Hamilton: Pages 320 - 324
Next page | Butler County Ohio | Cyclopeadia index page | Previous page


During the year 1840, the contest between William Henry HARRISON and Martin VAN BUREN, for the presidential chair, agitated the whole community from one end of the country to the other. Political conventions, mass meeting, Democratic VAN BUREN clubs and HARRISON Tippecanoe clubs occupied great part of the time and attention of numbers of the people.

On Monday, the 24th of August, 1840, a large meeting of the VAN BUREN Democrats took place at Hamilton, at which Colonel Richard M. JOHNSON, of Kentucky, Senator ALLEN, of Chillicothe, and Wilson SHANNON, then governor of Ohio were present. The number of persons assembled was about three thousand.

About 10 o'clock Colonel JOHNSON addressed the crowd from the front door of the court-house but the situation proving unfavorable, he was heard but by few. At the close of his speech the company adjourned to the sycamore grove south of the of the town, where Governor SHANNON made a speech, near two hours long; Senator ALLEN then claimed the attention of the audience for an hour or two longer, which occupied the time until 4 o'clock, when the assembly was dismissed and the auditors went to their respective homes.

On the 5th of October, 1840, a very large mass meeting of both political parties was held at Hamilton, agreeable to arrangements which had previously been made, of which notice had been given by hand-bills, circulated far and wide. The number of persons in attendance were variously estimated by the different parties, some estimating the number of each party as high as fifteen or twenty thousand.

The number of the HARRISON Whigs was probably about five thousand; that of the VAN BUREN Democrats about three thousand.

Early on the morning of the fifth, flags and banners were seen floating in the breeze, from the top of almost every house in the town, as a signal that the house was open for the free accommodation of all strangers who might call. The day was fair as heart could wish, and early in the morning were seen coming in, by every road and avenue, from every part of the country, as well as from the adjoining counties, and some from the State of Indiana, numerous long processions; their banners waving in the wind, with the emblems of their different trades and professions borne aloft, until every house, street, common and alley presented one solid mass of human beings.

By a mutual arrangement previously made between the parties, the Democrats occupied Front Street, and the part of the town lying west of that street. The Whigs occupied Second Street and that portion of the town to the east. At 10 o'clock the different parties formed their processions, and proceeded to march around that part of the town allotted to them.

The Democrats formed on Front Street, extending its whole length. The procession was composed of persons on horseback, in carriages, and every other description of vehicle the country could produce, moving down that street, and passing up Water Street, on the bank of the river, with their bands of music, flags and banners.

The Whigs formed their procession on Second Street, which consisted of a great number of ladies as well as gentlemen, some on horseback, some in carriages, some in wagons, and in almost every species of vehicle that could be imagined. The procession continued to move down Second Street, passing up Third Street, so round alternately. When the rear of the procession was at the head of Second Street, the front was half-way up Third Street. Notwithstanding the great number s in the procession, every street and avenue of the town was filled with persons on foot, who did not fall into the procession. Hundreds of flags and banners bearing appropriate and strange devices and mottoes were borne aloft by the different companies forming the procession.. Carriages and wagons carrying almost every implement of mechanical trades were in the procession. Here was a blacksmith shop mounted on wheels, with its forge and bellows in full blast, the smith and striker busily engaged in making horseshoes. On another wagon were seated half a dozen shoemakers steadily employed at their work. A pair of shoes were actually made and finished during the procession and in the evening presented to Robert C. SCHENCK, one of the orators on the occasion, with an intimation that they were to be used in his race at the ensuing election.

On another wagon were seated several ladies, each with an old-fashioned wheel, busily engaged in spinning flax, and immediately following on a similar wagon was a weaver with his loom and quill fillers, converting the yarn into cloth.

Anon, comes a great canoe, mounted on wheels, in which were seated thirty persons. The canoe was tastefully painted, and on each side were inscribed in large letters appropriate mottoes.

Then comes a vehicle, on which are seated, twenty-six little girls, from eight to ten years of age, all dressed in white, each bearing a flag representing one of the United States; their sweet voices ringing out in merry peals, and singing popular songs, appropriate to the occasion.

Half a dozen excellent bands were in the procession, enlivening the scene by their melodious strains. Many grotesque and strange scenes intermingled in the procession. Log cabins and canoes, on wheels, were frequently seen passing in the crowd. On one wagon was a buckeye tree erect, with a live raccoon on its branches, and a living deer standing at its root. Some boys bore a living raccoon white as the driven snow.

