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Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008
Ohio votes assured Abraham Lincoln's nomination
By Jim Blount
As expected, Sen. William H. Seward of New York had a substantial lead over 12 other candidates after Republicans cast the first ballot at the party's second presidential nominating convention in 1860. The convention started May 16 in the 10,000-seat Wigwam in Chicago, described by the Encyclopedia of Chicago as "a temporary two-story wooden structure" built to attract the event.
Seward had 173.5 votes; his 12 competitors totaled 291.5. None of Ohio's 46 votes went to Seward. Salmon P. Chase of Cincinnati, a favorite son, got 34 Ohio votes. Eight were for Abraham Lincoln, considered a long shot. Four went to another Ohioan, John McLean.
Overall, Lincoln was second with 102 votes and Chase fourth with 49.
When balloting had started, Seward supporters, it was reported, were participating in a parade. Inside the hall, Lincoln fans filled the galleries, many gaining admission with counterfeit tickets. When Seward ticket holders (possibly numbering 1,000) arrived, Lincoln followers occupied most seats. Some reports claim cheers from the one-sided gallery helped win delegates for Lincoln.
Whatever the reason, second ballot results were different. Only three votes separated Seward (184) and Lincoln (181). Lincoln gained six Ohio votes, raising his Buckeye total from eight to 14. Chase fell to 29 and McLean to three Ohio votes.
Among Ohioans switching from Chase to Lincoln was William Beckett of Hamilton, one of two delegates from the third congressional district. Beckett was a Butler County native, a Miami University graduate and a founder and president of the Beckett Paper Co. in Hamilton.
On the third ballot, Lincoln's Ohio support increased to 29 while Chase fell to 15 and McLean to two. When all votes were cast, Lincoln had vaulted into the lead while Seward had lost four votes. But the difference was 51.5 votes -- 231.5 for Lincoln, 180 for Seward. Lincoln was 1.5 short of the 233 votes required for nomination.
Third ballot results hadn't been announced to the convention before David K. Cartter, chairman of the Ohio delegation, was recognized by the convention chairman. Cartter earlier had nominated Chase.
Cartter changed four Ohio votes, including his, to Lincoln. That put the 51-year-old lawyer beyond the 233 required, making him the 1860 Republican nominee for president. Hannibal Hamlin of Maine was the party's vice presidential nominee.
As was the custom then, Lincoln took no part in the convention and didn't campaign after winning the nomination. But he was well known before the convention, if not favored to be nominated.
Many Ohioans had seen and heard him during a September 1859 tour that included speeches in Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati and a brief talk from the rear of a train in Hamilton.
In the 1860 election Lincoln carried 59 of Ohio's 88 counties, topping Democrat Stephen A. Douglas by 44,380 votes in a four-way contest.
Douglas won 56.2 percent of the Butler County votes (4,109) and was favored in 10 of 13 townships. Lincoln captured 39.2 percent of the county's vote (2,867) while winning Oxford, Liberty and Union (now West Chester) townships. In Hamilton, Douglas had a 261-vote advantage over Lincoln who collected only 37 percent of the city vote.
. Other Butler County presidential totals were 184, John Bell of the Constitutional Union Party, and 156, John C. Breckinridge of the Southern Democrat Party.
In the electoral college, Lincoln had 180 votes (33 states), Breckinridge 72 (11 states), Bell 39 (three states) and Douglas only 12 (one state). Neighboring states of Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania backed Lincoln; Kentucky and Virginia electoral votes went to Bell.
Lincoln became the first Republican president in 1861. The party had formed in the mid 1850s and its first candidate for the White House was John C. Fremont of California. Fremont -- who lost to Democrat James Buchanan in 1856 -- received one vote on the first convention ballot in 1860 and none on the third.
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Journal-News Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2008
Who decided routes of Butler County roads?
By Jim Blount
Common questions to this column include: "Who decided the routes of roads in Butler County?" and "Why do some rural roads have so many sharp curves and turns?" Answers vary, and in many instances documentary evidence has vanished and, if preserved, is incomplete or unreadable. In Butler County, as elsewhere, some roads developed before territorial government started in 1787, or the admission of Ohio as a state and the creation of the county, both of the latter in 1803.
Herds of buffalo and other large animals -- seeking food, salt licks and water, or during seasonal migrations -- created paths followed by early land buyers. Animal traces tended to be at lower levels and close to streams.
Indian trails, in general, were on the high ground. Wind swept hilltops retained less snow and leaf cover, shed rain and provided vantage points for defense, friendly signaling and sighting groups of migratory animals.
The frontier armies of Arthur St. Clair (1791) and Anthony Wayne (1792-94), when possible, followed animal and Indian trails. Soldiers also cut new roads through the wilderness to bear the traffic volume and heavy loads of packhorse trains, freight wagons and artillery.
In the county's early years, land owners took the initiative in creating new roads when the primitive pathways didn't meet their needs. Because it lacked the revenue to pay for roads, county government's major role was to grant permission.
