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Journal-News Wednesday, March 7, 2007
 
What was a previous name for the Great Miami River?
 
 
By Jim Blount
 
The Great Miami River has had several names during its long history. Do you know a name applied to the waterway in 1749 by European nation? That question is one of 10 posed today in the second test of your knowledge of the river.
 
The exam began last week with 10 questions. Answers follow questions 11 through 20.
 
11
. In the mid 1700s, the major Indian village and trading center located on the river was (a) Fallen Timbers; (b) Pickawillany; (c) Chillicothe; (d) Kekionga; (e) Tecumseh's Town.
 
12
. Before the conclusion of a North American war that ended in 1763, the Great Miami was considered part of (a) Canada; (b) New France; (c) Pennsylvania colony; (d) the Northwest Territory; (e) New Britain.
 
13. In 1749, another name for the Great Miami was (a) Rock River; (b) Maumee River; (c) Little Wabash River; (d) Buckeye River; (e) Greenville River.
 
14. At the time of the American Revolution (1775-83), the colony that had the strongest claim on the land around the river was (a) Pennsylvania; (b) Virginia; (c) Kentucky; (d) New York; (e) North Carolina.
 
15.
The Symmes Purchase -- land acquired in 1788 by John Cleves Symmes of New Jersey -- was between the Great Miami on the west and the (a) Little Miami River; (b) Scioto River; (c) Muskingum River; (d) Hocking River; (e) Pennsylvania border.
 
16.
When Symmes purchased the land in 1788, the river was located in (a) the new state of Ohio; (b) the Northwest Territory; (c) Virginia; (d) Indian Territory; (e) Kentucky.
 
17.
In 1791, Fort Hamilton's location was determined because (a) of its proximity to friendly Indians; (b) the river was navigable south of that point; (c) of a ford that eased crossing the river; (d) of the level terrain at the site; (e) it was a lovely spot in the wilderness.
 
18.
The first bridge over the river opened in (a) 1776; (b) 1789; (c) 1800; (d) 1812; (e) 1819.
 
19.
The improvement that relied on the river and started Hamilton's rapid industrial development was the (a) Miami-Erie Canal; (b) Hamilton Hydraulic; (c) invention of the steamboat; (d) founding the Miami Conservancy District; (e) formation of a boat club.
 
20.
The death toll in Hamilton in March 1913, during the greatest flood on the river, was (a) 56; (b) 83; (c) 130; (d) 152; (e) more than 200.
 
Compare your choices with the following answers:
 
11.
In the mid 1700s, the major Indian village and trading center on the river was (b) Pickawillany. The site north of Piqua was the center of the Miami fur trade.
 
12. Before 1763, the river was part of (b) New France. The Great Miami and the land along both banks, was part of New France until the end of the French and Indian War (1754-63). A 1763 treaty ending that conflict ceded the river and its surrounding land to Great Britain.
 
13.
In 1749, the Great Miami also was known as the (a) Rock River, a name given when it was part of New France.
 
14.
At the time of the American Revolution, the colony that had the strongest claim on the land around the river was (b) Virginia. Several states claimed parts of what became Ohio, but Virginia was the most assertive. It ceded most of its Ohio land to the federal government in the 1780s, but kept an area known as the Virginia Military (north of the Ohio River between the Little Miami and Scioto rivers) for several years.
 
15.
The Symmes Purchase -- acquired in 1788 by John Cleves Symmes of New Jersey -- was between the Great Miami on the west and the (a) Little Miami River on the east. Symmes asked to buy one million acres north of the Ohio River between the two Miamis.
 
16.
When Symmes purchased the land, the river was in (b) the Northwest Territory. The newly-created territory was the area north of the Ohio River that later became the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin and that part of Minnesota west of the Mississippi River.
 
17.
Fort Hamilton's location was determined because (c) of a ford that eased crossing the river.
 
18.
The first bridge over the river opened in (e) 1819. The privately-built Miami Bridge connected
 
Hamilton and Rossville. It is believed to have been the first bridge anywhere on the Great Miami River.
 
