The Michael J. Colligan History Project will continue its public history series focusing on “American Wars & American Life.”
- Sept. 9, Witnessing the War on Terror in American Culture, 7:30 p.m., Harry T. Wilks Conference Center. John E. Bodnar, Distinguished Professor of History at Indiana University and Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer, explores encounters with mass violence that horribly rupture people’s lives and extraordinary efforts to heal them, highlighting the trauma and pain caused by the 9/11 attacks and experiencing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
- Sept. 30, Reconciling and Reuniting the Nation: How Americans Have Remembered the Civil War, 7:30 p.m., Harry T. Wilks Conference Center. Caroline E. Janney, Professor of History at Purdue University, Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer, and President of the Society of Civil War Historians, discusses reuniting and reconciling the nation after the American Civil War, how civilians, veterans, women and U.S. Colored Troops understood that war, and how its meanings changed in later centuries.
- Nov. 10, World War I and the Modern American Woman, 7:30 p.m., Harry T. Wilks Conference Center. Lynn Dumenil, Robert Glass Cleland Professor of American History Emerita at Occidental College and Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer, shares popular visual imagery of American women during World War I that reveals a key issue of women’s history: the rise of the modern “new woman.” Learn how media attention to women who were engaged in war service at home and abroad helped consolidate the perception of a “new woman” who challenged boundaries that had previously restricted women’s lives.
- April 5, Ernie Pyle & Americans at War, Jim Blount History Educator Award Lecture, 7:30 p.m., Harry T. Wilks Conference Center. James Tobin, Professor of Media, Journalism and Film at Miami University, considers the famous journalist Ernie Pyle as the nation’s eyewitness to World War II, who as its most popular war correspondent left a lasting imprint on the way Americans perceive that war, all U.S. wars since, and the image of the American soldier.
The Michael J. Colligan History Project is a partnership of the Colligan Fund Committee of the Hamilton Community Foundation and Miami University Hamilton. Its goals are bringing the past to life, creating historical thinking, and building community identity. For more information call (513) 785-3277 or visit www.colliganproject.org. Miami University Hamilton is located at 1601 University Blvd.
The program is free to the public and highlights many of the wedding dresses worn by members of prominent area families including the Woods, Becketts, Fittons, Flenners, Griesmers, and Neilans. A reception will follow the talk.
Butler created her presentation as a special program based on the exhibit she and her intern Marcus Gray developed for the society. The exhibit, which runs through December 31, shows how brides, grooms and their families celebrated their nuptial days for over 150 years. It features 18 wedding dresses including bridal veils as well as the attire for members of their wedding party including the groom, maid-of-honor and flower girl.
The highlight of Butler’s talk is the dress and veil first worn by Mary Woods when she married Cyrus Falconer on October 8, 1839. “Family records indicate that this particular dress was worn by at least three brides and the veil used by eight brides between 1839 and 1990,” she said. “I greatly enjoyed learning about all of the families and telling the stories of the brides who wore the dresses.”
The Butler County Historical Society, located at 327 North Second Street, Hamilton, is a private non-profit formed in 1934 to preserve and interpret the county’s rich heritage. It owns and operates the Benninghofen House, a high-Italian style home built in 1863 that is filled with the furnishings of a wealthy family during the Victorian Era. The society is open to the public Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Group tours of the Benninghofen House Museum can be arranged by calling 896-9930.
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The Butler County Historical Society exhibits more than 150 years of fashion tied to the weddings of local families. “Reality and Fantasy: 150 Years of Butler County Weddings” will showcase 18 wedding dresses, along with veils, tuxedos and other accoutrements.
Many of the dresses were worn by members of well known and prominent families including the Woods, Becketts, Fittons, Flenners, Neilan and Griesmers. Also featured are wedding photographs and written records showing how brides, grooms and their families celebrated their nuptial days.
The highlight of the exhibit is the dress and veil first worn by Mary Woods when she married Cyrus Falconer on October 8, 1839. The dress was worn by at least three brides and the veil used by eight brides between 1839 and 1990.
The exhibit was developed by Sara Butler, Miami University Art Department Professor Emeritus, and her intern Marcus Gray, now a Miami graduate.
“This exhibit was a real treat for us,” she said. “My research interests have been on dress and human behavior, especially historical dress during the 19th and early 20th centuries. So I greatly enjoyed learning about all of the families and telling the stories of the brides who wore the dresses.”
