Butler County TID completes highway goals
By Jim Blount
The Butler County Transportation Improvement District will come full circle Monday, Dec. 3, when it officially dedicates completion of another section of Ohio 747 in West Chester and Liberty townships. The project -- which runs north from Tylersville Road to Ohio 129 -- is another phase in upgrading a two-lane Ohio 747 to four-lanes, plus turn lanes, for 5.4 miles from the Ohio 129 interchange south to the county line.
For TID, it is another milestone in 11 years of highway improvements that have promoted economic development, job creation and an increased tax base for Butler County.
TID's first project -- completed Oct. 21, 1996 -- was a $1.5 million upgrade and widening at the intersection of Ohio 747 and Tylersville Road in West Chester Twp. Work started July 15, 1996, on that outdated crossing of two old rural two-lane roads.
That site -- a traffic bottleneck and high-accident area -- was transformed to through lanes and right turn and left turn lanes in all directions. The intersection was built to match future Ohio 747 widening north and south of that point. It is at the southern end of the latest Ohio 747 upgrade.
Other TID achievements in the last 11 years have included:
** The Union Centre interchange in West Chester Twp. became the first new I-75 interchange in Southwestern Ohio since the highway opened in 1960. Work began in March 1997. The $16.75 million interchange (exit 19), plus surrounding road improvements, carried traffic eight months later in December 1997. It opened more than 3,000 acres to development -- land previously inaccessible. Since opening, the interchange has led to creation of thousands of jobs and has returned millions in tax revenues.
** Muhlhauser Road -- formerly a narrow, dead-end rural road -- was upgraded and extended to form a southern link between Ohio 747 and I-75 at the Union Centre interchange. The $9.31 million project also relieved traffic congestion and encouraged economic development. A new 1.71-mile five-lane section between Allen Road and International Boulevard opened Dec. 23, 1998. Widening of a 1.1-mile old section to five lanes from International Boulevard west to Ohio 747 was completed in October 1999.
** The Ohio 129 extension -- 10.7 miles between Hamilton and a new I-75 interchange (exit 24) -- became a TID responsibility in September 1995. Work started May 15, 1998, on the $164.94 million road also known as the Michael A. Fox Highway, Butler County Regional Highway and Butler County Veterans Highway. End sections opened in October 1999. The entire roadway opened Dec. 13, 1999, eight months ahead of schedule.
** Union Centre Boulevard -- extending west from I-75 to Ohio 747 and east to Cincinnati-Dayton Road -- was a new road, costing $8.14 million. Part of the three-mile corridor was built in 1997 during the interchange construction. An extension from Beckett Road west to Ohio 747 opened Oct. 5, 2000.
** The Union Centre Boulevard extension west of Ohio 747 filled a 1.7-mile gap between the eastern terminus of Symmes Road at Seward Road in Fairfield and the western end of Union Centre Boulevard in West Chester Twp. It provided I-75 access to business and industrial areas in the cities of Fairfield and Hamilton, and opened land in West Chester Twp. and Fairfield for development. Ground was broken for the $8.10 million extension Feb. 16, 2001, and the new four-lane roadway opened 10 months later, Dec. 10, 2001.
All TID projects have been developed and completed in cooperation with the Butler County Engineer's Office, the Federal Highway Administration, the Ohio Department of Transportation, Butler County commissioners, other agencies and the local governments -- the cities of Hamilton and Fairfield; and Liberty, Fairfield and West Chester townships -- that formed the district in 1993.
The Dec. 3 opening of the Tylersville Road to Ohio 129 section of Ohio 747 also will mark completion of TID's original plan for the southeastern corner of the county. The mid-1990s goals included Union Centre Boulevard, Symmes Road extension, Ohio 129 and Muhlhauser Road as east-west links and Ohio 747 as the north-south component.
Initially, some projects faced public skepticism and opposition. After completion, they have gained popularity for improving travel convenience and safety and for spurring economic benefits to the entire county.
Additions to TID's original agenda are (1) the Liberty Interchange at the east end of Ohio 129, including a Cox Road northern extension, and (2) widening and improvement of Ohio 4 Bypass in Hamilton, Fairfield and Fairfield Township. In recent years, TID board membership has been expanded to include representation from the Oxford, Trenton, Monroe and Middletown areas.
(Jim Blount is chairman of the board of the Butler County Transportation Improvement District.)
# # #
World War I meant more taxes on Americans
By Jim Blount
President Woodrow Wilson in 1917, when asking Congress to declare war on Germany, said there are "many months of fiery trial and sacrifice ahead of us." The Great War, as it was known then, involved a draft of America's young men to fight in Europe and heatless, wheatless and meatless days on the home front. Unlike the present Iraq war, civilian sacrifices also included paying more taxes and the introduction of new tax sources.
