Miami students mobilized when U. S. entered World War I
By Jim Blount
When the United States mobilized for World War I in 1917, the Miami University campus in Oxford was transformed into an army camp. The Great War, as it was called then, had started in Europe in the summer of 1914. Some Miami men were in the military when the U. S. officially entered the war; others were preparing for military service, if needed. .
The U. S. declared war on Germany April 6, 1917. Eleven days later -- when spring break ended Monday, April 17 -- men enrolled at Miami were required to participate in 90-minute military drills three times a week. The 320 trainees were divided into four companies of 80 each.
But the organization was soon disrupted. By mid May, 50 of Miami's 320 male students had entered military service.
May 15 Gov. James M. Cox ordered ordered all male college students, except seniors, be dismissed for two weeks to assist in farming in Ohio to increase food supplies for the expanding armed forces and to compensate for older men who were entering the services. Only women students and senior men remained in Oxford to complete the 1916-1917 academic year.
When classes resumed in September 1917, drilling continued for 350 males on the Miami campus.
"We were under a rigid program of military discipline. There was the playing of 'Taps' each evening, and we had to be in bed at 11 p.m.," a requirement that met much student opposition, said Larz Hammel in recalling conditions on campus during the 1917-1918 term.
That year, the trainees, 18 and older, were part of the Students' Army Training Corps (SATC). They were paid $30 a month, and received a bonus at the end of the war. Drills were on Cook Field on the campus.
While millions of Europeans had been engaged in the foreign struggle since 1914, the U. S. Army was under the 100,000-man strength that Congress had authorized in 1902.
The National Defense Act of 1916 approved a five-year increase to a 175,000-man U. S. Army in peacetime and 300,000 in war. The National Guard bolstered its numbers when Pancho Villa raided New Mexico, and when it became evident that the U. S. would become directly involved in the Great War. When the U. S. declared war, SATC units were organized on more than 400 campuses across the nation.
"We spent all afternoon in infantry drill, including bayonet drill," said Hammel, a Miami sophomore in 1917-18 and a member of Company C of Miami's SATC unit.
"But we never fired a gun. We weren't issued real guns. They were wood replicas. Our marches were to College Corner and back, and there was yelling and singing all the time. We had the best food of any time we were in college," said Hammel, a 1920 graduate who was a Miami trustee from 1934 until 1965.
A dress parade of Miami's SATC Dec. 8, 1917, "was held in six inches of snow and a biting frosty wind that muted the instruments of the band," according to one account.
But the hardships of men remaining in Oxford couldn't compare with those who were in military camps or on duty in France in 1917 and 1918. By the end of the 1917-1918 year, the casualty reports included seven Miami men.
The list included: Sgt. Kent Ritchie, a former student, accidentally shot to death in France Feb. 9, 1918; Sgt. Carlos Baer, class of 1917, April 6, 1918, of pneumonia following an operation in a Columbus army hospital after returning from France; Corp. Samuel Landon, class of 1917, April 11, 1918, also a victim of pneumonia after an operation, at Camp Sherman, Chillicothe; First Lt. Guinn Mattern, class of 1917, killed April 17, 1918, in the crash of his plane in San Diego Bay; Army flyer trainee Harry J. Myers, a former student, killed May 10, 1918, when his plane crashed near Fort Worth, Texas; Pvt. Dillon Watterson, a former student, in France of wounds suffered July 14, 1918; and Naval aviation trainee Corwin Smith, class of 1917, of pneumonia Oct. 7, 1918, in Cambridge, Mass.
The war was in its final weeks when more than 1,000 students arrived in Oxford to begin the 1918-1919 academic year. The armistice Nov. 11, 1918, was welcomed -- and the SATC was discharged before Christmas -- but the victory celebration was restrained on the Miami campus. The muted enthusiasm will be explained in a future column.
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Spanish flu epidemic closed Miami University in 1918
By Jim Blount
The suffering and sacrifice wrought by World War I appeared to be ending as about 1,000 students started the 1918-1919 academic year at Miami University. The armistice came Nov. 11, 1918, ending the fighting, but there wasn't much celebrating on the Oxford campus. A new threat had appeared, a mysterious and suspicious one that was spreading across the nation that fall.
It was the Spanish flu epidemic -- a worldwide crisis that infected about 28 percent of the U. S. population. One of several estimates places American flu deaths as high as 675,000, or 10 times greater than the nation’s war dead. Half the U. S. military casualties in Europe were attributed to the flu.
Some surmised that it had been a biological attack by Germany, part of a desperate, last-minute attempt to win the war. Later, it was learned that the epidemic had been lethal in Germany, too. Others theorized it had been caused by conditions associated with troops living in trenches for long periods, or health and environment hazards created in war zones.