Kathy Creighton, executive director of the historical society, said they also made some exciting discoveries in the process.
“Sara and I were thrilled to be able to locate and reunite the original veil with the wedding dress worn by Mary Woods in 1839 after they had been separated for more than 50 years,” Creighton said. “We have to thank Marjorie Beckett Belew who wore the dress and veil at her wedding in 1953 for making that possible.”
Dr. Sara Butler and Marcus Gray will give a special presentation of “Reality and Fantasy: 150 Years of Butler County Weddings,” 7 p.m. September 10, in the Emma Ritchie Auditorium. A reception will follow the talk.
The wedding dress exhibit is located throughout the Benninghofen House and lower Emma Ritchie exhibit area and will run through December 31.
Interested visitors can also view the ongoing Beckett Paper Company exhibit located in the Emma Ritchie Auditorium and the enclosed porch of the Benninghofen House. The Beckett Paper exhibit which runs through November 28 was developed by Dave Belew, former company president and husband of Marjorie Beckett who wore the 1839 dress during their wedding in 1953.
Both exhibits are free.
The exhibits are in the Butler County Historical Society, 327 North 2nd Street, Hamilton, and are open to the public Tuesday through Friday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm and Saturdays from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm.
Group tours of either exhibit or the Benninghofen House Museum can be arranged by calling 513-896-9930.
The Hollow Earth Monument of Capt. John Cleves Symmes has been chosen as the Sight of the Week by the editors of RoadsideAmerica.com.
The monument will be featured as the lead story on the RoadsideAmerica.com website for the week of July 6-12.
It will also be listed and mapped on the Roadside America app for iPhone, which allows travelers to find and visit attractions while on the road.
Children and their parents and grandparents are invited to a fun and educational morning session of the Butler County Historical Society’s summer series of Saturday programs.
On July 11, Greg Courtney of Dry Dredgers, Inc., to learn how to better explore the fossils that can be found in your backyard. Find out why there are so many fossils in Butler County and how you can identify what you have found.
The “Fossils in Your Backyard” program is free and will be held at the Butler County Historical Society’s Benninghofen House museum at 327 North Second Street, Hamilton. It will begin at 9:30 a.m. and will last approximately two hours.
Courtney is the education director for the Dry Dredgers, an association of area amateur geologists dedicated to understanding and enjoying fossils. The group was founded in 1942 and works to stimulate interest in geology and encourages the collection and identification of fossils.
Kathy Creighton, executive director of the historical society, said she expects the children and their family members will have a good time.
“The kids, parents and grandparents that attended our June program on the history of chocolate enjoyed the program, especially the taste test of American Heritage Historic Chocolate. The fossil program is another fun hands-on event for kids and adults to share.”
Weather permitting, there will be a fossil hunt.
For more information, call 513-896-9930.
Part of the current exhibition Beckett: More Than A Business, is a 36-page booklet with a detailed history of the company, published for the company’s 125th anniversary in 1973. Much of it had been written by Bill Beckett 25 years earlier for the 100th anniversary.
About the Exhibition
Beckett: More Than A Business, a new Butler County Historical Society exhibition opening June 9, showcases the 164-year history of Hamilton’s Beckett Paper Company.
The company began operations in 1848 when William Beckett, Adam Laurie, Francis D. Rigdon, John Martin, and Frank Martin started the Miami Paper Mill.The company went through several name changes until it was incorporated as the Beckett Paper Company in 1887. A member of the Beckett family managed the company for 126 years, from 1848 to 1974. More than 550 employees worked at the Beckett mill to manufacture the company’s line of high-quality colored cover paper and other products that were exported to as many as 35 countries. The mill was the third oldest paper mill in America when it was closed in 2012.
The exhibition has been designed and organized by Dave Belew, president of Beckett Paper from 1974 to 1992, assisted by Mike Dobias of Miami University Hamilton. It will run through November 30 and is free to the public.
It is the largest exhibit ever presented by the Butler County Historical Society and fills three rooms with hundreds of photographs of Beckett employees going back to the 1860s, “Life at Beckett” employee newsletters, samples of company advertising, marketing materials prepared for customers, historic company documents and items saved from the company’s community activities.
Personal memorabilia of the Beckett family including founder William Beckett’s desk, the piano from Thomas Beckett’s home, and the door from a company chapel are also featured in the exhibit.
