Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008
Fort Thomas was familiar to Butler County men
By Jim Blount
Fort Thomas was a brief, but memorable stop in the lives of many Butler County men during the army post's 74-year existence between 1890 and 1964. The Northern Kentucky facility was where young men stood in line for medical exams to determine their fitness for military duty and, if accepted, where they experienced their first taste of life in the armed forces.
Much of Fort Thomas remains on its original 125 hilltop acres in Campbell County. It overlooks the Ohio River about 500 feet below. It is immune to the floods that had doomed Newport Barracks, its predecessor, on the river front opposite Cincinnati.
Fort Thomas was dedicated June 20, 1890. It had been recommended by Gen. Phillip Sheridan, army chief of staff. Sheridan, who entered the army in 1853 at Newport Barracks, had been assigned to find a replacem0ent location. Several Northern Kentucky communities competed for the post.
Newport Barracks began in 1803 on five acres with rivers on two sides -- the mouth of the Licking River to the west and the Ohio River flowing along its northern boundary. For decades, the Ohio River provided transportation for troops and supplies.
By the 1880s, a national railroad network transported army units and equipment from coast to coast and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes. Location on or near a major river was no longer a priority for a mobile army.
The new military center was named for Gen. George H. Thomas (1816-1870), a Virginian who had remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War. Thomas was popular with many Butler County soldiers who served in his commands during the war. Some had stood with him in 1863 on a Georgia battlefield when Thomas earned the name "Rock of Chickamauga" for his courage while other leaders retreated in disarray.
An early report said Fort Thomas had 35 buildings. Others were added later, including some temporary quarters.
It was a busy mobilization center for volunteers at the start of the brief Spanish-American War in 1898. When that war ended, it became a hospital for soldiers who had been afflicted with malaria, typhoid fever and other diseases during service in Florida, Cuba and the Philippines.
Military business slackened until World War I (1917-1918), when it again became a busy induction center for draftees and volunteers.
Between world wars, troops stationed there also assisted the surrounding region during floods and disasters. In the 1930s, the fort was used for training and administering several civilian programs designed as Depres0sion relief.
From 1940 through World War II (1941-1945), it was an induction center for the southern parts of Ohio and Indiana, western West Virginia and central and eastern Kentucky.
Young men were bused from Hamilton and Middletown for physical examinations and military processing. Inductees passing through Fort Thomas were among the more than 10 million men drafted nationwide.
At the end of World War II, it had a variety of uses -- an Army Air Corps convalescent hospital; an army engineers post and a Veterans Administration rehabilitation center. It also was vacated for a short period.
The draft law expired at the end of World War II when U. S. armed services were reduced. But the Cold War -- and the arms race between the U. S. and the Soviet Union -- led to passage in 1948 of a new selective service act. That caused activity to increase at Fort Thomas.
During the Korean War (1950-1953), it was an examination station for potential draftees and a training center for reserves and the Kentucky National Guard. The induction center closed in April 1964 as the U. S. was becoming involved in Vietnam.
Its small area and surrounding urbanization had always limited active training at Fort Thomas, which included stables and services for the army of the horse era. It gradually became outmoded for motorized units with more sophisticated equipment and armament.
The federal government sold some of the land in the 1970s. The name survives. A Kentucky community that began in 1867 as the District of the Highlands changed its name to Fort Thomas in 1914.
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Hamilton founder set boundary on frontier
By Jim Blount
Israel Ludlow was instrumental in founding three Ohio cities -- Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton -- but establishing the boundary line between the Indians and early settlers in the Northwest Territory ranks as his greatest achievement. He was an experienced frontier surveyor when he assumed that perilous task after approval of the 1795 Treaty of Greenville.
Anthony Wayne's Aug. 20, 1794, victory over an Indian coalition in the Battle of Fallen Timbers led to a peace pact Aug. 3, 1795, at Greenville, Ohio. Fort Hamilton, built in September 1791, had been one of several supply posts in the disastrous 1791 campaign led by Gov. Arthur St. Clair and in Wayne's deliberate two-year advance to victory at Fallen Timbers.
In the Greenville treaty, 90 representatives of several Indian tribes agreed to yield land in parts of the future states of Ohio and Indiana. The tribes included the Miami, Shawnee, Wyandot, Delaware, Ottawa, Eel River, Wea, Chippewa, Potawatomi, Kickapoo, Piankashaw and Kaskaskia.
Ludlow was a logical choice for the delicate assignment. Born near Morristown, N. J., in 1765, he was 22 years old in 1787 when appointed a government surveyor by Thomas Hutchins, surveyor-general of the U. S. It was a risky job because Indians were vigorously resisting settlement in what became Ohio.
His duties included surveying the Symmes Purchase (1788) north of the Ohio River between the Little and Great Miami rivers. He surveyed the town of Losantiville and acquired a third interest in ownership of the settlement that became Cincinnati. Some sources credit Ludlow with changing the name from Losantiville to Cincinnati.
