Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2007
Distant bridge battles influenced county companies
(First of a four-part series)
By Jim Blount
Bridges have made news this year, including dedication of a High-Main Street span in Hamilton, the struggle to get money to replace the I-75⁄I-71 Brent Spence Bridge between Cincinnati and Covington and the deadly collapse of the I-35W structure in Minneapolis. In the mid 1800s, plans for building bridges and related complications earned headlines. Those disputes and decisions elsewhere eventually affected the Butler County economy.
Steamboats were an established and popular means of transporting people and freight on inland rivers in the 1800s before railroads entered the competition. By the mid 19th century, Hamilton and Middletown showed promise of developing into industrial centers, depending on adequate transportation.
Owners of steamboat and railroad companies clashed where their routes met -- on navigable rivers. Battles for the Mississippi and Ohio rivers in the 1850s reverberated in Butler County, determining how and where local manufacturers could market their products.
Early railroads were chartered by state legislatures, often in more than one state. Legal challenges developed when a railroad planned to bridge a river that was a right-of-way for a steamboat company. The federal government, not the states, had jurisdiction over the nation's navigable waterways, many forming boundaries between states. But Congress had failed to clarify some related constitutional issues.
There were numerous court battles. A series of law suits involving two controversial bridges finally opened the way for railroads to cross rivers used by steamboats and other commercial craft.
1The Wheeling and Belmont Bridge Co. had been chartered in two states before the National Road reached Wheeling in 1818. It was amended to allow a railroad to use the bridge between Virginia (later West Virginia) and Ohio. When completed in 1849, it faced legal action by Pennsylvania on behalf of Pittsburgh steamboat companies.
The suit claimed the bridge obstructed Ohio River navigation. During high water, some steamboat smokestacks couldn't clear the bridge deck. In May 1852, the U. S. Supreme Court agreed and ordered the bridge rebuilt or razed. Aug. 31 of that year -- before the order was effective -- Congress enacted a law that overruled the court, clarified the situation and saved the bridge. But that didn't end river litigation.
A year later, in 1854, the Chicago & Rock Island Railroad became the first railroad to build west from Chicago to the Mississippi River, planning a bridge between Rock Island, Ill., and Davenport, Iowa.
Construction began in July 1853 and the first crossing was April 21, 1856. By then, steamboat owners, joined by the federal government, had started the first of a series of legal challenges.
In June 1855 a federal judge ruled for the railroad, but more suits were filed. In one case, the railroad was represented by an Illinois lawyer, Abraham Lincoln. In his convincing summation, Lincoln is reported to have said "one man had as good a right to cross a river as another had to sail up or down it."
The debate over river rights continued until the railroad won a U. S. Supreme Court decision in 1862, when Lincoln was president.
Lincoln, managing a Civil War that required improved east-west railroad movement, supported building another Ohio River bridge. Congress approved the Steubenville railroad bridge in July 1862, but it didn't open until 1865, after the war had ended.
The first Ohio River bridge in the Cincinnati area was chartered in 1846. Legal challenges from operators of ferryboats and steamboats were among several factors that delayed completing the bridge between Cincinnati and Covington. That bridge, now known as the Roebling suspension bridge, opened in 1867.
But the spectacular Roebling span wasn't a railroad bridge -- an improvement needed to enable Butler County industries to reach new markets in states south of the Ohio River.
The struggle to connect tracks in Ohio and Kentucky -- despite previous favorable decisions -- faced the familiar legal questions from river companies. It also involved other challenges: a rivalry between two cities located on the Ohio River, one in Ohio, the other in Kentucky; another contest between neighboring Kentucky communities; and transportation companies battling to maintain their advantages. That competition will be covered in future columns.
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Cincinnati, Louisville rivalry impacted local industries
(Second of a four-part series)
By Jim Blount
After the Civil War (1861-65), Hamilton became an industrial center, but local businesses suffered because of an intense rivalry between Cincinnati and Louisville. At issue was transportation -- including steamboat and railroad freight rates, building bridges to connect railroads north and south of the Ohio River and linking existing and new rail routes to reach southern markets.
The Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad opened through Hamilton in 1851. Within a few years, the CH&D and other lines through the city afforded Hamilton rail access to Indianapolis, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, New York and other points to the northeast, north, northwest and west. Missing was a direct railroad route between Hamilton and southern states.
The Cincinnati-Louisville feud involved the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, chartered in 1850 to connect the cities in its name. The L&N -- promoted and partly financed by Louisville interests and built south from that city -- completed that 187-mile link in October 1859. When the Civil War started in 1861, the L&N had 269 miles of track, all south of Louisville.
Although periodically disrupted by both armies, the L&N survived the Civil War in relatively good financial shape, enabling it to extend lines beyond Nashville into other southern states.