The Beckett Paper Company exhibit is housed in the Butler County Historical Society, 327 North 2nd Street, Hamilton. It is open to the public Tuesday through Friday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm and Saturdays from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. Free parking is provided at the society.
In 2005, the Butler County Historical Society was given a unique gift from an anonymous donor.
When staff members unfurled the gift to see exactly what it was, they were amazed. Before them was an original 1855 Map of Butler County, Ohio.
The significance of this map was immediately realized; only one other original is known to exist within Butler County.
Because of its rarity, the 1855 Map of Butler County, Ohio has never before been reproduced. The informational value of the Map is a prized attribute. The Map identifies land owners and acreages associated with each plot.
To download individual townships or for a larger view, click the following links:
Looking for fun and educational programs that you can enjoy with your children or grandchildren this summer?
The Butler County Historical Society will be offering three free programs, designed to educate and entertain all generations.
All programs will begin at 9:30 a.m. and will last approximately two hours.
- On Saturday, June 6, 2015 we will be exploring the history of chocolate. Find out where cocoa trees are grown, how chocolate is processed and trace the history of chocolate from the time on the early explorers of the Americas up to today. Of course, there will be taste testing!
- Saturday, July 11 will feature Greg Courtney exploring fossils in your backyard. Find out why there are so many fossils in Butler County and learn to identify what you have found. Weather permitting, there may be a fossil hunt!
- Saturday, August 8 we will be exploring the Native American cultures that called Butler County home. We will look at various artifacts that tell us about how they lived, including arrow heads and cooking utensils. We will also “meet” some of the famous Native Americans from the area.
A few weeks ago, I was toasting the last episode of the television series “Justified,” based on characters by the crime writer Elmore Leonard. The hero is a federal marshal, Raylan Givens, and in the seven year run of the show, he became my favorite TV tough guy.
A day or two later, I was looking something up in Stephen D. Cone’s Biographical and Historical Sketches: A Narrative of Hamilton and Its Residents (1896) , and stumbled upon a passage reminding me that Hamilton had its own tough guy marshal back in the day, a slave chaser named John C. Elliott.
His earliest claim to fame was as the man who most likely killed the founding Mormon prophet Joseph Smith while his tribe was making its way West. Having been expelled from Ohio and Missouri, the Mormons founded the city of Nauvoo in Illinois in 1839. By 1844, the city had grown to over 15,000, bigger than Chicago at the time, and Smith’s popularity was such that he decided to make a run for the Presidency of the United States.
It’s not clear from Cone and other sources how Elliott got called into service. Some Mormon lore attributes the murder of Joseph Smith to the Masons. According to Junius and Joseph by Robert S. Wicks and Fred R. Foister, a book regarding Smith’s presidential aspirations and assassination, Elliott spent the early 1840s as a woodcutter, clearing land between Hamilton and Cincinnati. He helped Jacob Burnet, a U.S. Senator and prominent Mason, in a land dispute and was thus owed a favor. In 1843, he went to Warsaw, Illinois, near Nauvoo, posing as a school teacher but working undercover for the U.S. Marshal Service.
Another Masonic connection could be that William Chittendon, who was among a group of militiamen to assail the jail that held Joseph Smith that fateful night. Chittendon was from Oxford and his father, Abraham, was the founding master of the Oxford Masonic Lodge. He and Elliott were about the same age. But true to the oath of silence sworn by the assailants, Chittendon mentioned no names.
Cone said that “a secret national call was made for men in the adjoining states to come forward and expel the Mormons,” which may support the Masonic theory, and John C. Elliott of Hamilton answered the call.
Cone described Elliott as “bold, courageous and brave, a man perfectly devoid of fear.” Before he left for Illinois, he visited Rossville’s ax-maker William C. Stephenson, who lived on Boudinot Street, now Park Avenue, to borrow a rifle made by Jacob Neinmeyer of Trenton.”