Although its place of origin is debated, the name, Spanish flu, is believed to have been a byproduct of millions of deaths in Spain in May 1918.
At least 247 people died in Hamilton and about 100 elsewhere in Butler County in the fall of 1918.
The flu struck people of all ages -- including college-age males and females -- and was often fatal within a few hours. One newspaper said "its chief danger lies in complications which often follow, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and other diseases of the respiratory system."
Miami’s first case was reported Sept. 18 -- the day students enrolled for the new term. A campus that usually had five or six serious illnesses a year suddenly had dozens with the flu and complications.
Oct. 3, 1918, university officials, in compliance with a state health edict, ordered the dismissal of 453 women students to their hometowns because of the epidemic. The order was issued at 4 p.m. that day and compliance was quick. Most of the Miami women were reported to have left Oxford on the 5:14 p.m. train to Hamilton.
A few female students volunteered to remain to assist nurses and to cook for those already afflicted.
For five weeks -- until Nov. 7 -- only male students enrolled in the Students’ Army Training Corps were allowed to remain on campus, but their activities were limited. The SATC, involving all male students, except seniors, had been formed at Miami and on other campuses after the U. S. declared war on Germany April 6, 1917.
In the fall of 1918, SATC men forsook some marching and military drills to serve as orderlies for doctors and nurses caring for Oxford flu victims.
Miami’s president, Raymond M. Hughes, ordered campus chapel services and other gatherings canceled. Students and Oxford residents were advised to avoid large groups, including church services, movies and attending school.
Part of Bishop Hall, a dormitory, served as a hospital, but it was soon inadequate and patients were also housed in Johnson Hall.
A June 1919 medical report to Miami trustees said the campus "had three distinct visitations of influenza in epidemic form. The first was in September and October, the second in December and the third in February and March." During the first period, four students died in Oxford and three at their homes. One fatality was recorded in December and none in February and March.
Neighboring Western College, with 267 women enrolled, remained in session during the emergency. Western women later expressed, "with increasing vehemence, their impatience with the quarantine which had kept them miraculously safe from the widespread influenza epidemic," wrote Narka Nelson in her book, The Western College for Women, 1853-1953.
Unknowingly, Miami’s administration had made a decision before the 1918-19 school year started that may have minimized the death toll on the Oxford campus. That development will be covered in a future column.
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Flu epidemic greeted Miami’s new medical director in 1918
By Jim Blount
Until the 1918-1919 school year, Miami University students had relied on Oxford doctors for medical care, when needed. With perfect timing, the university brought Dr. Wade MacMillan, a veteran Cincinnati physician, to the campus as its first medical director Sept. 18, 1918. It was a timely appointment because the Spanish flu epidemic reached Oxford at the same time.
The mysterious ailment had spread around the world by the fall of 1918. It peaked in Butler County from late September through mid December, restricting the celebration of the armistice that ended World War I fighting Nov. 11.
Before Dr. MacMillan’s arrival, "one of the local physicians, designated as university physician, has given part of his time to this work, and a resident nurse has been employed," the university explained in September 1918.
Dr. MacMillan was no stranger to Oxford. He had been a Miami student for three years, 1885-87, before completing medical training in 1891 at the Miami Medical College (later the University of Cincinnati medical school), followed by a two-year internship at General Hospital (now University Hospital).
Since 1893 his medical experience had included an orthopedic surgery practice, 12 years of teaching anatomy and surgery at Miami Medical College and association with Christ Hospital, "first as pathologist, later as surgeon and finally as head of the department of orthopedic surgery," said a Miami announcement. He also founded the Child’s Welfare Bureau in Cincinnati.
When Miami students registered Sept. 18, they paid a new required $5 medical fee "to assure the privilege of all ordinary medical advice and a limited amount of hospital service, if necessary."
"This new program," the announcement said, "places Miami University distinctly in line with two great and closely related tendencies in modern medicine -- the new emphasis on social medicine under direction of municipal or institutional physicians, and the new interest in preventive medicine."
Dr. MacMillan didn’t have time to start preventive medicine before the flu struck the campus. Oct. 3 -- only 15 days after students had arrived in Oxford -- the 453 female students were ordered to return to their home towns. The Oct. 3 dismissal was in line with state-wide measures to restrict people of all ages from being part of large groups.
By that time, two women students had died of complications from the flu and university resources were overwhelmed.
In reporting Dr. MacMillan’s appointment, the administration had said "an enlarged hospital suite of four rooms and bath is being equipped" for 1918-19 in Bishop Hall, a women’s dormitory. During the epidemic, Johnson Hall also was used as a hospital.
