The Little Chicago Chronicles

Hamilton's Dark History

True Crime Short Stories in Text and Audio

1870

1884

Everyone in the Schneider family presumed that the widow matriarch Catharine was staying with her favorite son George on his remote Ohio farm. When George, his wife Margaret and their seven children showed up to a family dinner without her, suspicions ran high. 

No one could believe the story he told. George said that he was taking his mother to a train in the fall of 1883 when they were overcome by two robbers at the end of the lane at the edge of his farm. In the course of the robbery, he claimed, the robbers killed his mother, and buried her in a ravine on George’s property. George said they threatened his family, so he kept quiet about it for five long weeks. This novelette-length story details the unraveling of George’s story and the terrible price he paid for his rage. 

1902   

Just before Christmas 1902, Alfred Knapp strangled his wife in her sleep. He put her body in a box and sent the box floating down the Great Miami River, telling everyone that Hannah had left him. When the truth came out, Knapp confessed to four other murders. Newspapers across the Midwest sent reporters to interview the handsome strangler. Despite spending most of his adulthood in prison, he had a charming, boyish manner that made him an instant celebrity serial killer. True crime historian Richard O Jones examines the strangler's alleged crimes, the family drama of covering up Knapp's atrocities and how a brain-damaged drifter became a media darling. 

A 2016 interview with the author at the Ohioana Book Festival, talking about writing a book about Alfred Knapp

1903

Early one winter morning in 1903, Ohio laborer Sam Keelor awoke with a bloody cooper's hammer in his hand and his pretty young wife Bertha dead in their marriage bed next to him. He panicked and decided to get rid of the body, but cutting his pretty wife up into portable pieces proved to be more work than he bargained for, so he opted to cut his own throat instead. He made a mess of that, too. 

Before he could bleed out, his family discovered the bloody, bloody scene, and rescued the beleaguered coal man. He said his only regret is that he didn't kill his meddling mother-in-law, too. This "novelette" length true crime story details the family quarrel that led to the gruesome crime and the delivery of turn-of-the-century justice.

Deputy Luke Brannon went to Oxford on reports of rowdy students. Instead, he found a lynching in progress and his daring rescue of a drunken Kentuckian earns him a spot in local history. 

1904

Mayme Sherman was not anxious to share the news of her new job with her husband. When the iceman found her a few doors down talking to a neighbor, she seemed angry about something and remarked, “There will be hell here again tonight.” 

1917

When farmer Lorel Wardlow died from an acute case of quinsy, the country doctor who took care of him signed off on the death certificate without an autopsy. The little town of Kyle was soon buzzing with gossip about his widow and her behavior with the farmhand Harry Cowdry, who helped take care of his boss in his last days. When the coroner got wind of the scandal, he started the investigation.

Before the dust settled on the 1917 case, there would be accusations of murder, an exhumation of the body, three trials, one hung jury, a prison break and a scandal that rocked Southwestern Ohio.

THE PROHIBITION ERA

1919

The city of Hamilton was dead-set against the prohibition of alcohol. There were four votes on the issue from 1917 to 1919, and the “wet” vote was never less than 68 percent in the city, never less than 56 percent in the county. Nevertheless, Prohibition came... 

“Bursting into the city in seven high-powered automobiles and working with clock-like precision the dry forces scurried to many parts of the city simultaneously and at precisely the same moment made their raids quickly and prisoners were taken to the county jail.” 

When the entire night shift of the HPD arrived on the scene, they recognized Baker as one of their own. He was lying face down on the sidewalk in a pool of blood. He had been shot in the back.

1920

 The heavy iron door and the thinner inner door of the safe were blown off the hinges
and some of the lower parts of the safe were blown through the heavy rug,
through a window, and then through a heavy wire screen outside the window. 

Bolin would testify that the police were the belligerent parties, calling him “an old briarhopper” and saying they were “going to clean the briarhoppers out of Hamilton.” 

August 1920          Fatal Dust-up in Lindenwald

With the influx of factory workers from the hills of Kentucky and a reduced police force, there was a lot of “do-it-yourself” justice taking place in Hamilton during the early days of Prohibition.

Work was scarce in Kentucky and plentiful in Hamilton, so whole families would often make the trek together. One such blended family was that of Addie and Fred Bales. Both of them had been married before and between them had eight sons and four daughters ranging in age from late teens to early 30s. Addie’s husband Tommie had died in 1905. The family was from Jackson County and Rockcastle County, Kentucky. Fred Bales was a coal dealer, also from Jackson County.

The oldest Rose child was James Charles Rose, 30, a molder who worked at the Estate Stove Works and a member of Stove Molder’s Union No. 283. He had a room in his younger brother Brownie’s house on South Thirteenth Street. Ten years earlier, Jim had gotten into a spot of trouble after a drunken altercation in the street when a man named Isaac Bunce came at him with a hatchet and threatened to bury it in his skull. Jim, who at the time was going by the name Charles Ross because he was wanted in Kentucky for escaping jail, got the jump on him and landed the first blow. Bunce fell backward, hit his head on the bricks and fractured his skull in two places. Jim Rose, aka Charles Ross, and his brother-in-law John Sapp Jr. were charged with manslaughter in the case, but Judge Warren Gard went light on him because he was supporting his widowed mother and her children, fining him $10 and suspending a 60-day jail sentence. His lawyer explained the name discrepancy as a the result of a mistake at the Champion mill, that he had never been arrested or jailed in Kentucky.

On Sunday morning, August 8, 1920, Jim Rose went to an uncle’s house on South Ninth Street and there met his brother Willie Rose, who lived with his stepbrother Chester Bales on Laurel Avenue.

Around 12:30, the brothers started out to the home of their mother on Symmes Avenue. When they got there, Willie Rose left the house to visit a friend in the neighborhood. Jim Rose and another brother left to visit some friends named Townsend and caught up with Willie at their house.

From there between 2 and 3 p.m., Jim and Willie started to head back through Lindenwald via Zimmerman Avenue when they passed the home of an acquaintance, Jim Lewis,  and noticed Leo Sweat sitting on the front porch with his wife Virgie, nee Sapp, who had once been married to Jim Rose and divorced in 1918, marrying Sweat a year later. Virgie’s sister was married to Jim Lewis, a teamster who had just finished putting his team away and getting ready for supper.

Willie Rose wanted to have a few words with Leo Sweat. Willie had been sweet on Dorothy Beaty, a girl from Selkirk (also known as Gandertown and now called Auburn, a little village in western Butler County on Scipio Pike). He had gotten wind that Leo Sweat had said some unflattering things about Dorothy and wanted to call him out on it.

They passed the house and Jim went to the alley in the back while Willie circled back to the front porch. From there, versions of the story differ in significant details.

Lewis said that Willie Rose came up to the porch and said that he wanted to talk to Sweat, who came down from the porch and the two of them walked around the side of the house toward a coal shed. Then, according to Lewis, Jim Rose stepped from behind the shed and hit Sweat. At that point, Lewis jumped off the porch and got between them, telling the Rose boys to not start any trouble on his property. Jim Rose let loose of Sweat and headed toward the house after his ex-wife. He went in the back door and followed her through the house and out the front door when Lewis stepped up to Rose again and told him again not to make any trouble there. Rose kicked him and told him it was none of his business, so Lewis went into the house and got his revolver.

The fight moved from the alley to the back yard, and when Lewis re-joined the fray, Rose grabbed him by the coat collar and made a motion as if he was reaching for a gun. Then Lewis shot him. Rose stumbled away into the neighbor’s yard and dropped dead.

Lewis then went to the car barn and started his machine with the intent, he said, of going to the police and giving himself up. His version of the story was backed up by Leo and Virgie Sweat.

In his statement Willie Rose says that he had heard that Sweat had been talking disparagingly about a young lady to whom he was engaged to be married and he and his brother James Rose went to the Lewis house to see Sweat about it. 

Jim Rose remained in the alley back of the coal shed. As he and Sweat walked back toward the shed he asked Sweat about what he had said about his girl, Sweat admitted it, but was insolent and Willie Rose hit him and knocked Sweat down. Jim Rose attempted to stop him, he avers, but he tore away and ran after Sweat. Lewis came out to take Sweat’s part and Jim Rose stepped in to take his brother’s part. 

Lewis went back to the house and while Jim Rose was trying to separate Sweat and Willie. Lewis came out of the house, stepped up to Jim Rose, said “I’ll kill you,” and shot James Rose in the breast. Willie contended that his brother did not hit Lewis.

According to other witnesses, when Lewis came out into the yard he ordered the Rose boys out. They testified that Jim Rose grappled with Lewis and hit him in the face. It was then, the majority of the witnesses say, that Lewis shot Rose. 

The call came to police headquarters at 3:27 p.m. that a man had been shot and killed on Zimmerman Avenue. Officers were hurried to the scene, found James Rose dead and James Lewis gone. People at the scene described the car he had left in, and officers took out after it, intercepting it at Second and Ludlow streets. Lewis told officers, “I am the man you are looking for.”

He was arrested, taken to the station house, locked up and charged with murder in the first degree in a warrant sworn out by Officer William Huber. 

In the meantime, Coroner Cook had been called to the Lewis home, viewed the body of Rose and it was taken to the mortuary of Funeral Directors Bonner and Cahill where under the direction of Coroner Cook an autopsy was held at 4 o’clock Monday afternoon, conducted by Dr. G.M. Cummins.

At the inquest, Willie Rose testified that he and his brother had not seen any moonshine and were not intoxicated. He said that he had not made any such remark that he was going to blow up Lindenwald or attack the Lewis home. He stated in his testimony that Lewis did not order him to leave the yard. He said that James Rose and Lewis never had any trouble.

Virgie Sweat testified that she heard James Rose yell, “Get him, Willie,” as the pair came into the yard after Sweat. She also said that James Rose, once while drinking, told her he would “get” Sweat. She said that from the time she and Rose were divorced until she and Sweat separated she never spoke to Rose.

Addie Bales, mother of the dead man, testified that when Virgie Sweat was separated from Leo Sweat, she came to her home in company with James Rose once and told her that she liked James Rose better, that she had married Sweat for spite, but would get a divorce and remarry Rose. She also said she never knew of any trouble between Rose and Sweat.

Dorothy Beaty, over whom willie Rose said he started the fight, testified that Leo Sweat had made an indecent remark to her once but she never told Rose about it. She also testified that Sweat told her he had used Rose’s marriage licence in marrying Virgie Sapp Rose Sweat. She said she told him that he erased Rose’s name and inserted his own.

Leo Sweat testified that around 2 o’clock that Sunday afternoon, he and James Lewis were sitting on the porch of Lewis’s house when Jim and Willie Rose passed going toward an alley in the rear of the three-room cottage on Zimmerman Avenue.

Shortly after, Willie Rose came around the house from the rear and asked him to come out as he wanted to see him. Rose didn’t say what he wanted to see him for and they walked around the house. They had almost reached the alley gate when Rose struck him and that started a fight.

Then Jim Rose came in from the alley and began taking Will’s part when Jim Lewis came up, ordered both the Roses out of the yard when Jim Rose attacked him and they were all four fighting. Sweat broke away, ran toward the house and in the back door. 

Jim Rose followed him through the house to the porch. Lewis and Willie Rose followed around the side of the house and a number of times Lewis ordered the Roses away, but all four got to fighting again.

Lewis got away, went into the house and came out with a pistol and again ordered the Roses out of the yard and off the place.

Sweat said Jim Rose grabbed him by the left arm and with his right hand or fist kept beating Lewis on the breast. Lewis tried to break away and then shot Jim. 

Willie Rose tried to lead Jim into an adjoining yard but as they reached the gate between, Jim sank down and died. Then Lewis told Sweat he was going to give himself up to the police and left.

Although he was initially charged with first degree murder, the grand jury reduced the charge to manslaughter.

When James Lewis came to trial at the end of November pleading self-defense, it only took a jury thirty minutes to come back with a not guilty verdict.

1921

July 1921      Murder on the Middletown Pike

With the influx of factory workers from the hills of Kentucky and a reduced police force, there was a lot of “do-it-yourself” justice taking place in Hamilton during the early days of Prohibition.

Work was scarce in Kentucky and plentiful in Hamilton, so whole families would often make the trek together. One such blended family was that of Addie and Fred Bales. Both of them had been married before and between them had eight sons and four daughters ranging in age from late teens to early 30s. Addie’s husband Tommie had died in 1905. The family was from Jackson County and Rockcastle County, Kentucky. Fred Bales was a coal dealer, also from Jackson County.

The oldest Rose child was James Charles Rose, 30, a molder who worked at the Estate Stove Works and a member of Stove Molder’s Union No. 283. He had a room in his younger brother Brownie’s house on South Thirteenth Street. Ten years earlier, Jim had gotten into a spot of trouble after a drunken altercation in the street when a man named Isaac Bunce came at him with a hatchet and threatened to bury it in his skull. Jim, who at the time was going by the name Charles Ross because he was wanted in Kentucky for escaping jail, got the jump on him and landed the first blow. Bunce fell backward, hit his head on the bricks and fractured his skull in two places. Jim Rose, aka Charles Ross, and his brother-in-law John Sapp Jr. were charged with manslaughter in the case, but Judge Warren Gard went light on him because he was supporting his widowed mother and her children, fining him $10 and suspending a 60-day jail sentence. His lawyer explained the name discrepancy as a the result of a mistake at the Champion mill, that he had never been arrested or jailed in Kentucky.

On Sunday morning, August 8, 1920, Jim Rose went to an uncle’s house on South Ninth Street and there met his brother Willie Rose, who lived with his stepbrother Chester Bales on Laurel Avenue.

Around 12:30, the brothers started out to the home of their mother on Symmes Avenue. When they got there, Willie Rose left the house to visit a friend in the neighborhood. Jim Rose and another brother left to visit some friends named Townsend and caught up with Willie at their house.

From there between 2 and 3 p.m., Jim and Willie started to head back through Lindenwald via Zimmerman Avenue when they passed the home of an acquaintance, Jim Lewis,  and noticed Leo Sweat sitting on the front porch with his wife Virgie, nee Sapp, who had once been married to Jim Rose and divorced in 1918, marrying Sweat a year later. Virgie’s sister was married to Jim Lewis, a teamster who had just finished putting his team away and getting ready for supper.

Willie Rose wanted to have a few words with Leo Sweat. Willie had been sweet on Dorothy Beaty, a girl from Selkirk (also known as Gandertown and now called Auburn, a little village in western Butler County on Scipio Pike). He had gotten wind that Leo Sweat had said some unflattering things about Dorothy and wanted to call him out on it.

They passed the house and Jim went to the alley in the back while Willie circled back to the front porch. From there, versions of the story differ in significant details.

Lewis said that Willie Rose came up to the porch and said that he wanted to talk to Sweat, who came down from the porch and the two of them walked around the side of the house toward a coal shed. Then, according to Lewis, Jim Rose stepped from behind the shed and hit Sweat. At that point, Lewis jumped off the porch and got between them, telling the Rose boys to not start any trouble on his property. Jim Rose let loose of Sweat and headed toward the house after his ex-wife. He went in the back door and followed her through the house and out the front door when Lewis stepped up to Rose again and told him again not to make any trouble there. Rose kicked him and told him it was none of his business, so Lewis went into the house and got his revolver.

The fight moved from the alley to the back yard, and when Lewis re-joined the fray, Rose grabbed him by the coat collar and made a motion as if he was reaching for a gun. Then Lewis shot him. Rose stumbled away into the neighbor’s yard and dropped dead.

Lewis then went to the car barn and started his machine with the intent, he said, of going to the police and giving himself up. His version of the story was backed up by Leo and Virgie Sweat.

In his statement Willie Rose says that he had heard that Sweat had been talking disparagingly about a young lady to whom he was engaged to be married and he and his brother James Rose went to the Lewis house to see Sweat about it. 

Jim Rose remained in the alley back of the coal shed. As he and Sweat walked back toward the shed he asked Sweat about what he had said about his girl, Sweat admitted it, but was insolent and Willie Rose hit him and knocked Sweat down. Jim Rose attempted to stop him, he avers, but he tore away and ran after Sweat. Lewis came out to take Sweat’s part and Jim Rose stepped in to take his brother’s part. 

Lewis went back to the house and while Jim Rose was trying to separate Sweat and Willie. Lewis came out of the house, stepped up to Jim Rose, said “I’ll kill you,” and shot James Rose in the breast. Willie contended that his brother did not hit Lewis.

According to other witnesses, when Lewis came out into the yard he ordered the Rose boys out. They testified that Jim Rose grappled with Lewis and hit him in the face. It was then, the majority of the witnesses say, that Lewis shot Rose. 

The call came to police headquarters at 3:27 p.m. that a man had been shot and killed on Zimmerman Avenue. Officers were hurried to the scene, found James Rose dead and James Lewis gone. People at the scene described the car he had left in, and officers took out after it, intercepting it at Second and Ludlow streets. Lewis told officers, “I am the man you are looking for.”

He was arrested, taken to the station house, locked up and charged with murder in the first degree in a warrant sworn out by Officer William Huber. 

In the meantime, Coroner Cook had been called to the Lewis home, viewed the body of Rose and it was taken to the mortuary of Funeral Directors Bonner and Cahill where under the direction of Coroner Cook an autopsy was held at 4 o’clock Monday afternoon, conducted by Dr. G.M. Cummins.

At the inquest, Willie Rose testified that he and his brother had not seen any moonshine and were not intoxicated. He said that he had not made any such remark that he was going to blow up Lindenwald or attack the Lewis home. He stated in his testimony that Lewis did not order him to leave the yard. He said that James Rose and Lewis never had any trouble.

Virgie Sweat testified that she heard James Rose yell, “Get him, Willie,” as the pair came into the yard after Sweat. She also said that James Rose, once while drinking, told her he would “get” Sweat. She said that from the time she and Rose were divorced until she and Sweat separated she never spoke to Rose.

Addie Bales, mother of the dead man, testified that when Virgie Sweat was separated from Leo Sweat, she came to her home in company with James Rose once and told her that she liked James Rose better, that she had married Sweat for spite, but would get a divorce and remarry Rose. She also said she never knew of any trouble between Rose and Sweat.

Dorothy Beaty, over whom willie Rose said he started the fight, testified that Leo Sweat had made an indecent remark to her once but she never told Rose about it. She also testified that Sweat told her he had used Rose’s marriage licence in marrying Virgie Sapp Rose Sweat. She said she told him that he erased Rose’s name and inserted his own.

Leo Sweat testified that around 2 o’clock that Sunday afternoon, he and James Lewis were sitting on the porch of Lewis’s house when Jim and Willie Rose passed going toward an alley in the rear of the three-room cottage on Zimmerman Avenue.

Shortly after, Willie Rose came around the house from the rear and asked him to come out as he wanted to see him. Rose didn’t say what he wanted to see him for and they walked around the house. They had almost reached the alley gate when Rose struck him and that started a fight.

Then Jim Rose came in from the alley and began taking Will’s part when Jim Lewis came up, ordered both the Roses out of the yard when Jim Rose attacked him and they were all four fighting. Sweat broke away, ran toward the house and in the back door. 

Jim Rose followed him through the house to the porch. Lewis and Willie Rose followed around the side of the house and a number of times Lewis ordered the Roses away, but all four got to fighting again.

Lewis got away, went into the house and came out with a pistol and again ordered the Roses out of the yard and off the place.

Sweat said Jim Rose grabbed him by the left arm and with his right hand or fist kept beating Lewis on the breast. Lewis tried to break away and then shot Jim. 

Willie Rose tried to lead Jim into an adjoining yard but as they reached the gate between, Jim sank down and died. Then Lewis told Sweat he was going to give himself up to the police and left.

Although he was initially charged with first degree murder, the grand jury reduced the charge to manslaughter.

When James Lewis came to trial at the end of November pleading self-defense, it only took a jury thirty minutes to come back with a not guilty verdict.

August 1921             Tragedy on the Venice Pike

The shooting of Hardman Walke, 22, occurred 10:30 p.m., Friday, August 12, 1921, on a farm about three miles south of the city on the road to Venice.

There had long been tension between Walke and the farmer Jacob Troutman, 45, who objected to the attention Walke was paying to  his 16-year-old daughter Leona. He had repeatedly warned Walke to stay away from his daughter and threatened to shoot him if he did not.

Five months before the shooting, Troutman had gone so far as to petition the juvenile in April for help in keeping the young man away from his young daughter. It was Troutman’s contention that both his wife Mary and daughter were “crazy about Walke.” He told court authorities that Mary and Leona attended nightly class at a local church, met Walke, and neither returned home until a late hour. Troutman, his wife and daughter, and Walke were called into a conference by Probation Officer L.K. Shirley, and Walke promised to remain away from the Troutman home. At the time of the hearing, juvenile officers termed the Troutman girl “too old for her age.” 

Walke was the son of the late Herman Walke, a Hamilton police officer who was killed during a scuffle in the city jail in 1916. He worked as an auto mechanic and boarded with Ellen Cook and her husband John on Kolbenstetter Avenue (the street no longer exists, but was somewhere near the fairgrounds).

Mrs. Cook would later say that Walke had received a phone call about 4 p.m. Friday afternoon and then told her he was going to the Troutman’s that evening because “the old man was away and the coast was clear.” She said that Walke often received phone calls from a woman and that the woman would ask for “the painter,” by which she meant Walke. Walke told her that he had married Leona Troutman the previous Christmas day and often referred to her as his wife. 

She and her husband often went with Walke when he went down to the Troutman farm to call on Leona, but they never went in the house. The girl would use a flashlight to signal when the coast was clear. Sometimes Walke would have to drive back and forth as much as four times before he would get the signal. If he did not get the signal, he would not go in. She also noted that Walke often had a revolver laying on the seat beside him while they waited, but he never took it in the house with him.

Around 9:30 p.m. on the evening of August 12, Jacob Troutman, his son, and a farmhand named William Clark got into a truck to deliver a load of elderberries to Cheviot. Clark said they only went a short distance when Troutman got out of the machine and said he was not going, but did not say where he was going. 

In the meantime, Walke had parked his car about a quarter of a mile south of the Troutman home and walked up to the house. Leona let him in, and while he talked with her and her mother, a dog started to bark outside. 

“There must be someone prowling around the house,” Leona told the detectives, and the three of them went into the yard to investigate. They were in the vineyard when they heard a command to “Halt!” from Troutman in the dark. Walke started to run and Troutman fired the shotgun from about twenty feet away, hitting the young man in the right side of the back with the entire load.

After the shooting, Troutman tried to get a doctor for Walke without success before calling the police. Troutman asked Walke why he didn’t stop when he called for him to stop and Walke answered, “Oh, you would have shot me anyway.”

Troutman finally called the police, telling them he had seen a prowler near his house, had shot him and that he was still lying in the yard.

Sheriff Rudy Laubach and County Detective Frank W. Clements took city detectives Herman Dulle and Ed Riley, along with an ambulance, to the farm where they found the body as described. The ambulance rushed Walke to the hospital and into surgery, but he died on the operating table at 12:20 a.m. Saturday. Sheriff Laubach took Jacob Troutman into custody, charging him with first degree murder.

At the inquest Monday morning in a packed assembly room, Troutman refused to testify at the advice of his counsel, U.F. Bickley. Likewise, Mary Troutman’s attorney, Robert J. Shank, advised her not to testify, so she didn’t. Troutman made a point of saying that he did not hire Shank.

The coroner showed Mrs. Cook a letter that he had found among Walke’s effects. Mrs. Cook identified it as a letter Walke had said was from his wife.

The letter was of a most endearing nature. It started “my dearest” and concluded “forever from Sweetie.” In several places, the letter professed undying love for the addressee. At the bottom of the page was drawn a heart filled with xes. 

Leona Troutman stoutly denied that she had ever kept company with Walke, had never had a date with him and that he had none with her. She did admit she wrote the letter to Walke January 26, but that a friend had helped her write it.

She contradicted statements she made to the police the night of the murder that Walke was in the house when they heard a noise. She said she never received Walke at her home and denied that she talked over the phone to him Friday afternoon and denied that she had signalled him with a flashlight that Friday night, but that she was using it to search the yard after hearing a noise and Walke appeared, coming up through the vineyard gate. 

She said that after the shooting, she ran out and found Walke writing on the ground. Six feet away from him lay a .32 calibre revolver. It had not been fired. She picked it up and gave it to one of the officers. Mrs. Cook identified it as Walke’s.

Interest in the case was so great that when the court bailiff opened the doors at 8:45 a.m. on December 20, the first day of the trial, a large crowd had already gathered, and when the doors swung open it only took a moment for every seat and standing space to be filled. When Judge Walter Harlan ascended the bench at 9:15, court attaches had to force their way through the doorway. John P. Troutman, the defendant’s father, was an auctioneer and prominent in county affairs, so the family was quite well-known.

The case for the prosecution was conducted by John D. Andrews, an experienced defense attorney recently appointed assistant county prosecutor. Former U.S. Congressman and former Butler County Judge Warren Gard was chief counsel for the defense. 

In his opening statement, Gard said that he would prove that Troutman did not unlawfully kill Walke, but that he did so in the protection of his daughter, who had just turned 17. Troutman, Gard said, grew up working on farms and his whole life had been that of an honest, earnest, and hardworking citizen.

“We will show that when Leona Troutman was only 13, there was an effort on the part of Hardman Walke to seek her society. Troutman, in his desire to rear the girl to be a virtuous woman, tried to discourage Walke. We will further show that Troutman repeatedly warned Walke to stay away and that the boy persisted in his attention to the girl. In seeking protection of his daughter, we will show that Troutman even took the matter up with the pastor of the church he was attending. He also took the matter up with the juvenile court and as a result of the hearing, Hardman Walke was ordered to and promised to remain away from the girl, but he continued to meet her.

“On the day of August 12, Hardman Walke learned through some source that the father was to be away that night. He went down past the house and parked his auto about three-eighths of a mile south and evidence will show that he was armed with a loaded revolver. The father saw him come through the gate with this revolver. Evidence will further show that Troutman then went up the hill where he left a shotgun that had been used in killing groundhogs. He procured the gun. He saw Hardman Walke coming through the garden with a levelled revolver and then Troutman fell from a fence upon his hands and knees. Half rising to his feet, Troutman slipped on an iron hook and again fell. As he again arose, he saw Walke facing him with a levelled revolver. Troutman ordered Walke to halt and the latter said, ‘I’ll get you.’ Walke was then proceeding toward the stone smokehouse and Troutman believed he was going there for cover. He again ordered Walke to halt and the latter as he half turned to get behind the smokehouse, again threatened, ‘I’ll get you!’

“Half standing and with his gun in no position at all, Troutman fired the gun. He believed then he did only what he was compelled to do to save himself from death and great bodily harm.”

Andrews rebutted, saying that the defense was relying on “the unwritten law” in the protection of his daughter, but also pleading self-defense and that the shooting was an accident. The only thing the defense left out, he said, was “emotional insanity.” The law, he argued, does not recognize the right of a man to shoot another man on the ground that he is believing himself to be protecting the honor of his daughter.

“John Jacob Troutman is a mighty lucky man that he is not standing trial on a charge of first degree murder,” Andrews continued. “It seems to me the evidence shows he could very easily have been tried on such a charge and I believe him to be guilty of such a charge. The shooting of Hardman Walker was not in self-defense. It was deliberately planned by Troutman, who I believe lay in wait for  him. He shot him in the back. Does that look like self-defense?”

The jury began its deliberations at 10 a.m. Friday and at noon Saturday, Christmas eve, reported a verdict of guilty of assault and battery.

Judge Harlan was enraged at the verdict, calling it “ridiculous” and the greatest miscarriage of justice in the cases he’s ever tried. He berated both the defendant and the jury, telling the latter, “I consider you guilty of the crime of murder.”

To the defendant, he said: “The truth is, Mr. Troutman, you should have been indicted and convicted of a much more serious crime than manslaughter. You planned that murder hours ahead. Your claim of self-defense was false. Your claim that  you did not know the man  you shot was false. Your claim as to how this happened was false, and you know it... You got your gun and lay in wait for this man and on a moonlight night you shot him in the back at very close range.”

Judge Harlan slapped Troutman with the maximum sentence he could impose: a $200 fine, court costs, and six months in the county jail. He also ordered the sheriff to refrain from giving the man a trusty position or show him any consideration.

The family created an uproar. The defendant’s aged father rose and in a trembling voice asked if he could speak. The judge said he could though it would do no good.

“Oh, judge, spare him, our only support in our old age,” the old man pleaded. “What is to become of us if he is taken away? Lord help us! Lord, have mercy upon us!”

Mary Troutman stood up and wept aloud, “Oh, give me my husband! I want him!”

Judge Harlan ordered Sheriff Laubach to clear the courtroom: “Take these people out!”

During it all, Leona, the teenage daughter for whose love Hardman Walke had given his life, sat motionless, her head resting on her hand, not a trace of a tear in her eye.

August 1921                  shots fired in city hall

In August 1921, state Prohibition agents made a sweep through Hamilton and surrounding communities, making eighteen arrests in ten days. Among those arrested were Jake Milders, the proprietor of the popular Milder’s Inn at Symmes Corner, where they confiscated an undisclosed quantity of wine and liquor. Agents did report that in the various raids, they confiscated a total of 600 gallons of liquor of various kinds.

That same month, national Prohibition officials finally made a decision as to the disposition of confiscated liquors, that most commercial liquor and moonshine should be destroyed, but that higher-proof unadulterated liquor should be diverted to commercial but non-beverage uses.

On Wednesday morning, August 31, agents from the court of Squire Lewis Bolser of Coke Otto and from the state Prohibition officers made the first dump of liquor in Butler County. At first, they had considered dumping it into Four Mile Creek, but liquor valued at $2,000--$5,000 at bootlegger prices--was dumped into a large hole in the ground in the back of Squire Bolser’s house.

Attracted by the A crowd of people gathered for the dumping, “some of them were sad, no doubt,” the Daily News reported, “while others were delighted.” As the pouring began, someone began chanting “ashes to ashes” as down the hole went over one hundred and fifty gallons of white corn liquor, colored moonshine, cases of “Beef Iron and Wine,” “Wine of Peptin,” and similar alcoholic “medicines,” and nine cases of beer. 

“They had not come by invitation,” the paper said. “They were attracted by a strange pile of stuff in front of Bolser’s courtroom. Then the neighborhood was packed with machines [automobiles]. And these people were gazing upon the greatest collection of contraband whisky ever seen in the community. It was just one big pile of booze of all kinds.