The Nauvoo Neighbor, cited by Wick and Foister, said that when he arrived in Nauvoo, Elliot “looked to be a man of some twenty six or eight years; nearly five feet eight inches tall; stoutly built and athletic. He had on a jeans coat with large pearl buttons, which was untied at the upper part of his breast in a careless manner. The pants … were considerably tattered. This dress was covered by an overcoat, cut from a green Mackinaw blanket. When he doffed his white nutria hat, it disclosed a prominent forehead and a rather disordered head of black hair. His countenance was dark; his eyes were hazel and sunk to a considerable depth in his head, over which jutted out his heavy dark eyebrows, which a continual scowl knit closely together, giving him at once a savage and heartless look… he flourished a pearl-handled dirk knife, which he plied with considerable dexterity in the cavity of his ample mouth, which filled the office of a toothpick.”
Before the raid on the jail, Elliott ran into some trouble trying to serve a warrant on a man named Avery and was arrested, charged with kidnapping. He escaped custody and was apparently not pursued.
Cone wrote, “On his arrival he found that Joe and Hyrum Smith and members of the Nauvoo council had been committed to jail on the charge of treason. The jail was a large two-story stone building, a portion of which was occupied by the jailer, and the remainder of the interior, consisting of cells for the confinement of prisoners and one large room. The Smiths were confined in the cells, but were finally transferred to the large room. Governor Ford ordered a guard placed around the jail for protection of the prisoners.
“The Carthage Grays, a military company one hundred strong, was stationed in the court house square for the purpose of repelling an attack on the jail and the prisoners confined therein. The conspirators, who numbered two hundred brave and determined men, communicated with the Carthage Grays, and it was arranged that the jail guard should have their guns charged with blank cartridges and fire at the attacking party as it neared the jail.
“For his cool and daring bravery, John C. Elliott was selected as one of the advance assailants. The attacking party came up and scaled the picket fence around the jail; were fired upon by the guard, which was immediately overpowered, and the assailants opened the jail. The jail door was battered down, and as it burst open, Joe Smith shot three of his assailants. At this time a number of shots were fired into the room, Smith attempted to escape by jumping from the second story window and fell against the curb of an old fashioned well. The fall stunned him; he was unable to rise, and while in a sitting position, the conspirators dispatched him with four rifle balls through the body. The rifle that John C. Elliott carried ran forty-four to the pound, which was the largest bore in the attacking party. Upon examination of Smith’s body, it was found that John C. Elliot had fired the fatal shot.
“After the assassination of Joe Smith the excitement at Nauvoo was at fever heat. John C. Elliott and his confederates in the shooting were arrested. Nauvoo was not deemed a safe place for their incarceration, owing to the bitter Mormon feeling against the Gentiles. Accordingly, they were spirited to Jacksonville, where they were liberated by a mob. No effort was ever made to apprehend them, and John C. Elliott returned to Hamilton, where he played an important part in the drama of passing events. He was a terror to evil doers, and in the performance of his duties as United States Marshal and City marshal of Hamilton made enemies by the score, and enemies of a most dangerous class.”
Elliott went on to be a slave chaser, and suffered many close calls and even assassination attempts. One of his more famous cases was that of the escaped salve Addison White, detailed in an article “The Rescue Case of 1857” in the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly, (January 1907).
Elliott and his posse tracked White to a house in Mechanicsburg, Ohio. The escapee hid in the attic, accessible by one small hole in the ceiling in the room below. Since his escape, he had learned how to shoot a pistol, and sat in the attic with his gun pointed at the entrance. Undaunted, Marshall Elliott climbed the ladder and poked his head through the opening. Fortunately, he held his rifle in front of him, and White’s bullet glanced off its barrel and grazed Elliott’s cheek and took a small piece of his ear.
By that time, the people of Mechanicsburg gathered outside the house, vastly outnumbering the federal posse, and the arrest of Addison White was abandoned for a time. Before the issue was settled, Elliott faced charges of assault with intent to kill against a county sheriff, but the charges were eventually dropped.
On another occasion, he chased a runaway slave to the house of a Cincinnati newspaper editor. That man, too, barricaded himself inside. Elliott managed to gain admission through a transom, but received two good stab wounds from the slave’s Spanish dirk. They were serious wounds, but Elliott recovered.
He also served as Hamilton’s town marshal in the days before there was a proper police department, and when the Civil War broke out, Elliott enlisted in Company F, Third Ohio. It was during this service that the marshal reached a rather inauspicious end.
“While his company was encamped near Tuscumbia, Ala., in the fall of 1864,” Cone wrote, “he was engaged in a friendly wrestling match with one of his comrades. He was thrown violently to the ground, rupturing a blood vessel and dying almost instantly.”