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WPA Interviews

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Narrator: Wm. Hemry, 84, of Hamilton

Mr. Hemry was eight years old when his father, Israel, moved form Carroll County, Ohio, to Caldwell County in 1859. Both Wm. and his father were born in Carroll County. The Hemry family came to Ohio from Pennsylvania. Israel located on land two miles south and half-mile west of Hamilton. The son, Will, began to make his living by working in the Harper and Goodman livery barn which faced the alley running north and south back of the depot. He recalled the custom of keeping a goat in the livery barn, the idea being that the odor was good for horses. The goat from the barn of Bill and Bob Paxton was taken over to the new brick schoolhouse and Prof. Ferguson had quite a time in driving it out. The Paxton stable stood on the present post office site and a little north. The Green stage line horse barn was where Mrs. Caroline Thornton lives.

When Mr. Hemry first recalls Hamilton in 1860, Kemper and Stone ran a general store on the present movie picture corner. Later O.B. Richardson (whose daughter became the wife of Will Hemry) put up a shack to the east of the Kemper store and used it for a post office. Most of the business in 1860 was on the short street back of the depot. Next in line was Dr. James McAdoo - office and drug store - who had the first soda water for sale. It was made by a suction pump. (Some time later John Minger made soda pop from an acid pressure tank.) North of the Kemper store and facing west was a salt lot, the salt being shipped in barrels from Michigan and Virginia.

He recalls as a boy the very early Buster House located at the corner of Mill and Broadway back from the street and facing south, which took in travelers. This same Dave Buster kept a saloon-grocery on the right of way south of the tracks on Broadway. He says that Buster was a good man despite his saloon. He also said that the Buster House was later moved northeast on the same block and formed a part of the Hamilton House built by Dudley. However, Dudley's son declares this is an error.

He recalls when the Morton brothers, John and "Cap" returned from the war and started up (1865) in hardware and tin (north end of the lumber company lot); the people said they were way out of town.

The Covington family came here from Gallatin and started a restaurant on the west side of North Main. Phil Covington would never sell the last of any kind of candy from his candy jars. He recalled the only three-story building ever on Main - the Kelso block. (Mr. Kelso was the father of Mrs. W.J. Ervin.) The fellows called this building the Buzzard's Roost. Later this became the Phoenix Hotel. It stood where the Mo. Dry Goods Store now stands.

The old Cochran brick bank (later Spratt-Houston) stood in 1868 on the present C.A. Martin corner. To the north of it was the Claypool Hotel. There was also a Claypool blacksmith shop on the site of the Leslie Clark Shop. To the south across the street was the frame Kemper store which was soon to burn down and be replaced by the Rohrbough brick. Rohrbough earlier was in a frame store on the present Penney site.

The earliest church building was the Methodists. There was held a Union Sunday School with Sam Martin (C.A.'s father) a Presbyterian, as superintendent. The first church on the site of the Presbyterian Church had a peculiar history. Col. Pace (a South Methodist preacher and lawyer here) had begged the money for the church-house. But they would not hire him to preach. So he charged them for this services in collecting the money and took the building on the debt which somehow their church laws allowed. Then he sold it to the Presbyterians, and he became a Presbyterian. Before the Methodists had a church, they met in the public schoolhouse which stood on the site of the present Methodist parsonage. He also recalled the talk about Rev. Wm. Wilmot, who was sent here as a Congregational missionary. The report was that he raised money to build a church and then he put some money of his own with it and built a home on Kingston Street with a chapel on the south for religious purposes. There was some trouble about it and the Congregational people left and met in a hall uptown, while the Wilmots left the Congregational Church forever. That house still stands south of the park.

The Christians (or Campbellites as they were wrongly but commonly called) met first at the home of James Whitt, then at the Schoolhouse on Kingston street, then in a McCoy's Hall about 1876, then in their first church home, (a small building northeast of the north school which has been changed into a dwelling) and lastly into their present church which was the first of a series of fine churches built about thirty-five or forty years ago. There seemed to be a contest as to which church should put up the nicest building. To that era belonged the brick Methodist, Presbyterian, and Congregational Church-buildings.

He recalls how the Baptists drifted around from one meeting place to another till they finally bought and built. For years, the Baptist church, while not the nicest, was the biggest church where union meetings were apt to be held because of its size.

Mr. Hemry was a witness to the Casey-Bristow fight in Civil War days in the Kemper store and the Buster saloon. He was also a witness to the Brosius-Davis shooting on north Main about 1870, when Jim Brosius (who was a son-in-law of Squire A.G. Davis and separated from his wife) and Squire Davis shot at each other, with wounds on each side. This shooting occurred near the site of the Penney store, he says; the Davis family at the time lived in a house on the next corner now occupied by the north bank building. The older Brosius (father of the above) was at that time proprietor of the Hamilton House, south of the depot. Mr. Hemry was sworn in as a deputy to help keep peace between the two sides that night after the shooting.

Interviewed April 15, 1934.

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