The processions continued moving in succession along the streets, with their music and banners, until near noon, when they adjourned for dinner. A bountiful repast had been furnished for all. Farmers throughout the country had liberally contributed their best and fattest beasts; sheep, hogs, calves and poultry, hams and bacon to which was added bread and butter of the best quality, not forgetting a number of barrels of cider furnished by the Whigs. All the warehouses around the basin were cleared out and thrown open, in which tables were set and abundantly supplied, which were appropriated for the Whigs. The Democratic party had their collation in the sycamore grove, in the south part of the town.

Abundance of provisions and to spare were supplied for the whole mass, which, taking both parties together, must have numbered at least eight or ten thousand.

After taking their repast the procession was again formed, and moved to the speaking ground. The Whigs had a stand erected east of the town from which General METCALF, W. SOUTHGATE, and R. WICKLIFFE, Jr., of Kentucky, Thomas CORWIN of Lebanon, and Bellamy STORER, o f Cincinnati, successively addressed the multitudes, and in the evening again there was speaking by Robert C. SCHECK, S. F. CARY and others. The Democrats had their speaking in the sycamore grove in the afternoon, and in the market-house at night. They were addressed by John BROUGH, auditor of state, afterwards, the governor. At night the town was beautifully illuminated. Stands were erected at the intersection streets, from which orators were haranguing the people. Private parlors and rooms were crowded with ladies and gentlemen, singing songs and enjoying themselves until a late hour. Notwithstanding the vast assemblage, and the proximity of the two political parties, every thing passed off most harmoniously, and without any disorder or altercation. It was observed that not single person was seen intoxicated on the occasion.


General Levi RICHMOND was born on the twenty-ninth day of January, 1805, in Ross Township in this county, and was a the time of his death, in the forty-fifth year of his age. He was married on the fourth day of December, 1823, by the Rev. John A. BAUGHMAN, to Martha POWERS AKERS, a most estimable lady, and had by her six children.

The greatest portion of his life was spent in the immediate vicinity of the spot where the light first fell upon him. From April, 1835, until in October, 1841, he resided in the town of Millville, when he removed to Rossville, where he continued to reside up to the time of his death.

He received from his parents what, in the days of his youth, was considered a liberal education. Although but limited in comparison with the instruction now to be obtained, it was yet sufficient for one of such close observation and thirst for information to enable him by a very extensive general reading to qualify him for all the useful and practical pursuits of life.

Coming upon the theater of action when recollection of the glorious achievements of our heroic army of the war of 1812 was fresh in the memories of all true-hearted Americans, and accustomed to hear the war-worn veterans recount their deeds of personal valor, his spirit became fired with enthusiasm, and he longed for the opportunity of offering his services to his country. Devoting a great amount of time to the study of military affairs, and being attached to the eighth company of the second regiment in the third brigade of the first division of the Ohio militia, he was, on the fifteenth day of June, 1830, commissioned a lieutenant in his company. On the tenth day of January, 1832, he was promoted to the rank of captain. Shortly afterwards he was raised to the rank of major of the regiment, and afterwards he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel, and then colonel of the second regiment, and finally was elected and commissioned a brigadier-general of the first division.

A long period of peace having blessed our flag no opportunity was afforded him to display what all military men acquainted with him agreed that he possessed in a most eminent degree—military skill.

When the war with Mexico broke out, being pretty well advanced in years, and having a large family to claim his support and protection, he was induced to abandon his wish to accompany our army in that country, but his voice was heard urging the young men to rally around the flag.

The great aim of his life appeared to be to render himself a useful member of society. Ardent and liberal in all his sentiments, he was a firm and unwavering friend of the people's rights. Having attached himself to the Democratic party early in life, he never lost sight of the party's interest; and the ardor and enthusiasm which characterized him in political affairs rendered him one of the strongest pillars which supported that political creed.

For seven successive years he served as township clerk of his native township, and was twice elected justice of the peace of St. Clair Township. In the year 1843 he was appointed postmaster of Rossville, which office he held until a Whig administration came into power, when he was removed on political considerations.


The "old post-office" at the corner of Second and High Streets, was pulled down in April, 1853. It was a strongly framed, one-storied frame building, painted a Spanish brown color. From the prominent position it occupied in the town, and the many recollections associated with it in the minds of old residents, it did not disappear without notice.

The building was framed at Black Bottom, four miles below town, by "old Captain Sam JOHNSON," father of 'Squire JOHNSON. It was not weatherboarded, however, and after standing a time, it was removed and put up in its location in Hamilton, on ground leased from Mr. REILY, in 1815. It was first occupied by Joseph HOUGH and Dr. Samuel MILLIKIN as a store. They kept dry-goods, groceries, drugs, iron, queen's-ware, hardware, and all the articles incident to the wants of a new country. Mr. HOUGH, on the dissolution of his partnership, which subsisted for several years, continued the business till 1825, when Mr. James B. THOMAS took the store. Mr. THOMAS occupied it till 1849—twenty-four years.

