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Mrs. Elizabeth Hoel


Transcription contributed by Arne H Trelvik 27 Jun 2005

The History of Warren County Ohio
Part V. Biographical Sketches
Wayne Township
(Chicago, IL: W. H. Beers Co, 1882; reprint, Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, 1992)
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MRS. ELIZABETH HOEL, Waynesville, was born in Barnesville, Belmont Co., Ohio, July 9, 1842; is a daughter of Samuel P. Hunt, M. D., and Elizabeth (Thomas) Hunt, he a native of Pennsylvania and she of Belmont Co., Ohio. The grandfather, Seth Hunt, was a native of Pennsylvania, and a prominent and popular man of that day, and one who accumulated a large property, being quite wealthy at one time. Dr. Samuel P. was born June 4, 1802, and when young became a resident of Belmont Co., Ohio, where he, read medicine


under Dr. Hoover and became a practicing physician, of high character and popularity. He was a member of the convention called by Dr. Awl for the organization of the Ohio State Medical Association, which was ultimately merged into the " Ohio Medical Society," of which he is still a member; was elected one of the Vice Presidents of the society in 1860; was appointed a delegate to the American Medical Association at its meeting in Cincinnati, and again to its meeting at Louisville, in 1859. The Doctor was also appointed by the Legislature of Ohio as one of the State Medical Examiners to attend the commencement of the Ohio Medical College at Cincinnati, in March, 1862; and during the war, by order of the Sanitary Commission, went on board the steamer Tycoon to Memphis. Dr. Hunt located in Warren County in 1843, near where the town of Morrow now stands; was engaged as surgeon for the Little Miami Railroad Company, and performed the first case of surgery before the road was finished as far as Morrow, and retained this appointment till 1866, when he retired from practice and removed to Sterling, Ill., where he resided some eight or ten years; thence located in Richmond, Ind.; thence at Cincinnati, where he now resides, with two single daughters, in quiet retirement - now 79 years of age. Mr. and Mrs. Hunt were parents of eight children; six now survive - Thomas, Local Agent of the Canada Southern Railroad at Cincinnati; Eberle, Local Agent of same railroad at Lexington, Ky.; Elizabeth, Martha, Kate and Samuel (Assistant Superintendent of the Canada Southern Railroad). The subject of this sketch, the eldest daughter of Dr. Hunt, was united in marriage, Feb. 11, 1869, to Capt. William R. Hoel, a son of Edmond and Emiline Hoel. The father, Edmond Hoel, was an old and well-known Ohio River pilot. William Rion Hoel was born in Sharon, Butler Co., Ohio, March 7, 1824; after a short term at St. Xavier's College, in Cincinnati, he, at a very young age, went on board the steamer Congress to "learn the river," under instructions of his father. "The boy was father to the man" in this as in other instances, and such was his application and assiduity, that in the remarkably short time of eighteen months be was "standing watch" for himself. Young William followed the vicissitudes and hardships of piloting in those early days of Ohio River navigation with a persistence and continuity characteristic of him until he was complete master of his profession, and there was no break between him and his career as pilot until 1861, at which time the war began, and he entered the service, still a pilot, at St. Louis. This position was soon resigned for that of First Master on the iron-clad gunboat Cincinnati; then he became Executive Officer on the flagship Benton; then, when the Eastport was built, he- became Executive Officer of that vessel; then took command of the Pittsburg, and after this commanded the ram Vindicator, as A. V. L. Lieutenant Commander. For gallantry at Island No. 10, he was promoted to Lieutenant, and, after the fight at Grand Gulf Lieut. Hoel was made Lieutenant Commander, an honor never before conferred upon a volunteer in the whole previous history of the U. S. Navy. While in command of the Pittsburg, he gallantly led the fight at Grand Gulf. He afterward was assigned to the Vindicator, of which he retained command until the close of the war. It was at the famous running of the blockade, at Island No. 10, however, that Commander Hoel won his most conspicuous laurels for dauntless daring and executive ability. Those who were cotemporaries with the occurrences of those days will readily recall the heroic action; but later generations may require a brief description: On the morning of April 4, 1863, Commodore Foote began making preparations for running the blockade, and Commander H. Walker's vessel, the Carondelet, was chosen for the important duty. At that time Capt. Dick Wade was Executive Officer of the Carondelet, but Capt. Hoel volunteered to act in his stead on this occasion, saying to Capt. Wade, "You have a family, while I have none," and

