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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

History Of Kings Mills Dates Back To 1799

Dallas Bogan on 23 July 2004
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland: Heritage Press, 1979) page 120
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Kings Mills is a small town, which lies in Deerfield Township and goes almost unnoticed except by its residents. The town has a rather long and unique history, which dates back to 1799, when William Wood built a gristmill on the bank of the Little Miami River. We shall now at this time review the history of this fine town as seen by one of its late residents, Constance Witt.
Elva Adams (since deceased), former director of the Warren County Historical Society, planned a project to go out into the communities of Warren County and set up interviews with different individuals to preserve the histories of these communities. A committee consisting of Miriam Lukens, Chairman, Constance Witt and Alma Kintzel was chosen to develop the undertaking. An enormous work was done and these works are preserved in the Warren County Museum.
Constance Witt grew up in Kings Mills. After spending her adult life teaching in Cincinnati, she retired in Kings Mills. Her father, George Edwin Witt, was a multi- talented man. In 1903, he worked in Cincinnati on Eighth Street in a buggy and carriage shop, receiving 11 cents an hour. Among his many skills was that of a painter, cornet and slide trombone player. He sought employment through the Kings Powder Company, and as Providence would have it, Percy Bolmer, who was the cornet player in the band, passed away, which left an opening for Witt in the band. He was hired as musician and also as a painter for the company.
Mr. Witt moved to Kings Mills in 1903. He had previously married Christine Weis of Maineville. Both were to spend the rest of their lives in Kings Mills or Maple Park, a subdivision of the town. Christine Witt died in 1929 at the age of 48, and Mr. Witt died in 1975 at the age of 96.
Witt's paint shop was located down the hill from the Cliff Hotel along the river road. Its location was in a cool shady spot where "long stemmed violets grew in the spring." The Cliff Hotel was located at the top of the hill on the corner. It was a two-story building with sixteen rooms, eight on the first floor and eight on the second. The dining room and kitchen were in the basement.
The Manse was a building on College Street, located between Church and Miami Streets. It was a rather long building similar to a row of condominiums, except that it was all painted the same color.
The church was the gathering place for all the community. Revered Spindler was the minister; Mr. John Wilson was the Sunday School Superintendent; and his daughter Margaret was a teacher. Mr. Witt was the choir director and also joined in the singing. Mrs. Witt was Constances' Sunday school teacher, and when Constance moved to another class, she took her teacher with her. Witt, among his other professions, was also local librarian. The post office was located in the lower part of the library at that time. Ida Cline and Margaret Wilson were postmistresses.
The library had an auditorium upstairs with a stage and a balcony. The entertainment included class plays, the Lyceum Course, minstrel shows, and, of course, picture shows. Popcorn, as now, was always sold to the patrons. The rattling of the paper bags was quite noticeable until this delicacy was all gone.
The shows had no voice sounds; the words appeared below the picture. Occasionally someone could be heard reading the lines out loud to a possible non-reader. Constance related one event to Mrs. Lukens. She said:
"Occasionally the show must have been 'scary' because one evening I rushed across the street to our home afterwards, hurried through the dark living room and ran into the glass in the bookcase. From that time on, we could get the books out of the bookcase without opening the door."
Kings Mills had a bandstand, which was located behind the library. The brass band practiced in the building or on the roof (which had a railing) in the summer evenings. One special occasion at Music Hall in Cincinnati found the band marching down the aisle playing "The Stars and Stripes Forever." The spirit of the band instilled a spark into the other bands and all joined in playing the gallant marching tune. The occasion was a memorable one.
The school housed all grades from first through high school. Constance graduated in 1925, there being only six in the class. With this small number, they could all jump into a classmate's Ford and drive to their class outing.
The barbershop was located in one room of the house on the corner of King Avenue and Miami Street. A room addition was later added below for the barber facilities. It was later moved to the old traction depot. Popcorn and hot roasted peanuts were served across the street. Mr. Trimble prepared this delicacy and charged five cents a bag.
Other points of interest were the Kings Powder Company office, located down the hill. Farther down were the buildings for charcoal and sulfur, as well as a little building on the right of the steps, which housed paint.
The keg shop and mills were along the race and river road. The Peters Cartridge Company buildings were just across the river. The magazines where powder was stored was located on Magazine Hill.