Because of Louisville influences, the railroad didn't expand toward Cincinnati. Louisville leaders also opposed building a bridge over the Ohio River to connect the L&N on the southern side to the Jeffersonville, Madison & Indianapolis (JM&I) on the north shore in Indiana.
The Louisville Board of Trade, said Maury Klein in his book, History of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, argued that the bridge would "result in great injury to the [city's] commercial interests . . . making Louisville simply a way station . . . instead of the commercial center she now is." Strangely, Cincinnati officials also opposed the bridge, their stance based on fears that it would divert freight from steamboats.
Louisville opposition softened and a 5,280-foot, seven-span bridge opened March 1, 1870, "the first connecting link between northern and southern railways," wrote Klein. Until then, "the amount of northern through business was entirely limited by the capacity of a transfer company to haul freight from Jeffersonville by [ferry and horse-drawn] wagon to the L&N depot" in Louisville.
To reach southern markets, most Cincinnati and Hamilton products were taken to the L&N in Louisville by steamboats on the Ohio River. Hamilton businesses transported goods to Cincinnati by train, transferred it to a steamboat in the Queen City and loaded it onto a third carrier, the L&N, at Louisville.
A longer alternative was over the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad west from Cincinnati to a middle Indiana connection with the JM&I Railroad.
The Covington & Lexington Railroad had opened before the Civil War, but didn't bridge the Ohio River into Cincinnati. Its southern terminus was Lexington, whose civic leaders also objected to Louisville's dominance of the L&N and southern outlets.
Louisville leaders put legal obstacles in the path of the proposed Cincinnati Short Line, a railroad between Newport and Louisville that intended to link with the L&N. The L&N backed the Cincinnati connection, anticipating the additional revenue it would bring to the older railroad.
A problem was track gauge. Southern railroads had been built with five feet between tracks; most northern lines with the 4-foot, 8.5-inch gauge (eventually the standard). The Short Line was built with five-foot gauge, which would permit seamless connection to the L&N. By moving through Louisville without stopping, the new line wouldn't benefit the local economy.
In addition to gauge differences, Louisville tried to create other problems for the Cincinnati Short Line. They included asking the Kentucky legislature to rescind its charter and refusing to sell the railroad real estate it needed to complete a junction with the L&N in Louisville.
The Short Line -- officially the Louisville, Cincinnati & Lexington Railroad -- was a merger of the Lexington & Frankfort and the Louisville & Frankfort railroads in September 1869. The Short Line had built track between Louisville and LaGrange, about 20 miles northeast of Louisville. It began service over 108 miles between Louisville and Newport June 28, 1869.
The Short Line also was caught in the rivalry between Covington and Newport, both trying to be the Kentucky city hosting a railroad and a bridge that crossed the Ohio River into Cincinnati. Meanwhile, Cincinnati and Louisville continued to charge that each other had favorable rates on either steamboats or the L&N. Both communities saw the L&N as a villain in their prolonged feud. Hamilton business leaders could only watch and wait for a solution.
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Simon Girty controversial figure on Ohio frontier
By Jim Blount
Simon Girty is not a familiar name, unless you're a student of the Ohio frontier and late 18th century Indian wars. Histories of the early 1790s -- when Fort Hamilton was an army supply post in the wilderness -- depict Girty in many Indian raids and battles in the region.
From an American view, terms describing Girty's actions include brutal, cruel, savage, murderer, massacre, torture, atrocity, inhumane, villain, turncoat, traitor and "the Great Renegade." From an Indian, British and Canadian perspective, he was a soldier, scout, guide, interpreter, diplomat and hero.
The controversial frontiersman was born in 1741 in eastern Pennsylvania, near Harrisburg. In 1755, at the start of the French and Indian War, the Girty family sought protection in Fort Granville. French soldiers and Indians captured the fort and Simon Girty was taken by Delaware Indians.
Later, he was adopted by Senecas and learned their customs and language. In 1759, after British troops had defeated the French and captured Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh), the Senecas agreed to return their white captives, including Girty. He became a farmer and an interpreter for American colonists involved in the fur trade with Indians in western Pennsylvania.
Because of his experience and relationship with Native Americans, the British also utilized Girty as a scout, interpreter and treaty negotiator in the 1760s and 1770s.
Girty -- sought by both sides when the American Revolution began -- aided the colonial cause in seeking Shawnee, Seneca, Delaware and Wyandot cooperation in western Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Some accounts say Girty was a lieutenant in a company of colonial troops in 1777, but saw no combat. He was dismissed later that year and charged, but never convicted of treason. He was alleged to have been part of a plot to seize Fort Pitt, kill its occupants and relinquish that strategic Ohio River gateway to the British.