The federal income tax, made possible by ratification of the 16th Amendment in February 1913, was introduced later that year, but it affected few people. Less than one percent of the U. S. population paid the new tax in its first year.
What later was called World War I began in Europe in 1914. Officially, the U. S. claimed neutrality until Wilson's war message to Congress in April 1917. But the president and Congress had started to prepare to pay for the war by hiking income taxes in 1916.
A 1916 revenue act raised the lowest income tax rate from 1 to 2 percent and increased the top rate from 7 to 15 percent, but applied to only a few wage earners. More increases were part of 1917 and 1918 legislation. The 1918 measure expanded the bottom bracket and raised the tax rate to 6 percent. The 1917 and 1918 acts taxed the highest incomes at 67 and 77 percent.
By 1918, most Americans (95 percent) didn't pay income taxes, but the amount collected jumped from $761 million in 1916 to $3.6 billion in 1918.
The 1918 total didn't include collections from a new tax -- an excess profits tax on individuals and businesses -- enacted in March 1917. The new levy also applied to only a small part of the population.
But lower wage earners and their families didn't escape paying a share of the war costs. One source was voluntary -- Liberty Bonds and Victory Bonds. They generated more than $20 million to pay war costs. Buyers earned 3.5 percent on their investment.
Most of the war-related tax hikes involved necessities, not luxuries. First class postage -- which had cost two cents since July 1885 -- was raised 50 percent to three cents Nov. 2, 1917. After the war, the two-cent rate resumed July 1, 1919.
Several new war taxes began in December 1917, and some existing taxes were increased.
Among everyday products and services subject to new levies were amusement admissions, including theaters; cigars, cigarettes and other tobacco products; life and fire insurance premiums; legal documents; freight packages; club membership dues, and telephone and telegraph services.
Because there were only 3,300 cars in Butler County -- and few paved roads -- a gas tax would have yielded little revenue. It was an era when travel between cities and villages was mostly on trains. The new tax schedule imposed a federal tax on railroad passenger fares, including an extra 10 percent on Pullman (sleeping car) accommodations.
For many Butler County residents, the added tax burden wasn't the worst situation they faced during the Great War. There was anxiety about the welfare of more than 3,200 men in the armed services, including about 1,000 draftees.
The winter of 1917-18 ranks as the coldest in county history. In December 1917, temperatures dropped below zero 11 of 31 days and snow totaled 16.5 inches. In January 1918, the low plunged below zero 14 days, including nine in a row, and snow measured at least 30.5 inches, or a two-month total of 47 inches.
Homes and businesses had frozen water pipes and no heat for long periods. A local coal shortage had started in October 1917. In December -- when most of the new taxes began -- between 400 and 500 Hamilton families were without coal to heat their homes and dealers had none to deliver.
In the fall of 1918 -- with the war expected to end soon -- Butler County and the entire nation suffered another blow. The Spanish flu epidemic claimed at least 450 and possibly more than 500 civilian lives in the county.
# # #
Colonel Lewis D. Campbell couldn't escape politics
By Jim Blount
A new Civil War infantry regiment began training in Hamilton in the fall of 1861 under the leadership of 50-year-old Lewis D. Campbell. His unit -- which required several months to complete enrollment -- included about 415 Butler County men. The Hamilton lawyer and politician had witnessed many of the events that led to the Civil War from the floor of the U. S. House of Representatives. As an army colonel, he would soon learn that petty politics and selfish bickering weren't confined to Washington.
Campbell, a native of Franklin, Ohio, had served a three-year apprenticeship at the Cincinnati Enquirer before becoming the 20-year-old editor of the Hamilton Intelligencer. He was admitted to the bar in 1835, and a year later left journalism to practice law.
As a member of the Whig party, he was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives four times (1848, 1850, 1852 and 1854), placing him in Congress during a volatile period. It was the era of bitter factionalism and sectionalism that preceded the Civil War. The key issue, of course, was slavery.
Campbell participated in debates over Henry Clay's Compromise of 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and other controversial proposals. He was chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee in the 34th Congress (1855-56).
He sought election to a fifth term in 1856, but lost the seat in a contested election. Months after the election, Clement Laird Vallandigham, a Dayton Democrat, was declared the winner.
By the time the Civil War started, Campbell had joined the recently-formed Republican party. His political affiliation didn't stop him from hosting Andrew Johnson, a congressional friend who sat on the other side of the aisle. Democrat Johnson, then a Tennessee senator, spent several weeks in Hamilton in the summer and fall of 1861.