“In the background were five large and complete stills. Nont of them had a capacity of less than one hundred gallons... their copper coils shining dully in the hot afternoon sun. And what a collection of coils or ‘worms’ it was. ‘That coil,’ said James Romanis, state inspector, ‘would be worth a thousand dollars to any moonshiner. It is one of the prettiest I  have ever seen.’

“‘And that one,’ remarked William Dooley, Prohibition officer, pointing to a closely wound one on one of the larger stills, “is a masterpiece. It is worth at least $200 and many a moonshiner would kill you for it.’

“In the foreground was the whiskey and moonshine, most of it in all sorts of containers from five gallon jugs and twenty-five gallon casks down to half-pint bottles. The center of attention was one dozen bottles of ‘Old Taylor’ bonded whiskey. But all the whiskey had been emptied out.

“‘Our lives would not have been safe if people had known we had that stuff in our possession,’ Constable D. O. Spivey was heard to remark while discussing this ‘old stuff.’”

The pile of confiscated merchandise included two rifles and two shotguns, and a motorcycle that had been used by a fleeing bootlegger.

The merchandise was brought out onto an “executioner’s block,” and a Coke Otto man named William wielded the axe, the beautiful “worms” being the first victims, remnants of moonshine leaking out like white blood. 

“Our work here is over for the time being,” Romanis said. “We found Butler County to be one of the wettest we have visited so far. The outlying areas of Butler County are much worse than Hamilton, though a great deal of traffic is carried on in the city. Corn whiskey is being made around the county. At these places we must direct our attack so as to get to the source of the supply.” 

In a letter to the Evening Journal, responding to complaints from citizens regarding the manner in which the raids were conducted, Romanis and Dooley wrote, “The fact that all of the violators whom we have arrested (and they number about forty) have entered pleas of ‘guilty’ shows our cases to have been clean cut and that no one can accuse us of wrongdoing.”

But in these early days of Prohibition, before the Little Chicago gangster wars heated up, Hamilton police were faced with equally pressing problems of domestic violence and violent robberies, though much of it may have been fueled by illegal liquor consumption. Even the municipal building, the seat of city government, was not a haven from domestic drama.

Shortly after 9 a.m., November 14, 1921, three months after the fatal shooting on the Troutman farm just outside the city, a small contingent of people gathered in the office of Chief of Police Charles Stricker to discuss a delicate matter. 

Mrs. Henrietta Schmitt, mother of two and wife of Lawrence Schmitt, 29 Hooven Ave., had signed out a warrant on Saturday charging Raymond McGowan, 27, of 603 Fairview Avenue with criminal assault. She told the police that about three weeks ago, McGowan came to her house and against her will assaulted her and repeated the assault last Saturday. “Criminal assault” was the primary newspaper euphenism for “rape” back when the word dare not be printed. When asked why she had not sworn out the warrant sooner, she said that McGowan told her he would kill her if she told anybody.

McGowan was arrested, released on $1,000 bond and the case was assigned for a hearing in municipal court. In open court, Judge Kautz disposed of two minor cases then adjourned to Chief Stricker’s office to hear the Schmitt-McGowan case in private.

So they gathered, Harriett Schmitt sitting near the door leading into the office, McGowan on the other side a few fee from her, and Judge Kautz seated in a swivel chair behind a desk at the west wall facing the others: attorney Harry Wonnell, Thomas McGreevy, clerk of the municipal court, City Solicitor and Mayor-elect Harry J. Koehler Jr., and county humane officer William Finfrock.

Mrs. Schmitt was called upon to give her testimony as the prosecuting witness. Judge Kautz had just told her to stand up and be sworn in. 

But when she arose, she held up not her right hand, but a revolver that she extricated from the folds of her dress.

“You dirty dog, you ruined my home,” Henrietta screamed at McGowan. “I will get you.”

She immediately started firing six shots in rapid succession. At the first shot, Koehler fell flat to the floor behind a small upright post. McGowan, seated just three feet from the woman, sprang from his chair and immediately fell to the floor, hit in the side by the second shot, sprawling on top of Koehler, and then crawled to a corner of the room. McGreevy and Wonnell crowded in the northwest corner of the room. The woman continued sweeping the room with fire but her shots were wild. One bullet grazed Wonnell’s head, singeing his hair. Another came close enough to McGreevy’s left hand to scorch the flesh before it lodged in a wall. Judge Kautz whirled in the swivel chair as the woman fired and a bullet crashed into the wall as he faced it. Those three shots crashed through a thin board wall between the chief’s office and the courtroom, passed over the heads of police attendants who were standing in the courtroom. One shot glanced off a heating pipe and lodged into the door leading to Safety Director Henry B. Grevey’s office.

Lawrence J. Schmitt, the woman’s husband, remained seated during the fusilade. 

Chief of Police Charles Stricker was just outside the room in conference with Safety Director Grevey. When the sixth shot fired he rushed into the room and pinned Mrs. Schmitt’s arms behind her, grabbing the revolver as he did. He then dragged the frenzied woman to the city jail. McGowan was rushed to Mercy Hospital, where he recovered from the wound but the bullet was not removed from his hip. Henrietta Schmitt was charged with shooting with intent to kill and served an unspecified term in the women’s section of the county jail. The charges of rape against McGowan were not further pursued.

At around five o’clock that afternoon, Mrs. Bert Reynolds, 815 Campbell Ave., heard a shot in the street outside and opened her front door. She saw a man slamming a car door, saying, “I killed him, G--- D--- him.”

Mrs. Reynolds said, “He walked around the car. He spoke to people who had gathered but I could not hear what was said. He went into a house (809 Campbell Ave.). Before going in he asked about a telephone and said to call 220 (police headquarters).”

Hamilton police desk sergeant John Neidermann took a telephone call from a man calmly declaring, “I have shot and killed a man at Eighth and Campbell avenues. This is Lou Wittman.”

When Wittman came out of the house, he and another man moved the body of the man in the car to help get a woman from the passenger side. Mrs. Reynolds heard the man say, “Sarah, you caused all this! You had a good home, good clothes, jewelry and money. What did you want?”

Mrs. Reynolds did not hear what the woman said in reply, but heard Lou Wittan say, “What did you do last Saturday night? You were with him last Saturday and I have proof of it at home.”

“Then Mrs. Wittman walked to the machine and said: ‘Harry? Are you hurt?’ Mrs. Wittman then turned to Lou and said: ‘He is dead.’ I then heard Mr. Wittman say, ‘I want him to die and I want you to suffer for two years as I have done.’ Then the other man asked for the gun and Mr. Wittman said he had only fired one shot.

Then, according to witnesses, Wittman took his wife by the arm, went south on Eighth Street to High, then down High to police headquarters where he turned himself in. Pedestrians acquainted with the couple said they conversed in undertones along the way and addressed passers-by with a polite “how do you do.”

Lou Wittman was the secretary and treasurer of the Wittman Tent and Awning Company in Hamilton. He and his wife Sarah lived at 337 South Second St. They were both well-known in Hamilton’s social circles. 

The man in the car was Harry Hamman, an Oxford man who worked in Hamilton as an auto salesman. He was married with a small daughter.

The man who was with Wittman at the time of the shooting turned out to be Al Nelson, a Cincinnati private detective whom Wittman had hired to trail his wife. Nelson at first refused to testify for the coroner's inquest, saying that he wanted a lawyer first, but Coroner Edward Cooke ordered a deputy sheriff to take him to jail for contempt of court.

He then admitted that Wittman had hired him ten days before the shooting to trail his wife because “she was not on the square.” He was staying in a hotel, and on Monday afternoon met Wittman by appointment at the Humbach Tire Shop on High Street.

He testified, “We were to trail Mrs. Wittman and Harry Hamman who were riding out High Street in the latter’s Hudson coupe. Lou did not say a word. The coupe ahead turned north on Eighth Street and east on Campbell Avenue. As the turn was made on Campbell Avenue, I suddenly realized Wittman was veering into the other machine. I seized the steering wheel, but it was too late. Wittman immediately got out and went ahead to the other car which had gone about 125 feet further before it stopped. I got out and began looking at the damage to our car. I did not hear a shot, but I heard Wittman talking loudly and run to him. Then I saw that Hamman was hurt and suggested to Wittman to aid him. Wittmann said, ‘I called the wagon. He won’t die. I shot him in the leg. I want him to suffer the way I have. I never knew Wittman carried a gun. I took it from him because I thought he would shoot his wife.”

The bullet did not hit Hamman in the leg, but in the side, passing through the body in an upward direction, piercing the heart and both lungs. When the police ambulance arrived on the scene, Patrolman Earl Welsh drove the man to the hospital in the Hudson coupe. He died on the way.

Wittman was charged with first degree murder. He and his wife, who vowed to stand by her husband, both testified. The Wittmans and the Hammans became good friends in 1920, after Hamman bought some cots from Wittman and Wittman returned the favor by trading in his car at Hamman’s lot. But things turned spicy between Sarah Wittman and Harry Hamman. He was a frequent visitor to their home when Mr. Wittman was away, and she admitted on the stand that she had taken several automobile rides with Harry Hamman but there was nothing untoward between them.

Still, she had filed for a divorce the week before the murder of Harry Hamman, though by the time the case came to trial, they had reconciled.

They both testified that they believed Harry Hamman was armed on the day of his death, and that he seemed to be reaching for one when Lou Wittman shot him, though no gun was recovered other than the .32 Wittman frequently carried.

Interest in the case was intense, the courthouse crowded to overflowing every day of the trial, especially the days the Wittmans testified. Members of the jury later admitted that they could have had a verdict in five minutes, but they waited nine hours so that the crowds would thin out. But the jury misread public sentiment, and when the foreman announced a “not guilty” verdict, the courtroom erupted in cheers. The unwritten law again resulted in another man getting away with murder in Hamilton.

December 1921                     police force slashed

A newly-elected Hamilton city council began the year 1922 with a difficult three-hour meeting on the morning of January 2, the culmination of two weeks of crisis management, including one particularly contentious evening of public input in the high school auditorium, regarding the city’s available budget of $76,100 for the first half of the year.

The council passed an ordinance appropriating $91,136.16 for the entire city’s operation for the first half of the year, a deficit of $15,036.16, the consequence of a defeated $300,000 annual tax levy in the fall election. Mayor Harry Koehler said that the deficit would have to be made up in the collection of “bus, jitney, peddler and other licenses, from municipal court fines and from receipts from the city’s building inspector’s office.”

No appropriations were made for garbage collection or street cleaning, and every department found its budget slashed to the bone. The safety department (police and fire) was the hardest hit, forcing to get by on less than half the budget of the first six months of 1921. This meant the closing of three of the city’s six fire stations and drastic changes in the way the police department would operate. All officers were called upon to work twelve-hour shifts instead of eight with no additional pay. In order to avoid lay-offs, each officer would work two weeks and take the next two weeks off.

Police Chief Charles Stricker said that under the new order, the police department would have but 20 men on duty each day. He initially scheduled them so that there would be two patrolmen on duty in the streets during the day and eight at night. Except for Chief of Detectives Hermann, who would continue full-time, the four detectives on staff would be cut back to half-time. By the end of the month, they would see salaries slashed again.

Upon finishing his eight years at the city’s helm and accepting the gift of a leather armchair from the Police Mutual Aid Society, outgoing Mayor C.P. Smith made a prophetic statement about the effects of Prohibition not only on crime in the city, but also city finances: “Prohibition is the curse to the country and is causing conditions which rapidly are becoming alarming. Before Prohibition came into effect the liquor traffic was regulated adequately by laws governing the saloons and which resulted in a revenue of $60,000 a year, whereas now the money goes into the pockets of bootleggers and intoxication increases steadily.”

Crime was already on the rise. The same day the city council approved the bare-bones budget, the Butler County grand jury met with one of its heaviest dockets yet, including four murder cases, prompting Judge Clarence Murphy to remark in his charge: “Not within memory of the present generation has human life been held so cheaply and the right of property so brazenly disregarded as now.”

Also on that busy news day, Coroner Edward Cook released his official finding on one of the murders of the previous month, ruling the death of Boston “Bull” Durham, 46, 133 Gordon Avenue, a homicide, one of ten unnatural deaths during the December past.

A little after midnight, the early morning of December 10, 1921, Durham and two friends, Robert Baker and Carl Brown, met on Fourth Street to go to a party at Brown’s brother-in-law’s house on Vine Street. They were all pretty well oiled already, and Brown couldn’t remember the street number, so after they walked up and down the street without finding the party, they decided to go to the pool room and “soft drink parlor” owned by Melville Auraden at 502 North Sixth Street. Auraden was there, as were a couple of friends of his, Leroy Shank and Cappy Golden.

Baker would later say that they only stayed there a few minutes, had a couple of drinks, then decided to again try and find the party. They again failed, so went back to Auraden’s but found the door locked. They saw a light burning inside and banged on the door, but got no answer. Durham rattled the door so hard his companions thought it would break, but it didn’t. They walked about a block on Sixth Street when Durham said that he knew there was moonshine in the pool hall and he was going back to get it. Brown followed him, but Baker decided to go home. Shortly afterward, he heard the sound of breaking glass and turned around to see Durham opening the door of the joint to let Brown in. That was the last he saw of them as he hailed a cab and went home.

Shank said that after those three fellows left, Auraden decided to close up for the night. He went with Auraden to drive Golden home a few blocks away on Seventh Street before going back to Auraden’s house, 644 Heaton Street, where they proceeded to put Auraden’s car in the garage.

At about 2 a.m., Martin Flannery, a boarder at the Lake View Hotel, was walking on Vine Street near the pool parlor and heard the sound of breaking glass. Passing the joint, he noticed the glass in one of the windows broken and then saw two men running toward  downtown on Sixth.

Flannery went to Auraden’s house where Auraden and Shank were putting away the car. He told what he saw, and the three jumped in the automobile and lit out in pursuit, first driving by the pool hall to glimpse the damaged window. They caught up with the two men walking down Fifth Street approaching Dayton. Auraden called on the men to stop, but the men started running.Auraden called Durham by name and followed them in the car. When he got within about 15 feet of them, the two men turned toward them and reached for their hip pockets as if they were going to draw weapons. Auraden got the jump on them and shot twice with his .38 revolver. Both men fell. The trio jumped out of Auraden’s car, took a look at the fallen men, then hurriedly drove to the police station.

When police and the coroner arrived, they found but one man, Durham, lying on the southeast corner of the street with a fatal bullet wound in his abdomen. He at first refused to give the coroner his name and address, saying he didn’t want his wife to find out. “We didn’t do a thing,” the dying man told the coroner. “They simply followed us and shot us.”

Brown would later say that after the three men sped off in Auraden’s car, he saw Durham crawling toward the curb.

“Can you walk?” he asked.

“No,” Durham replied. “Call an ambulance.”

Brown’s sister lived nearby on High Street, so he cut through the yard of the Catholic High School and went there, where his brother-in-law called for an ambulance. He was told that it was out on an accident call but would be there soon. Instead, police detectives and Coroner Cook arrived a short time later. Dr. Cook drove him to the hospital with a serious bullet wound in his right hip.

Durham died before they could operate on him. 

Auraden was charged with first degree murder, but put forth a self-defense and justification plea at the trial, claiming that he was exercising the privilege every citizen had to make an arrest when he believed a felony had been committed. 

When the jury found him guilty of assault and battery, the least possible verdict, instead of murder, Judge Murphy was livid and railed at Auraden as he passed sentence: “The verdicts of juries in this court lately have place a very cheap price on human life and you are very fortunate that this court is bound by the verdict rendered in this case.”

He gave him the maximum penalty, six months in jail and $200 fine, and refused to count the time he already served.

The news of the reduced police force seemed to spark a wave of burglaries and other crimes. On January 6, Burglars broke the front window of the Kroger store at Vine and Poplar streets, taking “a small quantity of silverware” and a large quantity of meat, including a smoked ham, a boiled ham, and two twelve-pound slabs of bacon. Total value: $50. The same night, a downtown office was plundered for $17 in cash, and two residents of South Eighth Street reported that they chased away a pair of thieves who were breaking into their chicken coop. After the ado, Norbert Trimble found two chickens tied up in a sack that the thieves dropped in their haste.

Police Chief Stricker said that his force was already “stretching vigilance to the limit,” and called on the citizenry to be patient and helpful.

“With our force cut in half, we are unable to cover the city as completely as in former days,” he told the Evening Journal. We will appreciate it if citizens will tip us off, at once, of suspicious characters in their neighborhoods so that our men can get the jump on them at once. We will be able to get better results by close cooperation of police force and citizens.”

He seemed to get some results.

Moonshine figured heavily in a shooting, January 8, that cost a man his left arm. William Davis, 51, a roomer in the house of William Sapp on South Fifth Street, told police: “On the morning of the shooting I bought a pint of moonshine whiskey and took only a couple of drinks and set the bottle in my room. I went out to get something and when I came back the moonshine was all gone. I asked Bill Sapp what had become of it and he said he didn’t know and an argument started between him and me. Sapp left the room and I started to go down a few minutes later and as I went out of the room to go down the steps, I saw Bill Sapp standing at the foot of the steps with a shotgun in his hand. He pulled the gun up and pointed it at me and fired and I fell to the floor.”

Doctors had to amputate his shattered arm and held Sapp for the shooting. After investigation, police charged Sapp and his wife Kate with intoxication and fined them $5 each.

[On the charge of shooting with the intent to kill, Sapp pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four months in jail.]

On January 10, Hamilton Police Officers Tuley and Hufnagle raided the home of Belle Bishop, a single mother of two at 313 South C. Street, and confiscated six gallons of “high-test moonshine.” 

“This case is the most unusual I have come across,” Judge Kautz said afterward. “The woman absolutely refused to tell where she had procured the moonshine.”

Stricker declared, “There was no evidence that the woman manufactured the moonshine. We would like to know how she got it. We made every inducement to her to tell the names of the persons who made the stuff and turned it over to her bus she refused. Someone has been making the moonshine. We would like to get our hands on them.”

On January 26, two men from Greenville came to Hamilton with a big wad of cash looking to buy liquor. William Livingston and Charles Green stopped at a Hamilton saloon to make inquiries. They apparently flashed their money around in the process.

Not having any luck there, they got back on the road and headed toward Cincinnati. Livingston said that two short, heavy-set men left the roadhouse at the same time and followed them down to Clifton. When they reached a residential neighborhood, the two bandits came up alongside Livingston’s car and crowded it to the curb. Livingston stopped and the bandits leaped from their car and leveled revolvers at the Greenville men. Livingston forked over his wad of $975 and Green had $15 in his pocket. While one bandit collected the loot, the other pulled out a fuel line to disable Livingston’s car.

Despite a tri-state alert for the bandits, they were not caught.



1922

May 1922          Love Shooting on High Street

When Common Pleas Court Judge Walter Harlan charged the grand jury convening May 1, 1922, he outlined several reasons for the increasing crime rates in Butler County.

“It is a well-known fact that crime has become more common,” he said. “The automobile has undoubtedly facilitated the commission of crime and the escape of the guilty and is itself one of the common objects of larceny. Crime conditions may be a part of the aftermath of the war.”

The judge added that other contributing factors included a “widespread disregard for official restraint and order” “financial depression,” calling on the jurors to “serve notice and warning on would-be offenders that in this county crime will be punished and repressed.”

Harlan stacked the Grand Jury with a historic majority of women, eight females among the fifteen.

Without mentioning the recent suffrage movement, the Evening Journal editorialized, “Thus for the first time in the history of the county, women will predominate the grand jury and can see for themselves what needs to be done. The judge probably had this in mind when he put them on the jury.”

The judge’s comment about automobiles being both a contributing factor and an object of crime resonated that very evening, around 9:30 p.m., when Mayor Harry J. Koehler parked his sea-green Studebaker on South Eleventh Street near Chestnut to pay a short visit to a nearby resident. When he returned, the machine was gone, another in a rash of automobile thefts. Police of Middletown, Dayton, Cincinnati, Richmond, Connorsville and Oxford were immediately notified of the theft.

The grand jury would soon hear the case of an attempted murder that took place the same morning the judge was giving them their charge. They did not hear the commotion from the courthouse, but Coroner Edward Cook was in a county office when he heard a gunshot coming from the corner of Front and High streets at a Buckeye Transportation Co. bus stop. He looked out the window to see a man with a gun in his hand, so drawing his own weapon he rushed to the scene.

The man with the gun, George Siegel, 40 years old of Cincinnati, a clerk in a law office, was still standing there and willingly handed the .38 caliber revolver to the coroner.

“He ruined my home,” Siegel cried. “I hope I’ve killed him,” and handed his .38 caliber revolver to Coroner Cook.

The coroner then deputized County Commissioner Frank Kinch and another man from the growing crowd to guard Siegel while he examined the man lying in a pool of blood in front of the bus steps. When the police ambulance arrived, the coroner went to the hospital with the victim, leaving Kinch to hold the prisoner.  A woman who was with Walker jumped into the ambulance, too, carrying the wounded man’s gabardine jacket. 

In the ambulance, the man identified himself as James Walker, 30, of Cincinnati. The woman was Ella Siegel, 35, the wife of the man who had done the shooting.

Ella and George Siegel were in the process of ending their marriage for the third time. The couple first married in 1905, had a son in 1910, were divorced in 1915, remarried in January 1917, divorced again in 1920, married a third time in June 1921. Ella said she moved to Hamilton to establish residence here. She rented a room from Miss Miller at 238 South Fourth Street, helping with the housework. She asserted that her husband had never expended more than $20 for the support of their son. The last divorce petition was filed in Butler County courts several weeks prior to the shooting, filed by Mrs. Siegel alleging cruelty.

Walker was a native of Covington, Kentucky. He was married, but his wife lived in Los Angeles, California. He was an Army machinist in the war, wounded in France, and was at the time employed by a bakery.

Siegel said he had found a picture of a man in her room in their home at 1717 Race Street and confronted her with it. “This will cause my death,” he told her. “I then went to my room and wrote a note to my child and tried to commit suicide.” He tried to shoot himself in the heart, but missed and wounded himself in the right shoulder.

“She later burned the picture of the man and told me to get out and refused to live with me,” he said to police. That was when she moved to Hamilton. 

He soon got word she was seeing a man there, and so the Thursday before the shooting, he came to Hamilton and tracked her to a hotel. He got there just minutes after she left, he would later claim. He waited to confront her, but didn’t see them again, so on Saturday, he went back home to Cincinnati to change clothes.

Siegel said he arrived at 7 a.m. that fateful Monday morning on a bus, searched in different hotels for his wife and then went to her attorney’s office and told the attorney he would not grant her a divorce unless she stayed away from the other man. The attorney, who was also Ella Siegel’s brother-in-law and had guardianship over their 12-year-old son while the current divorce was being settled, would accuse Siegel of making violent threats against him.

At around 10 o’clock, Siegel said he saw Walker and his wife walking west on High Street toward the bus. Ella Siegel was within five feet of Walker, who was stepping up onto the bus when Siegel came at him with the revolver and fired three times. The first shot entered his right side in his ribs. The other bullet entered his hip and lodged in his abdomen. The third went wild. Siegel remained apparently calm and unconcerned until Coroner Cook took his gun, and quiet in the custody of Commissioner Kinch until detectives Dulle and Mueller and Officer Holden arrived from police headquarters.

“I had often told her to stay away from Walker,” Siegel said as he rested his head on his hands while sitting in the city jail thirty minutes after the shooting. “I told her to stay away at least to keep the name of our child clean. I told her she could have him after we were divorced. The suit is still pending.”

“I told my wife that she had no respect for either herself or me to respect our child, William, and give up Walker until after our divorce is settled. And no later than last week I warned Walker to keep away from Mrs. Siegel... This morning I saw them leave a hotel together, but I don’t remember which one it was. I tried to follow them, but they evaded me until I ran upon them getting into the bus.”

While Walker was being treated at Mercy Hospital, police brought Ella Siegel to police headquarters for some intensive questioning. Dressed in a neat checkered suit with a large hat, Mrs. Siegel sat at police headquarters, still  holding Walker’s topcoat and cap. Very demurely and with a smile that spread over her countenance, she looked up from under the broad rim of her large hat and said to a reporter nearby, “I suppose this will be the end of it all.”

She vowed to say “as little as possible,” but then seemed to speak in a torrent.

“I think he’s absolutely crazy,” she cried, referring to her husband, “and I believe that if he would be given a sanity test it would show that. He’s a gambler. We have been married sixteen years. He lies when he says he was in the service. He deserted the Navy.

“I did not know Mr. Walker when I filed the suit for divorce. I only met him a short time ago. My husband has often abused and threatened me. Last week the marks were on my throat showing where he tried to choke me.”

She denied that she ever stayed in a hotel with Walker, saying, “I had an appointment with Mr. Walker at the traction office this morning at 10 o’clock. I met him just as he got off the car from Middletown and we were going to take the bus to Cincinnati. Walking up from the traction office to where the bust stood, I looked over my shoulder and saw my husband following us. We walked up and shot Mr. Walker just as he stepped in the entrance of the bus.”

When told that a charge of shooting to kill had been lodged agains her husband and tha the charge would be raised to murder if Walker died, Mrs. Siegel cried, “My God, I hope that he doesn’t die.”

Although the wounds were painful and seemed serious at first, Walker recovered. Eleven days later, the same day that Siegel was indicted on a charge of shooting to kill and his wife Ella as an accessory by the female-majority grand jury, both pleading not guilty, Walker was released from Mercy Hospital. “His remarkable vitality and constitution is said to have saved him from death,” the Evening Journal reported. “Two bullets lodged in his body.” One had penetrated the abdominal wall but was not in a vital spot, and the other was lodged at the tenth rib.

At the Siegels’ preliminary hearing, Walker testified that he was shot without warning. He said that he and Mrs. Seigel were going to Cincinnati on a bus and he did not know that Siegel was in Hamilton. He said he had seen Siegel many times in Cincinnati, that Siegel knew he was going out with Ella but had never said anything against his being with his wife, and in fact they had passed each other on the street while Walker and Ella were together and Siegel nodded in acquaintance in an accepting if not friendly. 

Walker was angry at Mrs. Siegel, believing that she knew her husband was gunning for him and could have given him a warning that Siegel was in Hamilton. 

After the hearing, as Siegel was being taken back to the county jail, Ella Siegel was walking east on Market Street with her brother-in-law attorney. She caught sight of her husband being escorted into a police car. She turned and waved to get his attention, but he stepped into the patrol car without heeding her.

Before Siegel went to trial for the offense, Walker attempted a little do-it-yourself justice. On July 3, Walker lay in wait in front of the Munro Hotel on Seventh Street in Cincinnati. As Siegel walked past going toward Vine Street, Walker leapt from his hiding spot and began shooting. The first shot ricocheted along the pavement but the second hit Siegel in the left cheek and came out the right.

Walker fled and Siegel staggered toward the hotel uttering oaths. He exclaimed, “Well, I shot him last month so he got his.”

Walker was arrested on his way to police headquarters. The revolver was recovered hidden in a cafe at Court and Plum streets.

The affair seemed to reach an unexpected conclusion when Walker came up for arraignment on the same charges--shooting with intent to kill. Feeling that the score had been settled, Siegel declined to press the case, so Walker paid the court costs and the matter was dismissed. Before the Hamilton shooting came to trial, Siegel asked for and was granted a continuance and the case was never brought forward again.

July 1922                   The Grandaddy of stills

Local Prohibition agents had a unique problem on their hands: what to do with the gallons upon gallons of moonshine from local stills and finished whiskey from bootleggers that they confiscated in their raids.

On July 7, 1922, agents of Squire Morris Y. Shuler of Seven Mile, the most active prohibition crusader in Butler County, raided the home of Fred Riley at 1008 Belle Avenue and confiscated a 60-gallon copper still, 110 gallons of moonshine, 150 gallons of mash and 815 empty 16-ounce bottles that were already labeled as:

BODI-RUB

95 percent grain alcohol

For external use only

An improved rubbing alcohol, no objectionable odor , no foul-smelling ingredients.

Stimulating, sanitary, soothing

The liquor, still, and bottles were found in the cellar of the house, which was partitioned off and was equipped with city water, electric lights, gas and sewer connections. Strong locks were affixed to the door. Riley was not present at the time of the raid. 

There were 200 pounds of sugar, four bags of barley and some new gasoline cans with wooden packets in the cellar. The raiders also found some stiff paper cartons into which 12 of the bottles could be fitted. 

The raid was made about 3:30 p.m. Thursday by state prohibition agents Jones, Hutchinson, and Spivey along with local former magistrate Lewis Bolser, who said, “This is one of the most important liquor hauls ever made in Butler County.”

The same day, a smaller still along with 100 gallons of mash and an  unspecified amount of moonshine was confiscated nearby at the home of Ernest Eldridge, 684 Williams Avenue.

The next morning, Bolser led state agents on a raid at a home on New London Pike, where they confiscated another 60-gallon still, 15 gallons of finished moonshine and 200 gallons of mash. The still was in full production when the agents entered the cellar of the house where the moonshiners were at work.

After the cases were disposed in Squire Shuler’s court, his men would dump the stuff in local creeks, which posed a danger not only to local wildlife, but to the residents of the village. It got bad enough that Seven Mile Mayor Andrew Hauser threatened a lawsuit against Squire Shuler because the fumes from the dumped hooch “caused much staggering among the residents.”

Squire Shuler says he doesn’t want to make all the residents of the village intoxicated but he can’t very well keep all the liquor taken in recent raids, and it kept coming.

On Thursday, August 10, Shuler’s court and state agents raided what was touted as “the most complete, modern and largest still ever uncovered in the state.” 

“It’s the granddaddy of them all,” Shuler said.

A party of six agents, a mix of local and state officials, with a warrant from Shuler’s court arrived at the plant office of the Hilz Brothers dry cleaning plant at Main and A streets at the west bank of the High-Main bridge at about 2:30 in the afternoon. The girls in the office called Joseph Hilz, who managed the business end of the operation. His brother William, who managed the back end, the actual dry cleaning portion, was on vacation in Michigan.

Joe Hilz led the agents on a tour of the plant. When they got to a garage at the rear of the property, facing the alley that ran off of B Street, they discovered it locked. Joe said he didn’t have a key, that the garage was the property of his brother, not the business. The officers took the hinges from the doors and let themselves in.

Inside the garage, agents found vats with a capacity of 1,300 gallons and a three-inch pipe leading from the vats through the floor. In a rear room, the agents moved a workbench to uncover a secret trap door leading to a cellar and a series of tunnels and passageways hidden by false doors and other contrivances. The tunnels were so deep that parts were dug under the flood control levees created by the Miami Conservancy District following the 1913 flood. One of the agents had a hand-drawn map that led them to the largest still yet to be discovered in Butler County.