In March 1778, Girty switched allegiance, fleeing to Fort Detroit, a British stronghold. He served the British, Iroquois and later Ohio tribes as a scout and interpreter.
The most damning brutality involving Girty was the torture and execution of Colonel William Crawford, his friend. Crawford was commanding Pennsylvania militia in 1782 when captured by Delawares at the Battle of Upper Sandusky. Witnesses said Girty failed to intercede or end the suffering of his friend during prolonged torture.
Girty was reported to have fought on the British side in the 1779 siege of Fort Laurens in Ohio and raids into Kentucky, including 1782 encounters at Bryan's State and Blue Licks. He seems to have been everywhere -- which was impossible -- and was blamed for actions of others, including his brothers.
In the 1783 treaty ending the revolution, the British yielded the area south of the Great Lakes, east of the Mississippi River and north of the Ohio River to the United States. But British troops and officials didn't leave all the forts within that area. Girty remained in the region, encouraging and aiding Indians in their resistance to American settlement above the Ohio River.
He was more than an adviser to the Indians, as shown in the Jan. 9-11, 1791, attack on Dunlap Station, about 10 miles south of the future site of Hamilton. Th0e blockhouse had been built to protect a few civilians who had settled on the east bank of the Great Miami River in what is now Colerain Twp. in Hamilton County.
"The Indians numbered about 350 and their leader was a renegade white man, infamously notorious as Simon Girty," wrote Stephen D. Cone, a Hamilton historian. "The little garrison, though but a handful compared with their assailants," said Cone, held out until relief arrived. During the siege, Girty ordered or condoned the torture of a captive.
Girty was accused of leading attacks on other civilian targets, and directing or refusing to stop the torture an0d massacre of survivors, including women and children. Girty also is reputed to have scouted and participated in attacks on the U. S. armies that built and manned Fort Hamilton, 1791-1794. That includes the Nov. 4, 1791, defeat of Gen. Arthur St. Clair's army and the Aug. 20, 1794, Battle of Fallen Timbers, won by forces led by Gen. Anthony Wayne.
After Wayne's victory and the Treaty of Greenville in 1795, Girty found refuse with British forces at Fort Detroit and later in Canada, where he died.
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Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2007
Cincinnati won tough battle to build southern railroad
(Third of a four-part series)
By Jim Blount
Cincinnati's attempts to secure a railroad that bridged the Ohio River and extended into southern states met resistance in the 1860s and 1870s from business and political leaders in Louisville, a city that had a monopoly on railroad traffic into the former Confederate states.
Louisville had dominated the southern markets since the Louisville & Nashville Railroad opened before the Civil War (1861-65). For several years after the war, Cincinnati businesses relied on steamboats on the Ohio River to receive raw materials and distribute their products to the South. That meant hauling freight on steamboats to Louisville, where it was unloaded and reloaded on L&N trains.
Hamilton-based companies had to add another costly and inconvenient step -- using the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad, which had opened in 1851, to connect with steamboats in Cincinnati.
As the L&N's northern terminus and because of its location on the Ohio River, Louisville had the edge in its bitter commercial rivalry with Cincinnati. Rugged geography had discouraged private interests from building a railroad directly south from Cincinnati through central Kentucky.
Another Cincinnati problem was securing separate railroad charters in Kentucky and Tennessee. Lawmakers from Louisville, Nashville and other areas on L&N routes had voices and votes. Cincinnati needed numerous Kentucky and Tennessee allies to sponsor and support charters in those states.
Finally, Cincinnati had to find a way to finance the risky venture.
The costly alternative was to continue to rely on the clumsy river-L&N combination, or use the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad -- operating between Cincinnati and St. Louis -- to a junction in Indiana with the north-south Jeffersonville, Madison & Indianapolis Railroad. The latter connected with the L&N in Louisville after the opening of an Ohio River railroad bridge in 1870.
The first legal obstacle was in Ohio, not in Kentucky or Tennessee. The 1851 Ohio Constitution prohibited cities and counties from investing, raising money or lending its credit to corporations, stock companies and associations. Edward A. Ferguson, a Cincinnati corporation lawyer, found a loophole in the constitutional block. He argued that the limitations didn't apply to a municipal project. He wrote a bill authorizing cities of 150,000 population or more to build railroads. In 1868, Cincinnati was the only Ohio city that large.
The Ferguson measure won support around Ohio in May 1869, passing 73-21 in the state house and 23-7 in the Ohio Senate. It was the first step in building a Kentucky railroad that benefited not only Cincinnati commerce, but also business and industry in Hamilton and much of Ohio. Later that year, Cincinnati voters approved the first of several bond issues for the railroad.