In December 1794, Ludlow laid out a town around Fort Hamilton. Eleven months later, he joined Jonathan Dayton, Arthur St. Clair and James Wilkinson in founding the city of Dayton.
After the Treaty of Greenville, Ludlow was chosen to set the line that would separate the native tribes from Americans intent on settling on land that had been controlled by Indians for generations.
Ludlow's work had to wait until the U. S. Senate accepted the Greenville agreement. May 18, 1796, Congress enacted legislation authorizing the survey and officially appointing Ludlow. He was assisted by two or three deputy surveyors, but wasn’t provided military protection.
"This was work of great danger," said the 1882 Butler County history, "but it was of the highest importance . . . and, as no military escort could be furnished, he undertook the task, and, with only three backwoodsmen as spies to give warning of danger, he accomplished it."
Ludlow -- who was paid no more than $3 a mile -- began the project June 18, 1797. His starting point has been described as "at a sycamore tree four feet in diameter standing at the fork of that branch of the Great Miami River near which stood Loramie's store" (in present Shelby County, southeast of Celina and northwest of Sidney).
On the north, the boundary ran from about the mouth of the Cuyahoga River on Lake Erie, south to the site of Fort Laurens and west to Fort Loramie and Fort Recovery, the latter near the future Ohio-Indiana border.
Starting Aug. 8, 1799, from Fort Recovery, Ludlow extended the demarcation line slightly southwest through the future state of Indiana to a point opposite the mouth of the Kentucky River at the Ohio River (present Carrollton, Ky.).
For relinquishing most of Ohio, the Indians who signed the treaty received $20,000 in goods from the U. S. government, plus $9,500 in goods annually.
The Indians retained the right to hunt south and east of the Ludlow line. Settlers were not to occupy land north and west of the line, but were allowed to operate some trading posts in Indian territory.
There were treaty violations, some involving bloody clashes, for several years. Overall the treaty -- and Ludlow's boundary line -- brought peace, especially in Southwestern Ohio. For several years after Butler County was formed in 1803, Indians periodically crossed the line and camped near Hamilton to trade with local residents and businesses.
Ludlow died in 1804 in Cincinnati at the age of 38. His heirs complied with his plans to donate land in Hamilton to enable the town to become the county seat of Butler County.
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Ohio statehood involved political maneuvering
By Jim Blount
"I can't remember politics being this nasty" was a common remark during the 2008 election campaign. That comment and similar statements reveal how quick the intensity of previous contests is forgotten or minimized. An example of how long it has existed is the political maneuvering that preceded Ohio becoming the 17th state in 1803.
Political parties aren't mentioned in the U. S. Constitution, written in 1787, but there were two factions by 1800 when it was suggested the Northwest Territory be divided into one or more states.
Eventually, the territory would yield all of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin and part of Minnesota. Ohio was the first state carved out of the tract west of Pennsylvania, north of the Ohio River, south of the Great Lakes and east of the Mississippi River.
Arthur St. Clair became the first territorial governor in 1787 after eight months as president of the Continental Congress. In 1791, the veteran of the French and Indian War and the American Revolution assumed command of the frontier army that built Fort Hamilton. That poorly managed campaign ended in defeat. St. Clair remained governor, but yielded army leadership to Anthony Wayne, also a veteran of the revolution.
After Wayne defeated the Indians in 1794 and concluded a peace treaty in 1795, some Ohio leaders began pushing for statehood. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 set the steps for statehood, including a requirement of 60,000 population within the area of a proposed state.
When the 1800 census counted 45,365 people, it was assumed that Ohio's rapidly increasing population would soon meet the 60,000 statehood total. That's when politics entered the picture.
In 1796 John Adams was elected president as a Federalist. Although George Washington, during his two terms, had followed Federalist policies, Adams was the first (and last) to be elected president under the party banner. Alexander Hamilton also was party a leader.
The opposition was the Democratic-Republican Party, headed by Thomas Jefferson, who was elected president in the 1800 election.
Besides the presidency, both parties sought control of Congress and state governments. St. Clair, as territorial governor, opposed Ohio statehood. He feared the majority of voters in the new state would favor Democratic-Republican candidates and upset Federalist domination.
To delay statehood, St. Clair advocated creating at least two states in the territory, a move that would preserve Federalist power in the region and increase party numbers in the U. S. Congress.
In December 1801, St. Clair convinced territorial legislators to propose Ohio's western boundary as a line extending north from the mouth of the Scioto River at the Ohio River (Portsmouth). That would have split the territory with neither part able to attain the required 60,000 population while preserving Federalist influence in both parts.
It also clashed with the Democratic-Republican preference of a western border running north from the mouth of the Great Miami River at the Ohio River. When St. Clair's Scioto plan reached Washington in January 1802, it was rejected by Congress, then controlled by the Democratic-Republican Party.