19.
The improvement that relied on the river and started Hamilton's rapid industrial development was the (b) Hamilton Hydraulic. The hydraulic canal -- a system supplying water power to shops and mills -- spurred one of Hamilton's greatest periods of industrial and population growth (1840-1860). The first water passed through the system in January 1845.
 
20.
The Hamilton death toll in March 1913, during the river's greatest flood, was (e) more than 200. About 85 to 100 people perished later because of disease, injury or suicide related to the disaster.
 
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Journal-News
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
 
'Miami of the Lake' among coveted avenues of early trade
By Jim Blount
The Maumee isn't a long river. At about 130 miles in length, it flows northeast from present Fort Wayne, Ind., to its mouth on Lake Erie at Toledo, Ohio. But length didn't define the importance of the Maumee and other streams to the Indians inhabiting what is now western Ohio, northeast Indiana and southern Michigan.
Control of the Great Miami, Maumee and Wabash, their tributaries and the portages between them were major prizes in the 1790s conflict between the Indians and the U. S. government.
Fort Hamilton was built in 1791 as part of that struggle for the land and rivers. Two military campaigns moved north through Fort Hamilton on the Great Miami in attempts to end Indian resistance to settlement, remove them from their pivotal location amid the rivers and end their dominance of the land passages linking a network of waterways.
For more than a century, the rivers had been avenues of trade for the Miamis, other tribes and the Europeans -- first the French and then the British -- who were partners in the Indian fur trade.
In the 1790s, with their tribal council center at Kekionga (later Fort Wayne, Ind.), "the Miamis were astride the best route between Canada and Louisiana," including Detroit and New Orleans, wrote Bert Anson in his 1970 book, The Miami Indians.
As Americans sought western land in the 1790s, tracts along the waterways were coveted because of their potential for powering mills and providing river transportation. Water that had hauled Indian fur and trade goods also promised to transport the output of fertile farms envisioned in the flood plains and beyond. Letters from soldiers in Gen. Anthony Wayne's frontier army marveled at the lushness of the region.
A telling statistic is that the Maumee has about 6,350 miles of creeks and rivers emptying into it. According to some sources, that's the largest watershed of any river that flows into a Great Lake.
 
Much of the Maumee valley was a vast wetland -- the Great Black Swamp -- extending from Fort Wayne, Ind., to Sandusky, Ohio, about 120 miles east and west and 40 miles north and south. Its potential may have seemed bleak in the 1790s. But, after Indians relinquished the area, the swamp was drained and became valuable farm land.
 
The Maumee is formed by the confluence of the 210-mile St. Joseph and 100-mile St. Marys rivers at Fort Wayne.
 
The St. Joseph River starts near Hillsdale, Mich., and flows southeast and then southwest, passing through the northwest corner of Ohio before reaching Fort Wayne. The St. Marys River forms in Auglaize County, near St. Marys, Ohio, and runs west, north and then northwest into Indiana.
 
The Maumee had several names. Some Indian treaties referred to the Maumee as the Miami. In the late 1600s, it was called "Miami of the Lake" to distinguish it from the "Miami of the Ohio," another name for the 160-mile Great Miami River that flows southwest through Butler County to the Ohio River.
 
French missionaries and traders are believed to have called the Maumee the Miami du Lac. Among Indian names for the river were "Me-ah-me," easily translated and anglicized to Miami, and "Omaumeg," which is Chippewa, meaning people who live on the peninsula.
 
The Maumee was important because it flowed northeast into Lake Erie. Equally valuable was its counterpart, the Wabash River, later known as the "Avenue to the Midwest." Most of its course in present Indiana is southwest and south to the Ohio River.
 
The Wabash, more than 475 miles in length, starts with about 30 miles in what is now Ohio. It originates as a small stream near Fort Recovery, Ohio, and flows northwest into Indiana. The first part of its path parallels the St. Marys River.
 