The dry agents said that the plumbing and ventilation system was the largest any of them had ever seen outside of an authorized facility.  A specially built sewer led to the river. Other apparatus to complete the plant included all kinds of gauges capable of testing the strength and purity of the product and an electrical equipment used to age the whiskey prematurely and eliminate the moonshine taste that is found in all white whisky sold now.

A quantity of coloring matter was found and seized. A portion of the sub-cellar was devoted to a bottling plant. Apparatus for the supplying of steam was affixed wherever heat would be required in a distilling process. The set-up could produce ten gallons of white mule whiskey per hour.

The agents discovered 560 gallons of whiskey in various stages of production, from barrel to bottle. Some of the bottled goods were stamped with the Lancaster label, a popular pre-prohibition bourbon made in Bardstown, Kentucky. One of the officers tasted some of the liquor which had evidently passed through all the processes and was ready for distribution. He asserted the liquor tasted like high class bonded goods at least three years old, pre-Volstead quality. The whiskey was worth about $20 a gallon (over $300 in modern dollars) at retail bootlegger prices, and the still itself cost at least $5,000 to install

Soon after the dry agents began their work, curious pedestrians and neighbors congregated at the rear of the building to watch the raid and soon news of it spread rapidly and until 11 o’clock when the men finished their work a steady stream of people maintained a crowd of more than one hundred persons at the scene.

To get the still and the barrels of mash and whiskey, the officers had to cut through the cement floor of the garage and make a hole large enough to pull out the barrels and still. 

The prohibition officers began removing the still and the confiscated whiskey at around 4 p.m. and worked seven hours before they completed their task. The haul included nine barrels of whiskey and several jugs and bottles of wine.

The whiskey and apparatus from the operation were taken to Shuler’s barn in Seven Mile, and he put an armed guard on duty at all times. At 1:30 a.m., Friday August 18, 1923, Squire Shuler was on duty himself when a large truck escorted by four automobiles swarmed onto his property. They evidently knew exactly where the liquor was stored, for immediately after reaching the barn they back up the truck and one of the cars to it and were just ready to break into the building when Shuler fired shots into the air, hollering at the men to leave the premises. That did the trick. The truck and four cars quickly abandoned their heist and hit the road.

“The next time those shots won’t be fired in the air,” Shuler bragged the following morning. “They’ll be fired at the men and they’ll be fired earnest, too.”

Proceedings in Squire Shuler’s little courthouse, a twelve-by-twelve shack on a Seven Mile side street, were generally low-key affairs, but the entire town took the day off when the Hilz brothers came to the village to face the prohibition court two weeks after the raid. A number of Hamiltonians made the trek, too, and long before the time set for the trial, 9 a.m., the building was full and a crowd gathered around it. “There were delays, for no apparent reason, until finally at 11 o’clock, Magistrate Shuler rapped for order,” the Evening Journal reported.

Shuler announced that warrants issued against the Hilz Brothers company would be dropped, but the warrants against the Hilz brothers individually would stand.

State Prohibition Officer Hutchinson was the first to testify in the case. One of the defense lawyers asked him how he knew that the whiskey was in possession of Joseph Hilz. Hutchinson replied that Joseph Hilz was in charge of the company.

“How do you know Joseph Hilz was in charge?”

“He took us around.”

“But there were other people there, weren’t there? Some girls?”

“Yes,” Hutchinson said, “but they didn’t look like proprietors to me.”

The lawyer then began a line of questioning to find out how much Hutchinson knew about the difference between stills used for whiskey distillation and stills used for gasoline. Hutchinson said he did not know the difference between the two, but that the still found in the cistern was a whiskey still.

“Then you know the difference?”

“I do not, but under my oath I say that was a whiskey still.”

“You mean that regardless of the fact that you do not know the difference you say that was a whiskey still?”

“I do,” came the answer without a minute’s hesitation.

As the Daily News reported, “Then came the question of whether or not the whiskey found was illegal whiskey and when Hutchinson was asked how he knew that this whiskey was illegal he answered to the effect that he was testifying to that fact.”

“Is there a difference between illegal whiskey and other whiskey?”

“There is,” Hutchinson answered, “in taste and in smell.”

“What is that difference?”

“It’s something I can’t describe but that I have learned by experience.”

“How much experience have you had?”

“About nine yars, part of it in my present capacity and part as a sheriff.”

“Prohibition hasn’t been in effect nine years, has it?”

“No, but I’ve caught moonshiners.”

Then came questions regarding the difference between different kinds of whiskey--rye and bourbon, for instance--and Hutchinson said that he considered bourbon whiskey mellower than rye.

Joseph Hilz took the stand and said that he had nothing to do with the placing of the still, barrels, or any of the articles taken in the raid, saying that he just worked in the office and had no knowledge of what was going on in the plant or its labyrinthine sub-cellar. The raid was the first time that the conditions of the sub-cellar had come to his attention, that the first time he had stepped foot into the garage off of the B Street alley was after the Prohibition men had taken the hinges off the door to gain entrance. 

Still, Shuler gave both brothers the maximum fine that could be levied, $1,000 each for two counts each in the indictments, but Joseph Hilz later had the fines reversed on appeal.

Late on the evening of September 6, Squire Shuler heard for the first time a case against a woman in his Prohibition court.

Two state officers raided a home near West Elkton at around 9 p.m. that evening and found a 60-gallon still, about twenty gallons of whiskey and twelve barrels of mash. They delivered these goods along with a woman who was present on the property and her daughter, about eight years old.

Squire Shuler asked the woman her name, and she replied, “I won’t tell my name. It’s none of your business.”

“Arguments were of little avail,” reported the Hamilton Daily News, “but finally she was persuaded and wrote the name Mary Elrige on a slip of paper.”

She was asked to give bond, but she refused this as well. “When she was told that she would be taken to the county jail and her child sent to the home for girls it was almost impossible to still the crying and wailing that filled the office.”

The woman appealed that the case be settled immediately, but Squire Shuler said that he preferred to  hold it over a short time and that it was too late to settle things that night as it was getting near midnight.

Squire Shuler telephoned Sheriff Rudy Laubach and told him that the woman and child would be brought down, and the sheriff waited for their arrival, but it never happened. Mrs. Elrige had prevailed upon the prohibition officers to take the child to her sister’s house on Mt. Pleasant Pike in Hamilton, and while they were there, a man appeared and offered to provide a $2,000 bond for the woman, and the officers released her in his custody. 

“This was one of the toughest cases we’ve ever had up here,” Shuler said the next morning.

That weekend after the Hilz brother raid, the agents went on four more raids, netting more than 20 gallons of whiskey, two stills in operation and one in the making, more than 800 gallons of mash.

The first raid was staged at 8 p.m. Saturday night at 1575 Dixie Highway at the home of Louis Bauman, where a small but complete and operational still was found on the third floor of the house. Twenty gallons of whiskey, mash and sugar, all valued at $500.

The second still was found 10 a.m. Sunday morning operating in an open cornfield on the Brant farm near LeSourdesville on Dixie Highway. There they took away 800 gallons of mash, two cookers, three jugs of whiskey, and 100 feet of new hose that was used in taking water from the canal that bordered the farm. 

The other raids took place in Coke Otto (New Miami). In one, they took away a pint of whiskey, but in the other they found a cooker and the beginning of a still operation by James White on Pennsylvania Avenue.



September 1922     The first prohibition fatality

By the end of the summer of 1922, local state Prohibition officials were running out of room to store evidence.

His agents had confiscated so much moonshine and so many stills, Squire Shuler was compelled to find a larger storage space than the shed behind his Seven Mile house. Plus there were security issues. In one Hamilton raid, agents confiscated a still that had previously been disassembled, stored in, and disappeared from Squire Haney’s place in Coke Otto. 

In late August, the local papers reported that the local magistrates had appealed to Karl Clark, the clerk of courts, to provide storage. Clark demurred.

The Daily News quipped that some people might welcome such a gift: “Of course it is not meant by any means that anybody in the office of the clerk or in other offices was looking forward to the arrival of the whiskey. Who would look forward to such a thing? Especially if it was put up in big, clumsy barrels that had to be rolled around.”

The magistrates instead set upon a plan to spread the booze and equipment among several secret locations until it all could be destroyed.

The load kept growing. On September 2, federal agent Sylvester Davis, working with Fairfield Township constable William Simpson delivered one of Shuler’s warrants to the home of Frank Stanich, 1518 Pleasant Avenue. The home itself was clear, but Davis discovered a hidden three-foot hole in the cellar leading to a trap door that led to the sub-cellar, which at first appeared to empty, but one of the walls proved to be fake, and behind it a 50-gallon still was in operation, another 15-gallon still sitting idle. The officers also seized nine barrels of corn mash and nine barrels of moonshine.

Local drinkers, meanwhile, seemed to be thriving on the abundance of moonshine. On September 21, a frantic call from South Avenue sent no fewer than seven officers to the scene to find Frank Obermier “out in the street bareheaded, barefooted and but scantily clothed and a panic of fear under the delusion that someone was chasing him.” His wife told the police that he had consumed two gallons and a quart of moonshine during a three-day bender.

The fall of 1922 saw the first fatality resulting from a Prohibition raid.

On September 28, Ohio dry agent Nathan Clark led a team of six men to deliver a warrant from Squire Carl Teeter of Morgan Township to the farm of Daniel Byer near Shandon.

They searched the house and some outbuildings, coming up empty except for 100 pounds of brown corn sugar that Byer said was used for canning, steadfastly denying any knowledge of a moonshine operation. Then the agents noticed wisps of smoke coming from a gully about a quarter of a mile away.

As they made their way that direction, one of them noticed a man standing atop a nearby hill and heard someone shout, “It’s the feds!”

The man took off running and agent J.W. Preble of Steubenville shouted for him to stop, then fired three shots in the air and took off after him. Agent Henry Pottebaum, a retired Cincinnati policeman, followed. They quickly realized he had too much of a headstart and abandoned the chase when the man disappeared into the woods. They then noticed two more men running away from them in the vicinity of the smoke, which was closer than the hilltop, so they switched directions and began chasing them.

The smaller of the two men got away, but Pottenbaum caught up the other after a quarter-mile chase and took him into custody. He tried to take him back the way they came, but the man refused to go back to the gully and led them instead to a nearby lane, which made it a longer walk but easier terrain. As they walked, the man cussed at them profusely, calling them colorful names, and refused to identify himself.

As they approached the two automobiles the agents had arrived in, Agents Sylvester Davis of Hamilton and Frank Loomis of Bowling Green approached them on the lane and Pottebaum handed the prisoner over to Davis, saying he was a “mean customer” and a “tough nut.”

The prisoner, a large and muscular man, made a sudden lunge for the gun on Davis’s belt. They struggled a bit but Davis soon had control of the gun. The scuffle paused briefly as Davis held the revolver on the man. Shortly, the prisoner made a second play, this time going for Davis’s throat with his left hand and the gun with his right hand. Again, they struggled, the prisoner getting a good grip on the agent’s throat, and the gun went off.

The prisoner stopped struggling, swayed a brief moment, then fell to the ground. The bullet had gone through his right shoulder blade, pierced both lungs, barely missing his heart, and exited on the left side near the sixth rib. He quit cussing at them. In fact, he would never speak another word.

The agents loaded him into Davis’s machine and took him to a doctor in Shandon. The doctor wasn’t in, so they called for Dr. Bausch in Venice, but by the time he got there, the man was dead. He probably died in the car, the agents said.

The man turned out to be Andrew “Leather” Schaub, who lived on Hamilton-Mason Road. He was 30 years old, married, father of four young children. He was identified by his father by the initials “A.L.S.” tattooed on his forearm.

From the gulley on the Byer farm, agents confiscated a 50-gallon still in operation, a 150-gallon unit in the process of being set up, and fourteen barrels of mash, but no finished product.

Butler County Coroner Edward Cook and prosecutor John Andrews arrived on the scene and instructed county detective Frank Clements to take Davis into custody, which Andrews claimed was routine in the case of a shooting death, and place him under a $2,000 bond. A group of Shandon residents, apparently grateful to the officers for their effort, chipped in and made his bond, so Davis was set free.

The next day, when reporters tried to reach Agent Davis at the Cincinnati office to get his version of the story, he was so distraught that he could barely talk and gave the briefest of statements: “I was left alone and guarding Schaub and while I was looking at another Direction he suddenly leaped upon me and attempted to draw my gun from its holster. I resisted and we fought for the gun. The gun was discharged but not purposely, because I could have handled the man without killing him.”

The director of the Cincinnati office declared that Schaub was the most desperate character his men “were ever called upon to cope with.”

“All my men are experienced and I am confident that there would have been no shooting had it not been necessary for one of them to protect his own life,” he said. 

The coroner’s inquest the following week proved to be a contentious affair. The assembly room at the courthouse was crowded to standing room only. In addition to the corner and his staff, prosecutor Andrews and his assistant in front of the room, Straub’s parents, father-in-law, sister, younger brother, and widow and four children sat in the front row. All of the Prohibition officers from the scene were there along with several other agents from around the state. Dr. Clark of Shandon and Dr. Bausch of Venice testified. One state and one federal attorney were on hand representing Davis, who declined to testify on their advice. There were also a number of Shandon residents, including Byer and his family, in the room.

Frank Clements brought with him the two men who had escaped the state agents’ custody: 17-year-old Emmett Eisner of East Hamilton, who was at the still with Schaub, and George Willeford, also of Hamilton, the look-out on the hill.

Eisner testified that earlier on the day of the shooting, he and Schaub had gone to the adjacent farm of George Willeford to take him a saw and were trying to buy some hogs, but when they couldn’t come to an agreement Willeford asked them to do some work for him and they were in the field planting when Willeford came to return the saw. Eisner said he was with Schaub in the field when he saw the men approaching and it was he who shouted out the warning. 

“How did you know they were federal men?” assistant district attorney David T Reynolds asked Eisner. “Have you ever seen any before?”

“No,” replied Eisner, “but they were an awful suspicious looking lot.”

Eisner said that there were six or seven shots, one of them whizzing by his head and another hitting the loose dirt inches from his feet. Willeford and other Shandon residents corroborated, though the agents only accounted for four shots.

All of the agents on the scene testified that the shooting was justified because Schaub was a large man and would have overpowered Davis and no one else was close enough at the moment to help him out. In addition to conflicting testimony about how many shots were fired and who was standing where, there was also much discussion as to whether the case would end up federal court instead of the county court, it being a Prohibition issue, and arguments over whether a county grand jury could issue an indictment against a federal officer for an act committed while in the discharge of his duties.

Cooked ruled that due to the lack of a coherent story, the shooting was not justified and county prosecutor Andrews signed a warrant charging Davis with manslaughter, fixing another bond at $10,000.

When the inquest adjourned at 12:50 p.m., Davis was “verbally assailed,” the Evening Journal wrote, by Straub's mother. 

“If I had a gun I would shoot you now,” the weeping mother threatened. His fellow agents had to peel her away from him. Then the sister took up the argument and the teen-age brother doubled up his fists and made threats to the federal men.

When the October grand jury met, it declined to indict Sylvester Davis: “But we do think from the evidence submitted to us that the facts surrounding the killing are not entirely clear; that the killing of Andrew Schaub... is very regrettable and that Officer Davis and the other federal prohibition officers could have dealt with Schaub in some better manner than that used, and that they were somewhat at fault for the circumstances and actions leading up to the actual killing.”

Over the first three days of November, fifteen state prohibition agents with an unknown number of deputies again swooped into Hamilton with a fistful of warrants resulting from a six-week investigation, making more than 100 arrests, including three members of the board of governors of the Elks fraternal organization on a raid of its clubhouse. 

State Prohibition Commissioner Don V. Parker said the three-day raid netted more than 500 gallons of whiskey, and that “representative business men were arrested, stills broken up and open dens of vice uncovered.”

Parker dubbed Butler County “the worst outlaw county in the state, with everything wide open,” adding that much of the contraband liquor distributed around the state came from Butler County. 

One inspector said, “This city is by far the worst that I have ever been in with open gambling in every soft drink parlor. They have a gambling room just the same as they have a whiskey room.”

Nathan Clark of the Cincinnati Prohibition office said, “I am yet of the opinion that Hamilton and the surrounding environs comprise the hotbed of Ohio’s bootleggers and I am expecting orders that will give me full rein to concentrate my efforts to cleaning up this particular locality.”

November 1922                Notorious Roadhouses

There were dozens of “cafes” in and around Hamilton that flaunted, sometimes openly and brazenly, the laws enacted to codify the great failed experiment of Prohibition, but there were two nightclubs on the outskirts of town that were the hubs of local illicit revelry, White City Park and the Stockton Club.

Both were favorite targets of local Prohibition enforcer Squire Morris Y. Shuler of Seven Mile.

A quirk of the Prohibition laws allowed mayors and justices of the peace to establish liquor courts in which they could prosecute violators throughout the county of their jurisdiction. Morris Shuler of Seven Mile, first as a justice of peace and later as mayor, took advantage of this quirk and for a time held sway over one of the busiest liquor squads in the state of Ohio. Sometimes working in collaboration with state and federal agents, sometimes leading squads that included moonlighting police and sheriff deputies -- and for a time, even the county coroner -- on his own. Until the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that portion of the law, Shuler and his small army were the scourges of bootleggers and cafe owners throughout Butler County.

Along with a cadre of 18 state agents, Shuler raided both White City Park and the Stockton Club, among a handful of other establishments,  on consecutive nights, November 2 and 3, 1922. The raids netted Squire Shuler’s court ove $8,000 in fines, the largest being levied against John Rose, then the proprietor of the Stockton Club, for $500, with his two bartenders also ponying up $100 each.

Probably the biggest catch of the day was the discovery of a still along the canal near the Dixie Highway in White City Park that was said to be operated by Carl Bley.

Squire Schuler reported that 150 gallons of the finished whiskey was uncovered in a pile of lumber, that a still was found out in the open behind a sign board with nothing over it but an improvised roof, and that a quantity of mash was found in a concrete basin built into the ground.

Although there were dozens of such raids on White City during the Prohibition years, one of the most notorious cases came to light in the spring of 1923, but it originated not in the park, but in the Globe Hotel, located on South Fifth Street near the B&O Railroad station when probation officer Hattie S. Clark went there to retrieve Ethel Hallam, 23-year-old a married mother of two, who had been carrying on in one of the rooms there.

Alvin Dunlap, the proprietor of the Globe, told her of other girls, some of them underage, registered there and behaving inappropriately by staying out very late and allowing men into their rooms. The girls had no luggage when they registered at the hotel, but Dunlap would later tell the juvenile court that he thought it was all right because they were all together.

This led to the discovery of three minors, Alice Adams, 16, who had been named a ward of the court in 1917, Marion French and Dora Sealf Scalf. Also taken into custody were Edna Tuley, 18, of Lindenwald, daughter of a policeman, and Eva Babcock, 20, Symmes Corner.

The girls had met at the Saturday night dances conducted by the Labor Temple on Maple Avenue, and it was following one of these dances that the girls formed the proposition of renting the room. Charles Vaughn, leader of the temple, was named as one of several men who visited the girls. The warrant charged that some of the girls entertained men in the room, but all but one of the girls denied this, but Dunlap told of finding two men in the room one night and said he had told them twice to come to the office if they were waiting for the girls.

The first night the girls were provided with two separate rooms but following that two beds were placed in the same room which was occupied by all six girls for a time. Some of the girls remained longer than others. One of the girls told her mother she was working in Newport, Kentucky. The mother of another was in Dayton at the time. 

The girls told of going to the White City Park resort, returning as late as 5 a.m. and then sleeping until two in the afternoon.

Dunlap denied furnishing the girls with whiskey but testimony from one of them was that they had obtained liquor from him.

Dunlap was fined $1,000 and costs and given a one year sentence in the Dayton Workhouse, suspended on the condition that he get out of the hotel business within 30 days.

At this hearing Friday the three minor girls were sent to the Delaware reform school, three elder girls given suspended sentences to Marysville and the keeper of the hotel given 30 days to get out of business or pay a fine of $1,000 and spend a year in the Dayton Workhouse.

Tuely and Babcock were put on probation on the conditions that they attend church every Sunday morning and refrain from going out after 9 p.m. unless accompanied by their parents. They were given suspended sentences to the Marysville reformatory for women and were required to report to juvenile court once a week. 

Probation officer Shirley spoke of the reports that he had received for some time in the past concerning the minors who were permitted in that place and of the harm that might come to them through environments that were said to be there.

The finishing touches were put on the evidence when the three young girls testified that they had gone there at least three times, leaving the hotel at about ten o’clock and getting back at some time between midnight and morning. The girls told of the use of the park of slot machines and one stated that she had been given small amounts of money by me there to play the machines. The evenings were spent in playing the machines and dancing and drinking soft drinks.

“It was immediately after the hearing Friday,” said Judge Woodruff, “after those minor girls had testified concerning things that had happened at White City Park that I gave orders to Sheriff Laubach and my chief probation officer L.K. Shirley to see that the place is closed until after the trial of the two me Tuesday morning.”

While all of this was going on, while the girls were confessing their sins in juvenile court, the case against White City Park was heightened by a shooting incident involving an on-duty Hamilton police detective, unrelated to the trouble with the girls.

Detective Herman Dulle said that he and fellow detective Al Mueller, had earlier in the week received a tip that a certain individual had been selling stolen silk shirts at White City Park. On Friday, April 13, even while warrants were being prepared to padlock the resort on the testimony of the teenage girls, Dulle and Mueller were eating a midnight meal at an uptown restaurant and Ella DeMont (Dumont), aka Ella Westfall, part owner of White City Park with William “Pat” Gradolph, was in the restaurant at the same time. Dulle said they told her about the silk shirts and she told them to go on over to the resort, located just off Dixie Highway on Bobenmeyer (now Bobmeyer) Road to find their suspect.

Dulle said that he and Mueller along with detective Giles of Indianapolis who was here on vacation, then went to the park in an automobile belonging to cafe owner Lymon Williams. After remaining at the park for an hour and a half waiting for the thieves to appear, Dulle said he gave up hope of catching them and notified Mueller that he was going back to the city. He went in a different car.

Although Dulle said he did not see Mueller drinking any liquor, that Pat Gradolph “had been drinking and was becoming a little wild and I thought it would be better if we left. Mueller evidently did not give much thought to Pat’s drinking and remained.”

The shooting occurred about a half-hour after Dulle’s departure.

Mueller would later tell his superiors, “About 4 o’clock, trouble started in a small side room. Yes, this room is used for gambling. I went in to investigate the trouble and succeeded in getting the parties on the outside. We settled the trouble and went back into the place.”

The story from a habitue of the resort leads to the impression that the trouble started over a crap game. A man shooting the dice protested he was short-changed. Harry Gradolph, Pat’s brother, was running the game. Trouble loomed and Mueller acted as peacemaker. Harry Gradolph told his brother of the affair.

“A short time later there was a disturbance out on the road,” Mueller said. “I did not go out and investigate. I later learned that police had been called but could not find the troublemakers. Then after the trouble apparently had been settled, that Pat Gradolph came up to me and wanted to know why I had put a gun on Harry Gradolph. 

“Pat was drunk and pulled out a revolver and started to shoot. One of the bullets hit my right foot.

“I did not shoot at Gradolph.”

Chief of Police Charles Stricker and Detective Chief W.C. Herrmann verified the story of Mueller that the detectives were detailed to investigate the tip that stolen shirts were being peddled at the park and exonerated him of any culpability, though he would soon be suspended for working security at the Stockton Club during his off-hours.

“At this time,” Hermann said, “we do not care to give the name of the party who tipped us off, but be can do so if pressed.”

Herrmann also said that police reports show that headquarters received a call from the vicinity of the park early Saturday morning telling of the disturbance. Herrmann said officers went to the scene but could not find participants in the trouble. No report of the trouble is contained on police reports.

Herrmann and Stricker took warrants to Mueller’s home Saturday morning charging Pat Gradolph with shooting with intent to wound, but orders to close the resort had already been issued to Butler County Sheriff Rudy Laubach following the sensational  expose by the six young girls of vices indulged in at the notorious resort.

Harry and Pat Gradolph were arrested Saturday afternoon by L.K. Shirley, chief probation officer in the juvenile court of Butler County and Sheriff Laubach. 

“It came to the point where something had to be done,” said Sheriff Laubach shortly after the park had been closed and the proprietors placed under arrest. “And it also reached the stage where sufficient evidence had been gathered against the place.”

Both Sheriff Laubach and Officer Shirley had made thorough investigations before a step was taken toward the placing of a lock on the White City gate. Both me reported that it came to the point where some step had to be taken and to the place where something could be done.

“I’ve been watching the place for some time,” said the sheriff, “but for the most part it was almost impossible to get any definite evidence against the happenings down there. People in the neighborhood did not bring me any complaints that could be followed and I stood watch for the right opportunity. After hearing the testimony by those girls in juvenile court Friday, I went into conferences with juvenile authorities and we decided to take action immediately.

Harry Gradolph was the first to be arrested after  he had been found in bed at the park. Pat Gradolph surrendered himself at the jail later in the morning.

The affidavit signed by Shirley charged Pat Gradolph with selling and giving the minors intoxicating beverages, permitting the minors to operate gambling devices known as nickel slot machines, and permitting gambling in the presence of minors.

The Gradolphs’ trial on April 19 included sensational testimony from Marion French, 17, who described in some detail the girls’ visits to White City Park.

Sometimes the fellows who took them to the park had liquor and the girls would take a drink before they got there. No one ever asked their age, but French said she did see the signs that read, “If you are not 21, your presence is not required.” She said that from 10 a.m. until 3 or 4 a.m., sometimes until 6 a.m., the girls sat at tables, talked, drank, smoked, ate sandwiches and played the nickel slot machines.

“They had big games on Saturday nights. You could not get into the room and you couldn’t see for the people... We would dance and when that wore off we would go into the barroom and get more liquor”

She said Pat Gradolph took her without the other girls into a little room off the barroom and locked the door. Then the back door opened and Harry Gradolph brought in a bottle of liquor and gave it to his brother, who served it.

“They felt pretty good lots of times but they were not real drunk,” French said.

One of those late nights, Miss French said she and another of the girls returned to the room about midnight and were awakened at 5 a.m. when Alice Adams came in.

“Where’s Eva?” French asked.

Adams replied, “She’s at White City so drunk that she couldn’t get home.”

French went back to White City and found Eva, enlisting the aid of the taxi driver to get her into the car and back to the Globe.

Edna Tuley testified that she bought beer there but was unable to tell if it was intoxicating. She admitted she played the nickel slot machines in the barroom.

Eva Babcock said that the fellows who took them to White City gave them whiskey but they always went outside to drink it. She said it was often so crowded on the dance floor that it was impossible to move.

On the stand, Pat Gradolph said his business was operating a soft drink stand known as White City Inn. He denied knowing the girls and denied giving them whiskey. He said he had seen them there drinking pop and eating sandwiches.  He admitted there were slot machines in the barroom and one in the dance hall, but that he never saw the girls playing them.

“They are mostly for the men,” he told the court, but the women slip in unbeknown.

Pat Gradolph was sentenced to a year in the Dayton Workhouse and fined $1,000, $500 of which was suspended on condition that he closed White City Park. His brother Harry was fined $100 and costs and sentenced to one year in the Dayton Workhouse, suspended on the condition that he return to his trade and “refrain from such activities as has characterized his work at White CIty Park or any other place.”

The following week, Ella Westfall was also convicted on similar charges and sentenced to a year at Marysville Reformatory for Women.

The Stockton Club’s most notorious moment came the following New Year’s Eve when a free-for-all broke out during a dance. The Wolverines, led by Hamilton pianist Dud Mecum and featuring famed cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, were playing when “some two score revelers ‘opened up’”at the club, in which a dozen or more persons were injured, although only one person was reported to have gone to Mercy Hospital at 4 a.m., which the hospital denied, but many persons were seen out and about in Hamilton with bandages on their heads and with scars and bruises.

There was no official report or investigation of the incident, but the club closed in order to allow the alleged “rough-house” a chance to blow over.



November 1922         Burglers Taking Pot-Shots

One of the city’s big annual social events a century ago was the St. Mary’s Bazaar, held Thanksgiving weekend at the “modern-equipped parochial school” located at Sixth and High streets. The 1922 version included a sale of specially-made sweets and the nightly give-away of 16-pound turkeys. The classrooms of the school were transformed into live entertainment and game venues.

The chairman of the 1922 bazaar was Oscar Yordy of 1112 Hanover Street. On the final night of the event, spirits were high in the Yordy family as he took his wife Nora and two children--Mary, 11, and Howard, 8--home around 10:30 p.m. Although the hour was late, spirits were high and the children were eager to play with the prizes they had won.

Oscar let his wife and children out of the car at the garage door off the alley at the rear of the house and went about putting the machine away as Nora and the kids ran toward the front porch. The house was dark and the children raced ahead, stopping at the door to wait for their mother to open it.

Nora later told an Evening Journal reporter: “I was about to insert the key in the door latch when there was a flash and a red flame. The children cried for help and I also cried as I felt a sting on the left side of my chest above the heart.”

A .32 calibre bullet, after passing through the glass in the door speeded discreetly over the heads of the two children, who were standing in front of their mother. Had the ball been aimed a few inches lower it would have struck the boy in the head. Glass from the shattered window sprayed over the boy and girl, causing them to run screaming from the porch.

Fortunately, Nora was wearing a heavy winter coat, so the bullet glanced off her chest just above her heart and lodged in the folds of the collar of the coat. A brief moment later, above the sound of the children’s terror, Nora heard another shot.

“When I heard the second shot, I feared that my husband had been shot but thanks to Providence he was not,” Nora said. The burglar apparently fired the shot to draw attention away from his escape out the rear door of the house.

Upon hearing the shot followed by the screams of his wounded wife and horrified children, Mr. Yordy ran to the front of the house and caught his wife in his arms as she was slipping to the floor of the poch. Neighbors hastened to his aid and assisted him in carrying his wife into the house.

Mrs. Yordy partly recovered her composure and removed the bullet from her coat.

The police soon arrived at the Yordy home to find neighbors, clad in pajamas covered with overcoats, gathered about the Yordy home. The civilians eagerly assisted police in their search of the neighborhood for the burglar, but he had likely made his escape via the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks near the Yordy home. 