In the fall of 1861, Campbell began recruiting the 69th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment at Camp Hamilton (along North Third Street, north of Vine Street). Seven companies were formed at Camp Hamilton in November 1861. In addition to about 415 Butler County men, the 69th eventually included recruits from Preble, Darke, Montgomery, Harrison and Fairfield counties.
Feb. 19, 1862, the regiment went by train to Camp Chase in Columbus. Three companies from Harrison County were added to bring the regiment to full strength.
March 4, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln had appointed Andrew Johnson the military governor of Tennessee, a seceded state that had been re-occupied by federal forces.
Gov. Johnson -- knowing that his Hamilton friend had raised a regiment -- sought Campbell as his provost-marshal, and the 69th OVI as his provost guard. He asked that the regiment be assigned to him in Nashville. Colonel Campbell received orders April 19, 1862, to move his regiment to Nashville to assist his friend. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton informed the governor that "Campbell's regiment has been ordered to Nashville to report to you."
In the next four months, Campbell and the 69th would spend more time fighting red tape than Confederates. The governor, the colonel, other Union officers and Major-General Don Carlos Buell, an Ohioan, became entangled in a series of disputes. Disagreements often required the intervention of Secretary Stanton, also an Ohioan, and President Lincoln.
Eight days after the regiment arrived, Gov. Johnson complained to Stanton that the 69th OVI "had hardly landed here before General Buell ordered it away." Buell was assembling a force for a planned assault on Corinth, Miss., a Confederate railroad and supply center.
Johnson questioned the authority of a major-general in overriding an order from the secretary and the wishes of the military governor. He took his complaint about diversion of the 69th directly to Lincoln. The official records are devoid of any response to Johnson's April 26 note to the president, but the regiment remained close to Nashville for a few weeks.
From May 1 until June 8, 1862, the 69th guarded a railroad line that supplied Buell's army. The regiment was scattered along 40 miles of the Tennessee & Alabama Railroad between Nashville and Columbia, Tenn. Colonel Campbell maintained his headquarters at Franklin, south of Nashville. The tug-of-war over control of the Ohio regiment -- with its obvious political overtones -- hadn't ended. More details on that struggle will be covered in the next column.
# # #
Butler soldiers involved in political struggle
By Jim Blount
The 415 Butler County men who joined the 69th Ohio Volunteer Infantry in 1861 expected to fight Confederates. Instead, they became pawns in a political power struggle among Union authorities, ranging from army officers and the military governor of Tennessee to cabinet members and President Abraham Lincoln.
Andrew Johnson, military governor of Tennessee, requested that an old friend, Lewis D. Campbell of Hamilton, be assigned as his provost-marshal, and that Campbell's regiment, the 69th OVI, be his provost guard. President Lincoln granted the request in April 1862, but some meddling army officers insisted on diverting the Ohio troops from guard duty in Nashville.
"This place has been left to a very great extent in a defenseless condition, thereby keeping alive a rebellious spirit that could otherwise have been put down by this time," Gov. Johnson contended in a June 17 telegram to Major-General Henry W. Halleck.
"Since I have been here," the governor said, "there has been a constant struggle between staff officers, provost-marshal and brigadier generals . . . which has paralyzed all the efforts of Union men in bringing about a healthy and sound reaction of public sentiment."
Johnson asked for removal of Captain Oliver D. Greene, an assistant adjutant-general in Major-General Don Carlos Buell's army, and Colonel Stanley Matthews, the provost-marshal at Nashville. (After the Civil War, Matthews would serve on the U. S. Supreme Court from 1881 until his death in 1889.)
Halleck asked Buell to investigate Johnson's charges. Eight days later, an order directed Colonel Campbell and the 69th to "at once relieve Colonel Stanley Matthews and his regiment, the 51st Ohio, as provost-marshal and provost guard at Nashville."
But Captain Greene remained in Nashville. Johnson complained to the president that Captain Greene "defies my authority and issues orders nullifying my acts." This included arresting Hamiltonian Campbell because he obeyed a governor's order.
The power struggle between the Johnson and Buell camps wasn't about an issue vital to winning the war. The confrontation involved the Nashville residence of a Confederate officer (a Colonel Heiman) that had been confiscated when Union forces occupied the city.
Johnson had authorized a loyal Tennessee officer, Major A. S. Thurneck, First Tennessee Volunteers, to use the Heiman house. His wife and family moved into the structure. Greene rescinded the permission, basing his action on an order by Buell that required officers to live with their troops. Johnson claimed Buell's order didn't apply because the major and his regiment were in state service, not federal service.