"Our medical records of this period are very incomplete," said a June 1919 medical report to Miami trustees. "Until the end of October there was no time for the attendants to do aught but take care of sick people, so that many cases must remain unrecorded, even those treated in the hospital. In the student body, we have record of 340 cases; 174 men and 166 women. There must have been at least 20 more cases among nurses and attendants." During the school year, 400 students were hospitalized one day or more.
The same report said "19 extra nurses were employed in all during the epidemic. Two weeks later, when the disease had become more widespread in the surrounding country, it would have been impossible to secure any nurses." Most nurses had been recruited from Hamilton and Cincinnati. The Red Cross also sent personnel to Oxford.
The 1918 outbreak spotlighted the need for even greater university health services. There was no hospital in Oxford at the time. There were only two in Butler County, Mercy Hospital in Hamilton, which had opened in 1892, and Middletown Hospital, in operation only a year. Transportation from Oxford to both institutions would have been over unpaved roads, or by train to Hamilton.
In response to the 1918 crisis, the university opened a hospital on the campus in December 1923, financed by donations and named in honor of Dr. MacMillan, who, President Raymond M. Hughes said, had "labored night and day most effectively and intelligently in caring for the sick and in preventing the spread of the disease" at Miami in 1918-19.
The flu took the lives of eight Miami students -- a small toll in comparison to the 350 to 400 people of all ages who died of the flu or related illness throughout Butler County.
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Hamilton Plaza nearing 50th anniversary of opening
By Jim Blount
A Hamilton property -- the first of its kind in the area -- will be 50 years old in October. Hamilton Plaza, still a strip mall, had its grand opening on the southeast edge of Hamilton the weekend of Oct. 4-6, 1956, advertised as the "greatest shopping event in Hamilton’s history." Promotions also stressed well-lighted free parking and "park once -- shop complete" convenience.
Fifteen of 19 store sites were operating at the grand opening. The first occupant, Grants Department Store, had welcomed customers April 26, 1956. Grants also had a new downtown store at 343 High Street.
Grants opening specials ranged from men’s sport shirts at $2.47; men’s and boys tennis shoes at $2.27; and 27x50-inch rayon rugs at $4.98; to 18-inch rotary lawnmowers, with adjustable blade, at $42.88.
Details of the shopping center were announced at the end of August 1954 with construction to begin without 60 days. The James R. Williams Investing Co. of Cincinnati said his firm was coordinating plans with the Ohio Highway Department which was designing the widening of Ohio 4 along the west side of the property. The site extended from the highway east to the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Williams acquired 24.94 acres in Fairfield Twp. from a trustee of the Lazard Kahn Co. (Estate Stove Co.) Sept. 2, 1954. It was part of 49.8 acres annexed to Hamilton May 20, 1956.
The original report said the center -- with store frontage of 1,045 feet along Erie Hwy. and Dixie Hwy. -- would cost between $2.5 million and $3 million. The 25-acre site, immediately south of the Hamilton corporation limit in 1954, was to have parking for 1,918 cars.
The development and leasing were handled by the Edward J. DeBartolo Co. of Youngstown.
Besides Grants, first occupants included Albers Super Market, Liberal Super Market, Omar Bakery, Tasty Bird Farms (poultry), Gray Drug Store, Moore’s Stores, Adeline Shops, Marimac Cleaners, Schiff’s Shoes, Thom McAn Shoes, F. W. Woolworth, Plaza Cocktail, Economy Savings & Loan, and the First National Bank.
Stores were open Monday through Saturday. In 1956, Sunday shopping was still a few years away.
At opening, parking capacity was listed at 1,700 spaces, not the 1,918 announced two years earlier.
Liberal’s opening specials included full shank hams, 39 cents a pound; a three-pound package of frankfurters, 97 cents; pound and a quarter loaves of bread, 15 cents; and a pound bag of coffee, 23 cents. Albers offered sliced bacon, 49 cents a pound, and pork sausage, 33 cents a pound. Tasty Bird features included Turkeys at 39 cents a pound.
The shopping center concept, although new to Hamilton in 1956, had originated about 30 to 35 years earlier. There’s disagreement on which site qualifies as the first U. S. shopping center.
"The modern shopping center, which includes everything from small suburban strip centers to the million-square-foot super regional malls, had its genesis in the 1920s," says the web site of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC).
"The concept of developing a shopping district away from a downtown is generally attributed to J. C. Nichols of Kansas City, Mo. His Country Club Plaza, which opened in 1922, was constructed as the business district for a large-scale residential development. It featured unified architecture, paved and lighted parking lots, and was managed and operated as a single unit."