The Yordy family had left home at 7:30 p.m. that evening. One neighbor said he had seen a man lurking about the block around 8 p.m. that evening, and another told the family he saw a light in their home at 8:30 p.m. and saw a man with a cap walking around the house. Detectives Dulle and Miller were skeptical that a burglar would have remained in the house two hours, but the thoroughness with which the house was looted leads to the belief that the burglar spent at least one hour in the residence. Police deemed it possible that the burglar knew the Yordys’ involvement with the St. Mary’s Bazaar, thus knowing they’d be gone for the evening and expecting them to be late coming home.

Mrs. Yordy discovered that her Christmas savings, $52 that had been hidden beneath a carpet on the second floor, was the major loss of the evening, but more than one hundred pennies which had been saved by Mary, the daughter, were also stolen. The unexpected return of the Yordy family caused the burglar to abandon a quantity of valuable silverware that he had selected and tied in a bundle. Dresser drawers and contents of several cupboards were strewn about the floor. Every room had been thoroughly ransacked.

How the burlar gained entrance to the house remained a mystery. Mrs. Yordy stated she was sure all doors and windows were locked when she left the house. Investigation showed that at the time the burglar made his escape, two doors, one side and the other in the rear, were standing open. 

”I do not believe the burglar could see that it was a woman at the door or he would not have shot,” Mrs. Yordy said.

Police were entirely without clues to the identity of the burglar, but noted that the robbery and the shooting was the climax and outbreak of crime that had swept over the city for the past two weeks resulting in a long list of robberies, but that the Yordy case was the first in years where a burglar shot when cornered.

There were no other clues as Mrs. Yordy was unable to even a bare description of the burglar and the gun he used. She refused to be transported to the hospital for treatment, but Butler County Coroner Edward Cook arrived at the scene and treated her wound, which turned out to be remarkably slight, but she underwent a nervous collapse when realizing the narrow escape she had.

The incident seemed to spark a lull in a recent wave of home burglaries in the area. Citizens revealed that prior to the invasion of the Yordy home, several houses in the immediate area had been subject to similar ransackings, but the rest of the Thanksgiving weekend was largely quiet.

“There has not been a housebreaking job or a stick-up since Friday night,” acting police chief Charles Hermann reported Monday morning.

Hermann urged civilians to call headquarters and report suspicious characters loitering on the streets. He gave special instructions for officers to stop all strangers, require the stranger to give a good account of themselves or be taken to headquarters for loitering. 

“Our officers have been instructed to use their judgment,” Hermann said, “and it is unlikely that they will stop reputable citizens, but in event any should be stopped at a late hour at night, the patrolmen will immediately release them after their identity has been established. The citizens in general can do a whole lot to run suspicious characters out of the city if they will notify as soon as they discover the strangers. I want to urge citizens to call 220, the police number, when strangers are prowling about.”

The lull did not last long.

On Saturday, December 11, a similar incident occurred at 603 Ridgelawn Avenue on the West Side.

Heeding the chief’s warning, John and Allora Robbins left their home securely locked earlier in the evening when they went to visit Mrs. Robbins’s mother, Mrs. Charles Phillips on Grand Boulevard. Returning from the visit at 8 p.m., Mr. Robbins drove his car to a rented garage a few doors from their house.

After leaving the car in the garage, Mr. Robbins and his wife started on foot for their home, accompanied by their large dog. As they entered the front yard, Mrs. Robbins told her husband that she heard a noise on the front porch. She stopped while her husband started forward to investigate.

As Mr. Robbins approached the porch, the burglar jumped over the railing and fled toward the rear yard. Mr. Robbins started in pursuit, at the same time whistling for the dog to follow.

Man and dog were nearly upon the fleeing burglar, who suddenly fired a gun over his shoulder at them. THe bullet passed over Mr. Robbins’s head and whizzed by Mrs. Robbins, who was standing in the front yard, and embedded in a tree in their front yard. Being unarmed, Robbins gave up the pursuit and returned to the front of the house where his wife was crying hysterically for fear that her husband had been wounded.

Robbins quieted his wife, assuring her he was unharmed, then called the police. Detectives Morton and Nugent investigated along with officers Hufnagle and Dowling. Neighbors who had heard the shots joined in the investigation. Mrs. Robbins described the intruder as tall and slim.

Later that same night, William Quinlin returned to his home at 711 Prytania Avenue to find his home ransacked. Some jewelry and other items turned up missing with a value of around $100.

A locket stolen from the Quinlin home was found in a flower pot on the porch of the Robbins home, showing that the same man was on both jobs.

Across town at 425 North Fourth Street, Minnie McCauley also returned home about 10:30 p.m. after a day of visiting friends to find every room in her house in disorder. Dresser drawers were lying on the floors with the contents strewn about. Beds were upturned and every room in the house was in chaotic condition. The only thing missing was $50 in War Savings Stamps, which were non-negotiable except by the owner.

Two days later, another close call occurred on Hooven Avenue in Lindenwald. Gilbert Grevey, son of city safety director Henry Grevey, left his house with his wife to go over the books at his Market Street auto repair shop, certain that they had left the house secure. The couple returned home about 9:30 p.m., parked their car in the garage at the rear of the house and started to walk toward the kitchen and the back door. When about 20 feet from the house, Grevey noticed the door standing wide open. 

Fearing that the burglars would resort to shooting, Grevey cautioned his wife to remain in the yard while he entered the house.

As he stepped into the kitchen, he heard the robbers leaving the house by the front door. He started in pursuit, but after running a short distance he heard the cries of his wife and gave up pursuit. He returned to her side and she immediately fainted.

Police were on the scene within five minutes. The robbers had made off with over $1,000 in jewelry and silverware, a revolver, and $60 in cash. 

While these noted burglaries remained unsolved, for the last two weeks of the year, Hamilton police joined forces with agents of the National Detective agency to break up a gang of young men who had been terrorizing the city for the past two months with a string of robberies, burglaries, and automobile thefts.

The round-up started when National Detective agent G.W. Boggs, working on behalf of a Seven Mile garage, stationed men in Hamilton pool rooms and selected dives to pose as professional yeggs and listen in on conversations. The garage had been robbed of tires valued at $1,000 Within two weeks, Boggs had gathered enough evidence to implicate 20-year-old Clyde Truster of Seven Mile in the robbery, and he immediately confessed not only to that crime, but several others, implicating six other young men in a criminal ring that had been operating within a 30-mile radius of Hamilton.

Word got out quickly, and two of the men--Clyde Payne and Dillard Marcum, both of Hamilton--immediately stole a car from in front of the Hamilton Post Office and fled to Kentucky. They made it as far as Richmond when they rear-ended a gasoline truck, breaking off a valve and causing 500 gallons of gasoline to pour into the street. Marcum and Payne then fled on foot, but did not make it far. Hamilton detectives Riley and Morton went to Richmond and brought them back in the stolen auto.

They at first denied any involvement with the gang, but when confronted with Truster’s confession came clean and implicated several more men. By the time the investigation ended, fifteen members of the gang were indicted by the January 1923 term of the Butler County Grand Jury.

December 1922             Babe Found on Riverbank

On the morning of Friday, December 1, 1922, the day after Thanksgiving, B&O Railroad switchman Columbus C. Goff noticed a white bundle lying on the west bank of the Great Miami River near the Champion Coated Paper mill, about a hundred feet or so south of the Black Street Bridge. It had been there the day before, and his curiosity finally got the best of him.

It was between 10 and 11 a.m. when he and two other railroad men scrambled down the river bank and discovered the body of a tiny baby girl, wrapped up in a blue and white blanket. The child had blue eyes and brown hair, dressed in a white knitted cap and a hand-stitched knitted jacket.

The baby was fully-developed and well-nourished. The clothes were new and of good quality. Coroner Edward Cook estimated it had been dead more than three days. 

“It is evident from the body's appearance that at one time the infant was the pride of an attentive mother,” Cook told the Daily News, “and that it is possible the mother, being in destitute circumstances, decided after the baby died to throw the body into the river to save the expense of burial.”

An autopsy later that day, however, proved that the baby had indeed drowned.

Hamilton City Police Detectives Charles Nugent and Carl Weismann were detailed to the case, but it would take nearly a year for their investigation to yield results.

For two weeks, Detective Nugent made the round of stores where infant clothes were sold. A clerk at McCrory’s finally identified the clothing as that sold to Miss Josephine Klenke, a nurse at the Mercy Hospital.

Nurse Klenke confirmed that a widowed young mother by the name of Hazel Southerland had given her a ten-dollar bill to buy some clothes for her newborn girl, and the investigation took off from there.

The October 1923 session of the Grand Jury issued a sealed indictment of first degree murder against Nancy McFadden, a single 25-year-old grocery store manager in the small mining town of Fariston, Kentucky, near London in Laurel County. 

On February 15, 1924, Butler County Sheriff Rudy Laubach and his chief detective Luther Epperson took a train to Laurel County to retrieve the young woman. 

Nancy McFadden protested her innocence, declaring that she had never even been with a man, much less bear a child, but her identity was confirmed by the doctors and nurses at Mercy Hospital and a taxi driver who dropped her off in the German Village district two nights before the railroad men discovered the baby’s body.

“I would rather die myself than take another life,”  Miss McFadden declared at the jail. “I never was a mother. I never was in your hospital here and never had any intentions of being married.”

Her voice was steady and showed no signs of emotion until she was asked whether or not she disposed of a baby to avoid scandal. Then signs of tears appeared in her eyes.

The investigation by detectives further revealed that on the morning of November 18, 1922, Nancy McFadden appeared at the boarding home run by Miss Molly Sandlin on North D Street where her sister Julia, who worked for the American Can Company, lived. She stayed for lunch. Nancy encouraged Julia to return to Fariston to care for their sick father (The following day, Mollie Sandlin accompanied Julia, who was fearful of traveling alone, as far as the depot in Cincinnati.) Nancy said she was on her way to New York City and left about 2 p.m., saying she was going to Middletown to visit a friend for the day. She left her luggage in her sister’s room, saying she would return later in the day to pick it up and resume her journey to New York.

Instead of Middletown, she went to Mercy Hospital, where she registered as Mrs. Hazel Southerland from Laurel County Kentucky.

She gave birth to a baby girl that afternoon, and afterward Nurse Klenke interviewed her to gather details for the birth certificate. Mrs. Sutherland said that she was on her way to visit a friend at 109 East Third Street in Dayton, but could go no further. She said that her husband, Robert, had died in August and that she was alone in the world.

Detective Nugent went to the Dayton address and discovered it was the YMCA.

Nurse Klenke would later testify, “She said that Robert Southerland was the father of the child but that he had died during August, a few months before. She gave her maiden name as Hazel Harkleroad and named her child Maybeth Southerland.

“She told me that her future address would be Dayton, Ohio.  Mrs. Southerland asked me to purchase some baby clothes for her child, giving me a ten dollar bill with which to purchase her clothing.” Nurse Klenke also said, “She didn’t seem to care much about the baby.”

Following the finding of the body and the identification of the clothing, Nurse Klenke and Nurse Catherine Ferris went to the morgue and viewed the body. 

“By the features and clothing worn by the child, we identified it as the one leaving the hospital with Hazel Southerland on the night of November 29,” she said.

After Nancy McFadden was taken into custody, the two nurses went to the jail, and Nurse Klenke determined: “She is the same woman. The speech of Miss McFadden resembles that of Mrs. Southerland, with a Kentucky brogue mixed with a Southern drawl.”

Herbert Padgen, the taxi driver, said that when he picked Nancy McFadden up at Mercy Hospital early on the evening of November 29, 1922, she carried a baby wrapped in a blanket. She told him to take her to Second and Black streets, but when he got to Vine she said, “This is far enough.” When she got out of the cab, she continued walking toward Black street. He turned up Vine and never saw her again.

Later that day before Thanksgiving and the railroad men first spotting the bundle on the riverbank, Nancy McFadden showed up again at the Sandlin boarding house again. She remained that night and the next day.

***

On Monday, May 20, 1924, Frances McFadden, 59, made her first trip to Hamilton to attend the trial of her daughter. Early that morning, Sheriff Laubach allowed the mother to enter the prisoner’s cell in the women’s quarters of the county jail, where they carried on a lengthy conversation. It was the first time the two had met since the daughter’s arrest in February. 

The McFaddens had lived on a farm of 15 acres at Fariston, which is a small railroad stop consisting of five stores, one of them a general store that the McFaddens owned. Mrs. McFadden told reporters that Nancy’s father had died just one month before she was taken into custody. Because Nancy had worked alongside her father since she was ten  years old, she took over the operation until her arrest. Since then, it had been necessary to sell the store and the farm.

Two other daughters, Mrs. Julia Childs and Miss Mary McFadden, traveled with her from Fariston. The other sister, Mrs. Rebecca Brock, mother of nine children, remained at home.

The courtroom was packed with spectators, many of them standing during the morning session of court and remaining until court recessed at noon. The majority of the spectators were women. 

Miss McFadden exhibited no signs of emotion when entering the courtroom. Her face was expressionless and her bearing characterized with the same indifference shown on previous appearances in court chambers.

Leading the defense team was Warren Gard, a former county judge and former U.S. Congressman, and brother of Homer Gard, publisher of one of the two local daily newspapers. In his opening statement, Gard said “that the defense of the woman will be a general denial of all allegations in the indictment contained.”

None of the witnesses except for the hospital staff could say that Nancy was noticeably pregnant or otherwise ill during her time in Hamilton. Prosecutor P.P. Boli tried to get Miss Sandlin to say she believed Nancy McFadden was the mother of the child found in the river, but Gard’s objection was sustained.

The star witness for the defense was Frances McFadden, who said that her daughter left for Hamilton in November 1922, on a Saturday morning at 2 a.m., but she did not recall the exact date. On a previous visit to Hamilton, Nancy had stayed for about seven months, working at the American Can Company plant. On this occasion, she was going to visit a friend in Middletown, Margaret Baker.

She said that Nancy returned to their home in Fariston on a Monday, two weeks and two days after leaving. She testified that she was not aware that her daughter was pregnant and if anyone in Fariston knew such a thing, they never told her about it.

Mrs. McFadden told of the acquaintance of her family with Killius Harkleroad, a young Kentucky man. They had known him about seven or eight years, a distant relative of the McFadden family. She said that Nancy had kept “steady company” with “Kil.” Mrs. McFadden also said that there was a family of Southerlands in Fariston.

Nancy McFadden helped her mother from the stand after her testimony, then resumed her seat near her counsel, her mother remaining in the courtroom near her daughter for the remainder of the trial. Nancy McFadden did not take the stand in her own defense.

In his forty-five minute closing argument, Warren Gard Scored what he termed was the insufficient evidence produced by the state and attacked detectives and other officers accusing them of hounding the girl on trial. He said it was a stale case and asked the jury to return an acquittal. 

Court recessed 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, the fourth day of the trial, at the conclusion of his argument. The courtroom was jammed and entrances to the space inside the railing were roped off against the onrush of Spectators. Women fought for position and quiet among Spectators was ordered several times by Sheriff Rudy Laubach.

The jury retired for deliberations at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, and deliberate for a total of six hours. Most of the time, they deliberated over the manslaughter charges, casting thirty-one ballots before coming to agreement.

At 7:30 p.m., the jury of seven women and five men returned a verdict of “not guilty.”

“As a sudden clearing of a troubled sky,” the Evening Journal reported, “the countenance of Miss Nancy McFadden, submerged during the day in gloom, even despair, brightened. Color came into her cheeks as relatives and friends hastened to her, shaking her hand.

“No one, of course, was more pleased with the verdict than her mother, who sat by her daughter during the trial.

“I’m going back to Kentucky and I’m going to stay there,” Nancy McFadden told reporters as she left the courtroom at 8:15 p.m. As she passed through the door, one juror said, “Now, Nancy go back home and be a good little girl.”

Nancy ardently shook the juror’s hand and said, “I’ve always been a good little girl.”

After a quiet reception at the courthouse, the McFadden clan went to the home of a cousin on Pine Street where they spent the night. The next morning, the mother and three sisters caught the 6:05 train south.

On June 6, Nancy McFadden married her sweetheart Killius Harkleroad at Fariston. Together, they had eleven children in Fariston, but sometime after 1946 returned to Hamilton to live. Nancy Harkleroad died in Hamilton in 1966. Her husband, Killius (sometimes in public records Killus or Achilles) died in Hamilton in 1970. Both are buried in the McFadden family cemetery in Fariston.



December 1922                   A Threat From THE KKK

The high levels of Prohibition crime and vice in Hamilton may have compelled the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan to threaten intercession as the winter of 1922 approached. Either that, or some entity used the fear of the Klan to spur the local police to clean up the city.

Henry Grevey, the city’s safety director in charge of the police and fire departments, received a letter postmarked 7:30 a.m. December 7, 1922 from the “Grand Goblin of the Hamilton Conclave of the Ku Klux Klan” making direct accusations that city officials knew of flourishing vice rings, giving Grevey 48 hours to take action. Ghile discussing other matters with the local press, Grevey made a passing remark of its receipt that piqued the interest of the local news mongers.

While refusing to detail the contents, Grevey waved the type-written one page missive as he spoke, allowing reporters a quick glance but they were not able to make out any words, though they were able to see that it did not contain a hand-written signature. 

“I will not make public the contents of the letter,” Grevey told them, and when pressed conceded that the letter requested he do “certain things” and that if he did not do them that “violence will result.” His last word on the subject that morning came out  as a bit of word salad: “If the things which the letter demand that I do did exist here, I do not hesitate to say that those who wrote the letter would not do the things which they demand that I do.”

Grevey stated that he did not believe that the letter actually came from the Ku Klux Klan, saying that it just as likely came from “a personal enemy or the holder of a grudge.”

A threat from the Ku Klux Klan was no small thing at the time. The organization first formed at the close of the Civil War, almost entirely in the former Confederate states, in response to Northern interference in Southern affairs and the political power beginning to be wielded by former slaves and other black individuals.Its publications called for “the reenfranchisement [sic] and emancipation of the white men of the South, and the restitution of the Southern people to all their rights.”

By the mid-1870s, after a wave of prosecutions for lynchings and other crimes, a federal court designated the Klan as a “terrorist organization,” and the national association (which once boasted over a half-million members) had disbanded, though lone individuals still wreaked havoc under its name.

The group went through a resurgence in 1915 after D.W. Griffiths’s controversial film “Birth of a Nation” glorified the Klan as a heroic effort to restore American values and white supremacy. The resurgence began in the South, but by the 1920s had spread nationwide and was particularly strong in the Midwest as Southern laborers migrated in search of factory jobs.

This new Klan, while still endorsing white supremacy, focused its efforts upholding a level of morality in support of “Christian values,” although no organized church would offer outright support. There were many reports from Indiana of groups of Klansmen in full regalia marching into a church at offering time and dropping an envelope of cash into the collection plate. One report in September 1922 from Brookville, Indiana, told of six hooded men marching up the aisle of a German Lutheran church while the last hymn was being sung and handing the minister an envelope containing $50 (nearly $800 in current value).

“As they were escaping,” the Hamilton Evening Journal reported, “an attempt was made to pull the mast from one of the members of the order, and a general fight started. After knocking down several men, the masked men departed... Trustees of the church are to conduct a meeting to decide what will be done with the money.”

With its new foundation of morality, membership in the new Klan burgeoned with the advent of prohibition and in some parts of the country its members went to war against bootleggers and moonshiners, conducting their own search-and-destroy missions. While still maintaining an air of secrecy and remaining non-partisan politically, the Klan openly endorsed or condemned issues and candidates in local elections, and in several Ohio cities--Youngstown, Newark, Portsmouth, and Steubenville, to name a few--the word of the Klan held considerable sway and helped elect mayors and school board members.

The new Klan inspired both fear and derision. An August 1922 editorial in the Hamilton Daily News, the Republican organ, chided what it dubbed “the pajama movement” and called its members “kookoos,” noting that “Flour bags are continuing to be big sellers for men’s suitings [sic] in various parts of the country... There are evidently plenty of male persons who like to dress so they look more like vanilla ice cream cones than human beings.”

At the time Grevey received the letter, a Klan leader and former Louisiana mayor was on trial for the murder and kidnapping of two outspoken anti-Klan men in Mer Rouge Parish, but the group’s presence was also palpable locally. The funeral of an Oxford Klan member garnered press by the “awe-inspiring spectacle” of over 100 men in “picturesque robes and hoods” and a Klan band marching at the head of the procession from the Presbyterian church in College Corner to the cemetery. 

So after the first day’s reporting of the secret letter, Grevey grudgingly succumbed to the publicity and other untold pressures to reveal its contents. “The consternation existing among city officials was given an added velocity,” the Daily News reported, “when it was learned that several prominent Hamiltonians, alleged to be members of the Ku Klux Klan, admitted that the letter was no surprise to them, as they have been expecting it for several weeks.”

The following day, December 8, Grevey announced that he had detailed officers and detectives to investigate the Ludlow Street house “and they reported they were unable to locate such a place. Hamilton, from a moral standpoint, is cleaner now than it has been in the history of the city.”

The letter claimed that there were 5,000 Klansmen in Butler County, but Grevey said the actual number was somewhere between 500 and 1,500. The letter made it “vividly clear” that Hamilton was known throughout the country as “a haven for human derelicts and a port of refuge” for women of a lower class. The letter, Grevey revealed, made the direct accusation that city officials “knew of and countenanced” the operation of vice rings flourishing in Hamilton, and cited the addresses of several “resorts” within the city limits. The writer of the letter was particularly incensed that these houses, once confined to the area of town known as “the jungles,” have become so profitable that new ones were openging on “some of the most prominent streets of the city,” including Market Street, Maple Avenue, and Ludlow Street, under the full view if not the endorsement of the police.

“The Ludlow Street resort,” the Daily News reported, “was operated probably on a larger scale than the others... being operated by a man (“a Greek,” according to the rival Evening Journal) who was formerly the proprietor of a restaurant in Hamilton, but finding his present pursuit for profit abandoned the restaurants to enter into the field that knows no bounds in Hamilton.”

These houses, the letter continued, were during the war somewhat discreet as to their operations, but since the advent of Prohibition “all barriers of secrecy have been torn down and that at present the frequenters of these places come and go at their will and with no attempt to cover their intentions.”

The letter said that unless the women and girls in these resorts were called in by the police and ordered to leave town immediately, the Klan would take the initiative of driving them out.

The letter requested that the police do their duty and that unless this “scourge” was driven from the city within forty-eight hours, twenty-four of which had already passed, action would be taken by members of the Klan, but the letter did not specify what kind of action. “It is not the purpose of the organization to make threats,” it read, “but only to issue warnings.” 

“There is no action that I can take to answer the demands of the warning letter,” Grevey said, “as the conditions of which they speak of have been fought by the department since my reign as safety director.

“I know of no commercialized vice existing in Hamilton,” he said. “To my knowledge all disorderly houses in the city are closed. It has always been my aim and ambition to run bootleggers and prostitutes out of Hamilton. If they exist here they are doing so under no protection of the police. It is a very difficult matter to place such a charge against any woman or girl. 

“Not so long ago, the police department was on the verge of entering into a lawsuit for sending officers into houses where it was stated that vice existed. The landlords of these houses came to me and demanded that I show what authority I had to enter their premises and threatened to bring suit for defaming their property. It is an easy matter for someone to write and request that city officials judge who are the guilty parties and who are not. All that I have to say on that point is that I extend an open invitation to anyone to come to this office and determine who are the prostitutes referred to in the letter. I challenge them to judge who is a prostitute and who is not.”

Grevey called suggestions that he employ a bodyguard to protect himself “ridiculous.” He said that while he personally kept possession of the letter it had been examined by police detectives and other experts but there were no clues such as “peculiar typographical marks” to identify the writer of the letter.

Hamilton police were “more than slightly perturbed” at the allegations made in the letter, which they gave “but slight regard,” the Daily News reported. They were given orders to maintain an acute vigil Friday night for any sign of Klan activity, but were not given any special instructions regarding the alleged houses targeted by the letter. Nothing of any import transpired.

On Saturday, Grevey and the Daily News received another letter, this time on Ku Klux Klan letterhead and bearing an “official seal” and hand-written signatures but no names, attributing itself to the “Klabee.” The Daily News said it was apparent that the writer of this second letter was not entirely familiar with the contents of the first letter but had “a better than average” education. This second letter denied that the first had come from anyone in the Klan, claimed that there was no “Grand Goblin,” and that it was all propaganda to belittle the Ku Klux Klan.

The letter did note, however, that it was in agreement with the sentiments of the first: “Our investigation committee has been investigating the conditions in Hamilton for the past eight months and we do find Hamilton needs a little cleaning up campaign, starting at the City Building first.

“We do not send threats to anyone. We are strictly law-abiding citizens and expect to remain such.”

The forty-eight hour deadline passed with no incident, and the Klan threat passed, but the group maintained an active presence in Butler County. The following summer, the Ku Klux Klansmen of the Miami Valley hosted the biggest Klan rally in Ohio’s history in Miltonville, north of Trenton, when a reported 3,000 members, including 1,500 women, were inducted into membership. Robed Klansmen stationed themselves at the crossroads from the Middletown Pike to the event to direct traffic to the site, a country country hillside that allowed interested non-Klan citizens to gather on the opposite hillside to watch the pompous ceremony. 




December 1922                           A Holiday Murder

A moonshine party ended in tragedy for a Hamilton man at Coke Otto*, Christmas Day 1922.

It was a complicated web of apparently strained relationships that led to the fatal soiree, centered on an enclave of families who had come to Hamilton the prior decade from Estill County, Kentucky.

Wade Wells, 42, was married to the former Nannie Reed, 35, but at the time of the tragedy they were living apart. Wade lived with the kids--daughters Viola, 15 and Alma, 13, and a son Edward, 8--in a house at 1123 South Twelfth Street, a block from the  Miami and Erie Canal near Grand Boulevard. Nannie was then living at her mother-in-law Minnie Wells’s boarding house at 1130 South Twelfth Street, just across the street and two doors closer to Grand. Wade for a time operated a pool room at 1330 Grand, right on the canal, but at the time of the tragedy was working in a different pool hall, and had on Christmas afternoon served drinks to the men who would, according to the county prosecutor, soon conspire to assassinate him.

Nannie, living in her mother-in-law’s home, was also caring for her four-year-old niece, Iona. The child’s mother, Nannie’s sister Maggie, had died in March that year. Also living at Minnie Wells’s boarding house was the father of the child, Maggie’s widowed husband Harlan Miller. Harlan’s cousin Clarence Miller, 26, who for some unexplained reason was called “Diver,” lived with his sister and brother-in-law and their family at 1125 South Twelfth Street, next door to Wade Wells. 

From the newspaper reports and genealogy records, it’s hard to suss out the exact interpersonal dynamics that led to this odd circumstance, but there were rumors, denied by Harlan and Nannie, that the two were intimate with each other.

Nevertheless, Harlan, Nannie, Clarence Miller and some other folks in the neighborhood (least one of “the Lainhart boys”) left Hamilton about 10 p.m. Christmas day to go to what the newspapers reported to be a dance or an orgy, but from all indications it was a gather based more on moonshine than music or sex. Reports estimated the attendance at between twenty-five and fifty, and one person commented that there were only about seven women in the bunch.

The party was in the small four-room cottage a block north of Augspurger Road belonging to one Andy Gibbs. All of the furniture had been removed from two rooms to make space for dancers. The shooting occurred in a small room between the kitchen and one of the dancing rooms. Gibbs would later tell police that he did not know anyone at the party, that the dance had been arranged by Minnie Burnett, a neighbor girl, who promised there would be “no drinking or any trouble.”

In the ensuing investigation, however, Deputy Sheriff Harry Getz would discover that there had been complaints from the neighbors of alleged “orgies” held in the Gibbs home during the last several months. “The neighbors said that they could see the partiers waving large guns and hear them shouting hilariously when the festivities were at their zenith,” the Hamilton Daily News reported.

William Lainhart, another Kentucky boy living in East Hamilton said that he was at a dance at Grover Alexander’s house on South Seventh Street, when Harlan Miller picked him up in his automobile to go to Coke Otto (now New Miami). Also in the car was Harlan’s cousin Clarence and Nannie Wells. Lainhart reported that on the ride, one of the Millers remarked, “We’ll go in and tear the dance up,” and Mrs. Wells said, “Yes, the last time I was there, they ran me off.” Lainhart said that he asked Clarence for a light for his cigarette and Clarence replied by flashing a pistol in his coat pocket and made some remark like, “Light this up.”

Clarence would later testify in court that he only had the gun because he was at a shooting contest earlier in the day and forgot to take it home. Likewise, cousin Harlan would testify that the only reason had a gun that night was because he was shooting rabbits at his father’s house on the New London Pike earlier that morning.

It’s not clear how well-oiled the party was before arriving at Coke Otto, but there certainly was some oiling going on. Both of the Miller boys would confess to have been drinking much of the day and the white dog seemed to be flowing freely in that tiny Coke-Otto shack. At any rate, they weren’t there very long before the bullets started flying.

It seems that the mere appearance of Clarence, Harlan, and Nannie added an air of tension to the gathering. “Feeling was waxing warm and hilarity running high,” until they got there. Several of the partiers left the house. When they arrived. “Everyone there seemed soused and personal remarks were being freely exchanged,” the Daily News reported. Having been married to sisters, both native of Estill County and living on the same block, Wade Wells and Harlan Miller knew each other well and for a long time, and witnesses would say that they did not get along well. Between Maggie’s death and Nannie’s moving out, Harlan began spending a lot of time at the Wells home, presumably for help caring for baby Iona, but Wade Wells, people would say, blamed Harlan Miller for alienating his wife’s affections. Harlan would later insist there was no ill-feeling between them, though that claim is hard to believe in light of what transpired.

Witnesses said there was a short and heated conversation between Harlan and Wade in one of the dancing rooms emptied of furniture that resulted in Harlan pulling out his pistol and firing four or five shots into the floor at Wade’s feet. At that point, the house emptied in a rush.

At both trials that followed in the spring, Harlan confessed to firing the shots, and said Wells started after him, grabbed him by the neck and wheeled him around and their grappling moved them into a smaller room leading to the kitchen. Wells had apparently also drawn a revolver. 

When he took the witness stand in his own defense, Clarence would testify that he was in a small room between the dancing room and the kitchen, and between the cigarette smoke and the smoke from the gun, which he believed at the time had been fired by Wells, “that I could only vaguely see him and my cousin wrestling about the room,” that Wade Wells had Harlan by the neck and was swinging him around.