With Matthews as provost-marshal, Greene had evicted the Thurneck family. When Campbell assumed the duty, he followed Johnson's wishes and ignored Greene's eviction order. Greene responded by placing Campbell under arrest. July 12 Secretary Stanton notified Greene that Lincoln "directs that Colonel Campbell be immediately discharged from arrest. He also orders that hereafter you abstain from interfering with or resisting any order of Gov. Johnson or with any officer acting under his authority."
Stanton also told Greene that "the president also directs that without delay you turn over your command to the officer next in rank and leave the City of Nashville."
But Greene took his time in obeying the orders. He was still in Nashville five days later, and still sending telegrams defending his stance. In fact, 17 days later, July 29, Buell's chief of staff was questioning who authorized the release of Campbell from arrest.
Despite the intervention of the president and the secretary of war, Buell and Greene won the contest. Aug. 9, Campbell's resignations as provost-marshal and colonel of the 69th OVI were accepted. The charges against the Hamilton lawyer were still pending as he started back to civilian life in Hamilton.
Unfortunately, such in-fighting among officers was common during the Civil War. Jealousy, hatred, suspicion, intrigue, bickering and competition for rank and command started turf wars that complicated winning a war.
Meanwhile, the 69th remained on guard duty -- an isolated and hazardous assignment because a large Confederate force had outflanked the Union armies. The unexpected southern offensive moved north into Kentucky, threatening Louisville and Cincinnati, while the 69th helped keep Nashville and Gov. Johnson's loyal Tennessee government in Union hands.
# # #
Drunken colonel threat to Butler County soldiers
By Jim Blount
"Early in the action of this day [Dec. 31, 1862], I discovered that Colonel W. B. Cassidy of the 69th Ohio Volunteers was so drunk as to be unfitted to command," stated Colonel Timothy R. Stanley in a report on the first day of the Battle of Stones River. Fortunately for the men in the ranks, the heavy drinker was removed from command and dismissed from the Union army within a few hours.
Stanley -- who commanded the brigade that included the 69th OVI -- recommended the dismissal because "a man who will come to the field of battle, having the lives of so many in his keeping, in such a situation, no matter what his social position, is totally unfit for any command."
The 69th had included about 415 Butler County men when formed by Colonel Lewis D. Campbell. But neither Campbell nor any other Butler County man was in charge of the Civil War unit while intoxicated. Campbell had returned to civilian life in Hamilton in August 1862.
The 69th OVI had entered the war in February 1862 and had spent most its time in the Nashville area before the Battle of Stones River at Murfreesboro, Tenn. Its duties had been guard duty along the railroad between Nashville and Columbia, and as the provost guard for Tennessee's military governor, Andrew Johnson, the future vice president and president.
Replacing the drunken officer at Stones River was Major Eli J. Hickcox, who filled the post only a short time. During the Dec. 31 battle, his horse was shot and fell on him, "so severely bruising him as to compel him to leave the field."
When the battle in Middle Tennessee resumed Jan. 2, 1863, the 69th regiment was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel George F. Elliott, the oldest of seven sons of the Rev. Arthur Elliott of Liberty Township. The 36-year-old Elliott had raised Company C of the 69th OVI.
In praising the 69th in his report, Stanley said that "with the exception of Colonel Cassidy, I know of no conduct worthy of censure, but much to commend. They acted with that bravery expected of well-disciplined troops fighting in a just cause," he wrote. "They stood manfully and bravely the appalling fire of a much larger force." Stanley said "the regiment is a good one, and only needed a leader the first day to have taken a more active part in that engagement."
Colonel Elliott, after the battle, wrote: "We have passed through a terrible struggle, lasting five days. Most of that time it was raining hard and we were without tents and blankets, and had but little to eat. But the 69th passed through all this without a murmur, and with few exceptions both officers and men behaved with great gallantry and bravery.
Elliott, who had stepped into the leadership gap, ran distilleries in Hamilton for a few years after the Civil War. They were so successful, said Stephen D. Cone, a contemporary, that Elliott "paid into the government exchequer upwards of $2 million" in whiskey taxes.
In 1873 he ventured into politics, and 10 years later Elliott was elected to represent Butler County in the Ohio Senate. "Not the least of Colonel Elliott's claims to public gratitude is the fact that he fathered the first appropriation bill which was ever passed in behalf of Miami University," Cone noted.
Elliott, who died May 13, 1896, in Hamilton, also was responsible for introducing the legislation that authorized the issuance of bonds for the construction of a new Butler County Courthouse in 1885.
His great grandson, the late George H. Elliott of Middletown, served as a common pleas judge in that building from 1987 until retirement in 1996.
Stones River was the first major battle for the 69th Ohio -- which also included men from Preble, Montgomery, Darke, Harrison and Fairfield counties -- but it would not be its last.