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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

The Tiny County Village Of Foster Is Recalled

Dallas Bogan on 26 July 2004
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland: Heritage Press, 1979) page 135
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Foster lies in Hamilton and Deerfield Townships, with the Little Miami River bisecting it. Roads that lead to it are the Old Three C Highway, the Fosters-Maineville Road, the Socialville-Fosters and the Davis roads.
The once booming town was named after the Foster family. James H. Foster came to the area in 1841 or 1842 and built a mill and hotel on the east side of the river. The hotel was named the "22 Mile Stand," it being located 22 miles from Cincinnati. James was considered the leading merchant of the town until his retirement in 1865.
A most unique event happened in the village of Foster on February 13, 1861. The presidential train of Abraham Lincoln passed through the town on its way to Columbus from Cincinnati, traveling on the historic Little Miami Railroad.
An early history of Foster, written in 1868, and inserted into The Western Star, points out that the turnpike and railroad crossings were located on the east side of the Little Miami. The article also states that forty-seven houses were grouped together at corners on both sides of the river. Twenty-seven of this total consisted of business houses and shops. There were three dry goods and grocery stores, a merchant tailoring house, two boot and shoe establishments, a first class boarding house, a grain depot, a flouring mill, a sawmill, a distillery, a railroad depot, a cooper shop, a blacksmith shop, five beer saloons, and a tollgate house. A quote is made that "of these saloons we have just five too many." There were two express offices, a post office, a telegraph office and a railroad ticket office.
The writer of the article that there were no schoolhouses or churches, but there were two day schools kept, and a Sabbath school makes mention. The day schools were allocated for the smaller children, and for those who were unlikely to walk one-and-a-half or two miles to the larger district school. One was a German school and the other American; ladies of the village taught each. The writer indicates that a visit had been made to the latter and it was well conducted. The Sabbath facility was a union school. Although small, the officers and teachers were determined to keep it up.
Foster's population, in 1868, was aggregated at 180. One hundred and five were German, fifty were American, and twenty-five were Irish. The German residents were an industrious and business type group. Most owned real estate and acquired a comfortable home with a few acres of ground.
A gristmill was located on the river and cut off about an acre of ground, which formed an island that incorporated three residential homes and a sawmill. The timbers of the covered bridge were framed on this island.
As we now continue our own story with respect to Foster, we find a Mr. M. Obergefell, a German immigrant, arriving from Cincinnati in 1865. He was a merchant tailor by trade and made clothes for the Civil War soldiers while a resident of the Queen City. He was the builder and proprietor of the "Liberty House," and lived next door. It was said that he could serve up a "square meal" and a "suit of clothes" in equal fashion. Earl Maag, a former resident, said there were stone cattle pens underneath the hillside building of the Liberty House. Maag's grandfather purchased the dance hall from Obergefell and renamed it Maag's Hall. The establishment continued in use for dancing until about 1930. Maag said dancing was mainly quadrilles and that German type bands and fiddlers performed.
According to the 1903 Warren County Atlas, Brazilla Clark is credited with building the first mill in Foster in 1806. Possibly the most significant resident of this quaint town was Governor Jeremiah Morrow. His gristmill was one of the foremost mills in the territory. (More on this mill in another article.) Augustus Hoppe was a miller for Jeremiah Morrow. He later purchased the Foster Mill from Seth Greely in 1886. The milling enterprise was a fruitful family business until January 1944, when a mill accident took the life of Edward Augustus Hoppe, son of the original proprietor.
The mill produced cake flour from soft winter wheat and supplied Lebanon and Cincinnati bakeries until its shutdown. It was said to have used a fine silk cloth to sift the flour so that in the end it was truly "as fine as silk." It also produced and distributed pancake four and cornmeal. The "Pride of Miami" was the mill's top brand. It also did custom grinding for families who brought in their wheat, corn, rye, barley and other grains used primarily for hog feed, as Warren County was one of the major suppliers of processed pork in early times. (The foundation of the old mill and much of the millrace is still in existence at this writing.)