Nannie tried to get between the two men, at the same time, Nannie had grabbed her husband’s hand with the gun and pushed it up in the air. When she did this, Harlan broke free from Wells’s grip and fled outside. 

“I do not know or do not remember whether or not Harlan Miller had a gun at the time he grappled with Wells,” Clarence testified, and said he watched as Harlan broke free and ran out of the house. Wade Wells then pointed a gun at him and so he took his gun out of his coat pocket. He heard someone shout “Don’t shoot!” but then one of the Lainhart boys bumped his hand and the gun discharged when he was five or six feet from Wells. He saw Wells lunge toward the wall. “I did not know whether or not I hit the man. Right after I fired my gun, Wade Wells slipped to the floor. 

Witnesses, however, said that while Harlan Miller grappled with Wells and had him in a headlock, Clarence fired a shot into his head at point blank range. Lainhart, who came to the party with the Millers, said that he saw Clarence pull the revolver from an inside coat pocket and said, “Don’t do that, Diver,” and made a move for the gun, but missed. Evan Wells, Wade’s brother, said he also told Clarence not to get involved in the scuffle, but let Nannie break them up.

After the shot had been fired, Nannie screamed, “Diver, you have killed Wade.”

When Deputy Sheriff Harry Getz went to the house shortly after the shooting, he would tell the Daily News, he looked upon “a repulsive scene... Empty bottles were strewn about the bare floors. Cigarette butts and cigar stubs were thrown promiscuously about the house, which was fettered with torn and discarded Christmas decorations.”

In the room where the shooting took place, the walls were punctured with bullet holes and the floor was spattered with blotches of blood, showing that the body had been moved after the shooting. Several of the guests had returned to the house and from a large galvanized bucket were washing the coagulated blood from Wells’s face and head alongside Nannie Wells, his estranged wife, who was near hysterics, telling the deputy that she was between Harlan and her husband, trying to separate them, when the fatal shot was fired. Coroner Edward Cook arrived at the scene, observed that a large portion of the scalp was loose around the wound. Wells died on the way to the hospital.

Immediately after that shot had been fired, Harlan and Clarence made a hasty retreat in Harlan’s car and beat it back to Hamilton, but another of the guests, John McGuire, followed them into town and at East Avenue and Grand Boulevard he met up with Officers Heber Jones and Levi Justice, who had just placed two men under arrest on unspecified charges. Justice took sole charge of those prisoners and Jones joined McGuire in the search for the Miller cousins. 

They spotted the fugitive automobile near the Miami and Erie Canal at Grand Boulevard. Clarence Miller leaped from the automobile and ran toward the canal bank. Jones took up foot pursuit. He fired a warning shot, but Miller kept running and tossed his gun into the weeds. They vaulted fences and waded through giant puddles before Jones caught up with him. After walking him back to McGuire’s automobile, Jones retrieved Miller’s revolver. One shot had been fired from it.

In the police station Tuesday morning, Clarence Miller was “in a maudlin state and not having emerged from a stupor from the effects of moonshine.”

Miller told acting chief of police Charles Hermann that he fired a shot after Wells had fired four shots into the floor, was not sure whether or not it was this shot that killed Wells.

When arrested Tuesday morning, Harlan Miller appeared to still be drunk and denied to the arresting officers that he had a gun or fired any shots during the time he was at the party. He later changed his story and told Desk Sergeant Earl Welsh that he did have a gun at the dance and that he had fired several shots into the floor, but not at Wells. He only fired four shots because he had shot a rabbit at his dad’s house. Officers Jones and Justice then went to the house where Miller lived and recovered the gun Miller said he had at the party. When Miller’s sister brought the gun, it wasn’t loaded, but was dirty and looked to have been recently discharged.

He said that he heard another shot, but did not know that Wells had been killed until the arresting officers told him. He denied that he had been keeping company with Mrs. Wells or that he had taken her to dances or automobile riding alone.

Clarence Miller and his cousin Harlan were indicted together on charges of second degree murder but were given separate trials. Prosecutor Peter P. Boli argued both times that the cousins went to the party specifically to murder Wade Wells and the four shots into the floor were a signal for Clarence to step in and do Harlan’s dirty work.

Both juries believed him and in short order--in one case after a mere 45 minutes of deliberation--convicted both, and both received life sentences. Harlan was given a “Christmas parole” twelve years after the killing, 1934. He died in Hamilton in 1949. It’s not clear when Clarence was released, but by the 1940 census, he was back on the family farm in Estill County, Kentucky, where he died in 1977.



*From Jim Blount’s Dictionary of Place names: Coke Otto also was known as Otto and Kokotto before its name was changed to New Miami in January 1929 when the village was incorporated. The community started in 1900 with the development of the Hamilton Otto Coke Co., which manufactured gas for distribution in the City of Hamilton. The village expanded with the opening of the Hamilton Iron and Steel Co. (which became part of Armco in June 1936). The name Coke Otto was taken from the coke and gas process, identified as an Otto Hoffman coke and gas plant. The village was built on both the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad and the Pennsylvania Railroad and often has been listed as New River Junction in railroad schedules. The name Otto was used to identify the community in some newspaper articles in the early 1900s. Kokotto was an alternative for Coke Otto.




1923

January 1923            An Attempted Jail Delivery

As the year 1923 rang in, Hamilton police continued their crackdown on a string of local robberies and auto thefts, and there were seven young but desperate criminals in the city lock-up awaiting trials and arraignments.

The newest arrivals were a pair of ne’er-do-wells by the name of Everett “Bud” Adams and Sam Sloane, both of whom had long rap sheets. Acting Police Chief Charles Hermann called them “desperate characters” and ringleaders of a gang of burglars and robbers that were uncovered in the waning weeks of 1922 when National Detective agent G.W. Boggs set up an operation that led to the arrest of 20-year-old Clyde Truster of Seven Mile in the robbery of tires from a garage there. He sang like a canary and before the year was out, fifteen members of the gang had been arrested on various charges.

Sam Sloane, 19, who also went by Sam Jones, was first arrested April 5, 1919 by Merchant Policeman Harry Balser when he tried to rob a downtown store. The following September, he was arrested for stealing an automobile belonging to Lou Wittman, a local businessman who would, in an unrelated incident, was acquitted of murder in a love triangle incident. When his car was stolen, however, he did not press charges against Sloane.

Sloane was also part of a gang of armed robbers who hit two Hamilton grocery stores in the spring of 1921. Sloane, John Falconi, and Edward Arthur were arrested for robbing the store of Gus Pappas on March 29 that year, and then on April 8, Sloan and William Thomas robbed Eugene Mau’s grocery store. Mau was wounded in that escapade. Sloane confessed to both capers and was sentenced by Judge Clarence Murphy to a term in Mansfield. He was not sent to prison right away, however, as he was to be the chief witness against Falconi, the reported mastermind of the Pappas robbery. In the meantime, Judge Murphy missed five months on the bench for medical reasons, and when he returned, he suspended the rest of Sloane’s sentence because he had spent seven months in the county lock-up. There was not enough evidence to try him for his role in the Mau case, but Thomas was sentenced to a term in Mansfield, serving 14 months.

When arrested in late December 1922, Sloane was free on a $2,000 bond for the burglary of a residence at Second and Market streets.

Bud Adams’s record included robbing the Grand Theatre in February 1919 (a charge that was ignored by the grand jury), for stealing an automobile in December 1920, for which he was sentenced to 14 months Mansfield in March 1921. Cincinnati authorities arrested Adams on August 18, 1922 for petty theft and was sentenced to 30 days in the workhouse.

Also in the city holding cells on January 2, 1923, were fellow gang members Dillard Marcum and Clyde Payne, the latter sitting in jail on an indictment for stealing the automobile of Tad Jones, Middletown High School’s football coach. He also had a pending case of disorderly conduct and was given a deferred sentence for stealing $2,000 worth of silverware from the Lowenstein department store.

With this quartet and three others out of business, Hamilton police officials noted that there had not been a single robbery or burglary reported in the last two weeks of 1922. Acting Chief Hermann said his detectives were working to uncover a “fence” in Columbus who had been working with this gang to dispose of merchandise. Hermann said he believed that virtually all of the jewelry stolen from Hamilton homes has been disposed of by these fences.

Police were also investigating undisclosed locations in Kentucky where the gang had delivered at least 25 stolen automobiles.

On the afternoon of January 2, 1923, Officer Tully Huber, who was the only man on duty in the city jail, was called away to investigate a petty theft in a downtown store. As he was returning and passing the rear of the jail, his suspicions were aroused when he saw a man running through the alley in the direction of High Street. Instead of investigating and to distract attention the officer walked by the prison and entered the door leading to the desk sergeant’s office. Huber then heard a persistent tapping and the loud singing of a lively popular jazz tune, apparently an attempt to cover up the sounds of the tapping. 

Firm in his belief that an escape was being planned, Officer Huber waited a few minutes, then returned to the alley. Once in front of the window he gave a low whistle. He was immediately answered by a similar whistle from the interior of the prison. Hardly had the Echoes of the whistle faded when a heavy plank that had been used as a bench in the jail crashed against the screen leading to the alley. Huber then noticed that the bars had spread in the screen torn loose. He hastened to the station house, enlisted the aid of desk sergeant Frank Feimeyer, Acting Chief Hermann and two other officers and they all rushed to the cell room.

Had another minute passed, the quartet of Sloane, Adams, Marcum and Payne would have succeeded in their escape. While they had been pounding away with the bench plank at the bars, the outside accomplice was dexterously engaged and removing the iron bolts that held the screen to an iron frame in the window case. The bars had been spread enough for a body to pass through.

Quietly slipping the key into the lock on the door leading to the prison, the officers, with drawn guns, flung the iron door wide open.

Adams and Payne immediately dropped the plank when the officers opened the door. Marcum and Sloan suddenly abandoned their singing and raised their hands in the air when confronted with the pistols in the hands of the officers. 

The four men were locked in solitary confinement until their removal to the county jail, displaying slight concern over the frustration of their delivery plot.

As they were being led away into a police automobile, Adams quipped, “We get a taxi ride!”

“We'll now take a  look at Rudy's place,” Marcum said, referring to Butler County Sheriff Rudy Laubach. Markham grinned slyly And “Sloane tripped into the police wagon with a peculiar lightness,” the Daily News reported.

On January 5, Archie Payne, 17, was sentenced to two-to-twenty years at the Mansfield reformatory for two counts of robbery and one count of highway robbery. He would spend the next 20 years in and out of prison.

His brother Clyde, who participated in the attempted delivery, received as six-year sentence for burglary and larceny. In 1936, he was arrested again for possession of stolen property and returned to prison for another ten-year term.

Bud Adams was convicted of auto theft in March 1923 and sent to the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus. In 1928, he was found in a coma in his cell and later died from the effects of drinking “orange blossom” cocktails mixed with fermented orange juice and wood alcohol.

Sam Sloane was also sentenced to a term in Mansfield for his part in the theft ring, was paroled after three years, then spent the rest of his life in an out of prison. In 1932, he was critically wounded by a gunshot from Patrolman James Hoskins while he was robbing the Ribar Drug Store at Central Avenue and Hanover Street. He survived for a time, was sent back to prison, and died five years later from complications.

On April 20, 1023, Dillard Marcum was given an indeterminate sentence to the Mansfield reformatory for automobile theft. He escaped two months later. Nine years after that, he was arrested on a charge of transporting liquor and sent back to the penitentiary. He died in 1951 when he ran his automobile into the back of a truck at the corner of Ohio 4 and Kemper Road in Springdale.

Of the entire gang, only Clyde Truster, who blew the whistle on all of them, seems to have turned his life around, moving to a tenant farm in Elk Creek, Ohio, in 1930. He died in 1967 and is buried in Collinsville, Ohio.




January 1923                         Shifty Dry Officers

Shifty dry Officers make trouble for pastor

There were so many mayors and justice of the peace courts operating under the Crabbe Act, the Ohio law enforcing the Eighteenth Amendment, that agents were in high demand and the standards for admission low.

None of the reports of the Rothermel affair ever stated exactly what previous work Cincinnati men Hayes Perkins, 45, and David E. Goodwin, 42, had qualified them as dry agents. Their driver, the Reverend E.J. Williams, who helped them conduct searches on their raids, was the minister of the Methodist Church of Amanda near Middletown, and he had a car and a desire to enforce the laws of prohibition.

Yet there they were, 9 a.m. on the morning of Friday, January 19, 1923, knocking on the door at 1209 Grand Boulevard in Hamilton, the home of Culla “Jack” and Mabel Rothermel. 

Rothermel, a machinist for the Hamilton Tool and Die Company, demanded to see their credentials. They showed him a warrant signed by Mayor William Stewart of Monroe. They had brought the warrant to Mayor Stewart, based upon information provided in a raid they had made on a Hamilton cafe earlier in the week. After carefully reading the document, Rothermel allowed the men to search his home for liquor, which they did for three hours.

Mabel was washing dishes. Perkins, who seemed to be in charge, said that he smelled the odor of whiskey emanating from the drain. He and Goodwin began scouring the parlor and kitchen for hiding places while the Rev. Williams went upstairs. Mabel Rothermel followed him closely as he found several hundred dollars in bundles, one under a pillow and one in a dresser. He also found a gun under the pillow. He left everything intact. Mabel gave him a key to the attic and he searched up there.

Perkins, who seemed to be in charge, and Goodwin scoured the first floor and then the cellar. They discovered several places where the dirt was soft as if there had been some digging going on, so they took shovels and removed all the loose dirt in two different places. Mrs. Rothermel sneaked down the stairs twice while they were digging. She could hear them quietly talking but could not make out what they were saying.

They found no liquor, but two jars containing bundles of money.

Goodwin and Perkins came up and sat down on a sofa in the parlor, saying they were tired after their hard work. They set the jars with the money on a table. The Rev. Williams told them about the bundles of money he found upstairs. Perkins intimated that having that much money hidden was reason enough to arrest Rothermel and his wife, but the conversation was otherwise casual and cordial. Rothermel said that he didn’t trust banks, that it was his money and none of their business where it came from.

The dry agents said Rothermel brought it up, but Rothermel would testify that the agents started the conversation about Rothermel joining their raiding squad. Rothermel, in the agents’ version, said he would help them find some stills in the area, that he knew of at least sixteen. Rothermel said that Perkins asked, “Do you know if there are a lot of Stills and moonshine around here?” Rothermel would testify that he replied, “ I surely do-- plenty.”  

Perkins then said, “You’d make a good man on our team.” 

“How much is in it?” Rothermel asked.

Perkins said they got 15 percent of all the fines collected and that they shared the money equally.

After a time, Goodwin went out of the house and around the back to the coal shed. A few minutes later, he came back with a pint bottle half full of clear liquid. He said it was moonshine. The agents passed the bottle around and Rev. Williams stuck it in his back pocket.

Perkins finally decided that there wasn’t enough evidence to arrest Rothelmel this time, and one by one the officers made their way out to Williams’s car, Rothermel following. By this time, several of the neighbors had gathered around their house, drawn there by the strange activity.

As Williams began to start the machine, Mabel Rothermel came running out of the house waving fistfuls of money in each hand.

“It’s not all here,” she cried. The Rothermels accused the agents of skimming money from their personal treasury. He told a neighbor, Joe Engel, to call the police and demanded that the three men go back into the house to wait for them.

They did. They all took off their coats and emptied their pockets to show that they did not have the money. Mr. and Mrs. Rothermel the neighbor Engel would all testify that when the men took off their shoes, Goodwin had $160 hidden in his right shoe.

When Hamilton Police Officers Keating and Leonard arrived, Rothermel and the officers were in the kitchen, a pile of money lying on the table. Rothermel insisted that the money be counted in the presence of the officers. There was exactly $4,800. The Rothermels were satisfied that this was their entire stash and that he would not press charges against the agents.

The Hamilton officers asked the dry agents if they had any evidence to arrest the Rothermels. They said they did not.

By this time, the crowd outside the house had begun to grow restless and infuriated, and the party inside the house could hear threats being hurled at the prohibition officers with cries of “Frame-up!” rising up.

Under the protection of the uniformed officers, the three dry agents, five hours after they first knocked on the Rothermal door, made a hasty retreat for the Reverend’s automobile, which closely followed the police machine down Grand Boulevard.

Rothermel apparently began to have second thoughts about the whole matter, and the following day he went to police headquarters and swore out warrants charging Hayes Perkins, David E. Goodwin, and the Reverend Williams with larceny for illegally threatening to confiscate his money without any evidence of bootlegging, moonshining, or any other illegal act.

Before delivering the warrants and arresting the men, Hamilton Police Detectives Herman Dulle and Al Mueller paid a visit to Monroe Mayor William Stewart.

The mayor informed them that Perkins and Goodwin had previously brought warrants to his court that have resulted in arrests and fines, but that he could not vouch for the Reverend Williams, that he was not a sworn officer of the court but was hired merely as a driver out of his interest in driving out bootleggers and moonshiners.

On Monday, Rothermel went with Dulle and Mueller to a Ludlow Street address in Cincinnati where the two men were supposed to live so that he could identify them. They were accompanied by two detectives from Cincinnati. They knew Perkins and didn’t seem to like him much. He had worked as a prohibition officer in several jurisdictions and had bragged to the detectives that it was because of him that Middletown no longer had any bootleggers or moonshiners.

A few weeks previous, Cincinnati police had arrested Perkins on a charge of having struck an elderly Bond Hill woman whose home he assisted in rating. In that case, too, the raiders found no evidence of liquor or liquor production. No evidence was found in the mire home. Perkins was given a heavy fine for his action.

As they climbed the steps to the landing at the third floor, Perkins came out of a dimly lit room and demanded to know their authority. Without a word, one of the Cincinnati officers grabbed Perkins by the arm and pinned him to the wall while the other detective searched him.

At first, Perkins denied knowing where Goodwin was, but with a little persuasion, he led them into a dirty, disheveled room littered with empty bottles, broken dishes, and cigarette butts, and where Goodwin was lying on a bed. The detectives tried to rouse  him, but he was so intoxicated that he could not comprehend the situation. There was a pistol under his pillow. Clothes and shoes were strewn everywhere and collars and ties were suspended from a tarnished gas fixture.

After tucking the duo snugly into the Hamilton city jail, Dulle and Mueller went to the Reverend Williams’s home on the Dixie Highway, two miles south of Middletown. Williams would be released within an hour when a devoted parishioner put up the $10,000 bond.

“When I wage war against the bootleggers in the future,” he told reporters on his way out, “the maneuvers will be directed from the pulpit and not from the field.”

Goodwin and Perkins remained in jail until their preliminary hearing. 

Some 200 according to the Daily News, or 300, according to the Evening Journal, “eager and curious persons” packed the municipal courtroom of Judge Kautz for that hearing. Some had arrived as early as 7 a.m. As the small room filled up, people began to crane their necks to peer through the windows. Men got footholds on windowsills and radiators so they could see above the heads. Consequently, the courtroom was unusually warm and people held onto their coats and fanned themselves with handkerchiefs.

“The suspense of the crowd grew acute when many other minor hearings preceded the big case,” the Daily News reported. “Preachers mingled with bootleggers, bartenders with soda fountain clerks and women, intensely interested, with those of the opposite sex.” It was so quiet, though, that “a slight cough from Among The Spectators sounded like a shot.”

The tense situation turned to disappointment when the judge granted the defense’s motion for a continuance until the following Monday.

It would prove to be, the press said, the longest hearing in the history of the municipal court, and it was just as crowded as the first aborted session.

The hearing opened at 11 a.m., was recessed at 12:35, continued at 2 p.m. and ended at 5:29 p.m. The crowd of 300 curious souls, many of them local dignitaries, remained from open to close. Stomachs were heard growling in the crowd because no one gave up their seat for the lunch break.

“Ministers from Hamilton and Butler County,” the Evening Journal reported, “mayors and constables of surrounding towns, Professional man and church workers, cafe proprietors and ‘the just curious’ were mingled in the audience.”

The Reverend Williams’s attorney, Allen Andrews, made a motion that charges be dropped against him as he was just the driver and not a sworn prohibition agent. Judge Kautz agreed and the pastor left the room smiling.

Jack Rothermel testified for the entire morning session. Mabel Rothermel and the Hamilton police officers on the scene took up the afternoon. In the end, both Perkins and Goodwin were released on $3,000 bond each and bound over to the grand jury, but there is no report of any indictments issued. 

Hayes Perkins, however, did come into the news again in the fall of 1924 when one of his raids raised the ire of the citizens of Cheviot for the manner in which they raided the home of an elderly woman. The agents were charged with assault and weapons violations. When the case was called to trial, the officers plead not guilty and were granted a continuance. The crowd of more than a thousand demanded that they be tried then and there. Fearing a lynching, Perkins and his associates barricaded themselves in a jail cell in the basement for four hours until Cincinnati police officers arrived and whisked them away in automobiles. As in the Hamilton case, Perkins was bound to a grand jury, released on bond, and the case ignored.




January 1923      Indignation at Peck's Addition

There were so many mayors and justice of the peace courts operating under the Crabbe Act, the Ohio law enforcing the Eighteenth Amendment, that agents were in high demand and the standards for admission low.

None of the reports of the Rothermel affair ever stated exactly what previous work Cincinnati men Hayes Perkins, 45, and David E. Goodwin, 42, had qualified them as dry agents. Their driver, the Reverend E.J. Williams, who helped them conduct searches on their raids, was the minister of the Methodist Church of Amanda near Middletown, and he had a car and a desire to enforce the laws of prohibition.

Yet there they were, 9 a.m. on the morning of Friday, January 19, 1923, knocking on the door at 1209 Grand Boulevard in Hamilton, the home of Culla “Jack” and Mabel Rothermel. 

Rothermel, a machinist for the Hamilton Tool and Die Company, demanded to see their credentials. They showed him a warrant signed by Mayor William Stewart of Monroe. They had brought the warrant to Mayor Stewart, based upon information provided in a raid they had made on a Hamilton cafe earlier in the week. After carefully reading the document, Rothermel allowed the men to search his home for liquor, which they did for three hours.

Mabel was washing dishes. Perkins, who seemed to be in charge, said that he smelled the odor of whiskey emanating from the drain. He and Goodwin began scouring the parlor and kitchen for hiding places while the Rev. Williams went upstairs. Mabel Rothermel followed him closely as he found several hundred dollars in bundles, one under a pillow and one in a dresser. He also found a gun under the pillow. He left everything intact. Mabel gave him a key to the attic and he searched up there.

Perkins, who seemed to be in charge, and Goodwin scoured the first floor and then the cellar. They discovered several places where the dirt was soft as if there had been some digging going on, so they took shovels and removed all the loose dirt in two different places. Mrs. Rothermel sneaked down the stairs twice while they were digging. She could hear them quietly talking but could not make out what they were saying.

They found no liquor, but two jars containing bundles of money.

Goodwin and Perkins came up and sat down on a sofa in the parlor, saying they were tired after their hard work. They set the jars with the money on a table. The Rev. Williams told them about the bundles of money he found upstairs. Perkins intimated that having that much money hidden was reason enough to arrest Rothermel and his wife, but the conversation was otherwise casual and cordial. Rothermel said that he didn’t trust banks, that it was his money and none of their business where it came from.

The dry agents said Rothermel brought it up, but Rothermel would testify that the agents started the conversation about Rothermel joining their raiding squad. Rothermel, in the agents’ version, said he would help them find some stills in the area, that he knew of at least sixteen. Rothermel said that Perkins asked, “Do you know if there are a lot of Stills and moonshine around here?” Rothermel would testify that he replied, “ I surely do-- plenty.”  

Perkins then said, “You’d make a good man on our team.” 

“How much is in it?” Rothermel asked.

Perkins said they got 15 percent of all the fines collected and that they shared the money equally.

After a time, Goodwin went out of the house and around the back to the coal shed. A few minutes later, he came back with a pint bottle half full of clear liquid. He said it was moonshine. The agents passed the bottle around and Rev. Williams stuck it in his back pocket.

Perkins finally decided that there wasn’t enough evidence to arrest Rothelmel this time, and one by one the officers made their way out to Williams’s car, Rothermel following. By this time, several of the neighbors had gathered around their house, drawn there by the strange activity.

As Williams began to start the machine, Mabel Rothermel came running out of the house waving fistfuls of money in each hand.

“It’s not all here,” she cried. The Rothermels accused the agents of skimming money from their personal treasury. He told a neighbor, Joe Engel, to call the police and demanded that the three men go back into the house to wait for them.

They did. They all took off their coats and emptied their pockets to show that they did not have the money. Mr. and Mrs. Rothermel the neighbor Engel would all testify that when the men took off their shoes, Goodwin had $160 hidden in his right shoe.

When Hamilton Police Officers Keating and Leonard arrived, Rothermel and the officers were in the kitchen, a pile of money lying on the table. Rothermel insisted that the money be counted in the presence of the officers. There was exactly $4,800. The Rothermels were satisfied that this was their entire stash and that he would not press charges against the agents.

The Hamilton officers asked the dry agents if they had any evidence to arrest the Rothermels. They said they did not.

By this time, the crowd outside the house had begun to grow restless and infuriated, and the party inside the house could hear threats being hurled at the prohibition officers with cries of “Frame-up!” rising up.

Under the protection of the uniformed officers, the three dry agents, five hours after they first knocked on the Rothermal door, made a hasty retreat for the Reverend’s automobile, which closely followed the police machine down Grand Boulevard.

Rothermel apparently began to have second thoughts about the whole matter, and the following day he went to police headquarters and swore out warrants charging Hayes Perkins, David E. Goodwin, and the Reverend Williams with larceny for illegally threatening to confiscate his money without any evidence of bootlegging, moonshining, or any other illegal act.

Before delivering the warrants and arresting the men, Hamilton Police Detectives Herman Dulle and Al Mueller paid a visit to Monroe Mayor William Stewart.

The mayor informed them that Perkins and Goodwin had previously brought warrants to his court that have resulted in arrests and fines, but that he could not vouch for the Reverend Williams, that he was not a sworn officer of the court but was hired merely as a driver out of his interest in driving out bootleggers and moonshiners.

On Monday, Rothermel went with Dulle and Mueller to a Ludlow Street address in Cincinnati where the two men were supposed to live so that he could identify them. They were accompanied by two detectives from Cincinnati. They knew Perkins and didn’t seem to like him much. He had worked as a prohibition officer in several jurisdictions and had bragged to the detectives that it was because of him that Middletown no longer had any bootleggers or moonshiners.

A few weeks previous, Cincinnati police had arrested Perkins on a charge of having struck an elderly Bond Hill woman whose home he assisted in rating. In that case, too, the raiders found no evidence of liquor or liquor production. No evidence was found in the mire home. Perkins was given a heavy fine for his action.

As they climbed the steps to the landing at the third floor, Perkins came out of a dimly lit room and demanded to know their authority. Without a word, one of the Cincinnati officers grabbed Perkins by the arm and pinned him to the wall while the other detective searched him.

At first, Perkins denied knowing where Goodwin was, but with a little persuasion, he led them into a dirty, disheveled room littered with empty bottles, broken dishes, and cigarette butts, and where Goodwin was lying on a bed. The detectives tried to rouse  him, but he was so intoxicated that he could not comprehend the situation. There was a pistol under his pillow. Clothes and shoes were strewn everywhere and collars and ties were suspended from a tarnished gas fixture.

After tucking the duo snugly into the Hamilton city jail, Dulle and Mueller went to the Reverend Williams’s home on the Dixie Highway, two miles south of Middletown. Williams would be released within an hour when a devoted parishioner put up the $10,000 bond.

“When I wage war against the bootleggers in the future,” he told reporters on his way out, “the maneuvers will be directed from the pulpit and not from the field.”

Goodwin and Perkins remained in jail until their preliminary hearing. 

Some 200 according to the Daily News, or 300, according to the Evening Journal, “eager and curious persons” packed the municipal courtroom of Judge Kautz for that hearing. Some had arrived as early as 7 a.m. As the small room filled up, people began to crane their necks to peer through the windows. Men got footholds on windowsills and radiators so they could see above the heads. Consequently, the courtroom was unusually warm and people held onto their coats and fanned themselves with handkerchiefs.

“The suspense of the crowd grew acute when many other minor hearings preceded the big case,” the Daily News reported. “Preachers mingled with bootleggers, bartenders with soda fountain clerks and women, intensely interested, with those of the opposite sex.” It was so quiet, though, that “a slight cough from Among The Spectators sounded like a shot.”

The tense situation turned to disappointment when the judge granted the defense’s motion for a continuance until the following Monday.

It would prove to be, the press said, the longest hearing in the history of the municipal court, and it was just as crowded as the first aborted session.

The hearing opened at 11 a.m., was recessed at 12:35, continued at 2 p.m. and ended at 5:29 p.m. The crowd of 300 curious souls, many of them local dignitaries, remained from open to close. Stomachs were heard growling in the crowd because no one gave up their seat for the lunch break.

“Ministers from Hamilton and Butler County,” the Evening Journal reported, “mayors and constables of surrounding towns, Professional man and church workers, cafe proprietors and ‘the just curious’ were mingled in the audience.”

The Reverend Williams’s attorney, Allen Andrews, made a motion that charges be dropped against him as he was just the driver and not a sworn prohibition agent. Judge Kautz agreed and the pastor left the room smiling.

Jack Rothermel testified for the entire morning session. Mabel Rothermel and the Hamilton police officers on the scene took up the afternoon. In the end, both Perkins and Goodwin were released on $3,000 bond each and bound over to the grand jury, but there is no report of any indictments issued. 

Hayes Perkins, however, did come into the news again in the fall of 1924 when one of his raids raised the ire of the citizens of Cheviot for the manner in which they raided the home of an elderly woman. The agents were charged with assault and weapons violations. When the case was called to trial, the officers plead not guilty and were granted a continuance. The crowd of more than a thousand demanded that they be tried then and there. Fearing a lynching, Perkins and his associates barricaded themselves in a jail cell in the basement for four hours until Cincinnati police officers arrived and whisked them away in automobiles. As in the Hamilton case, Perkins was bound to a grand jury, released on bond, and the case ignored.




February 1923                              A Massive SweeP

In the early months of 1923, Prohibition raiders from the mayors’ courts in Seven Mile, Monroe, Oxford, and other villages in the county continued their reign of terror over Hamilton moonshiners even as their power was being questioned in the courts. With both their methods and legitimacy called into question, citizens began to show resistance. 

