By Richard N. Piland
It was surprising to learn recently that there was an earlier Butler County Historical Society. On June 14, 1901, a call was issued to people interested in forming a historical society to attend a June 18 meeting held at the county courthouse. At that first meeting officers and directors were elected and several committees were formed to develop a constitution, secure meeting space and lobby for the support of county commissioners.
Officers elected to serve through January 1, 1902 included Constantine Markt, president; Alston Ellis, 1st vice president; Dan Millikin, 2nd vice-president; William C. Miller, treasurer; Bert S. Bartlow, recording secretary; and Stephen D. Cone, historian and corresponding secretary. The nine directors elected were Allen Andrews, Homer Gard, Richard Brown, Herbert E. Twitchell, W. H. Harr, W. L. Tobey, L. E. Grennan, R. W. McFarland and Riley Shepherd. At the next meeting on July 3, the group voted to adopt the constitution and by-laws as prepared by Riley Shepherd, Bert Bartlow and Allen Andrews.
The six men who signed the Articles of Incorporation for the society on July 6 were Alston Ellis, Samuel L. Rose, Stephen D. Cone, Bert S. Bartlow, William C. Miller, and Constantine Markt. Herbert E. Twitchell also signed the documents, but his name was crossed off for some unknown reason. The six incorporators appeared before H. H. Haines, a Butler County notary public, to affirm their signatures. John L. Hoffman Jr., Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas, witnessed the documents on October 15, 1901, and the articles were filed with the Ohio Secretary of State on November 26, 1902.
The Articles of Incorporation stated the following as the purpose of the organization: This society is formed for the purpose of promoting a knowledge of history, archeology, and kindred subjects of Butler County by establishing and maintaining a library of books, manuscripts, maps, charts, etc., properly pertaining thereto; a museum of prehistoric and pioneer relics and natural or other curiosities or specimens of art or nature promotive of the object of the association. Said library and museum to be open to the public at stated periods under the direction of the society, by courses of lectures and publication of papers and documents touching the subject so specified with power to receive and hold gifts and donations for the benefit of such society.
Unfortunately, the only other meeting of the society found during my research was a short session held on July 27, 1901 during an excessive heat wave with temperatures as high as 107˚. The group indicated there would be a program of historical papers presented at the society’s next meeting, however my reading of the Daily Republican News, the Daily Democrat, and the weekly Hamilton Telegraph papers published from June 1, 1901 through March 1, 1902, did not locate when or even if the meeting took place. There are no other records about the organization, when, if ever, it held other meetings or what, if anything, it accomplished. The only record relating to this first Butler County Historical Society held by the Ohio Secretary of State notes that the organization was canceled for lack of a statement of continued existence on March 31, 1963, some 29 years after our current society began meeting in 1934 (our date of incorporation was December 22, 1948).
The six men who formed the first Butler County Historical Society were community leaders of such stature that it is surprising the organization was not continued. Here is a brief portrait of each of the initial founders of that first BCHS.
Alston Ellis (1847-1920) was born in Covington, Kentucky. He taught for a year before moving to Ohio to attend Miami University. Ellis served as superintendent of the Hamilton public schools for 13 years during two terms, from 1871 to 1879 and again from 1887 to 1892. Between his two appointments in Hamilton, he headed the Sandusky, Ohio public schools. He left his Hamilton position in 1892 to become president of Colorado State Agricultural College in Fort Collins, serving there until 1899. He returned to Ohio and assumed the presidency of Ohio University in Athens from 1901 until his death in 1920. Ellis earned bachelor’s (1867) and master’s (1872) degrees at Miami University, and doctor of philosophy degrees from the College of Wooster (1879) and Ohio State University (1888), as well as a doctor of laws degree from Ohio State (1890).
Samuel L. Rose (1865-1903), seen at the left, was another academically- oriented man. He was born in Union Township and graduated from Lebanon Normal University. Prior to serving as principal of Hamilton’s Fourth Ward School from 1889 to 1894, Rose had worked as a teacher at the Oak Hill School, was appointed deputy treasurer for the Butler County clerk of courts, and served one year as the principal of the Venice (Ross) School. He resigned his position in the Hamilton schools in 1894 to become editor and business manager of the Hamilton Daily Democrat newspaper but returned to the district to serve as district superintendent from 1895 until his death in 1903 from what the doctor called “brain exhaustion.” Rose was credited with creating a better high school curriculum that allowed students to take either a classical or scientific business course of study.
Stephen D. Cone (1840-1922) attended the Nathan Furman School at Third and Dayton streets and then the Hamilton public schools. He started a career in journalism by becoming an apprentice at the Hamilton Intelligencer newspaper in 1859. After serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, Cone became the business manager of the Butler County Democrat in 1876 and wrote a series of 17 articles for the paper on “The Early Condition of This Valley.” He operated a printing office in Hamilton from 1879 to 1884. From 1885 to 1891 he was editor of the Oxford Citizen and during 1886 to 1889 served on the Oxford Board of Education. Cone also served a two year term from 1889 to 1891 on the Oxford Town Council. He was one of the primary organizers of the Butler County Centennial held in 1903. Cone wrote the two-volume History of Hamilton (1791-1902) and was one of the editors and writers of the Centennial History of Butler County (1905).
Bert S. Bartlow (1869-1919) was born in Franklin County, Indiana. In 1888 he entered Miami University where he edited and served as the business manager of the Miami Student newspaper from 1891 to 1893. Bartlow earned a Bachelor or Arts degree in Political Science in 1894. He was a clerk of the Deputy State Supervisors of Elections for 1894 to 1898 and represented Butler County in the Ohio Legislature during 18981901. While in Columbus, he worked successfully to get the general assembly to enact the creation of the Hamilton Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument Committee in 1898. Bartlow was an editor of the Butler County Press and the Hamilton Evening Sun and worked to organize the Butler County Centennial of 1903. He was also one of the editors and writers of the Centennial History of Butler County (1905).
Constantine Markt (1832-1909) was born in the Kingdom of Württemberg, Germany. He graduated from the Eclectic Medical College in Cincinnati in 1858 and immediately established a practice in Hamilton. He was a successful physician who served as president of the Ohio Medical Association and was an active member of the Butler County Medical Society. His medical practice was so consuming that he decided to purchase a drugstore on Third Street in 1869 and maintained his city practice but curtailed his service to rural areas. He served on the Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers’ Monument Committee in 1897 and worked to organize the Butler County Centennial celebration of 1903. He served ten years as secretary for the Lane Free Library Board of Trustees. His wife, Josephine Carpenter Markt, was a founder and charter member of the Children’s Home for many years. His daughter Addie was the wife of Edward Sohngen, a popular Hamilton merchant.
William C. Miller (1847-1905) was also born in the Kingdom of Württemberg, Germany. He attended Hamilton’s public schools and graduated from the Miami Medical College in Cincinnati in 1877. Miller returned to Hamilton in 1879 and purchased a drugstore on the southwest corner of Main and B streets from Barton S. James. He was a member of the Butler County Medical Society and a trustee of the Lane Free Library Board from 1892 to 1899. Miller was one of the first to suggest having a centennial celebration for Hamilton in 1891. He also worked to organize the Butler County Centennial of 1903. Miller’s first wife was Erin A. Corwin, daughter of pioneer Jesse Corwin , and his second wife was Mary Symmes Hunter, a niece of President William Henry Harrison and a granddaughter of Celadon Symmes, who was a nephew of John Cleves Symmes, the man who made the “Miami Purchase.”