Recess at school meant playtime. One of the favorite games of the children was a rugged game of "prisoner's base." Choosing sides was very important. Helen and Mahlon Wood were generally chosen first because they could run the fastest.
Some more of the memories of Constance were that a circus was staged in her back yard. Her brother, Byron, had a goat and wagon.
Mr. Witt built Constance and her sister, Geneva, a dollhouse. He built a teeter-tooter, and also what they called a trapeze. Skating was allowed on the new sidewalks, but never on Sunday.
When the Witt family moved to Maple Park, the kids had a bicycle to ride to school, although the one-mile trip was made most of the time on foot.
Miss West and Mrs. Harbaugh formed a hiking club in high school. Anyone hiking one- hundred miles during the school year received a felt emblem.
The Fourth of July was celebrated in those days much the same as today. Firecrackers, flowerpots, sparklers, and "snakes in the grass" were much in accord for the grand celebration. Witt lighted and held the Roman candles. Care was taken in lighting the various fireworks and no injuries were reported.
Halloween, Valentines's Day, and Christmas were all exciting times for the children. Christmas time found the family gathering around the piano, all joining in the singing. The family had their own orchestra. Geneva played the violin; Byron played the drums; Witt played the cornet or slide trombone; and Constance played the piano. Mother was the audience.
Winter evenings, when the snow and ice were just right, found the children gathering around Mr. Harry Misel, a neighbor, who owned a bobsled. The gates at the bottom of the hill would be opened, and the length of King Avenue would be just enough space to gather up enough speed to conquer the hill. Around the Cliff Hotel they would travel and down through the opening. Constance was the youngest and therefore got to ride in front of Harry, who would steer the sled.
A family of any size in those days would have to economize. Witt resoled the shoes; a large garden was utilized in addition to picking strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and robbing the fruit trees. Canning was a necessary chore for Mrs. Witt. Byron joined in and gathered hickory nuts and walnuts. Apples were bought by the barrel; chickens were raised; the hunting season brought many delicacies; Mrs. Witt baked pies, cakes and bread. Butchering was a necessity when the weather cooled. The cured hams were hung in the cellar and lard was made. Ice was cut from the river and stored in sawdust for the summer months. The iceman knew the quantity consumed by the family and brought it in a large block for the icebox. Pieces would be left in the wagon to melt, and, with consent from the iceman; the assembled children would consume the small scraps.
Traveling merchants were rather thickly populated in those days. A meat wagon came from Brewster's butcher shop in Mason. Mrs. Witt would choose and order the family's choice of meats, which were delivered to the door. The dogs, which possibly knew the timetable of the meat wagon, gathered and all the trimmings were thrown to them. Mr. Nunner, a storeowner in Hopkinsville, drove a covered wagon filled with groceries to Kings Mills.
Among other traveling merchants was a man who came around and fixed umbrellas; one sharpened scissors; another carried a huge pack of clothes for sale strapped to his back. Also included was a woman who sold men's hose, and a roving photographer who captured the early family in a retrospective pose.
The traction car was available to go to Cincinnati or Lebanon. During World War I, the baggage car of the traction line was used to transport laundry to Cincinnati and back. Witt collected the laundry, mostly from the hotel. A system was set up which included the making out of a slip for each bundle. He, Mrs. Witt and Aunt Rose Ford, did the work in the Witt's kitchen on King Avenue. The laundry was transported by traction car and returned washed, ironed and neatly wrapped.
Constance would often take a train to Foster. She had to walk down the hill to the station, board the train, make the trip, and was met in Foster by her grandfather with his horse and buggy for the ride to Maineville.
Electricity, being unavailable in this day and time, meant excessive labor. Promptly on Monday mornings Mr. and Mrs. Witt got up at four o'clock and heated the boiler of water on the coal stove. A bar of Tag soap had been previously cut up in the water the night before. Mr. Witt routinely turned the machine and emptied the water before going to work.
Clothing irons were heated on the stove. The Witts had a large iron that burned charcoal.
The icebox was used constantly, but food was sometimes covered and set on the cellar floor to keep cool. Hand sweepers were used; rugs were put outside on a line and beaten with a carpet beater.
When someone passed away, the casket was placed in the home before the church service and a wreath was put on the front of the house.
Another type sign was a quarantine sign. If it was placed on the front door of a home, this meant that a contagious disease such as scarlet fever was present, and visitors were requested not to linger.
Such is the story of a dedicated historian, Constance Witt, who found time to compose the history of a family and a town.

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