Around 8 p.m. February 15, three agents of Squire Morris Shuler’s court in Seven Mile--Spaeth, Jacobs, Flick, and Newbrander--knocked on the door of Leo Schuh, 30 years old, 33 Clinton Avenue in Lindenwald, with a warrant to search for a still and moonshine reported to be in the cellar of the house. Schuh worked as a molder at the Estate Stove Company. His father Peter Schuh, a German immigrant, was a well-known cigar-maker in Hamilton.

When Schuh appeared at the door “slightly intoxicated” demanding to know what they wanted, Spaeth replied, “We have a warrant to search your home,” and the three men began to push their way into the front room, but Schuh was able to shut the door and lock it before they could get past.

“There has [sic] been too many of those fake warrants pulled around here,” he told them. “You can’t come into my house.”

The raiders began kicking at the door, threatening to batter it down unless Schuh let them in. Schuh’s response was to open the curtains on the door so they could see the shotgun he had leveled at them. The ploy worked, for the time being anyway, and the three agents fell back, held a brief conference, and decided to enlist the aid of the Sheriff’s office. Jacobs left the other three to guard the home while he went to a nearby story to use the telephone.

Jailer Fred Brinkman took the call, and after hearing the cry for help, heavily armed himself before heading out. As he began to knock at the front door, the four raiders lined up behind him, Leo’s wife Eleanor appeared and told him to go around to the back door alone and he alone would be admitted to the house.

As Brinkman approached the back door, he could see the silhouette of Leo Schuh, shotgun in hand, through the sheer curtain covering the kitchen window. He stood to the side of the door, out of the range of the shotgun, and knocked, announcing his identity. Schuh did not open the door, so Brinkman shoved the warrant under it. He waited a moment while the Schuhs apparently read the document, then Mrs. Schuh opened the door.

After disarming Schuh and placing him under arrest, Brinkman opened the door for the Seven Mile agents, and they were not disappointed in their haul: a 60-gallon still that had apparently been recently used, 10 barrels of mash and 15 gallons of finished moonshine.

Schuh, protesting his innocence and declaring that he was unaware of how the illegal items had gotten into his cellar, was taken to Seven Mile and released on a $1,000 bond signed by his father-in-law. He would eventually pay $400 in fines for the incident.

On March 23, Seven Mile agents assisted more than 60 state and federal officers in a massive sweep through Hamilton. The Daily News reported: “In the aftermath of the successful raids... Hamilton bootleggers and traffickers in illicit liquors Saturday were brushing frenzied hands across their brows in an endeavour to convince themselves that the unexpected happened.”

The day’s activities began about 1 p.m. when constables Spaeth and Jacobs joined state agents in raiding the Bowling Cafe at South B and Arch streets. Two officers leaped over the bar and stopped Gilbert Bowling from smashing a pint of moonshine on the floor. They then embarked on a tour of sixteen other establishments on both sides of the river.

Then around 3 p.m., some forty federal agents from three states in six large touring cars, “like the crack of a cannon” sped into town and separated into squads to simultaneously raid “virtually every” soft drink parlor and pool room in the city. The orders for the raid came directly from Roy Haynes, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, the nation’s top prohibition enforcer. Warrants for the raids were secured through the efforts of an operation under the direction of General Agent C.E. Goodwin, a fed in the Cincinnati prohibition commissioner’s office. Goodwin and an unspecified number of agents went undercover for two weeks posing as real estate agents in Hamilton for a meeting. Goodwin roomed at the Miami Hotel, frequenting the barroom there “where liquor flowed like water,” and consorted with the patrons for three days gathering information about other places where drinks were easy to get and where they stashed the goods.

“We visited the resorts in what you call ‘the Jungles’ and had a great time,” Goodwin told the press. “At all the places we had our share of good beer and plenty of drinks.”

Among the spoils of the raid was a truck containing 20 half-barrels of beer coming from Richmond, Indiana. The driver of the truck was parked in front of the cafe of Howard “Dick” Ward at Front and High streets, one of the first establishments raided. Officials believed that the finding of this beer would enable them to shut down a major Chicago brewery that had been distributing “good beer” disguised as “near beer.” The driver would say that he picked up the beer from a railroad car and was paid $20 a barrel to deliver it to various points in Dayton and Hamilton, and was on his way to Cincinnati when arrested. The driver’s wife and three-year-old daughter were in the truck at the time, so the wife was arrested, too, and the family was in custody in the back of one of the touring cars when it made the next stop at Max Klein’s cafe at 405 South Second Street. While an agent read the warrant to Klein, several others hastened behind the bar to confiscate several bottles said to contain liquor.

At the same time, different squads swarmed the Miami Hotel at North B and Main, arresting proprietor Jesse McDaniels, and the Labor Temple on South Second Street, arresting the caretaker, James Paulis. Federal agents under the direction of Frank A. High, the top fed in Cincinnati, raided the Arcade Cafe at 317 Court Street, arresting proprietor Charles Vaughn.

“I have been in a number of dives since my affiliation with the federal force,” High said, “but never in my experience have I encountered a place where violations were so flagrant as they were in the Arcade Cafe. Why the condition of several girls who were in the place when we entered was, in my estimation, a blot upon Hamilton that can never be erased. They were seated with several men at tables in the rear of the place. Of course, there was no liquor in the glasses that sat on the table in front of them when we entered, but from the scent of it, it was evident that whiskey had been in the tumblers. The girls, as well as their male companions, were partly intoxicated and unable to give us a coherent answer to the questions we asked them. In the cellar of the cafe we unearthed a booth that was equipped as a pre-Volstead bar. On the shelves of the small booth we found whiskey glasses, ginger ale, seltzer and other ingredients for making a ‘good drink.’ This of course we confiscated with the rest of the evidence found in the place.”

The Daily News asked Hight why such a large force was needed for the raid. Hight said, “Hamilton is the wettest spot in southwestern Ohio. Our raids were based on a volume of complaints that we have received about the conditions here. This raid does not complete our work. Unless the situation here is considerably cleared and the trafficking in liquor stopped, we will be back again.”

Hight related a story of going into one of the cafes unannounced and while waiting for the right moment to go into action, one of the patrons at the bar asked, “Say, I hear there are twenty prohibition agents in town. Know anything about it?”

“You can bet I do,” Hight said as he pulled his revolver and announced his presence.

At another cafe, a man who was clearly in his cups accosted Hight as he entered: “Say, what are you?”

“A prohibition officer,” Hight replied. The man demanded to know what kind of an agent and Hight said, “Federal.”

The stranger suddenly shouted: “Hurrah for the army and navy.”

Not every stop yielded success. After coming up empty in a search of the cafe of Ernest Fisher at South Fifth and Henry streets, the officers realized they were in the wrong place. They were supposed to be in Lyman Williams’s cafe across Henry street. They were further chagrined when nothing illegal turned up in a search of the Williams place. They left, giving Lyman Williams a stern warning that his place would be kept under surveillance.

Although word quickly spread through the Hamilton underground as soon as the raids started, the surprise netted seventeen arrests, who were taken along for the ride to subsequent stops on the “tour.” Although raids were conducted on thirty-five establishments, only twenty-two men were arrested. Some were taken directly to Cincinnati, but seventeen were taken to Seven Mile to Squire Shuler’s office where they frantically made phone calls to raise bond money. Gilbert Bowling demanded an immediate trial, made a guilty plea, was fined $20 and then taken to jail because he didn’t have the money. A second man demanded an immediate trial and Shuler asked him how much money he had.

“I’ve just got $100 with me,” he answered.

Shuler said, “If that is all, you had better let the trial wait until your finances are increased.”

Those who couldn’t raise bond Friday night were taken to the county jail pending arraignment in Seven Mile. 

Hamilton Safety Directory Henry Grevey deflected the criticism from the federal officials by saying, “It is [an] easy matter for strangers to enter any city and obtain evidence of the variety that is alleged to have been taken in the raids here Friday. Regardless of the fact that this department is handicapped by having only one policeman for every 1,000 residents, we have made at least fifty raids in the last three months, confiscated some evidence and coniced the persons responsible for the violations. We have no funds here for the hiring of special investigators, and a policeman’s uniform, their identity being known by the majority of residents and other similar things hinder them in obtaining evidence of liquor violations. I wish the federal men could be here all the time and clean up the rotten moonshine... It would take our entire squad to accomplish the work the federal men did in one afternoon.”

Hight acknowledged the “extenuating circumstances” in Hamilton, but refused to retract his comments about Hamilton’s wetness: “The small number of officers in Hamilton does not excuse some of the flagrant violations in liquor trafficking my men found there. The raid we made merely scratched the surface and unless more favorable reports are received from Hamilton, a repetition of the drastic raid will be launched.”

A smaller group of federal agents returned to Hamilton the following day to revisit some of the places where the searches had turned up blank, believing that they may have been tipped off on Friday and so may have let their guards down. But nothing further was discovered. In fact, the business was “dull” everywhere in town, the newspapers reported. One cafe habitue reported that he’d been enjoying ten-cent beers for months, but was having trouble finding a drink that Saturday night.

“They broke down our playhouse,” he complained. “Don’t know where to go now.”




March 1923                        The Sweeps continue

Swooping down upon Hamilton late Friday afternoon, March 24, 1923, federal and state Prohibition agents staged the most sensational series of raids Ohio has known since the advent of Prohibition.

Twenty-two café proprietors were in custody, truck loads of beer, wines and liquor were confiscated and more than thirty-five soft drink parlors were bone dry within three hours after the combined forces inaugurated their sweeping clean-up.

Bursting into the city in seven high-powered automobiles and working with clock-like precision the dry forces scurried to many parts of the city simultaneously and at precisely the same moment instituted two thirds of the raids.

Three hours later after the raids had been completed, Major Roy A. Haynes, Federal Prohibition Commissioner at Washington, who ordered the raids was telegraphed the story of the wholesale arrests. 

Federal agents declared that Haynes personally ordered the sweeping “house cleaning” after receipt of reports of alleged flagrant violation of the liquor laws here. Nationally-known prohibition men were included in the party of raiders.

Tips today were that the Federal agents have not yet completed their work and that squads have been detailed to remain on duty here and serve other warrants.

Included in the list of those arrested are the names of many who have been apprehended on previous occasions by federal and state authorities and in some instances by city police.

Pointing revolvers on entering each place the federal men mad the raids quickly and immediately upon discovery of evidence corralled the proprietor or man in charge. Their prisoners were taken to the county jail. 

Four men who could not furnish bonds were escorted to Cincinnati late Friday by federal agents. Others were held for arraignment by Squire Shuler in Seven Mile.

“Zero hour” for the raid had been set at 3 p.m. by the Federal men under the direct orders of Federal Prohibition Commissioner Roy Haynes, who enlisted the aid of state officers. More than 30 officers in several “high-powered” vehicles participated in the raids.

Guising themselves as real estate agents, the advance men of the squad stationed themselves in Hamilton some two weeks prior and began a systematic list of cafes and “resorts”.

“Cunning and versatile, the agents adapted themselves to all situations and gained access to practically all places that had been named in complaints received by Haynes.

During those two weeks, the agents “ate, drank, sang, danced and made merry with patrons” of the targeted establishments, taking notes and making lists.

“The result of the planned drive was that all search warrants were flawless as to location and owner of the premises. When agents, armed and ready for any emergency, entered the cafes. They wasted no time looking for hidden closets or places of refuge for the anti-Volstead beverages. Their weeks’ of scouting had enabled them to carefully note the hiding places of all drinks. Invariably, the agents vaulted over the bar or walked around the railing and in a moment spotted their objectives.

“Rounds of pleasure were enjoyed by those who made the barn-storming trip prior to the raid.”

“We visited the resorts in what you call ‘The Jungles’ and had a grand time. At all the places were had our share of good beer and plenty of drinks.”

At the Vaughn place, Maple Avenue, agents said that women scurried from the anteroom when the raid was staged.

On his return to Cincinnati, Agent in Charge Hight said his men were waiting for the precise minute to arrive when one patron of a saloon in which they were stationed said, “Say, I hear there are 20 prohibition agents in town. Do you know anything about it?”

“You bet I do,” replied Hight as “Zero Hour” arrived, and pulled his revolver.

At 3:05 p.m., four federal agents entered the Rigley Café, South Third Street and Maple Avenue, the first place raided. “A hurried yet piercing search for evidence was fruitless and the raiders departed, complaining that the proprietor had been tipped off.

They next went to the café of Charles Vaughn half a block away. A quantity of beer, which tested at more than five percent, was confiscated and Vaughn placed under arrest and sent to the county jail.

Operating with lighting quickness the agents raided the Labor Temple (seizing a small quantity of wine and home brew), Dick Ward’s place, and Max Klein’s Café, making arrests at each stop. 

While the agents were in Ward’s café, a truck loaded with beer backed against the curb and men commenced unloading eight barrels, which were quickly confiscated and Ward placed under arrest.

The paperwork that the driver had on him helped the feds crack a case they’d been working on for several months, the source of “good beer,” or “high test lager” as the papers called it.

Truckloads of light wines, barreled beer, home brew and moonshine were taken to Cincinnati late Friday night.

The raids were conducted in an orderly manner and no violence resulted.

“Everything went off in fine shape,” said W.D. Jones, leader of the state forces in an interview with the Evening Journal in the crowded courtroom at Seven Mile. “We met resistance at only one place and even that didn’t have any serious results. That was at the place of Dan Bowling, 233 South B Street, that Bowling made an attempt to destroy the evidence by breaking a bottle.”

From shortly after five o’clock until almost midnight, the little courtroom in Seven Mile, the headquarters of Morris Y. Shuler, justice of the peace in Wayne Township and to whom all state cases had been taken, was the scene of intense activity. Men charged with liquor violation lined the walls waiting for their friends or relatives to produce bond for their release.

Jones said that there were 14 state agents among the 30 conducting the raids, the largest contingent of state agents since a raid the previous summer that resulted in 32 charges. They descended upon Hamilton from the north.

The first establishment raided by the state cops was Pete Farley’s joint at 87 Wood Street. Farley and his bartender Charles Clapbert were both charged.

In only one case did agents find a still, Jones said. “We were not after stills on this trip, but only after those who were selling liquor. In the great majority of cases we found only small quantities of ‘moon,’ confiscating that and preserving enough to be held for evidence.

It was at the place of Henry Jones, 525 N. Third Street, that prohibition ages found a 50-gallon still on the second floor of the building that by appearances was used as a bakery.

After the state men finished up their 17 cases in the Seven Mile Court, they claimed to start heading for home, but instead went to the Hilz Brothers dry cleaning establishment at Main and B streets, landing at the east end of the High Street Bridge at 8 p.m. The place was closed, but agents found their way in and confiscated 18 gallons of what appeared to be a strong wine. Squire Shuler said that no charges would be placed against the Hilz brothers until the liquid could be analyzed in Columbus.

July 1923               The Adkins/Croucher Feud

The trouble, it would turn out, had been brewing for months.

It all started, the Crouchers said, when Spicy Croucher, 18, the second-oldest daughter of the nine children of Cud Croucher, rejected the advances of Willie Adkins, 20, because the family had forbidden her to go with the boy.

“Absurd,” said the Adkins family, who came to Hamilton from Gray Hawk in Jackson County, Kentucky. Mrs. Mattie Adkins admitted that Willie, the oldest of their nine children, had spoken to the Croucher girl as they stood by the fence of her yard. In fact, it started because Willie returned a ring that Spicey had given him.

There was also an incident in which two of the younger children got into a fight, with one of the Croucher boys talking back to Mattie Adkins when she tried to break it up.

The simmering tension started to boil over about noon, Sunday, July 1, 1923 when Willie Adkins and his cousin Billy Young met Dillard Croucher, 17, along the railroad tracks on Zimmerman Avenue near Belle, where both families lived. Dillard asked Young when he would pay the fifty cents he owed. Young promised Croucher he’d get the money to him on Tuesday.

The trio met up again about 5:30 p.m. at Belle Avenue near the railroad crossing. Croucher again asked Young for the fifty cents.

“Why worry about the fifty cents,” Young said. “You’ll be paid Tuesday.”

“You’re mighty right I’ll get paid,” Croucher said, then started south on the railroad tracks, and after walking about thirty feet, turned and shouted, “You better have that fifty cents because when you fool with a Croucher, you are fooling with somebody.” A shouting match ensued.

Dillard’s cousin Carroll Croucher, 22, came out of his house near where the three were hurling threats at each other, and joined in the fray, swearing about how tough the Crouchers were, and before long went after Adkins and Young. Dillard joined in and the four commenced to brawl in the middle of the street.

Adkins emerged from the tussle with a profusely bleeding scalp wound, the result of a pair of “knucks” wielded by Carroll Croucher, and the fight wound down. The four boys went their separate ways, still shouting curses at one another.

Irvin Adkins, 40, watched his son come into the yard of their home at 2283 Zimmerman Avenue, and seeing the bleeding wound and hearing the story of the melee, went inside the house and procured a knife and “went to get the Crouchers.”

Dillard’s father Cude Croucher, 35, two doors down at 2269 Zimmerman, saw Irvin come toward his yard with a knife in  his hands and murder in his stride, his boys Willie and James Stanley, 19, trailing behind. Cude went straight inside for his .32 automatic. A scuffle had already started, and the knife in Irvin’s hand slashed the shirt of Robert Norther, a border in the Croucher home. Cude came out of the house and confronted Adkins, holding the weapon with both hands. Cude said he was facing Adkins when he fired the gun, but the coroner would say the bullet entered Irvin Adkins’s chest from the side.

Willie and Stanley immediately ran back to their house, grabbed two automatics and a shotgun, and took a position along the fence southeast of the Croucher home. Cude made it to his own front yard before he dropped to the ground saying, “I’m shot,” but he recovered enough to take a shotgun from one of his sons and duck behind a telephone pole.

Three Crouchers were outside at the time, and when the Adkins boys opened fire, they scurried inside for their own weapons, then crouched on the porch to return fire. The five males then engaged in a firefight, forty yards apart. Neighbors scurried to safety and in the course of about ten minutes, more than 60 shots were fired.

Police received a call from residents of the vicinity of Zimmerman Avenue near the B&O Railroad about 6:15 p.m. that a battle was ensuing between two families. A riot call was at once sent out and many officers led by Chief of Police Frank Clements went to the scene.

When officers Huber and Korb arrived at the scene, the Crouchers were arrayed with pistols and shotguns on their porch. The siding of the house was riddled with bullet and buckshot holes and windows along the front the “shack,” as the Evening Journal dubbed it, were all shattered. In the front room where dwelt a boarder, the widow Clara Fried, hid behind a sofa where the bullets had whizzed past her head. Behind some beds in a back room, Susie Croucher sat cuddled, trying to calm her younger children, including the disabled ten-year-old James. Two doors down, another mother and her young children prayed loudly for the recovery of her husband and son, the smaller children gathered round her.

Cude Croucher was in the front room with buckshot wounds in his side and hip. James Stanley Adkins and Irvin Adkins both lay in pools of blood. 

Detectives Dulle and Garver and Coroner Edward Cook then arrived, followed closely by Chief Clements and four more officers in the police ambulance, which was loaded with rifles and shotguns. The Chief began handing out weapons and ordered his men to shoot to kill if necessary, but the battle was over by then.

Cude Croucher, James Stanley Adkins, and Irving Adkins were loaded into the police ambulance and rushed to the hospital. Chief Clements placed Willie Adkins under arrest and in the charge of Officer Korb, who took the young man to the hospital to have his head wound stitched up, and then to the city jail under charges of shooting with intent to kill. Dillard Croucher was arrested under the same charges and placed in a separate cell. Police issued a warrant for Carroll Croucher, who allegedly skipped out on a freight train shortly after the shoot-out and was expected to be heading for the family home at Clear Creek in Rockcastle County, Kentucky. Because he was the one wielding the steel “knucks” that wounded Willie Adkins, police considered him the instigator of the chaos.

Monday morning, the day after the shoot-out, Sister Camilla, a nurse at Mercy Hospital, discovered a six-inch knife under Irvin Adkins’s pillow and turned it over to Patrolman Louis Dodson, who was guarding the three patients. Someone had apparently slipped the knife to the wounded man, but he was too weak to murmur an explanation, and questions remained whether it was placed there by an ally or an enemy as the man was certainly too weak to wield the weapon in any manner. His condition progressively worsened until 9:20 that evening, when he died, twenty-seven hours after the feud. His son James Stanley and Cude Croucher were all in beds in the same room.

Officer Huber immediately signed a warrant charging Cude Croucher with murder, arrested in his hospital bed then took him to jail, where he held him without bail. “I just had to shoot the old man,” Cude said. He admitted that he had fled his Kentucky home to escape a heavy fine, and had lived on Zimmerman Avenue but two months.

Tuesday morning, the chief and two detectives took Croucher to his home to recover the gun. Cude had described the gun to the officers--a .32 Smith and Wesson automatic with an “E” carved in the butt. He said he’d fired it five times during the affray and had tossed it on a bed in his house when police arrived. He offered no assistance as the detectives searched the house, but his wife told them that Lige Himer took the gun to keep it out of the hands of the children. The three police and the prisoner then began making the rounds of Adkins’s acquaintances that might be hiding the gun for him, and on the third stop found the weapon lying on a bed in the home of Noah Goosey, 1661 Lincoln Avenue, to whom Himer had given the gun. The gun contained three empty cartridges and one loaded.

As might be expected, testimony varied widely at the coroner’s inquest, held later that week. Some said Adkins had been shot as he walked away from Croucher, some said he was shot in the back as he engaged in battle with another participant, some said Adkins was shot in the side as he defensively whirled away from the man as he approached with the gun, and some said that Croucher fired the gun as he was backing away from a slash of the knife Adkins wielded.

Given the confusing testimony and the fact that the shooting took place in the heat of a free-for-all and that the dead man was armed with a knife, Coroner Cook demurred any decision to place blame on Cude Croucher. After another round of testimony in a preliminary hearing, Municipal Court Judge E.J. Kautz bound Croucher over to the grand jury, charged with manslaughter and placed under a $3,000 bond. Kautz dismissed charges against James Stanley Adkins for lack of evidence, and referred the case of 17-year-old Dillard Croucher to juvenile court. When the grand jury med in October, they indicted Cude Croucher on a charge of second degree murder and Willie Adkins on charges of shooting with intent to kill.

Both went to trial in late November. Cude Croucher took of his shirt and showed the jury his buckshot scars, sticking to the story that he fired reflexively as the victim swung a knife in his direction. The jury deliberated only two and a half hours before bringing in a reduced verdict of manslaughter. Taking in the extenuating circumstances, Judge Walter Harlan gave him a light sentence of five years in the penitentiary when he could have given twenty. Willie Adkins was acquitted. Carroll Croucher remains at large.



August 1923          The Forger's Foiled Delivery

An astute Main Street businessman alerted Hamilton police of a suspicious character doing some shopping on the afternoon of Saturday, August 18, 1923.

A neatly-dressed, well-spoken man came into the A&P store on Main Street, purchased some groceries and cashed a check for $19.10. After the fact, the manager of the store became suspicious of the First National Bank check, made out to “G. F. Fergus” and signed “F. Thompson.” 

The manager called the police, gave a description of a man later described in the papers as “a well-dressed individual with a smooth tongue and a pleasing personality.” Detectives Ed Riley and Charles Morton headed to Main Street and saw a man fitting the description leave Butler County Tire Shop and get into a Ford Coupe. 

The detectives stopped the car five blocks later at Millville Avenue. The slick-talker remarked that he must be some kind of a hick himself to get arrested in such a hick town. In the car, detectives found a stack of blank checks, the groceries the man had purchased at the A&P, and an innertube. The A&P manager identified the groceries, and Henry Lagedrost, proprietor of the tire store, confirmed that the man had purchased the innertube there and had paid with a First National Bank check for $19.10 made out to “G. F. Fergus” and signed “F. Thompson.” Lagedorst gave the man $15.75 in change.

The stranger identified himself as Ollie Melaoy, 28 years old, from New York City but then residing at 4343 Melrose Ave., Cincinnati. He said he also sailed under the aliases of O.C. Malars and C.E. Melars. Under interrogation, the forger admitted having had little trouble in issuing the bum checks, which he had obtained from the office of architect Frederick J. Mueller. He represented himself as an engineer and asked for some blank checks so he could pay his crew. Then he went to another business office and asked to use their check writer. There he tore off the Mueller name and wrote the two checks for $19.10.

Police Chief Frank Clements said that they would most likely discover that the man had a lengthy record and was wanted in other cities. He was arraigned, pleading not guilty, and remanded to the county jail to await trial. 

Police did not foresee how difficult it would prove to keep him there.

The first incident came to light when a “squealer” among the prisoners let slip to jailer Fred “Sandy” Brinkman that “something was going to happen Tuesday night.” Brinkman saw nothing suspicious as he made his many rounds that day, but informed Sheriff Rudy Laubach of what he had heard and they secretly went into high alert.

Shortly after 9:30 that evening, Laubach gave the jail and the surrounding grounds a thorough search. At the rear of the jail, he discovered a slender string suspended from an upper window. Hoping to catch the prisoners and their accomplices in the act, he left the string hanging and took a position where he could watch it without being seen himself.

At around 11 p.m., someone in the upper window began pulling at the string through the thick wire, but there was nothing attached to the other end. The sheriff summoned Brinkman and they called for police assistance. Certain that the prisoners had some outside help to smuggle in some of the items by using the string-out-the-window ploy, Laubach branded Ollie Meloay as the ringleader.

Fourteen prisoners, serving sentences on charges ranging from intoxication to grand larceny, were lurking in the bullpen at the jail when the sheriff and his heavily-armed posse rushed into the cell chamber. The prisoners seemed to all be taken by surprise. No one attempted any violence, and nervous glances cast by some guided the searchers to the location of contraband. As expected, Meloay acted especially suspiciously, edging to the corner of the bullpen as if to hide in plain sight, but when he lowered his hand to a belt buckle, several officers pounced upon him. Concealed in his shirt was the coiled string. 

A search of their cots revealed slugs of iron, wire and coils, a three-foot length of rubber hose, bolts, parts of chairs and other blunt objects hidden beneath mattresses. One prisoner had a piece of iron hidden in his trousers. A mattress cover had been torn into strips that were tied together to form the thirty-foot string that was lowered to the ground. It seemed outside accomplices attached the iron and other objects to the string and the prisoners pulled their weapons into the cell room. 

One-by-one, the prisoners were taken away for grilling to discover the identity of the connections, but “nobody knew nothing.” Laubach believed that the delivery had been underway for a week or more, judging by the amount of contraband they recovered.

“They were planning to rush Sandy and make a getaway,” Laubach said, “and judging from the artillery they had mustered would have made a successful job of it.”

Ollie Meloay stood before a jury and was convicted on two counts of forgery. On November 30, Common Pleas Court Judge Walter Harlan sentenced him to five years in the state penitentiary in Columbus, but gave him a stay of execution so that he could remain in the county jail while he sought a retrial. The papers didn’t say if the subject of the attempted jail break came up during the trial, but it would prove to be a literal battle to keep the forger under lock and key until he could be sent to the penitentiary in Columbus.

Indeed, Brinkman and Laubach soon began hearing rumblings of another escape attempt and remained extra vigilant. One of the jailhouse snitches told Laubach that two men were sawing some bars from the outside of the jail Friday night, December 15, while two other men, armed with .45 caliber automatic pistols, stood guard at each corner of the fence in the jail yard. One of the men is alleged to have remarked, “ the sheriff better not poke his head out of the door now.”

Investigating, the sheriff discovered that one of the bars of the window on the south side of the building had been completely sawed and another one sawed almost through. The work had indeed been done from the outside. A short step ladder was still in position.

So Saturday night, Sheriff Laubach made the night rounds himself. He was on crutches, having taken a fall at a recent still raid. Upon entering the bathroom on the first floor of the jail, the electric light did not work, so he lit a match to see better inside the room.

“No wind was stirring but in some mysterious manner the match was blowing out and the sheriff was left in darkness,” the Daily News reported. He lit a second match and saw a figure crouching in the corner of the room. Ollie Meloay. He escorted Meloay back to his cell, and went back to the bathroom where he discovered three disable light fixtures, a half-dozen tempered saws strong enough to cut through steel prison bars, crowbars, pieces of wire, and other tools hidden under the tub and in various parts of the room. 

So the next night, Sunday, at 7 p.m. lock-up time, again with the assistance of a cadre of Hamilton police officers and detectives, Laubach conducted a thorough search and again uncovered safety razor blades, hinges, wire, rope, leather belts, empty bottles, broken door knobs and hooks, hand-made weapons, and part of a broom handle wrapped with a rag. One of the cell block doors had been broken.

After the search, detectives Herman Dulle and Al Mueller stuck around to help stake out the exterior of the jail overnight in anticipation of the return of the outside accomplices. The sheriff watched from the window of his darkened ground floor office while Brinkman and the detectives took positions in the outside shadows. With the night overcast and no lights in the jail yard, the officers waited in impenetrable darkness, but soon enough Laubach saw a dark figure creeping along the east wall of the jail. No one moved, but apparently sensing the presence of the officers, the man broke and ran. Laubach threw open the door of the jail office and shouted: “Get him, boys!”

Brinkman fired the first shot. It nicked the side of the jail wall. Two men scaled the fence in the rear of the jail, ran through the jail yard and scaled the second fence amid a shower of bullets from Brinkman, Mueller, and Dulle. More than twenty shots were fired, but it was too dark to see if any had taken effect. The men apparently escaped in an automobile parked on South Second Street. 

A beat cop reported that he saw an automobile turn from Ludlow Street on South Third Street, crossing the railroad tracks at better than fifty miles an hour. The cop said it appeared to have one man driving and another man lying in the rear seat. This led Laubach to believe that one of the men may have been shot, so he immediately called with Cincinnati authorities to be on the alert for someone seeking treatment for a gunshot wound. They searched the jail yard and the alleys to see if they could find any blood, but the only blood they found was from a superficial next wound on the donkey kept in the jail yard. The beast had been hit by a stray bullet. 

The sheriff’s investigation again revealed that Ollie Meloay was the chief engineer behind the attempted delivery. This time he was working with Brooks Clay, 18, Middletown, who was in the jail awaiting transport to the Mansfield reformatory. He had pleaded guilty and was sentenced to fifteen years for a robbery of the Johnson drug store in Middletown on September 6. Two men were killed, one officer seriously wounded, and Clay was nicked in the ear by bullet in the attempt. 

With another escape attempt foiled, Laubach acted swiftly to get Meloay to Columbus. By the time they loaded him into a machine for the trip on December 22, Chief Clements revealed to the prisoner just how much they knew about him when he called him by the name “George.”

“Yes, you’ve made me,” Allison said and smiled. 

