Monday, March 24, 2003

Bicentennial parties today
in Butler, Warren counties

By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Their log-fort towns have morphed into subdivisions and the dense forests were cleared for highways and parking lots. But today, busy residents of Butler and Warren counties will pause to remember their pioneer times and celebrate their heritage with bicentennial programs.

• Population:
  1803: 836
  1990: 291,479
  2000: 332,807
• County seat: Hamilton
• Size: 2000 square miles
• Population:
  1803: 854
  1990: 113,909
  2000: 158,383
• County seat: Lebanon
• Size: 408 square miles
  Source: U.S. Census Bureau and A History of Warren County
On March 24, 1803, the General Assembly established the new counties by dividing the existing Hamilton and Ross counties. Although today among Ohio's fastest growing areas, in 1803 Butler and Warren were sparsely populated frontiers. Warren County had 854 people; Butler, 836.

What a difference a couple of centuries makes.

Warren County - population 160,000 - will celebrate its bicentennial from noon to 1:30 p.m. today at the Administration Building, 406 Justice Drive, Lebanon.

This will be the first of four signature events, said Margaret Drexel of the Warren County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Others include the casting of the county's bicentennial bell on May 2-3 and major festivals in the summer.

Both counties have rugged early histories.

Because Fort Hamilton was the main outpost in the area, it became the Butler County seat. Lebanon's county-seat designation didn't come until 1805, when it offered a central location and help in paying for new county buildings.

Butler was formed with 13 townships (which it still has): Fairfield, Liberty, Lemon, St. Clair, Ross, Wayne, Milford, Reily, Madison, Morgan, Oxford, Hanover and Union (now West Chester). Initially, Warren had only four: Deerfield, Franklin, Wayne and Hamilton. Today it has 11 townships.

Warren County's early days were equally rugged. Its first settlement, Bedle's Station, stood 4 miles west of modern Lebanon. The settlement had log blockhouses to protect residents from hostile Indians.

Warren County was named for Joseph Warren, a soldier killed in the Battle of Bunker Hill in the Revolutionary War. He has been called the "first martyr of the Revolution."

Butler was named for General Richard Butler, another hero of the American Revolution who died at St. Clair's Defeat, near present-day Fort Recovery in Mercer County in 1791.

Although the frontier army was routed that day, Butler County became a namesake.
  Selected Butler and Warren county towns and approximate years when laid out:
• Darrtown, 1814
• Hamilton, 1795
• Jacksonburg, 1816
• Middletown, 1802
• Monroe, 1817
• Oxford, 1810
• Seven Mile, 1838
• Trenton, 1815
• West Chester, 1817
• Venice (now Ross), 1817
• Warren County:
• Deerfield (now South Lebanon), 1795
• Corwin, 1844
• Franklin, 1800
• Harveysburg, 1829
• Lebanon, 1802
• Maineville, 1815
• Mason (as Palmyra), 1815
• Waynesville, 1796
  Sources: History of Butler County, Ohio; A History and Biographical Cyclopaedia of Butler County, Ohio; History of Warren County, Ohio

At noon today, Warren County commissioners will dedicate the Flags of Government commons in front of the county administration building. At 12:30 p.m., they will kick off the county's bicentennial with the presentation of a bicentennial quilt, musical performances and recognitions.

The Star of Ohio quilt, made by members of the 741 Senior Center over 9 months, will be displayed at community events and festivals this year. It was designed and planned by Dolcee Hoffman of Springboro, Charles Chamberlain of Carlisle and Katherine Cranmer of Waynesville.

The quilt features eight-point stars with a combination of squares and triangles that create the stars in red, white and blue. The piece is 68 inches wide by 81 inches long, and hand-quilted. Next week, it will be displayed at the administration building.

Flags will be presented to representatives of the 24 local governments in Warren County, and will be put on permanent display at the Justice Center campus.

The county built the 24-foot semicircle with poles for each flag. As government representatives receive their flags, they will be raised simultaneously in a choreographed presentation, said county Commissioner Pat Arnold South.

"We wouldn't be doing this if we didn't think our history is valuable," she said. "If not for all the local governments, county government would not exist."

The flag presentation ceremony will be held outdoors, and the rest of the program will be held indoors.

"It will be a good day for the county," said Mary Payne, director of the Warren County Historical Society Museum in Lebanon. Things started off well with our quilt show on March 7-9. Three thousand people attended. It was a great boon for downtown merchants, who've had a tough winter."

  Famous people from Butler and Warren counties include:
Fannie Hurst, popular author, was born in Hamilton, Butler County, in 1885. She called the city her "summer palace."
Walter Alston, manager of the Dodgers and member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, was born near Ross, Butler County, in 1911. For years he lived in Darrtown.
Johnny Black, composer of "Paper Doll" and other hit songs, moved to Hamilton, Butler County, at a young age, and died there in 1936.
Thomas Corwin, Ohio governor, U.S. secretary of the Treasury, congressman and Ohio representative, moved to Warren County with his family at an early age. He lived in Lebanon.
Jeremiah Morrow, for whom the massive bridge over the Little Miami River is named, became a senator from Warren County in the first Ohio General Assembly in March 1803. Later he served as a U.S. representative and senator.
Charles F. Richter, a seismologist and creator of the Richter Scale for measuring the strength of earthquakes, was born near Overpeck, Butler County, in 1900.
  Sources: History of Warren County, Ohio, and Butler County Biographies by Jim Blount.
Butler County - now about 338,000 strong - will celebrate its founding at 11 a.m. today with a ceremonial flag-raising at the Government Services Building in Hamilton. Each community in the county will raise an Ohio bicentennial flag at 9 a.m., said Rhonda Freeze, director of the county's bicentennial program.

"We're working on getting some Civil War re-enactors and some veterans for the 11 a.m. ceremony," she said. "We'll have a small reception at 11:30 a.m. - with a bicentennial birthday cake, of course."

The Butler County Historical Society's Ritchie Auditorium, 327 N. Second Street, Hamilton has opened an exhibit of "Yesterday's Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future," a traveling exhibit of pop culture objects from the Smithsonian Institution. It is the exhibit's first venue in Ohio.

In addition, a reception honoring the county's oldest citizens will be held at 5:30 p.m. today during the "Art of Butler County: The First 200 Years" show at the courthouse, at 2nd and High streets.


Related stories:
Even in wilderness, a jail was needed
Ohio Bicentennial Moments: Warren was carved out of Hamilton Co.

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