Mr. THOMAS kept the post-office there from the date of his appointment, July 23, 1832, till his resignation in 1849. It was the scene of many a lively discussion and many a jovial bout. Here congregated the wit and wisdom of the village, and here originated many a practical joke, which set the community in a roar.


John William SOHN, long a resident of this city, is a native of Windsheim, formerly a free city of Germany, but now a part of Bavaria, where he was born on the 23d of May, 1815. Windsheim was one of the numerous cities which formerly composed the Hanseatic league, retaining its independence until the conclusion of the wars of Napoleon, when it was annexed to Bavaria, being confirmed to that state by the treaty of Vienna. It has a beautiful location, being surrounded by vine-clad hills; the town itself is defended by strong stone walls, and its appearance is at once antique and beautiful. Its attractions are still further enhanced by a promenade on the top of the wall, which gives a fine view of the distant hills. Mr. SOHN's parents were Wilhelm Ludwig SOHN and Catherine DAEHNER. Without being possessed of wealth, they were able to give their children good educations. There was an excellent Latin school and gymnasium in Windsheim and until the lad was seventeen years of age he steadily attended them, making good progress. His father, whose trade was that of a brewer, lived the city, and also carried on a vineyard, and with him the son began learning the mystery of the vine—how to plant, prune, and cultivate it, and finally to express its juice and change it to wine. At seventeen he became an apprentice to his father as a cooper and brewer, and served two years diligently at this trade, but when nineteen concluded to remove to America. At the time Charles X was dethroned in France, and was succeeded by Louis Phillippe, the revolutionary ideas then inculcated had an extensive currency in Germany. Secret societies were formed in the colleges and among friends, and the doctrines of the rights of man were assiduously studied. The events of this period made a strong impression upon Mr. SOHN, and much was then to be heard of America. Many of the German soldiers who fought under the British ensign in the Revolutionary War had settled not far from where he was born, and many old men still lingered who recounted their exploits in America, and told how fertile its land was and more recent travelers had made known the ease with which a livelihood could here be obtained. From Alsace and Lorraine an emigration had sprung up immediately after the pacification of Europe, in 1815, and those who came over sent letters back to their friends more than confirming the stories they had previously heard. Mr. SOHN determined to cast in his lot with us, and embarked for our shores, at Bremen, in 1834, landing at Baltimore. He came west on foot, with an occasional ride on a canalboat. In Hamilton, which he reached in November, 1834, he finally found employment at chopping wood at twenty-five cents a cord. After a little he went to work in a brewery, and then in a pork-house, and after nearly a year went to Cincinnati, working as a brewer, remaining there three years. Returning to Hamilton in June, 1839, he bought a small brewery with the saving of his previous labor. The business gradually extended, and his sales became larger, until in 1846 he embarked also in tanning. This enterprise assumed extensive proportions, and he now has two large tanneries, one in Hamilton and in Pike County. As a convenience to those who dealt with him, he also opened a leather findings store. His brewery does a large business, and he is also extensively engaged in the manufacture of malt for other brewers. He has the largest vineyard in Butler County, and has had great success in the growing of native wines. To these he adds the packing of pork, in which he does the largest business n the county, and is interested with two of his sons-in-law in the manufacture of the Universal Wood-working Machine, which is the invention of the young men, and is of very decided utility in the manufacture of scroll and other kinds wood-sawing and dressing. He is also a farmer, having a great deal of land that he owns, and has cultivated under his own instruction. He is a director of the First National Bank, and for fifteen years was president of the Hamilton Insurance Company.

