Journal-News Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Overbeck pottery had Butler County connections
By Jim Blount
"Overbeck House and Studio" says an Indiana historical marker on U. S. 40 in Cambridge City, Ind., west of Richmond. In a restored 1830s house a block south, the marker notes, "Indiana's first art pottery, a nationally-recognized product of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, was produced 1911-1955 by the Overbeck sisters." Nearby, in the basement of the Cambridge Public Library, is the Museum of Overbeck Art Pottery.
The pottery was the work of four sisters -- Margaret, Hannah, Elizabeth and Mary -- who had Butler County antecedents and connections.
They were "hard-working, unmarried women and sophisticated artists," wrote Dennis Gaffney in a 2006 entry on an Antiques Roadshow web site. They "worked as an ensemble to create some of the finest studio pottery ever to come out of Indiana," The potters were "retiring, shy, almost cloistered in their lives," said Kathleen R. Postle in The Chronicle of the Overbeck Pottery.
Postle said they "worked assiduously to perfect their ceramic ware; they did not seek acclaim and, for most of their lives, recognition was restricted to the visitors who came to their studio and to the relatively few viewers who saw their work exhibited."
Their names at birth had been Overpeck. It was changed to Overbeck in about 1911, but Postle said "Overpeck is carved on the monument in Riverside Cemetery in Cambridge City where all the sisters are buried."
Overpeck, a Butler County community about four miles north of Hamilton, according to the 1882 county history, was named after Isaac Overpeck. He was one of the first settlers in that part of St. Clair Twp. in 1836. The name was retained on a station on the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad when the railroad opened in 1851.
Overpeck station also was a store and post office. The first storekeepers were Isaac Overpeck and John Overpeck, and early postmasters were John A. Overpeck and Isaac E. Overpeck.
The artists were daughters of Sarah Ann Borger Overpeck and John Arehart Overpeck. The family resided in Overpeck until 1868. That year the parents and two daughters moved to a farm in Wayne County, Indiana, near Cambridge City.
Children born before the move were Ida, 1861, the only sister to marry, and Margaret, 1863. Born after the move were Hannah, 1870; Harriet, 1872; Sarah Ann, 1873, who died at age of three; Elizabeth, 1875; Mary, 1878, and the only son, Charles, 1881. According to census records, Hannah was born in Hamilton, possibly delivered by a relative, Dr. James W. Overpeck, a local physician.
Margaret is credited with the idea of creating a pottery studio. She had studied at the Cincinnati Art Academy and was an art teacher in Kentucky and Mississippi schools and at DePauw University in Indiana. She also taught her sisters.
The quantity of Overbeck work -- which won prizes in Paris, Chicago, New York, Detroit, St. Louis and elsewhere -- is unknown. The four sisters produced thousands of unnumbered pieces until 1955, depending on their sale for income. They also were teachers, operating the Overbeck School of Pottery from the Cambridge City studio.
Their talent wasn't restricted to pottery. "Of the four sisters actively involved in pottery making, all but Elizabeth worked in other media -- producing oils, water colors, pastels, wash drawings and black and white studies. They built furniture and carved on it," explained Postle.
Harriet -- not one of the distinguished potters -- was a linguist (French, German and Italian); a musician (piano, organ and violin); a singer and a director of orchestral and voice ensembles. She was the housekeeper for the family, according to Postle.
Margaret died in 1911, Hannah in 1931, Elizabeth in 1936, Harriett in 1947 and Mary in 1959.
Their house and studio at 520 East Church Street -- near the old National Road -- is a private residence within the Cambridge City Historic District. Known as the Lackey-Cockefair-Overbeck-Mathis House, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
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Journal-News Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Facts spoil legend of Indians and Turkey Foot Rock
By Jim Blount
Facts can spoil a good story. That's the case with Turkey Foot Rock and the legend surrounding the stone at Fallen Timbers Memorial Park, site of a decisive 1794 battle in which Gen. Anthony Wayne's frontier army defeated an Indian coalition in northwest Ohio.
Wayne's Aug. 20, 1794, victory led to the Treaty of Greenville a year later, ending the threat of Indian raids on settlements in southwestern Ohio. With peace, Fort Hamilton -- built in 1791 as a supply post for the Indian-fighting army -- was no longer needed and soon abandoned.
Wayne took command of the army in 1792 after Indian triumphs in 1790 and 1791. He built more forts as he advanced north. His deliberate campaign allowed time to train and supply his troops while a negotiated settlement was sought. When talks failed, Wayne struck.
The one-hour showdown -- near the present cities of Maumee and Toledo -- was mostly on a field of trees felled by a storm, leading to the name Fallen Timbers.
"Unused to a well disciplined enemy, the Indians, who expected to be the ones charging, broke and ran," reports the Army Historical Foundation web site. "The Indians fled so fast that mounted [U. S.] troops on the flanks had difficulty catching them."
