became annual events, and polio the first disease to become a celebrity cause with radio and movie stars appealing for donations. The fund-raising effort acquired a catchy name when radio personality Eddie Cantor suggested that Americans send their loose change to the president in "a march of dimes to reach all the way to the White House." When millions of dimes flooded the White House, the campaign became the "March of Dimes."
After 1934, income from the Birthday Balls were shared by several organizations involved in treating victims or seeking a means of preventing the crippling disease. Beneficiaries included local polio charities, the Warm Springs Foundation and the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, the latter formed in 1938 by FDR as a national organization to aid polio victims across the country.
In 1945, the annual event raised $18.9 million nationally as Roosevelt celebrated his last birthday, shortly after starting his fourth term in the White House. He died April 12, 1945, as World War II was drawing to a close.
Exactly 10 years later the Journal-News described April 12, 1955, as a day of "great joy and happiness" for parents who "breathed a deep sigh of relief upon learning that the dreaded disease has at last been virtually conquered." Their relief followed government approval of a polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk. In the 10 preceding years, more than 390 polio cases had been reported in Butler County, including at least eight deaths.
The first mass Salk inoculation was administered to children in Butler County April 27, 1955. But the Salk vaccine wasn’t the last word in prevention of polio.
Oct. 6, 1956, in Cincinnati, Dr. Albert Sabin announced he had developed an oral vaccine. It was nearly six years before it was available in Butler County. The immunization program began Sept. 25-30, 1962. Within a week, 95,186 people received the Sabin vaccine.
Money realized from the annual Birthday Balls and the March of Dimes helped fund the research that eradicated polio by the early 1960s.
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