In quick response, the U. S. House and Senate enacted a law allowing Ohioans to take steps toward statehood, designating the Great Miami as the basis for the western border. The population provision was ignored.
President Jefferson signed the Ohio Enabling Act April 30, 1802. The act set Nov. 1, 1802, for starting an Ohio constitutional convention. Twenty-six of the 35 delegates were Democratic-Republicans. St. Clair asked the convention to ignore the enabling act. When Jefferson saw a copy of St. Clair's speech, the president ordered the governor dismissed Nov. 22, 1802.
Nov. 29, 1802, the Ohio convention approved a constitution. It was presented to Congress Dec. 22 and became law Feb. 19, 1803. Ohio statehood was effective March 1, 1803.
Another political complication in the path to Ohio statehood was the creation of Indiana Territory, also taken from the Northwest Territory. It involved a controversy about the boundary separating Ohio and Indiana. That problem will be covered in a future column.
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Ohio and Indiana coveted area known as the Gore
By Jim Blount
Residents of the eastern part of the Northwest Territory weren't alone in seeking a more responsive and accessible government as the 19th century began. While controversy surrounded the path to Ohio statehood in 1803, there were political clashes as Indiana Territory took shape.
The Northwest Territory, formed in 1785, was west of Pennsylvania, north of the Ohio River, south of the Great Lakes and east of the Mississippi River. Between 1803 and 1858, it was divided into all of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin and part of Minnesota.
Ohio was the first state formed from the area after political battles between the Federalist Party, which opposed statehood, and the Democratic-Republicans, which favored it.
Central to the debate was the western boundary of the proposed state. Federalists urged a line extending north from the mouth of the Scioto River, a border that would have delayed statehood. The Democratic-Republican Party supported the mouth of the Great Miami River as the division because it would create a region that promised to include the 60,000 population required for a new state.
The Democratic-Republicans eventually won the battle in the territorial legislature and in the U. S. Congress. Thomas Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican, signed legislation that led to Ohio statehood, effective March 1, 1803.
Formation of Indiana Territory was directed by William Henry Harrison, who came to the Northwest Territory in 1791 to join the army that built Fort Hamilton. He resigned from the army in 1798 to accept appointment as secretary of the territory, holding that post only briefly. The territorial legislature elected Harrison its delegate to the U. S. Congress, also a short-term job. He served from March 4, 1799, to May 14, 1800.
May 7, 1800, President John Adams, a Federalist, signed legislation creating Indiana Territory, effective July 4, 1800. Harrison, an Anti-Federalist, resigned from Congress to become governor of the new territory that stretched west to the Mississippi River and from the Ohio River north to the Great Lakes.
At the southeast corner of Indiana Territory, Congress decreed that the border follow the Greenville Treaty Line -- also known as the Indian Treaty Line -- from a point on the Ohio River opposite the mouth of the Kentucky River (Carrollton, Ky.) northeast to a point near Fort Recovery in Ohio.
That decision placed a narrow triangular area called the Gore in the southwestern part of the Northwest Territory, not in Indiana Territory. The Gore included all or parts of the future Indiana counties of Switzerland, Ohio, Dearborn, Randolph, Franklin, Union and Wayne. (The part of the Gore that later became Union and Franklin counties is on Butler County's western border.)
Proponents of Ohio statehood welcomed the congressional decision. Incorporating the Gore would have helped achieve the 60,000 population required for a new state. The decision disappointed Indiana Territory advocates because it deprived the territory of its most populated region.
During the legislative process, the border was defined as running due north from the mouth of the Great Miami River, placing the Gore on the Indiana side of the line. It was changed before approval.
Arthur St. Clair, governor of the Northwest Territory, wanted to delay Ohio statehood and protect Federalist Party power in the territory and the U. S. Congress. To achieve that purpose, he advanced a plan to divide the territory into three districts instead of two. From east to west, possible boundaries would run north from the mouths of the Scioto, Great Miami and Kentucky or Wabash rivers.
Congress not only rejected St. Clair's designs, it also reversed its decision on the Gore.
In the Ohio Enabling Act April 30, 1802, the Gore became part of Clark County in Indiana Territory. March 17, 1803, Gov. Harrison designated the Gore as Dearborn County, Indiana's third county. (Between 1803 and 1845 Dearborn County shrank as other counties were created in the Gore.)
Some residents of the Gore continued to seek inclusion in Ohio, but their petition was rejected by Congress in 1805.
Indiana gained statehood in 1816. Harrison served as territorial governor until 1813, but his political career continued. He was elected president in 1840, serving only from inauguration March 4, 1841, until his death in Washington, D.C., April 4, 1841. He is buried in North Bend, Ohio, overlooking the Ohio River and not far the Ohio-Indiana border.