Winning a Tennessee charter, effective in January 1870, was a warm-up for lobbying and political intrigues involved in the Kentucky debate that started the same month. After some setbacks, Cincinnati won approval in January 1872. The charter passed the Kentucky house, 59-38, but the senate vote was 19-19. Lt. Gov. John G. Carlisle cast a favorable vote to break the tie. The bill was signed Feb. 13, 1872.
Construction started in December 1873. A bridge over the Ohio River, connecting Cincinnati and Ludlow, Ky., opened in 1877. It took three more years, until 1880, for the railroad to reach Chattanooga.
That 336 miles included 27 tunnels and 105 bridges. A wood-burning steam locomotive led the Cincinnati Southern's first southbound train from Cincinnati March 5, 1880. Its formal opening was celebrated in Cincinnati March 18, 1880.The Cincinnati Southern cost more than $18 million and had less than 10 miles of track in Ohio. It was leased in 1881 to the Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Pacific Railway. In 1883, operation of the Cincinnati-owned line was assumed by the newly-formed Southern Railway (p0art of the Norfolk Southern since 1982).
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L&N first southern railroad to gain Cincinnati access
(Last of a four-part series)
By Jim Blount
It's now for pedestrian use only and known as the Purple People Bridge, linking Cincinnati and Newport. But for many generations, the span built by the Newport and Cincinnati Bridge Co., and a successor, were called the L&N Bridge because they provided the Louisville & Nashville Railroad entry into the Queen City.
The first bridge was a product of the long transportation and commercial rivalry between Cincinnati and Louisville for a large share, if not domination, of trade with states south of the Ohio River. Cincinnati had to rely on steamboats in trying to end Louisville dominance of the growing southern rail network. Business and political leaders in Louisville, the northern terminus of the L&N, controlled the railroad from its start through the Civil War.
Building a railroad that crossed the Ohio River into Cincinnati also involved competition between the neighboring Northern Kentucky cities of Newport and Covington, separated by the Licking River.
Hamilton manufacturers supported Cincinnati winning railroad access to southern markets. Since the 1851 opening of the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad, Hamilton had rail routes that reached east, west and north, but not south.
Eventually, Louisville lost its struggle to deny Cincinnati a rail connection to the South, and Newport bested Covington as the Ohio River crossing point.
The contest began in 1869 when Cincinnati won the first of several legislative battles in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee that permitted the city to build a 336-mile railroad to Chattanooga. The Cincinnati Southern railroad bridge opened in 1877, connecting Cincinnati and Ludlow, Ky., a community west of Covington. The railroad wasn't completed until March 1880.
But the Cincinnati Southern wasn't the first railroad to cross the Ohio River into Cincinnati. The Newport and Cincinnati Bridge (N&CB) was the first to connect the Queen City to the south.
Although planned and financed by investors in Cincinnati and Newport, work was directed by George B. Roberts, a Pennsylvania Railroad official and later president of the PRR. It was bonded for $1.2 million, but the final cost was $3.2 million.
The project was slowed by legal action by the U. S. government, which was concerned that the bridge would interfere with steamboat traffic. The bridge -- with a 418-foot span over the river and approaches a mile long -- was completed in March 1872 while Cincinnati and Louisville remained embroiled in legal and legislative contests over the Cincinnati Southern.
The Newport and Cincinnati Bridge became known as the L&N Bridge because it was used by that railroad. Despite opposition in Louisville, the 110-mile Cincinnati Short Line -- officially the Louisville, Cincinnati & Lexington Railroad -- linked the rival river cities. The L&N favored building the Short Line and eventually purchased the railroad that reached Cincinnati over the Newport and Cincinnati Bridge.
Initially, the N&C Bridge was controlled by the Little Miami Railroad, which shared its Cincinnati facilities with the Short Line. Work started in 1895 on a stronger and longer (510 feet over the channel) replacement. That bridge, the present structure, opened in the summer of 1897, including highway lanes. It was purchased by the L&N in 1904. The last train crossed the L&N⁄Purple People Bridge in 1987, but the railroad portion remains available for future use, including a possible streetcar or light rail system.
In December 1888, a third railroad bridge crossed the Ohio River. The Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad Bridge connected Cincinnati and Covington. The C&O -- whose origin is traced to a Virginia railroad in 1836 -- built its tracks on the south side of Ohio River west from Huntington, W. Va., to Cincinnati where it connected with Midwestern railroads. The C&O became a source of coal for Southwestern Ohio.
None of the three original Cincinnati railroad bridges survive. All were rebuilt and replaced. The original C&O was converted to a highway bridge and then replaced by the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge on the same piers. The new C&O opened in 1929. The present Southern and C&O spans carry trains of the Norfolk Southern and CSX, respectively.