A story published later said Turkey Foot, an Ottawa war chief, tried to halt the Indian retreat. His bravery was reputedly exhibited at a limestone boulder described as five and a half feet long and three feet high. In 1794 it was at the foot of Presque Isle Hill on the banks of the Maumee River.
Years later, an Ottawa who survived the battle is reported to have offered this explanation: "We were driven back through the woods and swamp to the end of the hill, where the great Chief of the Ottawas, Turkey Foot, exhorted the braves to stop and drive the pale face from our country." He said Turkey Foot "stood upon a rock and called to the warriors to be brave and that the Great Spirit would make them strong. Suddenly his voice ceased, and he slid from the rock shot through the breast with a rifle ball and lay dying."
"We were all around him fighting back the Long Knives and attempting to carry him away from the battle," the survivor said, "but the Great Spirit had called and he lay dying. He commanded us to lay him down, and he would sing his death song."
An 1868 report said Turkey Foot, observing the retreat, "leaped upon a small boulder, and by voice and gesture endeavored to make them [the Indians] stand firm. He almost immediately fell, pierced by a musket ball, and expired by the side of the rock. Long years afterward, when any of his tribe passed along the Maumee trail, they would stop at that rock, and linger a long time with manifestations of sorrow."
A more recent account said that for years afterward, "Indians passing through . . . paused to burn their sacred tobacco at the site in tribute to Chief Turkey Foot's bravery. Some left offerings of dried meat, grain and trinkets. Many of the mourners carved inscriptions in the limestone boulder."
The web site of Metroparks of the Toledo Area says "the first written record of the rock appeared in 1829 when local Native people told a missionary traveling through the area that a spirit had descended on the rock during the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794."
Dr. G. Michael Pratt, an anthropology professor at Heidelberg College and an expert on the battle, is among those who refute the story. Pratt said "the legendary Indian leader is the only individual from either side to have his own monument, Turkey Foot Rock" on the battlefield. But today, Pratt said, "Turkey Foot appears to be a total fiction."
As proof, he noted that the battle was on bluffs overlooking the Maumee River, not on the flood plains below where the fabled rock was located in 1794. It was moved from its original site in the 1830s.
Recent histories have omitted or minimized the legend of Turkey Foot Rock. Wiley Sword, in a 1985 book, President Washington's Indian War: The Struggle for the Old Northwest, 1790-1795, included this brief note: "Atop a large rock, according to Indian lore, stood the Ottawa war chief Turkey Foot exhorting his warriors to make a stand."
Then Sword wrote: "Actually, Little Otter and Egushawa, the principal Ottawa war chiefs, captained the fighting at this point, though both had been seriously wounded."
Turkey Foot Rock is a tribute to a myth.
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Journal-News Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Bendix built jet engine components in Hamilton
By Jim Blount
Jan. 13, 1951 -- six months into the three-year Korean War -- the Bendix Aviation Corp. announced purchase of the closed Ford Motor Co. plant in Hamilton, promising about 2,000 new jobs and a yearly payroll of $6 million. In April 1950, Ford had started closing the 31-year-old factory at the north end of North Fifth Street.
Bendix -- which said it based the move on location and labor supply -- paid at least $900,000 for 156,218 square feet of manufacturing space, effective Feb. 1, with limited production starting May 1.
Another attraction was a remnant of the Hamilton and Rossville Hydraulic, built in the 1840s. It had been a reason for Ford's decision to build a plant in Hamilton after World War I. Ford and then Bendix used a branch of the waterway to generate electricity for the factory. The hydraulic system relied on the gradual fall of water taken from the Great Miami River north of the city.
The company said it would produce truck components and aircraft engine parts, including fuel feed and control mechanisms, in Hamilton. It was described by Bendix officials as "highly precision work."
In October 1952, a newspaper said the main products of the Hamilton plant were "a variety of fuel metering devices for both jet and propeller-type aircraft engines, together with automotive brake parts," including "power brakes used on trailer trucks."
Parts from the Bendix plant were incorporated in Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Ford, Hudson, Nash, Crosley and Willys vehicles.
A local display featured a model of a fuel metering system for U. S. Air Force four-engine B-29 bombers. The Bendix product also was used on the Constellation, a plane popular then with air lines. The R-3350 engines were built by the Wright Aeronautical Corp.
Another example of local work was a water regulator used on the 10-engine B-36 bomber.
Also displayed was a jet control of about 700 parts for Allison J-33 engines that powered carrier-based U. S. Navy fighter jets.
"The Allison J-33 Turbojet," according to a web site of the National Museum of the U. S. Air Force, was "originally developed by the General Electric Co. for the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star," a plane that was tested as World War II ended. "The J-33 engine," the site says, "is a direct descendant of the British Whittle engine of the early 1940s."
The J-33 -- produced by the Allison Division of General Motors -- powered flight in the early years of the Cold War and the missile age. The museum web site says "J-33s were used in various models of USAF and Navy aircraft, and in the USAF's Mace, Matador and Snark surface-to-surface guided missiles."
In February 1953 Bendix started construction of a 10,800-square foot expansion to house laboratories and additional engineering facilities. The company said it would hire 30 to 40 engineers to work in the new structure.