Meloay was actually George Allison, a native of Cleveland, and had spent eleven of the last fourteen years incarcerated. At the age of 14 he was sentenced to the Lancaster Industrial School, served time and was paroled in 1910. He was arrested six times for burglary and larceny but always free, except for two months in the Dayton workhouse. On July 7, 1911, Allison went to Mansfield from Toledo for larceny. He earned parole August 20, 1912, but failed to report and went back from May 1914 to May 1917. When he got out, he adopted the guise of an Italian immigrant named “Columbus Malargno.” He apparently spoke in Italian and broken English for five years. As Malargno, he held up a post office in Cleveland and spent two years in a federal prison in Atlanta.

Sheriff Laubach and Chief Clements both told the newspapers at various times that they had identified the outside conspirators to the two delivers and that arrests were imminent, but none were actually forthcoming, and soon more murder and prohibition mayhem would take over the headlines.




January 1924     Free-For-All at Stockton Club

Report from the Hamilton Evening Journal
January 2, 1924

Hurling defiance at prohibition officers, the “padlock” law, which has been threatened, all law and order, and raising a roughhouse disturbance, some two score New Year’s Eve revelers “opened up” at the Stockton club Tuesday morning about three o’clock and staged a free-for-all fight in which a dozen or more are said to have been injured.

Flying bottles crashed against heads and bodies, inflicting numerous minor wounds during the progress of the battle.

One man is said to be definitely known to have been seriously injured. According to the reports of neighbor, one person was said to have been taken to Mercy hospital about four o’clock New Year’s morning.

Hospital authorities deny that such a person was brought there.

Neighbors near the Stockton club state that the revelers threw all caution and heed to to the four winds and ended their New Year’s Eve pursuit for pleasure with a free-for-all fight.

Early New Year’s morning, many persons were seen in Hamilton restaurants supposedly just out of the club with bandages about their heads, and with scars and bruises.

No report of the matter has reached the hands of county authorities or the police and no investigation of the matter has been made.

Other news: The coroner’s annual report attributed 12 1923 deaths and “several” of the auto crashes and four auto deaths of the 34 were the result of moonshine.


Report from the Hamilton Evening Journal
January 4, 1924



1924

January 1924                      A New Mayor in Town

Kelly Assumes His Duties as Hamilton’s Chief Executive

Report from the Hamilton Evening Journal
January 2, 1924

Gambling in Hamilton was conspicuous for its absence last night at what soft drink places and saloons apparently being conducted legitimately as a result of the inauguration of Mayor Howard E. Kelly’s reform. If liquor was sold at all it was in blind tigers established to beat the clean-up.

Disreputable places were closed and the midnight closing ordinance was rigidly enforced.

After receiving their instructions and feeling confident that they would be backed to the limit in the clean-up campaign of the mayor, police last night started upon their work in earnest.

In many incidents the proprietors of soft drink stands, pool rooms, and other places had evidently believed campaign promises and had removed gambling paraphernalia and stopped card games.

Yet there was one or two places where card games, supposedly not gambling were stopped by police to make their work more effective.

Police report that practically every place in the city where gambling, liquor sales and vice existed were suspected was visited bu not violations were being made to the edict of the new mayor.

Disreputable houses had their doors locked and appeared to be deserted.

In short, the city was “closed up.”

Kelly’s First Act As Mayor

Several minutes after he had assumed the duties of office Tuesday Morning the Mayor signed papers giving Frank Brown, traffic patrolman, a leave of absence for one year. Brown will take up a position with the police and fire insurance company. The officer made an application for a leave to Police Chief Frank Clements and Clements referred the officer to the Mayor.

When the Mayor signed the leave it was the first time he had dipped a city pen to an official municipal document.

City Building Crowded as Mayor Makes Inaugural speech

City hall machinery today is working under the control of Howard E. Kelly and a solid republican party for the first time in a dozen years.

The G.O.P. officials who rode into office in the Republican landslide at the city election in November 1923 took the reigns of administration early Tuesday morning amid the most elaborate reception held at the city building in years.

The walls of the ancient municipal court chamber seemed to vibrate with cheers and applause which greeted the impromptu address delivered by Mayor Kelly from the municipal bench.

Hundreds of men and women were crowded into the small courtroom thirty minutes before the inaugural ceremonies started.

Briefly, Mayor Kelly outlined major planks in his platform of municipal administration. The Mayor declared a general clean-up will be started and carried to the finish.

“I will see that all laws are enforced,” the Mayor declared, “and that the city is given a cleaning.

“But I do not mean to go to the opposite extreme and create a “Blue Law” town. There will be no “Blue Law” Sundays.”

Mayor Kelly touched shortly upon financial difficulties which will arise and spoke of a determination to get to the root of the troubles, find a remedy and use the best remedial measures possible.

The Mayor’s plan was for cooperation on the part of all citizens....

One veteran political “war horse” in the crowd which cheered Kelly paid the new Mayor the “greatest tribute”.

“He’s a scrapper,” the aged campaigner said, “and he will make good. The odds are not at all in his favor but I have known that boy for a long time and he’ll come through all right. Kelly will make a good Mayor and he will give the city a good administration. I’ve seen them all for a number of years and I know this man has the right stuff.”

***

A safety director has not yet been appointed. From the mayor’s statement it is deducted [sic] that a safety director will not be appointed unless the law requires that an appointment be made...

The mayor’s reluctancy [sic] to make appointments unless they are required by law, is in support of his announced policy of cutting expenses. Should it be possible to eliminate the position of safety director and mayor’s clerk, a saving of more than $4,000 annually would result.

In the event that a safety director is not appointed, the mayor would serve in the capacity of safety director, it is believed.

Several hundred friends greet Kelly (D-N)

A crowd of several hundred persons and many beautiful floral pieces greeted the new mayor when he arrived at the city hall in the morning. 

Instead of a reception given by him to provide an opportunity for the public to see him go into office, it seemed more like a happy welcome given by the people to the new mayor.

Congratulations, compliments and many other forms of tribute rained upon the new executive until he responded with an extemporaneous talk from the bench in the courtroom.

As soon as Mayor Kelly stred his address, persons who lined the corridors and filled practically all the downstairs offices in the building attempted to pack themselves into the courtroom but many were disappointed because they couldn’t get within a distance to enable them to distinguish his statements.

Living up to his campaign promises, the mayor reiterated his declaration to “clean up” the city, but stated that his reform would not be so vigorous as to bring about “blue law” Sundays in the city.

“I want the cooperation of everyone during my administration, and if you see anyone violated a law I want to know about it whether or not he is a friend of the republican party. I do not intend to permit politics to influence me in granting favor. All the laws will be rigidly enforced.”

The mayor spoke over a bank of beautiful flowers that had been sent by friends and relatives as a token of their good wishes.

The closing statement of his address appeared to be the signal for those who had not congratulated him to push their way forward and express their appreciation of his intentions as the city’s chief executive.




January 1924               Kelly Lays Down the Law

Kelly starts clean-up, “lays down law” to patrolmen 

Report from the Hamilton Evening Journal
January 3, 1924

Mayor Howard E. Kelly shook hands with city patrolmen and detectives Wednesday afternoon at police headquarters and then “laid down the law.”

Straight from the shoulder, plain and forceful was the “he-man” message of the new mayor.

Clearly and without excitement Mayor Kelly told bluecoats what he expects of them. He delivered the message with much emphasis and without a “sugar coating.”

At the end of the five minute talk patrolmen went out to their districts realizing they “must produce” or see employment among other lines.

Highlights of the mayor’s talk were

When bluecoats and plainclothes men lined up in response to the mayor’s call the chief executive shook hands with each patrolman. Then Mayor Kelly mounted the municipal court bench and began his talk.

“Fellows, I called you together this afternoon for two reasons. First I wanted to meet all of you and secondly because there are some things which you need to know.

“During my campaign I promised to clean up the city. I meant that promise and am going to fulfill it.

“When I was a private citizen I heard things said about the police department and the officers of the police department. It was because of the laxity that existed in it. It is up to you officers to command the respect of the public and you can only command this respect when  you do that which is right when  you enforce all laws.

“When I see you on the street, I expect you to salute and I assure you that I will return the courtesy.

“I am going to be as good to you patrolmen as anyone. I will back you men with all the authority of my office. But there is no use in your kidding me or trying to kid me. I know what is going on in the city and I repeat there will be no use in kidding me.

“I want you fellows, tonight, to go into all the gambling dens, so-called soft drink parlors and clear out gambling devices. I also want you to stop all card games and crap games.

“Today already I received four reports on one crap game. I want this crap game pinched.

“In your crusade against law violators, I repeat that I will give you my backing to the fullest extent.

“Not one of you officers is going to be fired or suspended without first coming before me. If you are proven guilty of charges, there will be no place on the force for you. If you are proven innocent there will be no fear of you not receiving justice.

“I want you fellows to know what I’m up against. And it will depend greatly upon you whether or not I carry out my pledges to clean the city. And the city will be cleaned. If not by you men, it will be cleaned by others.

“The past administration fixed a budget of $14,000 [?] for the safety department.Sinking fund charges are so great that I will receive only $118,500 to operate the safety department.

“I don’t want to commercialize vice, but I want the guilty apprehended and arraigned in court. And I want them to pay fines.

“I will look with disfavor upon anything you can get which you let slip by you.

“Look at Monroe and Seven Mile. They have reaped a financial  harvest off of the law violators--the liquor law violators of Hamilton.

“I want you fellows to look into this liquor game and clean it up right.

“If you don’t know where they’re selling it find out and make arrests. It’s being sold here.

“I have no favorites nor have I any friends among such a class of citizenry.

“I want you fellows to clean up “the jungles”. I don’t want you to go out and tell the violators to get under cover. I want you to arrest the violators and bring them to police headquarters. I want every law violator cleared out.”

“Don’t worry about who you get. You know your duties. Don’t play favorites.

“We need $180,000 at least for the safety department. It’s up to you men to help me get it. Again. I want to stress that I do not want to commercialize vice but I want the law violators to pay so that there will no longer be wholesale law violation here.

“I am going to be here two years. I hope you fellows will also be  here two years but you will not be here unless  you do your duty--and you know what your duty is. I’m with you to the limit when you perform your duty. When you fail, I’m against you.

“I want you to have the respect of all citizens and I want you to respect citizens. Always be courteous to the public.

“What you me do in the first 309 days will be a keynote to what is going to happen. I want law violators brought in. Go out and do your duty.

“I have every faith you are going to do what’s right and I’m going to help you and back you up to the limit.

“I’m going to back you men up for bringing in law violators. I’m not going to censure you for it. I have no friends in the class of law violators.

“I’m glad to have met you all. I hope you understand what I say and mean. Upon your actions and your record depends what will happen by February 1.

“I have to live on the appropriations made last August. The law prevents me from issuing deficiency bonds.

“I want you men to feel free to come into my office at any time with any suggestions about anything. I want my office to be a clearing house for your troubles. Fellows, we’ll go in a mass to get law violators if necessary.

“Again, I say I’m glad to have met  you all and  hope you will be with me here on February 1 and for the next two years. But do your duty and start doing it now.”

Officers heard the talk without comment and silently went out on their “beats.”




January 1924   Jealous Tragedy on High Street

All things considered, James Frank Anderson and Cleona Collins got along pretty good for the first eleven months of their tragic affair. They had a lot in common. They were about the same age, both natives of Kentucky, living with families that came to Hamilton chasing jobs at the Champion Coated Paper Mill. Both were devout and frequent church-goers and both had been previously married. 

Jim’s people came from Tyner in Jackson County. He got married after six years in the U.S. Army, but had been granted a divorce on grounds of his ex-wife’s adultery, and so won custody of their six-year-old daughter Edna May. They lived at 424 North 7th St. with his elderly parents, Skelton Mack and Eugenia Anderson, and his brother Robert, a postal carrier, along with Robert’s wife Elizabeth and daughter Mary. The other two brothers were ministers: Reverend John Anderson, Oakland, California, and Reverend Bilge Anderson of Tyner.

Cleona’s people came from Estill County. The household at 406 North 2nd St. included her twice-widowed father Neal, her unmarried sister Provie, and married sister Alice King, along with Alice’s husband Tom and daughter Eva. Cleona’s husband Buford Collins had died of typhoid fever in 1906, just three months after they were married. She never got over it.

Jim and Cleona both worked at the Champion, but they met at the First Baptist Church on Court Street. On the tragic Sunday night, he was about to turn thirty-seven in a couple of months, and she was just a few weeks shy of her thirty-sixth birthday. They often attended church services together, usually at the First Baptist Church. Jim was a tithing member of the Orange Grove Baptist Church at Tyner, but had recently been thinking about transferring his membership to the local church where Cleona was a member.

The nature and future of their relationship, however, was a wedge between them. He wanted to marry her. She did not want to marry him. She once told him that she enjoyed his company, but her heart was buried in a Kentucky grave. She told a friend that she could never love another man, and another that she would not marry a man who had been divorced. She told her friends that she had told Jim on many occasions that if his object was matrimony, he should seek out another woman. But if not, they could still be friends.  She told a niece that she was on the verge of insisting that he take his love elsewhere. She complained to her friends that Jim was “too serious” and “too jealous.” She had a deaf mute pen pal in Erie, Pennsylvania, and Jim often insisted that she give up the practice. She did not. Her sister said that they often had disagreements over his jealousy, that Jim would reprimand Cleona for talking to other men.

They went to the First Baptist Church on Court Street together on the morning of January 20, 1924, and had made plans to accompany another couple to Sunday evening services at the Methodist Episcopal Church in Lindenwald. In the afternoon, Jim went home and took a nap. Cleona went to a lecture at the YMCA with Jim’s sister-in-law Elizabeth. When she got back to the family home later that afternoon, she announced to the family of her evening plans.

Cleona telephoned the Anderson house at around 5 p.m. Robert answered and got Jim out of bed to take the call. Robert would later say that the conversation sounded somewhat heated.

Shortly after 6 p.m., Anderson came to the Thomas home and stayed just a few minutes before he and Cleona stepped out into the bitter cold. They walked over to the Ideal Confectionary, a candy store and lunch counter at High and Second streets, where they were to meet Edward Johnson, 28, 515 Main Street, and Minnie Watkins, 20, 218 Warwick Ave. Miss Watkins and Cleona worked in the same department at the Champion. Johnson and Watkins we're already sitting at a table eating when Jim and Cleona entered.

Johnson would later say: “Anderson walked back to our table. I invited him and Mrs. Collins to eat and he refused, saying they already had their suppers. As he turned and walked back to where Mrs. Collins was standing, we finished eating and got up. We followed them to the front door a few steps behind. At the front door I stopped to pay the check for the food as I was receiving the change, I heard several shots fired.”

A woman outside screamed. Another fainted. Patrons of the candy store began to flee. Miss Watkins said that after she heard the first few shots, “I opened the door [and] I saw Mrs. Collins turn and throw her arms up. As she was turning I saw Anderson fire the last two shots, pointing the gun at her head. Then Mrs. Collins fell against the door and Anderson turned and ran.”

The gun was a .25 calibre Omega automatic pistol that Jim had purchased a week earlier at a Third Street pawn shop.

Robert Kash, 21, 1270 Lane St., happened to be crossing High Street toward the Ideal Confectionery at the time of the shooting. He saw Anderson running north on Second Street and impulsively decided to take up pursuit. He was unarmed, so he took out his pocket knife, then noticed the gun laying on the sidewalk next to the prone body of Cleona Collins in the doorway to the candy store. He picked up the gun and began shouting for Anderson to halt. Anderson did not stop, but bore down as he rounded the corner at Market Street with Kash in hot pursuit. Anderson turned north onto Third Street and Kash gained on him, and as they approached the alley just south of Dayton Street, Kash grabbed the fugitive by the coat sleeve.

“I didn’t do it! I didn’t do it!” Anderson repeated hysterically.

“You did do it and you know you did,” Kash said. “I saw you do it.”

“You’re not police! You can’t arrest me,” the gunman said as he tried to resist.

“Yes, I can,” Kash replied, and keeping a firm hold on the man’s arm as he tried to wrest loose, walked him back to the scene of the crime. He surrendered the prisoner and the revolver to Hamilton Police Officer Jack Keating, who had just arrived, as did nearly a hundred spectators, gathered around shivering in the cold.

Seven shots had been fired from the gun. Five of them hit Cleona. The first one pierced her heart and lungs and probably killed her instantly. There were wounds on her left shoulder and collarbone, her left upper arm, and her left elbow. Two bullets were found in her clothing, having passed through her body.

James Frank Anderson seemed alternately nervous and sullen at the city jail. He refused to talk about the shooting, but just kept saying, “I loved her,” and wept copiously during questioning. Again and again he reiterated that he did not know why he shot the woman before bursting into tears. “I have been taking a lot of medicine," he cried. His behavior had Chief of Police Frank Clements wondering if the man was either a drug addict or insane.

A search of his North 7th Street room revealed several bottles and boxes containing pills and patent medicines. One container was labeled potassium bromide. There were several boxes of headache tablets. One bottle was labeled quinine and strychnine. The bottle was practically empty. Another bottle of patent medicine had just arrived in the mail from Kansas City.

The family was huddled around a little stove in the living room when police came to conduct the search, weeping and holding each other. They had already received the news. Robert and Elizabeth had been at the Lindenwald church service and were expecting Frank and Cleona and the others when they heard the news and rushed home. Elizabeth took the mother and little girl upstairs to break the news while Robert told his father.

The Evening Journal painted a pathetic scene: “The mother who had fought the battles of early life for her boys, who had been brave in the face of sadness, not with her head downward, her frail body shaking with sobs and one arm resting upon the arm of her husband and the other about Edna Mae, the six-year-old child of her son James. It was indeed a picture that would bring tears to the eyes of strangers.”

The first words came from the elderly father, who lifted his eyes heavenward and prayed, “God be merciful on us at this time. Why? why? I can't believe that Jim would do a thing like that. Mother and I know that he is a good boy and we know that he thought a heap of Cleona. She was here to dinner the other day. I believe he must have been out of his mind and God knows that if he wasn't he soon will be after he thinks of what he has done.”

“I raised him right,” the heartbroken mother wailed and wept. “I cannot understand the reason for it all. And the last several days Jim did not seem exactly right."

His family agreed that Anderson had been acting “queerly” of late, that he seemed transfixed on the various potions and pills he had collected. They seemed as devastated by the tragedy as Cleona’s own family. “She was endeared to us,” Elizabeth Anderson said. 

His family knew that he had purchased the revolver, but he never offered an explanation for it. He was comfortable with guns, having served six years in the U.S. Army prior to the Great War.

The family hired attorney Fred M. Hinkle to represent their son. Hinkle reported to the press that he had tried to interview his client at the jail in the presence of Chief Clements. The prisoner was able to answer some questions clearly, but was mostly incoherent. Anderson seemed confused, constantly asking the question, “Can’t a man defend himself?” When Hinkle asked why he did it, Anderson said, “I never thought of shooting her, it just happened. I don't know what made me do it. Everything seems to be blank.”

Hinkle said that it seems likely Anderson was broken physically and mentally, that he was insane when he shot Mrs. Collins, intimating an insanity defense.

Chief Clements, however, had altered his view of Anderson’s sanity. At one point in the questioning, Anderson is said to have bewailed the effect his shooting would have on his aged parents—especially his mother—and his little daughter. “What will become of them?” he wailed.

Clements told reporters: “An insane man does not think of the effect his actions have on other persons,  so far as my experience has taught me."

Monday afternoon, two alienists put Anderson through extensive tests to determine his level of sanity. Chief Clements announced the results: “He showed no trace, sign or symptom of insanity. Doctor Flenner and Doctor Schell employed every known method to determine whether or not Anderson was insane. However, the examination did establish that Anderson has a very low mentality. The physicians described Anderson as being ignorant... I have never known of an insane person to cry or consider the feelings of others, especially those dear to them. Anderson burst into tears when he thought of his aged mother and child.”

Clements said that during the examination by the alienists, no one mentioned the killing. But Anderson espoused a scattering knowledge of medicine and tonics, some of it learned during his five years of service in the Army Medical Corps. 

The trial of James Frank Anderson took a full week, the massive crowds increasing each day until the Daily News cheekily reported that the walls of the courtroom swelled outward like a balloon. Monday was devoted to the selection of a jury. The prosecution presented its case on Tuesday, and the rest of the week was a battle of alienists giving conflicting opinions of Anderson’s sanity and mental health.

On Saturday, March 8, 1924, a jury deliberated seven hours before returning a verdict of guilty of first degree murder, but recommended mercy instead of the death penalty. Judge Clarence Murphy agreed, sentencing James Frank Anderson to life in prison.




March 1924   Trouble On The Police Force

While battling in turf and media wars with other mayors and struggling to bring money into the city through prohibition fines, Mayor Howard E. Kelly was also trying to keep the police department staffed and dealing with disciplinary issues within the department.

Kelly said that on Saturday, March 13, 1924, a citizen called him at 10 o’clock informing him of two police officers who “were not acting properly.” The mayor said he and Safety Director Joseph B. Meyers scoured the city and found Officers Joe Cahill, a 22-year veteran, and Officer William Duellmann standing in front of a cafe at Seventh and Ludlow streets. He watched them for thirty-three minutes.

Cahill went into the rear room of the  cafe for three minutes after a man in shirt sleeves gave him a signal to enter. The mayor then went to the door and rapped. The man refused to open the door. Kelly asked where Cahill went and the man said there was no officer there. Kelly then pushed the door open and found Cahill hiding behind it. The room smelled of moonshine. Cahill’s breath smelled like moonshine and “his tongue was heavy.”

Cahill denied he had been drinking and only went into the cafe to use the washroom and that’s what he was doing when the mayor started pounding on the door. He said he didn’t tell the cafe owner to shield him and he didn’t know why he wouldn’t let the mayor in at first. He said that he and Deullmann were outside the cafe talking to a man who was giving information on the location of a still. 

Meyers dropped the charges on Duellmann for drinking on duty, saying that it was not proved, but suspended Cahill from duty while charges of conduct unbecoming an officer made its way through the courts.

Further trouble erupted on March 19 when Patrolman Joe Koons came to blows in municipal court with former Mayor Harry J. Koehler Jr. in a liquor trial. Koons was on the stand testifying about the moonshine whiskey confiscated in a raid. Koehler represented the defendants. 

The raid occurred March 13 at 49 Chestnut Street. Inspector Ed Hoffman made a raid on the home of John and Fannie Brooks with Detective Morton and Patrolmen Koons and Garver. Fannie Brooks testified that John Brock, a defendant in the case, had come to the house to deliver a bushel of coal.

“He came in the front door and walked through the house to the kitchen. He was going out the back door when the officers arrived. She said Garver entered the house first, without warning, pushed Brock back into the kitchen, cursing at him and calling him names. Brock had a bottle, but she didn’t know what was in it, but he threw it to the floor and broke it when the officers rushed in.

“Garver struck me with his fist,” she testified. “I was knocked to the floor under the table and he and Morno fell on me. Hoffman held me while they hit me. Broock came into the house after I screamed. I don’t know where he was. When Brooks entered, Garver threatened to hit him, too, if he took exception to what had been done. Garver then struck him with a pair of brass knuckles. Hoffman, she said, kicked her husband while he was down. She also intimated that the raiders stole from her.

“There was money upstairs on the dresser. It was gone after the raid and has not come back.”

The officers refuted her statements, saying that both Mr. and Mrs. Brooks and Brock resisted them at every turn. When they first entered the home, Brock had a bottle of moonshine and handed it to Mrs. Brooks, who dashed the bottle to the ground. Morton mopped up the liquid with a handkerchief and squeezed the liquor into a glass jar, which was offered as evidence. Brooks came into the house three minutes after the raid started. When they were gathered in the dining room and the three defendants were told they were under arrest, the woman started cursing and throwing everything in sight at the officers. Garver said he struck Brooks because “he got tough” and attempted to interfere. While Garver and Brooks were struggling, Brock tried to come up behind the officer and slug him from behind, but Koons struck him and knocked him down. 

Tension started brewing during Koehler’s direct examination of Koons when he questioned the officer about his record. “Were you not called on the carpet on drunkenness charges and for loafing around the Boling place (at B and Arch streets)?

“I was found not guilty,” Koons retorted hotly.

City Solicitor Millikin Shotts objected and Judge Kautz told the Koons that he did not have to answer if he didn’t want to.

Koehler began to ask questions about other occasions when he had been “called on the carpet” with charges of conduct unbecoming an officer.

“Things were different then, under a different administration,” Koons replied sourly. Koehler was mayor at the time.

Koons testified that in his four years on the police force he had many occasions to smell and drink moonshine, which qualified him to identify it if he smelled it.

Koehler asked if he had ever drank moonshine during his service as a police officer and he answered, “Many times.”

On redirect, city solicitor Millikin Shotts asked Koons where or not he had been intoxicated since the first of 1924. Koons said he had not.

Koehler asked: “Were you intoxicated within the last four years?

Koons responded angrily: “Yes and so have you!”

“You’re a liar,” Koehler hotly retorted.

Bracing himself in the witness chair, Koons shouted: “You won’t come out on the street and call me that.” He pointed a finger at him and said sarcastically: “You’re a gentleman.”

Koehler stood up in his chair and shouted, “Yes, I will! Come on out!” and started as if to exit the courtroom, passed by the witness chair and stared at Koons belligerently.

Then “like a flash,” the Evening Journal reported, Koons jumped from the chair and with an overhand swing caught Koehler with a glancing blow off his shoulder to the jaw. Koehler swung a right uppercut that landed on Koon’s chin and gave him a push at the same time. The two exchanged glancing blows. Koons struck Koehler on the head and the former mayor reeled against the door to the police chief’s office, regained his footing and rushed back at the patrolman. The small, crowded courtroom erupted into chaos as more policemen jumped into the fray. The defendant John Brock jumped over the rail to get out of the way.

Patrolman Bryon Ferguson and other officers stepped between them. Koons kicked wildly trying to get at the other man, who was himself being subdued by other officers in the room. An officer pushed Koons, still kicking wildly, back toward the witness chair where he had been sitting, and the chair broke. All the while Judge Kautz gaveled loudly and called for more officers. 

As he was being dragged from the courtroom by three men, Koehler shouted at Judge Kautz: “I demand that that man be arrested for assault and that he be jailed for contempt of court.”

Kautz dismissed the liquor charges against the three defendants because it was never established conclusively whose bottle it was, but they were each fined $5 for resisting arrest.

Mayor Kelly, who was in the courtroom during the entire fracas, declared, “I will back up the patrolman. I will not fire Koons. In my opinion, Koehler antagonized Koons by asking personal questions.”

Kautz did charge Koons with contempt of court, and while that case was pending before Common Pleas Judge Clarence Murphy, Koons remained on duty and Mayor Kelly decided to take matters into his own hands.

Without any police back-up, Kelley walked into the cafe of John Casey at Chestnut and Monument around 9:20 p.m. April 3, 1924, broke up a poker game and arrested Casey for allowing gambling.

Kelly would later say that he had been tipped off to the game by someone who had lost a lot of money in it.

He slipped in quietly and took the four poker players by surprise as he leveled a pistol, which he routinely carried, on them.

“If anyone moves or tries to escape, I’ll plug him,” the mayor shouted, he told reporters later. “Even in the face of a revolver one of them took a chance and rushed through a door. The other [man] who had strayed a little from the others returned in the face of my command. Casey was not at the place at the time. After I had the men under cover, things went peacefully enough.”

One of the men looked at his watch, and in an ironic tone said that it wasn’t such a lucky evening. The mayor said he threw down a full house. Despite the order to stay put, three of the men fled as Kelly went about the business of confiscating two decks of cards and $1.90 that was laying on the table. He destroyed the table and seized the table cover as evidence.

After charging Casey and the four poker players, Kelly said he would make no effort to apprehend the three who fled, but signed warrants against them. “He assumed a sporting attitude and said that since they were willing to take the chance of escaping he did not intend to try to catch them,” said the Daily News. The arrests held up and Casey paid a $25 fine and the four players $5 each.

After the one-man raid, Kelly continued on patrol, spotting Joe Boone walking out of an alley between Central Avenue and Fourth Street. The man was apparently drunk, and a search revealed a bottle of moonshine. Judge Kautz fined him $100. Some police were reported to be in awe as Boone was a well-known “police character” and had some years earlier knifed an officer in a similar frisking situation.

When told by a reporter that Boone was a dangerous character, Kelly replied: “That surprises me. Not to be boasting or anything like that, but when I took him in, he was so weak, possibly from liquor, that a half-nelson used on his arm brought the admission that I had him. He was peaceful during the remainder of our trip to police headquarters.”

The next night, Mayor Kelly went out on the liquor beat again, this time with an “executive raiding squad” that included Safety Director Meyers and Ora Poffinbarger, superintendent of the gas and water works department. Kelly was at police headquarters around six o’clock when a tip came in. Patrolman Robert Leonard was the only available officer, so Kelly took the matter in hand, deputizing the only other men in the building. They dropped in on Walter Boomershine, 339 Vine Street, and seized five gallons of moonshine. Boomershine was fined $300 in the municipal court. He paid it in cash.

On June 2, 1924, the long-expected ax fell on the police department. Faced with a semi-monthly payroll of $5,500 and a safety department fund of only $200, the force was basically cut in half. The staff was reduced to twenty-four men, fifteen on the beat and nine officers on house duty. City auditor R.B. Garrett said the city had enough money in the general fund to pay police salaries, but that firemen would have to wait for their money.

This was a good news/bad news situation for Officer Joe Cahill. Charges of conduct unbecoming an officer went away as he was one of the laid-off officers.




May 1924                  An Explosion Rocks Sevenmile

The time of the explosion was determined by the clock in the window of Ed Hunt’s Seven Mile barbershop, next door to Mayor Morris Y. Shuler’s house. 

The clock stopped precisely at 12:48 a.m., May 14, 1924. Windows in the shop were shattered, as were the windows in the home of Homer Cunningham, just on the other side of the barbershop, two doors from the Shuler home.

“We were sure that the bank had been robbed when we heard the explosion,” said Mrs. Cunningham.

Edward Cracker, who lives four squares from the mayor’s home, reported that he had heard the explosion as though it had been next door.

The only people in Seven Mile who weren’t awakened by the blast were the family of Mayor Shuler, his wife and adopted ten-year-old daughter, Dorothea, who were asleep in the second story of their home. Even their normally-vigilant old watchdog, temporarily sleeping in the house recovering from having been struck by an automobile a few days earlier, did not rouse.

