By Jim Reis-reprinted here with his
Pieces of the Past-Volume 1
Southgate's heritage dates to the early 1800s although little was recorded before the Civil War. Until then the area was little more than a place one passed through on the way from Newport to Leitch's Station. Letich's Station was a blockhouse located along the Licking River near where Port Hosea is in Wilder.
Most of the land in Southgate was once owned by the Southgate and Shaler families who intermarried. The Southgates apparently never actually lived in Southgate. Their home was what is now the Southgate House Tavern in Newport. The Shalers, however, did move to the area, building a stone house on a hilltop in 1853. That area became Shaler Battery when a Union fortification was built there during the Civil War as part of Cincinnati's protections against a Confederate invasion.
That site is located in the middle of Evergreen Cemetery and the outline of the old earthen works can still be seen. Several cannons, symbolic of the Civil War era, also are located along U.S. 27 near I-275.
Two early landmarks of the area were a slaughterhouse operated by Michael Winstel Sr. at what is U.S. 27 and Willow Street, and the Two Mile Inn, which stood on the present site of St. Therese School. Lots for a city were platted in 1896 on behalf of Nathan Southgate Shaler, and Southgate was incorporated in 1907. Some records list the city's birthday as April 9, which is when some 25 families petitioned Campbell Circuit Judge Albert S Berry for incorporation. A more accurate date, however, would be May 14, the day Judge Berry signed the corporation papers.
The name was selected because of the family's
large property interest in the city and because the area was considered the
"South Gate" to Newport. The original city trustees were:
T B Moore, T H Collings, J C Buckley, W J Baker and W W White.
The other city officials were:
H Van Agthoven, police judge; Ed Troendle, marshal; Fred W Knarr, assessor; G Wolking, clerk; and Dan Ziegler, treasurer.
The city's present area is about three times its original size and came about from a number of annexations. The major one was in 1937 and included Evergreen Cemetery, Moock Road and the Beverly Hills Supper Club. The history of Evergreen Cemetery dates to before the Civil War. Then it was a 17-acre tract called Newport Cemetery. A cemetery commission was later started and Evergreen now encompasses more than 350 acres. The Beverly Hill Supper Club was built in the early 1930s and was always a colorful part of the city's history. It burned in 1977.
"Back in the early 1930s,there was a case where four men robbed a car that was carrying cash from the Glenn Hotel in Newport to the Beverly Hill Supper Club." said Marshal Holdsworth, former city treasurer and city clerk. "The story was that they waited down by Moock Road and actually stopped several cars before they got the right one. What made it so unique was that they supposedly took about $10,000, but the crime was never reported. Work leaked out about it, however, and that was a grand jury investigation, but nothing came of it and the robbers were never caught."
The theory was the robbery was really a dispute between gamblers. Gambling was never legal at Beverly Hills, but it flourished for a number of years before George Ratterman was elected in the early 1960s as Campbell County Sheriff as part of a campaign to clean up gambling in the county. Southgate now has its own full time 24-hour a day police department.
During World War II, Southgate residents conducted air raid drills. People were given the option of turning off all their lights or having dark shades that couldn't be penetrated by the light. The windows of the city building, which served as the command post, were covered with fiber board. The purpose of the blackout was to hinder enemy aircraft from picking out targets.
Southgate is landlocked, but two attempts to expand the city through merger failed. Both times the target was Wilder. Two long time Southgate landmarks are the El Greco Restaurant at 2440 Alexandria Pike and the Old Cline Chrysler-Plymouth dealership at Willow Street and Alexandria Pike. The El Greco site is the old Wright family homestead, which was supposed to be haunted. The Cline location was a lot that used to house The Rock, a bar that featured live boxing. It became a nightclub called the Black Orchid before it was torn down to make way for the auto dealership.
While many cities have changed street names
over the years, Southgate made only one major street change. In the 1970s,
Elm Street was renamed in honor of William F Blatt, who had served 32 years as