At the same time, Bendix said the Hamilton division would begin production of fuel controls for the Lincoln-Mercury J-40 jet aircraft engines in the summer of 1953. The report said the engine "is the latest improved version of the J-40, designed by Westinghouse and which will be produced for the U. S. Navy. The new engine is one of the nation's highest thrust jet aircraft engines."
The Ford plant had opened in April 1920 to build gas-powered Fordson tractors. Six months later it retooled to produce wheels for the popular Model T, crafting more than 12 million wheels in the next six years. In 1927, the Hamilton plant began making Model A wheels, producing more than 22 million in 10 years.
In the late 1930s it manufactured a variety of auto parts, employing 1,500 people on three shifts in the midst of the Depression. During World War II (1941-1945) the plant made parts for bombers.
Bendix operated in Hamilton until August 1962. In October 1963, the plant was obtained by Ward Manufacturing Co., which built camping trailers. In March 1975 part of the site was occupied by the Chem-Dyne Corp., a chemical waste transfer, storage and disposal company.
In 1982, federal officials called Chem-Dyne "the worst environmental hazard in Ohio and one of the worst in the nation." Federal cleanup costs exceeded $22 million by the time it was declared complete in December 1989.
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Journal-News Wednesday, March 26, 2008
12-year-old recorded her 1913 flood experience
By Jim Blount
"There stood a soldier telling us to flee to the hills, 30 feet of water was on the way," wrote Gertrude Glauch, who was 12 years old when the March 25, 1913, flood swept through Hamilton. After the terror and destruction subsided, she recorded her experience and observations of the disaster that claimed more than 300 lives in Hamilton.
"I was attending the seventh grade at Madison School [on North 10th Street] and the first I heard of the flood when school was dismissed during the morning" Tuesday, March 25, between 10 and 11, recalled the girl who later became Mrs. John Heiser.
Shortly, her father and brothers returned to their home in the 300 block of North 10th Street and "started carrying things out of the basement," she wrote. "We had plenty of canned goods, also coal and wood. We were fortunate in having a coal range in the kitchen and several coal oil lamps. We carried everything possible out of the basement onto the main floor."
That afternoon a brother, Bill, offered assistance to a neighbor, the Millspaugh family. Gertrude said "Mr. Millspaugh, a rural mail carrier, was stranded on his route, and his daughter-in-law (Mrs. Clarence Millspaugh) was in bed with a nine-day-old baby daughter. Bill wanted to carry her upstairs, but the women thought it best to wait. Bill did get in all the coal and wood he could and took it upstairs."
As darkness approached, electricity was out and the flood had disrupted phone service in most of the city of 35,000 people. Parts of Hamilton were devastated, but the worst was still to come in other areas..
"When it got dark, our coal oil lamp was a beacon of light for the neighborhood," Gertrude wrote. "We made coffee and handed it across to our neighbors, the Balivers.
"Everything seemed quiet until 10 o'clock that night when the water started going in our basement. Oh! the noise it made. Then we started carrying things to the second floor and Ida [a sister] decided to faint," she recalled.
"About that time Mrs. Charles Millspaugh called for Bill to come over and carry Clarence's wife upstairs. Mother worried as he started out, as there was an old cistern and also a cellar excavation in the empty lot" between the houses, Gertrude wrote. "But Bill had a big stick and felt his way ahead of him and we held a lamp at the window to give him light. He called that he was safe when he got there and called when he was ready to come back."
During the night, shouts of "help" were heard from a neighbor on Ninth Street. They were from a man who, with his wife, were on top of wardrobe on the second floor as the water was rising in the room. A mysterious shot also was heard.
That night -- which survivors called the "night of terror" -- Gertrude said "we could see the lighted sky from the Champion fire." The Champion paper mill on North B Street burned to the water level.
"The water kept getting higher in the basement until it came within 13 inches of getting on the first floor," she wrote. "One reason I think we did not have more damage was, when the water rushed out from Greenwood Cemetery, it came in such a way as to undermine the living room of the Frank Brandel home on the corner 10th and Heaton -- that caused a bank of gravel to form from there past our house, causing the water to change its course."
Thursday morning brought some normalcy. "The water receded and we could get out. Mother was baking bread and we had our dinner on the table ready to sit down when our doorbell rang," Gertrude wrote. That's when a soldier told the family "to flee to the hills, 30 feet of water was on the way."
"We left everything in a hurry, after packing up a few clothes and valuables in a bundle (made of bed clothing) and started for the infirmary," the county home at the top of High Street hill. "It seems as though everyone else had the same idea, it was a regular parade." The group waited there until joined by other family members.
After several hours on the hill, "we learned it was a false alarm about the water coming so we went back home," Gertrude recalled in the letter shared with this column by Carl B. Sippel, her nephew.
The false alarm was one of several rumors spread during the disaster. A fictitious report Tuesday about two hours before the river overflowed led to a "run for the hills" warning that saved hundreds of lives.