bales of hay was lashed to its side; coils of chain plank of a dismantled barge, cord-wood, etc., were also used for protection against the possible attacks of the enemy. An eleven-inch hawser was coiled around the pilot-house as high as the windows, and other precautions suggested by the circumstances were taken to guard the vessel during her perilous trip past the fortress. Mr. C. B. Boynton, in his sketches of "Service of the Navy," speaks of this remarkable achievement, which he styles, "a work which only bold. and brave men could perform," as follows: "At 10 o'clock the moon had gone down and the sky, the land and river were alike hidden in the black shadow of the thunder-cloud, which had now spread itself over all the heavens. The time seemed opportune for starting; the order was given; the lines were cast off, and, with her barge of hay on one side and another with coal on the starboard side, the gunboat rounded out heavily and slowly and laid her course down the river. In order to avoid the puffing sound of the high pressure engine, the escape steam was conducted into the wheel-house, where its harsh voice was muffled - a device which probably led to their discovery by the fire from the chimneys. For half a mile everything went smoothly and quietly, and all thought they might succeed in passing the batteries unobserved, when suddenly a bright steady flame rose several feet high from both chimneys, and for a moment the steamer appeared to be carrying aloft two immense torches to light her on her way. Her upper decks and all about her brightened for a moment in the red glare. Strange as it appears, what was deemed by all a very serious accident, which would bring upon them at once the enemy's fire, caused no movement in the hostile batteries. When nearly opposite the upper fort the chimneys again took fire, and then at once the sentinels there gave the alarm to the fort below. Signal rockets were sent up both from the mainland and the island, and a cannon shot came from Fort No. 2. It was evident that the alarm was now general. Not a shot, however, came from the upper battery, and this showed how thoroughly its dangerous guns had been silenced by the bold men who had landed and spiked them. This and the drifting away of the floating battery had much to do with the safety of the Carondelet. But one course was now possible for the officers of the gunboat. The vessel was at once put under a full head of steam, and was urged on at her utmost speed, for the rebels were now making swift preparations at every gun which could be brought to bear. She was exposed to the fire of forty-seven guns. The storm was then at its height, and its fearful character, which would have been dangerous at any other time, was welcomed as increasing the chances of escape. The darkness was so intense as to shut out earth and heaven alike, except as lighted for an instant by the lightning's glare, or the flame of the cannon. The gleam and roar of the guns of the batteries could scarcely be distinguished from the flash and the thunder of the cloud. The fires of heaven and earth were so mingled that none could tell whether the dock was shaken by the explosion above or the cannon below. The rain fell in the sweeping torrents of a summer shower. Shot and shell, and rifle and musket balls, sang, shrieked and roared around them, so as to be heard above the storm. Each flash of lightning revealed the rebels, loading, training and firing their guns as the boat came within range. The steamer could also be seen for a moment, but as she was moving swiftly with the current, it was nearly impossible to get her range, and it was evident that only a chance shot would strike her. Most of the shot and shell flew high above her, because the alterations of light and darkness were so rapid as to deceive the gunners in regard to the gunboat's position. She was much nearer to them than they thought, and they fired, therefore, at a wrong elevation. The boat was kept as close to the shore as she
could safely run, where, indeed, it would have been difficult to depress their guns so as to strike her, even had she been plainly seen. At this point their greatest danger was not from the batteries. The current was not only rapid, but it shifted from side to side with the sharp curves of the stream, and bars ran out from either shore. The intense darkness prevented the pilots from knowing the exact position of the boat, and they could learn it only as they caught glimpses of the shore by the flashes of lightning. On the forecastle the lead was kept going and the depth of the water was constantly reported. Yet with every precaution, and in spite of watchfulness, the steamer was often in peril. It contributed largely to her safety that she had on board Capt. Hoel, First Master of