Wednesday, July 04, 2001

Patriot, Liberty celebrate freedom


What's in a name? Try red, white and blue

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        This is the story of one town and one township with two very different paths to the future and one shared nod to the past: Both have names as red, white and blue as today.

        As the Fourth of July is celebrated across the Tristate and the nation, small-town corners such as Patriot, Ind., and Liberty Township, Butler County, view the holiday through the question “What's in a name?”

[photo] Jim Caudill of Patriot, Ind., flies several flags at his home.
(Michael E. Keating photos)
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        If you're from Liberty or Patriot, a lot.

        “It's a very patriotic town, no pun intended. I go back in time when I'm here 25, 30 years,” said Stephen Cooley, 54, of Patriot, an agricultural community on the banks of the Ohio River in Switzerland County, 40 miles southwest of Cincinnati.

        Liberty Township, too, loves liberty. But that's about where the similarities end. The two areas are a study in contrast.

        According to recently released U.S. Census figures, Patriot grew since 1990 from 190 residents to 202. Today, there is no parade or picnic because the Fourth falls in the middle of the week and residents just didn't organize in time, said township Clerk-Treasurer Pam Hutchinson.

        The same amount of population growth (12 arrivals) probably took place in Liberty Township in the time it took to read this sentence.

[photo] In booming Liberty Township, the Arulf family (from left) Sandy; Erik, 5; Alex, 9; Taylor, 6; and Curt look forward to a community parade and fireworks.
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        A rural area of 9,249 a decade ago, Liberty Township now has 22,819 residents. A large, open-to-anyone parade begins this morning at new Lakota East High School.

        For decades, both Patriot and Liberty were largely farmland. Patriot stayed that way, with an aging population, economic struggles and a stretched-to-the-bone annual town budget of $32,000.

        The town is six-tenths of a mile from east to west. To blink is to miss Patriot.

        To blink in Liberty Township is to miss the groundbreaking of another home under construction.

        “Cornfields and not many people,” Liberty Township retiree Paul Gilbert said in describing his Wyandot Lane neighborhood 15 years ago, when his family moved from West Chester.

        “Now, we got kids everywhere,” he said.

        “Everywhere.”

        Asked where he goes to watch the parade, he pointed to the end of his driveway.        

Patriot, U.S.A.

        Mr. Cooley was joined at a picnic table overlooking the Ohio River by friends Jim Caudill, a Korean War Army vet; Paul Hankinson, who grew up in Patriot and now owns a 150-acre hillside farm that produces cantaloupes, radishes and tomatoes; and John Hawk, a weekend “Patriot” from Indianapolis who's eyeing a retirement home here.

        And Odie.

[photo] Jim Caudill pets the town dog , Odie, at a riverside picnic table in Patriot, Ind., with friend Stephen Cooley.
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        Odie, a mixed-breed stray, is, according to the men, “nobody's dog but everyone's responsibility.”

        Patriot has one convenience store, no supermarket, one flashing traffic light at Ind. 156 and Third Street and one cemetery that predates the Civil War.

        Mr. Caudill, who lived for 31 years in several Cincinnati-area communities, including Sharonville and Norwood, said his great-grandfather was a Confederate soldier. At his Third Street home, two American flags, two Rebel flags and one POW-MIA flag danced in a recent afternoon breeze.

        He's been a Patriot patriot since 1988, and has no thoughts of leaving. “Neighbors here, they pull down your hanging laundry if it starts to rain,” he said.

        The other men nodded in agreement.

        Even though there is no official Fourth of July celebration, in a town this small, any time a few neighbors gather, they're never far from a townwide event.        

Liberty Township, U.S.A.

        The fastest-growing township in Greater Cincinnati in the past decade, Liberty is now trying to strike the balance between its rate of growth and the resulting burden on infrastructure.

        Despite zoning laws bent toward preserving green space, such space is vanishing. Traffic congestion is increasing. But the schools are outstanding, and property values and local pride are rising.

WHAT'S IN A NAME?
   • There are 30 communities in the United States named “Liberty.” The most populous is Liberty, Mo. (26,232 residents, or 3,413 more than Liberty Township, Butler County).
   • The state with the most municipalities named for “Liberty” is Iowa, with four (New Liberty, West Liberty, North Liberty and Libertyville).
   • Since the 1990 U.S. Census, five places adopted the name “Freedom.” Freedom, Calif. was the largest, with a population of 6,000.
   • There are 11 places in the U.S. named Independence, including Independence, Ky., in Kenton County.
   Source: U.S. Census, 2000
        A decade ago, Liberty had no public parks. Now, it has seven.

        “The Fourth is very important here,” Township Administrator Nell Kilpatrick said. “I think it's inherent in its name, Liberty.”

        One reason for the ever-growing parade size is that the only requirement to be in it is, well, to show up. All are welcome. Increasingly, that means kids.

        Because of Lakota schools, expansive tracts of undeveloped land and proximity to Interstate 75 and Hamilton County, Liberty Township has been a magnet for young families.

        Curt and Sandy Arulf moved to Summerville Lane six years ago, in part for the schools. They have three kids, Alex, 9; Taylor, 6; and Erik, 5.

        “We were astounded by the number of kids,” Mrs. Arulf said of their move to Liberty. “On the Fourth, we're going to a friend's house for a party, but first to the parade. The kids love it, and it's fun to watch them.

        “One year, we went on the roof,” she said, “and since we're the highest-sitting house in the neighborhood, we could see 20 or so (other communities') fireworks displays going off at once. The kids are asking, "Can we go on the roof again?'”

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