This is especially odd because the explosion that shook Seven Mile happened in the basement of the Shuler house.

The village had already been excited, people wandering about looking for the source of the boom when Mrs. Shuler woke and drowsily smelled smoke. She became alarmed and awakened her husband, who set about to investigate.

Shuler: “I knew nothing of the explosion until my wife called that she thought the house was on fire. I came to the lower floor of the house and smelled smoke, and went to the cellarway to investigate. The cellar door was open. Then I tried to turn on the cellar light, but I found it impossible. Thinking that something unusual had happened, I turned on the light in the dining room and found that glass from the windows covered the floor. It was then I learned exactly what had happened.”

Ten of the home’s twelve windows were shattered, including two in the attic. Weather boarding was torn from the outside near the cellar window on the south side of the house. Nails protruded from the boards, “indicating that the house had quivered,” the Evening Journal surmised.

Ten windows were broken, including two in the attic. The explosion tore off the weatherboarding on the south side of the house.

Pictures had fallen from the wall, but in a china closet across the room from the window through which the charge had been placed, only one cup had broken. A small bottle of moonshine, evidence in one of the mayor’s liquor cases, sood on the edge of a buffet close to the window, undisturbed.

Damage in the cellar was greater. Large stones from the foundation had been hurled through a partition wall made of one-inch thick boards dividing off the coal bin. Other stones were thrown through furnace pipes. Electric light wires were broken. Dry cement and stone covered the cellar floor. The house and everything in it was coated with a thin film of soot.

Sheriff Rudy Laubach arrived on the scene with city detectives Herman Dulle and Albert Mueller. It appeared as though someone had opened a window in the cellar, lowered a stick of dynamite into the home, stretched a fuse approximately 50 feet long to a barn at the rear of the lot adjoining on Elkton Pike. The fuse, they guessed, would have burned for more than forty-five minutes, giving the culprits who placed the dynamite ample opportunity to get halfway to Cincinnati or Dayton before the actual explosion occurred.

Clues were sparse. Someone reported seeing a man prowling around a week earlier, standing at the corner of Seven Mile Pike and Elkton Pike. One neighbor said a man was driving a Ford coupe around the block several times earlier that evening. Mayor Shuler himself recalled that his daughter Ruth, who was in Cincinnati at the time of the explosion, had on at least two occasions recently spotted a strange man lurking about the premises. The most recent incident happened about 12:30 in the morning, about the same time of day as the explosion. Both times he had gone out to look around, but found nothing.

Shortly before 12:30 that morning, while resident Mark Hauser was returning home, he saw four men standing in front of a butcher shop. He said they were “well-built,” one in particular unusually tall.

“After I saw the men,” said Hauser, “I went to my home about a square away from where Mayor Shuler lives, and it was not long before I heard a terrific explosion.”

They measured and photographed the footprints found in the garden leading up to the window where the explosion occurred. The investigation was being conducted by Laubach and the Hamilton detectives. Officers of Shuler’s court were not recalled, Shuler saying they were working on their regular cases.

The sheriff surmised that the house and the family’s lives were saved due to the strength of the home’s construction. It had been built in the days when great oak timbers were used, and one particularly large timber was directly above the window where the dynamite was inserted. The timber had possibly absorbed and withstood that part of the blast that would have gone upward and undoubtedly collapsed a less-rigid construction.

Men in the village expressed the opinion that enough dynamite had been used to blow up the entire community, if it had been used in the proper manner.

No one in the village slept that night, and by the time daylight rolled around people had come in from all over to inspect the damage.

Mayor Shuler told reporters that he had no immediate suspects. So far in 1924, Shuler had disposed of 128 cases, more than he had heard in all of 1923. He said he had received a number of threatening letters, none recently, but paid no attention to them. “The mayor pointed to the fact that he was merely attempting to enforce the laws and that an attempt at spite work or of a protest against Prohibition or any other laws should be aimed at the law and not at the person who enforces it after it is made,” the Journal said.

“Looks like they tried to get you,” one villager remarked.

“I don’t think so,” the mayor said. “I think they just tried to scare me. We will keep right at it. We have a case scheduled for hearing at 8 a.m. and it will be for trial.”

The village council met that morning and voted to offer up a $500 reward and the citizens of Seven Mile pooled together for another $500 initially, only to add another $500 the following day. Neighbors also pitched in to help clean up the house, which was covered with a fine soot. The village was solidly in the Mayor’s corner, with good reason.

“Hundreds of liquor cases have been tried before Mayor Shuler at his court in Seven Mile and the village has benefited immensely by the great revenue pouring from fines assessed in his court,” the Evening Journal reported. Seven Mile citizens were aroused “to a wild pitch of excitement and they are determined to leave no stone unturned in an effort to apprehend those responsible for the dastardly act... determined to show forces opposed to Prohibition that they are behind Shuler and his efforts to enforce the law. Civic improvements have been made possible through the activity of Shuler and his liquor raiders and residents there are enjoying unprecedented prosperity due to the fact that his agents have been so successful in rounding up violators of the Volstead act.

“The raids will go on,” Shuler told a Cincinnati Commercial reporter. “Someone is trying to scare me and the scare won’t take.”

Operations of the court did go on as usual. George Murphy of St. Clair Township was charged with possessing implements for the manufacture of liquor was the first case on the docket. He was found guilty and fined $1,000 and costs.

***

On July 2, Hamilton Mayor Howard Kelly’s report to council on his first six months in office included the pronouncement that “moral conditions” in the city were ninety percent better since he took the city’s helm. He specifically said that “every effort is being made by police to eliminate vice, gambling, and the sale of intoxicating liquors.”

But the Evening Journal noted, “The report does not say that efforts have been successful... Yet, the mayor says that arrests have been fewer in recent months because law violators have their ‘system of signals’ which result in the destruction of evidence and blocking of raids.”

Mayors Kelly and Shuler officially “buried the hatchet” at Seven Mile’s Homecoming celebration on July 4, an elaborate event funded by the influx of cash to the village from the dry court. Both mayors took to the dais during the afternoon session and spoke on the letters they wrote back and forth regarding the jurisdiction of the mayor’s courts. 

Shuler noted that Hamilton was trying to find money to buy tires for its firetrucks while Seven Mile had just purchased a brand new truck with all the bells and whistles. He light-heartedly suggested that Seven Mile annex Hamilton in order to relieve the financial conditions there.

Kelly told the crowd that there was “room enough” in Hamilton for both forces to work together on the liquor question.

They shook hands, and Shuler challenged Kelly to a bowling match. The big event took place at the Hamilton Y in August. 

Kelly beat his Seven Mile rival, 97-77.

May 1924                  Monroe ups its dry game

Encouraged by the influx of cash into Seven Mile, Mayor William Stewart of Monroe amped up the activities of his dry raiders. 

Around 9:30 a.m. Monday morning, May 24, 1924, a team of dry agents led by Monroe agents Robert Beveridge and Pat Hannah landed in Hamilton in speedy cars with the back-up of the state and “with deliberation and no hesitancy,” the Daily News reported, landed in the lower Second Ward and “with lightning speed raided three houses and placed six... under arrest.” 

They quickly hauled them off to the county jail, handed them over to Sheriff Laubach, and hurried out for more dry enforcement. By 11 a.m. the raiders had traveled more than ten miles in different parts of the city and made ten raids, though not all of them resulted in arrests or seizures. There were no stills found in any of the raids, and all of the liquor confiscated was in pint and half-pint bottles. No tally of the confiscation was made available, but the amounts were not particularly significant.

Still, news of the raid hit Hamilton Mayor Howard Kelly “like a bombshell.” While the raids were going down, the mayor was in conference with other city officials discussing the imminent lay-off of a third of the police force. The Daily News said: “Visions of thousands of dollars in fines to be collected by the Monroe Mayor from the liquor cases were enlarged in the minds of city officials who within the last week have reduced the police force and have admonished officers to trap dry law violators in order that funds might be added to the depleted city safety budget.”

It wasn’t reported how much in fines the eighteen people arrested that morning would pay the village of Monroe, but it was expected to far exceed the Hamilton police department salaries budget of $5,500. 

Although it was reported that Mayor Kelly was fuming behind closed doors, he told the Evening Journal: “We have only five patrolmen on at day and these men are doing their best to find liquor law violators. They cannot search every home or spend a week gathering evidence as the state crews can. As long as my officers extend their best efforts there can be no complaint.”

The Monroe officials apparently took their fine collecting seriously. On June 4, Dr. Verecker was called to the county jail to look after Clement Derinski, a 25-year-old man who lived on Princeton Pike and had not paid fines of $900 that had built up against him in the Monroe mayor’s court for liquor violations. There was also a warrant for writing a bad $500 check to pay some of the fines.

Officers Beveridge and Hannah arrested him at his home. But before he was safely ensconced in jail, he was badly bruised and beaten. He blamed it on Beveridge, whom he said assaulted the prisoner three times, once at his home, once outside the jail, and once in a jail office, the final incident knocking him out cold for five full minutes.

People working on the south side of the courthouse told the Evening Journal they saw it go down. Apparently, Derinski tried to attempt a bolt-and-run when the two dry agents were removing him from their automobile. Hannah and Beveridge chased him to South Monument Avenue and as he approached the railroad bridge, both officers took shots at the fleeing man, and he surrendered himself.

 “The chauffeur [Hannah] held Derinksi while Beveridge struck three blows to his face.”

The prisoner was in a dazed condition, talking incoherently and mumbling to himself. He had a black eye and several cuts on his face. He said that his nerves were shattered, but Vereker said the blows were not serious. 

Beveridge came back at noon to take the prisoner to court. When Beveridge brought out his handcuffs, Derinski remarked, “You don’t need them, mister. I ain’t going to run away.”

“Well, I’ve been having a footrace with you for the last year, and you’ll stay close to me hereafter,” Beveridge said as he slapped on the cuffs.

They bantered with an Evening Journal reporter about the shooting incident a few hours earlier. Beveridge admitted that he had fired two shots at the running man. “We didn’t intend to wound him,” he said.

“No, but the bullets whizzed close to my ears,” Derinski remarked as he was being loaded into the automobile.

fall 1924                  County Commissioners Caught in Bribery Sting

The corruption in Hamilton and Butler County wasn’t limited to bootleggers and moonshiners during the Prohibition years. Some of the good ol’ boy style of political favoritism came to light in the fall of 1924 when two Butler County Commissioners were indicted for taking bribes in exchange for road construction contracts.

The scandal started stirring when Oxford contractor Howard Coulter got fed up with the corruption and with the help of Hamilton businessmen organized a sting operation to catch Commissioners Walter Carr of Monroe and Frank Kinch of Hamilton in the act of accepting bribes.

Coulter, a former stage coach driver from Colorado, had worked around Butler County as a road contractor for four years. In the fall of 1923, he bid upon a contract for improvements on the Oxford-College Corner pike. He was the low bidder for part of the contract, which totaled more than $27,000.

Before the contract was formally offered, he wrote in a statement to the press, “I was approached by the two county commissioners Carr and Kinch and was told that they expected me to pay the sum of $1,500 for awarding the contract to me. At the same time, one of the commissioners advised me that he felt he had $500 coming from me upon previous contracts I had completed for the county.”

He declined to pay them, but got the contract anyway. He didn’t get the work done that fall before the weather turned bad, and suspended operations until the spring. In May, Carr and Kinch came after him again. 

“I advised them that I did not have the money and at which time Mr. Kinch said, ‘Well, if you haven’t got it all now, just pay it twenty-five or fifty dollars a week.’” Coulter again demurred.

He took a trip to Colorado in June, hiring engineer Roy Hine to look after the College Corner Pike project. Carr and Kinch went there looking for Coulter on three occasions during the two months he was in Colorado, drawing Hine into the case and threatening to withhold a remaining payment of nearly $15,000 if they did not get their cut. According to Coulter’s allegations: “Mr. Carr informed [Hine] that unless they got this money, I would have to sandpaper the road before they would ever sign the final estimate.”

Even after Coulter returned from Colorado and Hine left his employ, Kinch and Carr hounded both men for their kickback, according to Coulter. In August, Hine came to Coulter at home to tell him Carr had been after him again. “I sent back a reply to them by Mr. Hine ‘that I did not do business that way, that I had sandpapered the job from the start and that I would not give them a damn cent.’”

When he got word that Carr had “abusing and upbraiding” him in public, he began to seriously fear that he would not get the money due him. He sought advice from the Chamber of Commerce and Marc Welliver, a local real estate and insurance man.

With the help of an ad hoc committee of bankers, industrialists, and other businessmen, Welliver and Coulter raised money to hire private detectives Joe Cleary and Irving James, recommended by the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, to assist them in the operation and donated $1,000 in cash to be used as bait. They also enlisted the support of Butler County Prosecutor P.P. Boli and the liquor-crusading mayor of Seven Mile, Squire Morris Y. Shuler.

The detective James, in the meantime, posed as an oil businessman from Colorado who had come to visit Coulter and perhaps partner in local contracting work. In this guise, James met with Carr and Kinch to get their recommendation of Coulter and let it be known that he had money to invest.

Hine agreed to continue his role as an emissary in the operation, and shortly before the road was to be completed, Hine went to Carr to tell him that Coulter had surrendered, and if Carr would agree to sign off on the contract, he would pay them their due as the angel from Colorado was going to loan him the money.

After the commissioners signed off on the College Corner Pike work, Hines told Carr and Kinch that if they would come to the barn on Darrtown Road near where Coulter had a crew working, they could pick up their money between 2 and 2:30 p.m. Moday, October 20.

Coulter waited outside the barn with James, undercover as the angel from Colorado. A car was parked next to the open barn door. Lying on the front seat of the car was his jacket, and in the jacket pocket $1,000 cash in two envelopes clearly marked with the words “CARR” and “KINCH”. 

At 1:45, fifteen minutes ahead of schedule, Kinch and Carr parked the latter’s automobile in the lane leading to the barn.

James and Coulter met them, and guided them back to the car near the open barn door. James retrieved his jacket from the seat, pulled the two envelopes from the pocket, handing one to Carr and one to Kinch. Kinch counted the $250 in his envelope and placed it in his pocket. Carr put the envelope with $750 cash in his pocket without counting the bills.

James told the commissioners that he was also interested in helping Coulter get further contracts on the Darrtown road where he was then working.

“I want to know what this job will cost us,” he said. “What will it be: five, six, or seven percent?”

Carr said that ten percent would be about right. Kinch agreed, adding, “You pay some as you can and we’ll see that you get plenty of work. We’re going to improve the road all the way through.”

Inside the barn, hiding in the hayloft, waited Columbus detective Cleary, constable Wilbur Jacobs from Mayor Shuler’s Seven Mile Court, a stenographer, and about a half-dozen other citizens,  the committee that funded the sting, including Marc Welliver.

After a few more words of conversation, James said, “Well, good-bye, gentlemen,” which was the signal for Cleary and Constable Jacobs to make the arrest. They climbed down from the loft, clambered over the bales of hay in the barn to the open door. Carr immediately pulled the money from his pocket and threw the bundle on the ground. Kinch made no movement nor protest as Cleary reached into his pocket, removed the marked bills, and handed them to Jacobs.

When Cleary informed the commissioners that they were under arrest, Carr said, “Now, listen, gentlemen, we’re all good fellows. Let’s get together and fix this up. We can’t stand publicity.”

The remaining citizens remained in the loft with the stenographer as Jacobs took the commissioners into custody and transported them to Seven Mile, leaving Carr’s machine at the scene.

Naturally, Kinch and Carr told a different story. They say they went to the scene to inspect Coulter’s work on the Darrtown Pike, and were offered the money in the barn “as a present.”

Carr claimed that he threw the money on the ground the instant it was given to him and that he refused to touch it. Kinch said that he took the money as a campaign contribution.

Kinch, 66, was serving his second term and on the primary ballot for re-election. Carr, 48, had been a commissioner for six years and was not on the current ballot.

Seven Mile Mayor Morris Y. Shuler conducted the preliminary hearing on Friday to determine if the case should go to the grand jury, but because of the public interest in the case the hearing moved to the courtroom of Judge Clarence Murphy at the county courthouse. And indeed, the Evening Journal reported, the crowd was “the largest throng ever gathered to hear a legal battle in Butler County.”

Coulter was on the stand for over two hours, called there by Prosecutor Boli and subjected to a severe cross examination by Allen Andrews, counsel for the accused commissioners.

He was “unable,” the papers reported, to give the names of the members of the ad hoc citizens committee that conducted the sting operation, saying that he took orders from Marc Welliver, a local real estate broker and “a representative of the committee.” 

Warren Gard, former judge and congressman now a part of the all-star defense team, arose and referred to Coulter as “a self-confessed briber,” said, “We have a right to inquire into what was in his mind.”

The arguments became heated, Andrews at one point charging that the whole affair was “a miserable republican scheme to elect a candidate.” 

After another hour of grilling in the afternoon session, Boli called Roy Hines to the stand and heard his side of the story after Coulter asked him to take a message to Carr: “I’m whipped. I’ll pay the money if he’ll approve the road.”

Andrews went on: “In reality, you were finishing up the bribery” by acting as Coulter’s emissary to Carr.

Hines admitted, “It looks like it.”

After Hines’s testimony, Boli rested the prosecution’s case, apparently feeling the testimony of those two men would be enough to warrant a grand jury investigation. When the defense called Marc Welliver to the stand, Boli objected vigorously to the line of questioning, claiming that Welliver was a state’s witness: “It is not permissible to question him except to bring out points in defense of  your client. We object to the defense going into anything but defense testimony.

Shuler overruled the objections, allowing Andrews to ask Welliver what he had to do with the case.

During a heated examination, Andrews asked Welliver if he directed the sting operation.

“No,” he said. “I only offered suggestions.”

Shuler recessed the court until the following Wednesday. On Monday, the defense team hurriedly subpoenaed not only Cleary and James, but four Hamilton businessmen whose names had come up during Hines’s testimony, the ad hoc committee that Welliver denied was a committee.

When the hearing resumed Wednesday, Shuler quickly ran out of patience. He heard from defense witnesses Dr. Mark Millikin, who was present in the hayloft, and S.M. Goodman, president of the Valley Mortgage Company and one of the men who provided the funding for the sting on the commissioners, also present at the hayloft.

But before Gard and Andrews could call anyone else to the stand, Shuler announced, “I don’t care to hear any further testimony of this nature. I am only interested in whether there is probable cause for binding these men over to the grand jury.”

The defense team burst into rapid-fire objections. Andrews decried the whole affair as “a political trick,” that Shuler was keeping the voters of Butler County from getting all the facts before the upcoming primary election, that he was part of a plot instigated to keep Kinch from being re-elected.

The grand jury indicted both commissioners on bribery charges, but only after Kinch lost his bid for re-election in the primary. He polled well in the city, where he had been a fireman and a policeman, but was snowed under by voters in the rest of the county.

The all-star defense team (excluding Allen Andrews, who died before the trials began) rallied to the cause and began filing motions to have the indictments quashed on various grounds. None were successful and Carr went to trial in the spring. A jury found him guilty, and the judge sentenced him to two to ten years in the Ohio Penitentiary. 

Kinch fared better when he went to trial in November 1925, convincing a jury that he accepted the money believing it to be a campaign contribution.

Carr was allowed to remain free while he appealed his sentence, and in 1926, the Ohio Supreme Court granted him a new trial. In April 1927 while he was getting ready to meet his attorney, Carr dropped dead in his Monroe home.



September 1924                  Bootlegger Shot in the Back by Dry Agents

The Little Chicago Chronicles: Bootlegger Shot in the Back by Dry Agents


The on-going battle between bootleggers and amateur dry agents resulted in another death on September 4, 1924, when two officers shot at a man fleeing from a still in a cornfield along the river south of Trenton.

Arnold Skinner and Henry Anderson, Middletown steel-workers who moonlighted as Prohibition agents for the mayor of Trenton, had received a tip from Clem Radabaugh, a farmer working the old Augsburger place in Woodsdale, that someone had built a still on his property. They had even drilled a well so they wouldn’t have to haul water. On Wednesday, September 3, 1924, they investigated the site, found a 100-gallon still and twenty barrels of corn mash. No one was tending the distillery, at least as far as they could tell, so they left it, going back the next morning to find it still unattended.

Around noon, they dropped in on Patrolman George Williams of Middletown, who had helped them out on previous raids. Although he had worked the midnight shift and had not slept since he he got off duty at 6 a.m., Williams decided to go along.

Williams was a bit of a celebrity in Middletown. A couple of years earlier, he single-handedly thwarted the robbery of a Middletown drug store, killing two of the bandits and clipping a third one’s ear with a bullet. For his effort, Williams was rewarded with a bullet in a lung and an adoring community that raised nearly $2,000 to see him through his convalescence. 

The trio left Middletown around 1 p.m., stopped to gas up Skinner’s Hudson, and arrived at the cornfield a little after 2 p.m.

They climbed a fence and made their way along the edge of the cornfield. When they reached the clearing where the still had been set up, they saw two men tending it. But the men saw them, too, and they started running in different directions. Williams and Skinner both yelled for the men to halt. Williams followed one. He would testify that he was about fifty yards into the race when he heard shots fired. Another hundred yards and he decided to give up the chase and return to the scene. There, he saw a wounded man lying face-down on the ground about 40 feet from the still. The other two dry agents were standing over him shouting questions, asking him who the other man was and who owned the still. The wounded man, Tony Sundo, 29, refused to answer.

They carried Sundo to the road. Williams went to fetch the Hudson and he and Skinner drove Sundo to Mercy Hospital at the wounded man’s request, even though the Middletown hospital was closer. Sundo also requested that they not drive fast because of the pain. Anderson stayed behind to look after the scene.

Sundo, an Italian by birth and by trade a papermaker in a Franklin mill, had served in the United States Army and had fought in France during the war where he had been gassed, which had compromised his health. His brother would testify that Tony could only work seven or eight months at a stretch before he would “swell up” and would have to lay off until he got better.

It was not the first time Sundo had been shot by Prohibition agents. In July 1921, he tried to interfere with a raid on a still allegedly operated by his brother Joseph, and in a grapple with Coke Otto constable Dave Spivey, a bullet went through his arm and through the roof of a car. Sundo preferred charges against Spivey, but when the case was called in court, neither party responded.

Skinner and Williams delivered the wounded man to Mercy Hospital 3:30 p.m.

Coroner Cook, who happened to be in the hospital at the time, removed the bullet from the man’s abdomen, just below the ribs, about six inches higher than the wound of entrance. The bullet struck him just above the hip and just to the right of his spine. Because the bullet had traveled in an upward path, Cook determined that he was either crouching or lying down when it struck him.

The bullet was .32 caliber, the same as Skinner’s gun. Skinner admitted to Cook that both he and Anderson both fired at Sundo but told him, “I don’t know which one of us shot him but I am willing to take the responsibility,” and gave up his gun. Anderson’s gun, as it would turn out, was never handed over for evidence.

Mayor Daub of Trenton informed Sundo’s brother John and John’s wife Georgia of the shooting. John Sundo said the mayor told him his brother was not seriously wounded and that “it was good enough for him.”

“They shot and one of the bullets grazed my arm, and I dropped because I saw they had me. Before I could get on my feet, they shot me again while I was down.”

He also told her that they would “finish him” if he did not reveal the identity of his companion. “You might as well finish me,” he said. “I am dying anyway.”

Sundo would testify that his brother thought he was going to die, but John tried to reassure him. When he came to the hospital the next day he said, “Boy, you look better.”

“No,” he replied. “I am getting weaker. I can hardly see you now.”

When Skinner and Anderson delivered the still to Mayor William Daub at the Trenton jail, “the whole town turned out,” one man said, and the two agents stood around and chatted for a while. Someone asked who they shot. They said they didn’t know. Another man asked: “When you shot, did you shoot to stop or to kill?”

“We don’t shoot to stop,” Skinner said. “We shoot to kill, and we shoot first. We don’t take any chances with anybody.”

Sheriff Laubach arrested Skinner and Anderson on charges of shooting with intent to kill. He brought them to Hamilton for arraignment without taking them to jail. They were arraigned on bonds of $1,000 each, furnished by their lawyer. The newspapers noted those bonds were very low for a situation in which the victim was in critical condition.

After they furnished bond, Desk Sergeant Earl Welch explained that the bond was “day to day” and that Sundo was liable to die. Skinner replied, “Yes, and he is liable to live. We are all liable to die.”

When reporters pressed Skinner for a statement, he said: I haven’t anything to say. Write what you please.”

A reporter asked: Why did you shoot him in the back?

Skinner said, “He had mash and a still.”

Anderson didn’t say anything. Reporters learned that Skinner and Anderson both worked as steel rollers at the American Rolling Mills and only worked as dry agents as a side hustle. 

When reporters asked him about the $1,000 bond, Skinner replied, “Why, I got $20,000 myself. I own two houses and a farm.

Skinner showed police a badge indicating he was a deputy marshal of the Trenton court.

It also came out that Anderson and Skinner had been involved in a shooting earlier that year when a squad of Mayor Daub’s officers shot a man in the back while he was handcuffed. The agent involved in that incident was tried before the mayor he worked for and was given a suspended fine.

Going into the weekend, Sundo seemed to be rallying and was resting easily Saturday morning, but a hemorrhage began Saturday evening and he was taken to surgery. Dr. Cook came to the hospital and was preparing to operate, but Sundo passed before he could begin.

John Sundo, the dead man’s brother, went to the police station and signed warrants charging Skinner and Anderson with second degree murder.

The public was outraged. The Evening Journal ran an editorial screaming with a lot of capital letters decrying the death of a veteran soldier at the hands of dry officers: “The Journal is in no sympathy with law breakers, we hold no brief for bootleggers and yet we protest the action of ‘dry’ enforcement agents who ‘shoot to kill’ for such a law violation... IT IS HIGH TIME THAT THE INDIGNATION OF THE PUBLIC TAKE SOME FORM THAT WILL BE EFFECTIVE IN PUTTING AN END TO THE KILLING OF MEN IN THE NAME OF THE LAW.”

Although Coroner Cook charged the dry officers with second degree murder, the October session of the grand jury returned indictments of manslaughter against both men. They plead “not guilty” and went on trial December 8 in front of Judge Clarence Murphy.

The defendants were represented by C.D. Boyd of Middletown and Edgar A. Belden of Hamilton, a former common pleas court judge. County prosecutor P.P. Boli was assisted by former prosecutors M.O. Burns and Ben Bickley.

The morning of the first day was spent selecting a jury, then the state presented and closed its case in the afternoon.

The first witness was George Williams, who had since been promoted to Middletown chief of police. He said that he heard Skinner order Sundo to stop and the shots being fired when he was about 50 yards into his chasing the unidentified fugitive from the scene. He could tell that they were from two different guns, one small caliber, one large. When he returned to the site of the still, he saw Sundo lying on his stomach, face down.

Q: Did he make any statement?

A: He just said he was shot and asked to be taken to the Hamilton hospital.

After testimony from the coroner, several Trenton residents were called to the stand to tell the story of the conversation at the jail when the  town turned out to view the still. 

The judge allowed John and Georgia Sundo to testify as to Tony Sundo’s statements during his dying days about his treatment at the hands of the dry agents and that he did not believe he would get better.

The state rested its case after Georgia Sundo’s testimony, and former Judge Belden moved for a directed verdict acquitting the defendants on the grounds that the state had not proved its case. When Belden finished his argument, Burns took the floor and began to rebut, but Judge Murphy stopped him, saying no arguments were necessary. He denied the motion, saying that there had been sufficient evidence to show that Skinner had fired shots and that because Sundo was on the ground when shot, he had “ceased to flee.”

Skinner took the stand that afternoon and Anderson the following morning. They both admitted firing shots, but they could not see the fleeing man once he disappeared into the thicket of corn and morning glories. They both said they “shot at the ground” as a warning for him to stop, and both admitted they did not know if Sundo was the owner of the still or not. They were the only witnesses for the defense.

In his instructions to the jury, Judge Murphy said that because only one bullet contributed to Tony Sundo’s death, that only one of the two defendants could be found guilty and that it was up to the jury to determine which one. The only other possible verdict, he said, would be the acquittal of both men. He did not give any instructions as to any other possible charges regarding the incident.

The jury deliberated twenty hours before reporting back to Judge Murphy that they were in a deadlock, seven-to-five in favor of conviction.

When a second jury the following March reached an eleven-to-one deadlock, this time in favor of acquittal, Boli decided to not pursue the case any further. Skinner and Anderson went back to being part-time dry agents.

October 1924                  The LIttle Miami Fishing Camp Murder

When Asher Pickens, a Cincinnati insurance salesman, disappeared after an outing at a fishing camp on the Little Miami River, a team of Hamilton County detectives came to Hamilton in  search of a young man named Richard Crane. Not much was known about him, but he had been identified as an accomplice to Asher’s apparent murder, and would become a peripheral link to one of Little Chicago’s most notorious gangsters.

The nature of the fishing camp, why the party was there, and the reported details of the events of that day are all a bit murky and confusing, but basically on October 10, 1924, Pickens had been invited to a drinking party at the Sunshine Fishing Camp at Turkey Bottom Road (Lunken Airport was in development near there at the time) with a group of friends. He and nine other men met that morning at a cafe in downtown Cincinnati that morning and went en masse to the camp. (One of the party, William Farrell, 28 of Beechmont, was killed the following week by a Pennsylvania Railroad train at the foot of Worthman Street.)

Blanche Post, 42, who apparently ran the kitchen at the camp, said she and another man had gone to the camp early Friday morning. At around 11 a.m., the ten men came in.

She cooked for men, and while they ate, Edward Nagel Jr. and his father came in. Nagel Jr. was the owner of the camp. He said that he and his father went to spend the afternoon fishing and talking about what to do with the belongings of his mother, who had died two weeks prior.

“The men were strangers to me, but I knew Miss Post,” he told police later. “I became angry because they were drinking two barrels of beer that I've been saving.” He called it “good” beer, presumably to distinguish it from the lower-alcohol, legal “near” beer.

“Pickens, whom I did not know, invited me to have a drink.”

Witnesses said that Pickens was eating steak and eggs at the time. Nagel demanded to know his name. He was eating steak and eggs at the time.

“My name’s Eggs,” he said.

“Your name will be mud if you don’t pay for that beer,” Nagel is reported to have retorted. 

Nagel said: “I told him I own the beer and that someone would have to pay for it. This started the argument. We had a fight. The other men scattered around the camp while we fought.” 

Although some witnesses said that Pickens offered to pay, Nagel was so outraged that a fight ensued anyway.