In 1806 residents in a corner of the county complained that they were "laboring under much difficulty and inconvenience from the want of a public road in this our part of the county." Another 1806 declaration from a citizens group to commissioners said "we are subjected to very great inconvenience by the want of public roads through our county."
The process for a specific route began with property owners petitioning the county commissioners for permission to build a public road from Point A to Point B. Some requests also specified intermediate points, usually through or along the property of one or more of those signing the petition.
"On a petition being presented from a number of the inhabitants of the county . . . praying an order for a public highway," said an 1804 commission document, three "viewers" were appointed to determine if the proposed road "will be useful and of public utility."
Viewers -- often among the petitioners and subject to commission confirmation -- seldom had any professional training or experience in planning roads. The viewers were authorized to name one or more persons "to survey and layout" the road. Viewers were to report their recommendation to the commission within six or seven months.
After a favorable finding, the commission would likely declare, as in an 1806 action, "it is ordered that the same [the road] be established as a public highway . . . 40 feet wide." According to an 1804 state law, builders could leave tree stumps as high as a foot within roadways.
Some requests met resistance. In an 1805 example, commissioners received a "remonstrance to the proposed highway petition." Opponents said "running of the road . . . will be extremely injurious to diverse individuals" as "the road will cut across several sections and split and divide the same to the great grievance of the owners." Sharp curves and 90-degree turns in today's roads may be the result of an 1800s land owner who objected to a road through his property.
Early requests were to gain outlets for the surplus produce and livestock from Butler County farms. Farmers sought roads to mills, and to local merchants who would barter corn, hides or pork for personal or family needs and luxuries.
Some early highways led to Great Miami River launch points for flatboats to export Butler County's bounty to points along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Others connected to fords that crossed the river, a necessity for farmers who drove hogs and cattle to markets outside the county.
"As a part of the transportation system of the country, the humble rural road has seldom been given its due," wrote George R. Taylor in The Transportation Revolution, 1815-1860. " In 1815 a great network of these roads covered the settled portion of the country," he said, but "they were hardly more than broad paths through the forest."
To encourage road building, Ohio legislators in 1809 authorized formation of private turnpike companies. But investors were reluctant to provide the capital for routes that didn't promise quick profit.
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Journal-News, Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008
Baseball history on display Sunday in Hamilton
By Jim Blount
There will be nine innings, nine players on each team and three strikes and you're out -- if you swing -- when the Cincinnati Buckeyes, a vintage baseball team, comes to Hamilton Sunday, Sept. 21, to play a team of Hamilton High School teachers and coaches.
It won't be baseball 2008 style in the game scheduled at 2 p.m. on the soccer field behind the Hamilton Freshman School, NW Washington Blvd. and West Elkton Road (North B Street).
The contest -- free to spectators -- will be a history lesson, showcasing baseball as it was played about 140 years ago -- in the 1860s. The contrasts between 1868 and 2008 will be obvious.
It will be bare hand baseball. Gloves aren't permitted. Bats are heavier and balls larger than modern ones. The game will be played on grass, not on a diamond with a solid, cutout infield and base paths.
"No balls or strikes will be called, except a swinging miss is a strike," explained Charlie Goodwin, a Hamilton resident, who plays for the Buckeyes. "Three swinging misses are an out," he said, and "the hurler (pitcher) tosses the ball underhand so that the striker (batter) can hit it."
There'll be no 90 mph fastballs in this game -- believed to be the first vintage game played in Hamilton. There also won't be a mound and the pitcher will be only 45 feet from home plate. He won't try to whiz the ball past the batter. Instead, the pitcher may ask the batter where he wants it delivered so he can hit it.
The 1866 rules expected a pitcher to accommodate the batter. One section said: "Should the pitcher repeatedly fail to deliver to the striker fair balls, for the apparent purpose of delaying the game, or for any other cause, the umpire, after warning him, shall call one ball, and if the pitcher persists in such action, two and three balls; when three balls shall have been called, the striker shall be entitled to the first base."
Foul tips and foul balls caught in the air -- or on first bounce -- are out. A batted ball is determined fair or foul by where the ball touches the ground first. It does not need to stay in fair territory.
There will be only one umpire and he may stand beside or behind the field. He may ask for help from players and spectators on close plays. He'll shout his decisions instead of using hand signals.
"This is a gentlemen's game -- honesty is a must," said Goodwin. A vintage web site says "there is no spitting, swearing or other action that may be offensive to a lady." Players congratulate opponents for good plays.
Other differences, Goodwin said, include:
Over running first base is a risk. A runner can be tagged out if he goes beyond the base.
Two-step leadoffs are allowed. But there is no stealing, unless the behind (catcher) misses the ball, either in the air or on one bounce.
Infielders must be within two steps of their bag when the ball is hurled. The rover (shortstop) can play anywhere. Outfielders need to play straight up in their fields when ball is hurled.