It is less than 25 miles between the juncture of the Maumee, St. Joseph and St. Marys rivers at Fort Wayne and the Wabash to the south at Huntington, Ind.
 
From the area held by the Indians in the early 1790s, the Wabash runs southwest until it reaches what is now the Indiana-Illinois border. There it flows south to the Ohio River. Among recent claims is that the Wabash is the "largest northern tributary of the Ohio River."
 
"Wah-Bah-Shik-Ka," said to mean "water over white stones," was an Indian name for the river. To the French, it was the Ouabache, leading to its modern name, Wabash.
 
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Journal-News
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
 
New bridge wasn't only opening celebrated in 1915
 
By Jim Blount
 
The opening and dedication of a new High-Main Street Bridge wasn't the only addition to the Hamilton landscape in 1915. If the bridge received more attention it was because of its importance to the city's daily social and economic well being.
 
The new bridge was necessary because a 440-foot iron truss span built in 1895 was one of four Hamilton bridges destroyed by the March 25, 1913, Great Miami River flood. Its replacement, a 576-foot concrete bridge, was opened to traffic in January 1915 and dedicated May 6, 1915.
 
This year, 92 years later, on the same date, another bridge, the fifth on the site, will be dedicated. That event is planned for Sunday, May 6.
 
Another 1915 opening was the September start of the new Hamilton High School at the southeast corner of Dayton and North Sixth Streets. The 45-room, $250,000 structure was built after local voters approved a bond issue in 1912. It replaced Central High School, which was on the north side of Ludlow Street between South Front and South Second.
 
The new school -- the fourth high school building in Hamilton -- welcomed 680 students in grades nine through 12, an increase of 102 over the previous year.
 
One of the speakers at the high school dedication Dec. 16, 1915, was C. D. Mathes, a school board member, who, after tracing the history of high schools in the United States, asked a revealing question.
 
"But with all our splendid academic and special courses [in Hamilton], why is it over 50 percent of the pupils who reach the eighth grade do not continue through high school?" Mathes asked.
 
During the previous five years, he said, eighth grade enrollment averaged 235. The numbers dropped to 211 for freshmen, 151 for sophomores, 128 for juniors and 99 in the senior year -- a loss of 136 pupils, or nearly 58 percent in four years.
 
"My opinion is that the school, the pupil and the parent are all more or less at fault," Mathes said.
 
There were 3,703 public school pupils in grades one through eight in Hamilton, a city of about 37,500 people in 1915.
 
Some local excitement was generated by reports that Hamilton and Middletown could be on the proposed Dixie Highway -- promoted as the "avenue of travel between the winter playgrounds of Florida and the summer resorts of Michigan."
 
In 1915, a conference of governors formed the Dixie Highway Association. The group advocated the paving or bricking the route, and (2) renaming local streets and roads as the Dixie Highway.
 
That year, Hamilton, Middletown and Butler County leaders expressed interest in the proposed 5,100-mile network of interlocking routes that would connect Mackinaw, Detroit and Chicago in the north with Chattanooga, Augusta, Atlanta and Miami in the south.
 
The 1,536-mile eastern division would pass through Butler County, but completion didn't come until after World War I. By 1920, Dixie Highway travelers could follow marked routes on roads paved with brick or concrete. It was the 1920s equivalent of the interstate system.
 
"The greatest patriotic celebration in the history of the City of Hamilton," a 1915 newspaper said, was when the Liberty Bell arrived in Hamilton Monday, Nov. 22.
 
The bell's brief appearance on a special train at Fourth and High Streets came during its return to Philadelphia from the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, an event celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal and the earlier discovery of the Pacific Ocean.
 
A national headline grabber that year was the June 24 Eastland disaster in Chicago that claimed 844 lives. The ship capsized and rolled over shortly after leaving a dock on the Chicago River. It ranks as one of history's deadliest ship accidents.
 