the Cincinnati, who had been engaged in navigating the Mississippi for more than twenty years. This gentleman stood on the deck, exposed to the double shower of rain and bullets, and watching for each momentary revelation which the lightning made, gave directions for steering the boat. The gleam of the lightning, the frequent report of the soundings, and his intimate knowledge of localities, enabled Capt. Hoel to judge correctly, in the main, of the gunboat's position. Once, however, during the passage, she was in imminent danger of being lost. The steamboat and her barges presented, of course, a very large surface to the current, and this gave her occasionally a heavy sheer. In the darkness and the blinding rush of the storm, these could not always, on the instant, be noticed. Caught at one time by the swift stream, she was drifting toward a dangerous bar, where she would have grounded under the guns of the batteries, when a broad flash lit up the river, and it had hardly faded before the sharp, twice repeated, "hard-a-port" rang through the boat.. She obeyed her helm and regained the current just in time to save her. Three miles below, the floating battery, which had grounded there, fired a few harmless shots, and then the peril was over, and exulting cheers burst from the crew and the soldiers, signal guns were fired announcing their safety to the fleet above, and soon the gunboat rounded to at New Madrid, and was welcomed by cheers and bonfires, and every possible demonstration of joy." Capt. Hoel was. first married to Miss Mary Riley, daughter of Mr. Daniel Riley, of Cincinnati; the offspring of this marriage, which, although brief, was an exceedingly happy one, was one child, which died in infancy. In 1855, Capt. Hoel made a balloon. ascension with Mons. Godard. The aerial excursion started from Cincinnati and terminated at night, three miles south of Waynesville, on the farm of George E. Smith. Mr. Smith extended the hospitalities of his mansion to the stranded and more or less damaged sky navigators. Capt. Hoel, becoming infatuated, with the beauty and fertility of the Little Miami Valley, bought a farm two, miles east of Waynesville, which he christened " Kildere." In 1867, he formed one of a party who visited Europe and the Holy Land in the Quaker City. Capt Hunt[sic],by his last wife, Miss Elizabeth Hunt, had two children, Sarah Elizabeth, born Dec. 18, 1869, and Rion, born Sept. 15, 1871. For several years after the war he abandoned the river and devoted his time to improving: and beautifying his home, which he spared neither care nor generous expenditure of money to render such a place as his best conception of a home should be. Yet his active temperament could not endure the uninterrupted seclusion of rustic life for many years with out, at times, pining for the bustling career he had left behind him, and in 1877, being tendered the command of the Lighthouse Service, he accepted and was put in command of the Light-house steamer, Lily. At first his duty lay from Pittsburgh to New Orleans; but when the service was revised he plied between Pittsburgh and Cairo. Faithful service characterized his command in this as in all previous positions, and a material. reduction in the expenses of the Government was made by his judicious and economical management. This engagement was only terminated by death
He died May 23, 1879, from the effects of a pistol shot. His home was a beautiful place; and there, in the smiles and caresses of his children, the austerities of his aquatic career dissolved as snow in the presence of sunshine; and no children were more fondly beloved and tenderly cared for than those who brightened and made merry his hilltop retreat. Capt. Hoel perished while yet in the prime of vigorous manhood, when it seemed he could have defied death in its most resistless form, while all his faculties and forces were at their zenith, and he will continue to be mourned as only heroes and kindly hearts can be lamented, by hosts of friends who honored him while living, and cherish and keep evergreen by their tears the laurels that bestrow his untimely grave. His dust lies beside that of his youthful bride and that of their infant child, in Spring Grove Cemetery. A handsome memorial window in St, Mary's Episcopal Church, Waynesville, bears this inscription: " In memory of a noble man: William Rion Hoel, one of the founders of this Church; died May 23, 1879." Mrs. Hoel still resides upon the home-place, where she has a beautiful location, on a high and pleasant elevation, with all the comforts and conveniences constituting a pleasant home and residence.

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This page created 27 Jun 2005 and last updated 15 August, 2009
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