"In the later half of the 1920s," the ICSC notes, "as automobiles began to clog the central business districts of large cities, small strip centers were built on the outskirts. The centers were usually anchored by a supermarket and a drug store, supplemented by other convenience-type shops. The typical design was a straight line of stores with space for parking in front. Grandview Ave. Shopping Center in Columbus, Ohio, which opened in 1928, included 30 shops and parking for 400 cars."
"But many experts consider Highland Park Shopping Village in Dallas, Tex., developed by Hugh Prather in 1931, to be the first planned shopping center," according to the ICSC.
Most centers built in the 1950s and 1960s were strip centers. The ICSC says there were 7,600 U. S. shopping centers by 1964, nearly doubling to 13,174 by 1972. Some became enclosed malls.
Since its 1956 opening, Hamilton Plaza has experienced several owner and management changes, most involving some physical improvements or face lifts, including a $250,000 expansion in 1962. One of the series of owners was the Great American Insurance Co. of Cincinnati.
In 1990, the plaza was described as including 32 businesses in the 203,000 square foot strip, plus outbuildings. It changed ownership that year in a $5 million transaction -- almost twice its original cost.
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93rd OVI reduced to only 90 men in final battle
(This is the first in a five-part series honoring the Civil War veterans who promoted building the Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument, a Hamilton landmark. The monument was dedicated 100 years ago, July 4, 1906. The centennial will be observed this year at noon, preceding Hamilton's Fourth of July parade.)
By Jim Blount
Union regiments in the Civil War numbered at least 900 men. But that figure is misleading when reading about regimental action late in the 1861-65 conflict. Units including Butler County volunteers entered the war with more than 900, but their ranks quickly shrank because of deaths, wounds, injury and disease.
An example is the 93rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The 93rd OVI had 968 officers and men when fully organized Aug. 23, 1862, in Dayton. About 275 to 300 came from a variety of Butler County communities.
By the end of the war, more than one out of five -- 22.4 percent -- of its original members had been killed, died of wounds or succumbed because of illness or injury.
The regiment's first major battle was Dec. 31, 1862-Jan. 2, 1863, at Stones River at Murfreesboro, Tenn., about 33 miles southeast of Nashville. The 93rd's 124 casualties included 12 killed, 48 wounded and 64 captured or missing.
Later, it suffered similar losses in the thick of fighting at Chickamauga, Orchard Knob, Missionary Ridge and the Atlanta campaign.
The 93rd's last pivotal battle was in defense of Nashville in December 1864. The advance on the Tennessee capital was the last chance for Confederate forces to reverse the course of the war in the western theater. Gen. John Bell Hood's campaign -- which had started in September near Atlanta -- was aimed at counteracting Major-Gen. William T. Sherman's Union advance through Georgia.
The showdown came Dec. 15-16, 1864, at Nashville. Lt. Colonel Daniel Bowman of Middletown commanded the 93rd as it entrenched along the front line south of Nashville from Dec. 1 until Dec. 15. The regiment was part of Colonel P. Sidney Post's second brigade in Brig.-Gen. Thomas J. Wood's third division in the Fourth Army, commanded by Major-Gen. David S. Stanley.
The brigade was in the center of the action Dec. 15, but the 93rd was left to hold the brigade's breastworks in case Post's men were pushed back.
When the action resumed Friday, Dec. 16, near Overton Knob along the Franklin Pike, the 93rd was in front of the victorious advancing column five miles south of Nashville. Fighting that day cost the 93rd three men killed and 25 wounded -- nearly a third of the regiment's remaining manpower.
From 968 men in August 1862, only 90 soldiers remained to fight at Nashville in December 1864. After two years, more than 90 percent of the regiment was gone.
The unit was mustered out June 8, 1865, two months after Gen. Robert E. Lee had surrendered his Confederate army at Appomattox Court House, Va.
The 93rd suffered 217 deaths -- 110 in battle or as a result of battle wounds and 107 of disease. It had 290 members wounded, including 30 men wounded twice and eight wounded three times.
A total of 249 soldiers in the 93rd had been discharged earlier because of disabilities.
The names of Butler Countians who served in the 93rd OVI are among the more than 4,300 carved into the marble walls of the Butler County Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument.
The monument -- financed by a county-wide tax levy approved in 1899 -- was promoted by Civil War veterans to honor Butler Countians who served in all wars. Its builders said it was erected by grateful citizens to "perpetuate the memory of the soldiers, sailors and pioneers of Butler County," with "the hope and with the prayer that the eyes and hearts of future generations may be as loyal to the flag of our free government as the persons whose names are enrolled on its sacred walls."