Hoppe's Island was a get-away paradise in the 1920's and '30's. Families from near and far frequented the island paradise for entertainment as well as for relaxation purposes. The island is a physical protrusion into the Little Miami, it originally being formed by the millrace of Hoppe's mill. However, a portion of the millrace is gone and the formation of an island is no longer visible. Provisions of the entertainment circle included swimming, canoeing, picnicking, dancing, or perhaps just the place for a family gathering. Mrs. Bernice Hallam, daughter of Edward Augustus Hoppe, recalled that on Sundays it was impossible for visitors to reserve a picnic table unless at the premises as early as 5 a.m. Before the horseless carriage, many people drove their horse and buggies to the park. (The famed bandleader, Ace Brigode, owned and managed the park for a while, but afterward discontinued it.) After the death of Mr. Hoppe, in 1944, the island went into private ownership. It never again enjoyed the success it had between WW I and WW II.
Glenn and Vivian Irwin purchased the 30 by 50 structure which was, as was previously described, the historical Liberty Hall. The dwelling is located on the 13 1/2 acres, which was formerly the mill site and that of Hoppe's Island, now called Glenn Island. (The State purchased the grounds several years ago and transformed it into a public park.)
Travelers, in stagecoach days, crossed the river when traveling the old Montgomery, Hopkinsville and Wilmington Pike, now known as the Old 3 C Highway. They could not have envisioned that the progress of Foster would be put on the back burner because of the huge viaduct that would span the Little Miami many years later. The viaduct was started in October 1936, and completed October 1, 1938. For the readers who are interested in statistics, the bridge, at a cost of a half a million dollars, took over 90,000 man-hours to complete. Approximately 9000 cubic yards of concrete and 1,200,000 pounds of reinforcing steel were used in the structure. Six spans, varying in length from 155 to 175 feet, support the viaduct. The deepest concrete pier is securely anchored, its foundation being 27 feet below the water level. The mile and a quarter project, which includes its approaches, was unique due to the fact that it spanned three forms of transportation; water, rail and motor. At the center pier, the roadway stands slightly over 75 feet above the Little Miami River.
The post office name in Foster was changed three times, first Foster's Crossings, next Fosters, and lastly, Foster. "Foster's Crossings" first postmaster was Joseph T. Matthews, his tenure beginning October 27, 1859. Later postmasters and dates were: William S. Foster, 17 Nov 1863; Daniel K. Gordon, 13 Oct 1865; George W. Thompson, 7 Mar 1866; Albert A. Cooling, 18 Nov 1867; William W. Burroughs, 6 Jan 1874; and, lastly, George B. Fouche, 28 Aug 1883.
"Fosters" was the next selected name and was begun January 7, 1884, with George B. Fouche still retaining the position of postmaster. Peter B. Hall, 2 Feb 1887; and again, George B. Fouche, 10 May 1889, followed him.
The new name, "Foster," took effect June 7, 1893, with Jacob Englert as postmaster. Ernst Hoppe, 29 May 1897; Louise Hoppe, 18 Oct 1910; and John Maag, 8 July 1915, followed him.
A long-standing tribute to the past was the home of the "Blue Danube Tavern." Long before the turn of the century, it was a fashionable three-story hotel and restaurant. Earl Maag said his aunt, Theresa Englert, operated the building as a summer resort from 1892 to 1907. During the flood of 1913, a big log reportedly washed downstream and knocked out one end of the building. The old wooden bridge was also washed away in the flood. It retained the Blue Danube Tavern name from 1934 until the tavern was purchased in 1975 and completely remodeled. The building, which sits next to the new bridge structure (the George Terwilleger Bridge), is now known as "The Train Stop Inn."
The tavern, prior to its renovation, was known as "a jumping off spot for trouble." One former deputy sheriff said:
"As I remember it, Foster was a thriving little town, full of all kinds of fights and shootings. We never had many calls to the Blue Danube, but when we did, it was a good one."
The last few years saw a gradual decline in the one time prosperous village. As the older citizens moved on it left a vacancy that could not be filled as in olden days.

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