Concerned Americans in 1915 also were following events of the Great War (later known World War I) that had started in Europe in June 1914. Major 1915 developments included the release of poison gas by Germany and that nation's use of submarines, including the sinking of passenger ships. Aircraft also was a World War I innovation. The U. S., which in 1915 said it was neutral, entered the war two years later.
 
# # #
 
Journal-News Wednesday, March 28, 2007
 
Fort Hamilton powder magazine survived until 1913 flood
 
By Jim Blount
 
The last vestige of Fort Hamilton, built in 1791, was its powder magazine, which had several locations and a variety of uses before being washed away in the 1913, flood. The fort was built as a supply center for the army of Gen. Arthur St. Clair, who planned to teach unruly Indians a lesson. Instead, his army suffered what is regarded as the worst defeat in U. S. military history.
 
The powder magazine also served the army of Gen. Anthony Wayne, 1792-1795. Wayne was victorious, defeating the Indians in the Battle of Fallen Timbers Aug. 20, 1794, and negotiating a treaty with the Native Americans at Greenville in 1795. Peace led to the abandonment of Fort Hamilton. The stockade and buildings were either sold, left to be used by residents or cannibalized for new structures.
 
"A powder magazine was erected at the south end of the fort of square logs laid close together having a hipped roof, a cupola in its center, and a blue ball on top of it," wrote Dr. William C. Miller in an Ohio Historical & Archaeological Society publication in 1905. That would place it in the vicinity of present Monument Avenue and Court Street, near the Fitton Center.
 
When the fort was abandoned, Hamilton's first residents -- mostly veterans of the armies of St. Clair and Wayne -- needed a jail. The powder magazine served that purpose until 1810.
 
"The old soldiers," said Miller, "formed themselves into a militia company and whenever there was any prisoner, a detachment of 10 or 12 [men] would form a guard to prevent the occupant's escape."
 
When Butler County was formed in 1803, commissioners ordered the jail reinforced and the militia increased. "The magazine was strengthened with a door of heavy two-inch plank driven full of spikes and nails with a hole cut in the center in the shape of half moon for the admission of light, air and food for the occupants and fastened with an iron hasp and padlock," Miller explained. For added security, two companies of militia were formed in Hamilton and the surrounding area.
 
From 1810 until 1825, Miller said the former powder magazine was a church. "Here the Rev. Lorenzo Dow, the eccentric itinerant preacher of three-quarters of a century ago, preached. Here Rev. Adam Rankin, of Kentucky, Rev. David Rush, and Rev. Robert H. Bishop, later president of Miami University, preached to the adherents of their faith, the Associated Reformed and now the United Presbyterians."
 
From 1825 until 1840, Miller said "Miss Ellen McMechen, later Mrs. Charles K. Smith, and Miss Jane McMechen, later Mrs. Jessie Corwin, taught school" in the building
 
About 1840, it was acquired by Carl Donges, described by Miller as "a man of military attainments and for years captain of the Jackson guards, a military organization," who "converted this building into a magazine again."
 
"Here were kept the two little bulldogs [probably small cannons] and the ammunition that was used to thunder forth the victory of a political campaign at the wee small hours of the night, awakening the inhabitants to let them know who was the winner," Miller recalled. "When two shots were fired in succession it meant a Democratic victory, and one shot fired at a time, indicated a Whig victory."
 
After 1849, the former magazine was moved to a site on Monument Avenue and was a residence until acquired in 1883 by Thomas Millikin, who "had an eye on this house knowing its history personally."
 
"In 1889, a committee of the Soldiers and Sailors Pioneer Monument Committee called upon Thomas Millikin," Miller wrote, "with a view of acquiring the magazine building and to place it upon the lot at the foot of High Street." That transaction didn't materialize and the Daughters of the American Revolution sought it. Millikin promised to give them the building, if they would move it, but he died before it could be done.
 
Millikin's pledge was fulfilled and, according to Miller, "the officials of Hamilton, with a like spirit of patriotism and a desire to perpetuate the memory of Hamilton's early days, granted a site for this building on the north side of the east end of the High-Main Street bridge."
 
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