On the field, Goodwin -- a seven-year veteran -- is known as "Doc" (he's a nurse). "Each player has a nickname, as was the custom in the 1860s," he said. His oldest son, Noah, a Middletown resident is known as "Buckshot." Dave Brooks of Oxford, a member of the Red Stockings, is "Big Dog." Brothers Dave (Juggles) Fischer and Dan (Hamilton Dan) Fischer, former Hamiltonians, also play for the Red Stockings.
Goodwin belongs to the Cincinnati Vintage Base Ball Club, which includes the Buckeyes and the Red Stockings. The Cincinnati group is part of the Vintage Base Ball Association.
The Cincinnati Buckeyes -- scheduled to play 30 games this season -- perpetuate the name of one the area's earliest baseball teams. By the end of 1865, Cincinnati had two amateur clubs, the Buckeyes and the Live Oaks. The Red Stocking formed in 1866 and three years later became the first all professional team. Now they're known as the Cincinnati Reds.
Some 1860s Buckeyes -- Charlie Gould, Charlie Sweeney, Dick Hurley and Andy Leonard -- eventually played professionally for the Red Stockings.
There are more than 100 vintage clubs in the U. S., the majority believed to in Ohio and the Midwest, including the Springfield Champion City Reapers, Dayton Clodbusters, Indianapolis Blues, Indianapolis Hoosiers, Batesville Lumbermen and Conner Prairie White River Boys. Goodwin said two new teams formed in Oxford this summer.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2008
Part of Hamilton's industrial past exposed in July
By Jim Blount
An important part of Hamilton's industrial history was exposed in mid July when cracks appeared in the pavement at the intersection of Market and North Front streets. Hidden under some downtown streets is the Hamilton Hydraulic -- officially the Hamilton & Rossville Hydraulic Co. when incorporated and opened in the 1840s.
It was a canal that spurred Hamilton's industrial and population growth. It was built to supply power to shops and mills -- not for transportation. It was not related to the Miami-Erie Canal.
When planned, it was a risky private venture. There were no factories along its course. Local entrepreneurs gambled that shops would come later, attracted by a stable, low-cost power source. They were correct.
The hydraulic opened in January 1845. For at least 30 years it was a prime source of energy for industry. It began to decline in the 1870s when coal-fired stationary steam engines became affordable in this region.
The system relied on a strong flow of water -- dropping 29 feet over its short course -- that rotated millstones in the hydraulic channel. The revolving axles attached to the stones connected to a network of wheels, pulleys and gears that powered machinery inside shops. The hydraulic had room for 166 millstones, each renting for $150 a year.
The hydraulic drew water from Great Miami River about four miles north of Hamilton. A dam was built to divert river water into the system. Two reservoirs stored water for the hydraulic, whose main canal continued south along North Fifth Street to Market Street (then Stable Street). There it took a sharp right turn west to the river near the intersection of Market Street and North Monument Avenue.
Later, branch channels were extended west from the main canal to the river, powering more shops.
Among several industries built along its course in the 1840s was the Miami Paper Mill. Later it was the Beckett Paper Co. and more recently International Paper and now Mohawk Paper's Beckett mill at Dayton and North Fifth streets.
An 1842 agreement -- signed before the hydraulic opened -- said the city "shall at all times be permitted, quietly and peaceably, to use water from" the hydraulic "by pipes or otherwise for the purpose of extinguishing fires" in the community. That made property along the hydraulic more attractive to industrial entrepreneurs. It promised better fire protection in addition to a reliable power source.
By the late 1890s -- after the city had built its own electric generating plant -- the hydraulic faced a series of setbacks, including receivership and law suits. There were periodic civic efforts to eliminate it. Complaints included its muddy condition, floating garbage and dead animals and foul odors. It was considered an open sewer and health threat.
In 1903, owners built a new dam on the river near Woodsdale to raise the water level and improve flow, but problems continued.
"Hope now runs high," said a 1906 newspaper story, "that the notorious eyesore will soon become a thing of the past." That didn't happen. But citizens insisted that, if the hydraulic had to remain, it be covered and out of sight and smell.
In 1912 the hydraulic company built a power plant. Among its electric customers was the Champion Papers mill on the west side of the river. Later, the Hoover, Owens, Rentschler plant also bought hydraulic-generated electricity.
Another customer was the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. The B&O contracted to take water from the hydraulic to replenish the trackside storage tanks that supplied water for its steam locomotives.
When Henry Ford decided to build a tractor factory in Hamilton, he said one of the factors was the hydraulic. Ford purchased the system July 1, 1918. His factory opened the next year, quickly changing from building tractors to producing parts for his popular automobiles.
The Ford plant closed in 1950, but its hydraulic branch remained. It was acquired by the City of Hamilton. The waterway -- north of the municipal electric generating plant -- supplies a small portion of the city’s electric needs.
When the street cracks were exposed in July 2008, city officials said the hidden canal is still an asset. It carries storm water from downtown Hamilton to the Great Miami River.
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