In 1840 he was married to Miss Catherine ROSENFELD, a native of Saxony, and daughter of Rev. Charles Ernst ROSENFELD, pastor of the German Lutheran and Reformed Church of Hamilton. Mr. ROSENFELD was born in 1779, at Koenigsberg, and came to this country in 1836, first settling in Chillocothe. In 1838 he came to Hamilton. His wife, Anna Barbara SCHMIDT, was born in 1801 at Koenigsberg, and died in Eichelsdorf, in Saxony, in 1834, before he came here. He possessed an excellent education, and loved to impart knowledge. Shortly after arriving in this country he opened up a school for Germans, which was the first ever held here in their native language. An excellent musician, he taught both the piano and organ, and gave instruction to the member of a brass band organized soon after his arrival. It was difficult at that time to get music especially arranged for brass instruments. Mr. ROSENFELD took the piano score, arranged the various parts for each performer, wrote them out with his own hand, and taught each man how to use his own instrument. He understood the method of performing on every of modern date, and on some reached a degree of excellence. Among his treasures was a violin presented to him by Carl Maria VON WEBER, the author of "Der Freyschutz," when they were both young and were intimate companions. This instrument is not preserved with religious care by his daughter, Mrs. SOHN. Mr. ROSENFELD was also a musical author. He furnished the melodies to many popular airs, and in some cases wrote both the words and music. He had a prodigious bas voice, and none who ever heard him sing "A mighty fortress is our God" will ever forget it. His acquirements were not limited to books and music. He was the first gardener of his day in this neighborhood. All plants and vegetables were understood by him, and he knew the art of coaxing the reluctant earth to yield up its fruits. His example was highly beneficial to his countrymen, and indeed to all the dwellers in this neighborhood who kept a garden. His kindness to those weaker and less informed than himself was great. He wrote letters to Germany for his flock, carried on legal correspondence, acted as trustee and guardian, and decided disputes, all without fee or reward. He received no compensation for teaching the brass band, nor would he accept any thing for the favors he bestowed upon those around him. He died in 1855. He had six children, Ernst Ludwig, Philipp Albrecht, Katharina Barbara, Johann Christian, Carolina Barbara, and Catharina, all of whom have died, excepting the two last named.

Mr. and Mrs. SOHN have had nine children, three sons and six daughters, all of whom, save two named hereafter, are living. Caroline, the eldest, is married to Captain William C. MARGEDANT, of the firm of Bentel, Margedant & Co., manufacturers of the Universal Wood-worker mentioned above. The house does a large business. Wilhelmina, the second child, is the wife of Frederick BENTEL, of the same firm. Augusta, the third was the wife of William F. DOEPKE, a prominent dry goods merchant of Cincinnati, but died n February, 1881. William G.P. SOHN, the fourth child is the husband of Charlotte SLARB, and is now living in Hamilton. He is a successful tanner. Charles E. is the fifth, and Christian SOHN is the sixth. He received a collegiate education in Germany, and is now living in California. Adelheid died 1879. Leonora and Alma are living with their parents in Hamilton.

Mr. SOHN is a Republican, and has been a leader of the party for many years. During the war he vigorously advocated its prosecution. His first vote was cast for Martin VAN BUREN, and he adhered to the Democratic party till the war. Since then he has been a staunch supporter of the unity of the nation. His first political office was that of member of the city council. He was a member of the school board that introduced the union school system in Hamilton, and supported the measure with all his ability. In the two bodies last mentioned he has frequently been a member. In 1846 he was elected county commissioner, and held the office for three years. In 1872, in common with many other Republicans, he became dissatisfied with the conduct of affairs by General GRANT and his friends, and he saw the imperative need there was a change. The supporters of Horace GREELY nominated Mr. SOHN for the position of member of Congress, and that nomination was indorsed by the Democracy, although he had for many years been opposed to them. Unfortunately, he was defeated.

Since his arrival here he has been the leading German citizen of the town. Few public enterprises have been begun in which he has no taken part, and of nearly all those in which the Germans are concerned he has been the originator. He was instrumental in organizing the first benevolent society of his countrymen in Cincinnati, in 1836, which is still in existence. The first German singing society which was organized in Cincinnati was begun by him. It served for many years as the choir of St. John's Church, and helped much to promote the acquaintance of members with each other. He was its first president. For many years he has been president of the United German Society, which has done much to aid and improve those who come here from the Rhine and the Danube.

Mr. SOHN is still busily experimenting in matters tending to promote the prosperity of the human race. For the last five years he has been testing the effects of sowing grain in heaped up ridges, answering the same purpose that hilling corn does. It increases the production, renders cultivation more easy, and checks the injuries both of drought and flood. In addition to the thing itself, he has discovered the way to do it. A machine invented by him drops the grain and makes the furrow and ridge at the same operation. He truly deserves the credit to be given to him "who makes two spears of grain to grow where one grew before." The principle is that the seed is planted in raised up ridges of mellow earth. Under the ordinary plan the seed is planted near the hard pan, and low down. In wet weather the water accumulates and soaks upon it, and in dry weather it's the place soonest dry and most liable to be affected in drought. Under the new and improved system invented by Mr. SOHN the plant germinates in soft kindly soil. The roots reach out in every direction, unaffected by hard clods of earth or by hard pan. The earth is porous and allows the greater portion of the rain to be drained immediately off, while its cellular condition, like that of a sponge, retains a very considerable portion of moisture, even in the dryest season. The sun and air strike the soil, and as the greatest portion of plant food is derived from the atmosphere, progress can not fail to be rapid. Experiments tried on farms in this neighborhood prove that increased crops are gained, varying in corn from five to twenty-five bushels per acre, and in proportion in wheat, barley, and other grains.