In October 1859, lawyer Abraham Lincoln accepted an invitation to lecture at Henry Ward Beecher’s church in Brooklyn, New York, and chose a political topic which required months of painstaking research. His law partner William Herndon observed, “No former effort in the line of speech-making had cost Lincoln so much time and thought as this one,” a remarkable comment considering the previous year’s debates with Stephen Douglas. (Continue Reading…)
Notable Warren Countians
By far, one of the most distinguished early citizens of Warren County was Thomas Corwin. Born in Bourbon County, Kentucky in 1794, his family moved to what would be Warren County, Ohio in1798. Corwin’s political resume was an impressive one and spanned all levels of government – local, state and national.
Mr. Corwin was one of the pallbearers for President Lincoln’s funeral in Washington, D.C., in 1865. Mr. Corwin died in that city later in the year and was buried in Lebanon, Ohio. The small village of Corwin in Warren County, Ohio was named after him. (Continue Reading…)
Lebanon has long been noted for its list of distinguished sons, but few daughters have been recorded for the Hall of Fame. Several however, who have not been heralded as heroes, are entitled to a place of honor for deeds as gallant and service as faithful as any man has given. None is more worthy than Miss Amanda Stokes, first volunteer war nurse of Warren County. It is a privilege to offer this tribute to such a loyal daughter. (Continue Reading…)
One of the picturesque military men of the early days of our country was Col. Lewis Drake. He has a number of descendents still living in this county.
The colonel (it was a legitimate title, not honorary) was born in New Jersey on June 19, 1766 and died at his home in Genntown on March 20, 1849. His military career started in the New Jersey militia where he rose to the rank of colonel. (Continue Reading…)
Laura Bellini – (1848-1931) Born Laura Woolwine in Lebanon in 1848, “Madame Bellini” was an opera singer of note on two continents. She changed her name after studying in Milan, Italy and traveled all over Europe with a repertoire of 100 operas. She returned to Lebanon after the illness and subsequent death of her parents, and remained there for the rest of her life. Her greatest joy is said to have been singing at the centennial celebration of Lebanon in 1902.
Clem Bevans – (1879-1963) This Hollywood character actor of the 1930s and 40s was born Clement Guy Blevins in Cozaddale in southern Warren County. After working in Vaudeville and on Broadway he made his first of over 100 films in 1935. Bevans often played old codger role in “B” westerns. Some of the major films he was in were “Sergeant York,” “The Yearling,” “Abe Lincoln in Illinois” and “Paleface.” He also had parts on such television shows as “Bonanza” and “The Twilight Zone.”
Samuel Bigger – (1802-1845) Bigger was born on a farm south of Franklin. His father, Col. John Bigger, frequently represented Warren County in the Ohio legislature and served as speaker of the house. A graduate from Ohio University, young Bigger moved to Liberty, Indiana in 1829. After establishing a law practice in Rushville, IN, he was elected to the Indiana legislature in 1843 and then reelected. In 1840 he was elected to one term as governor of Indiana. He is buried in Fort Wayne.
Milton Brown – (1804-1883) Brown was born in Lebanon. Some time after 1820 he moved to Nashville, Tennessee and studied law. After a few years he opened a law practice in Paris, TN. He later moved to Jackson, TN where he became a judge in 1835. Brown was elected to Congress in 1840 and was reelected twice. He was a founder of Southwestern University (later Union University) and Lambuth College. Both schools are in Jackson, TN.
He attended Maineville Academy and Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1861. He began his practice in Cincinnati. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War and rose to the rank of Major.
In 1868 he was appointed as an Assistant U.S. District Attorney. In 1874 and 1875 he served in the Ohio Senate. From 1879 to 1883 he served as a Representative in the U.S. Congress. In 1883 he served as a special government counsel to prosecute South Carolina election cases. In 1883 he was appointed by President Arthur as a Commissioner of the Northern Pacific Railroad. He also served as a regent of the Smithsonian Institution. From 1885 to 1891 he again served as a Representative to the U.S. Congress. In his last term he was the Chairman of the Committee on Patents.
In 1896 he was appointed a Commissioner of the Patents Office and served in that position until his death in January of 1898.
Henry Thomas Butterworth – Henry Thomas Butterworth was born in June of 1809 a few miles south of Lynchburg, VA. His parents were Benjamin and Rachel Butterworth. In 1812 the family exchanged its Virginia farm for a tract of 1000 acres in Ohio near the Little Miami River in Hamilton Township of Warren County, and moved west. They settled first near Waynesville, but several years later moved to their property along the Little Miami River to clear the land and to begin farming. Henry was 21 when he married Nancy Wales at the Quaker Grove Meeting House in Harveysburg, Ohio.
Although he was a mechanic by trade, Henry became a successful farmer. He and his wife and eleven children resided on his father’s farm so that he could take care of his parents. Seven of Henry’s children survived him.
He was very public spirited and contributed much during his life to improve his community and county. He provided much support to the building of the Montgomery Pike and was instrumental in the building of the Foster’s Loveland Pike. He supported the building of the Little Miami Railroad, as well as giving it right-of-way across his farm, housing the construction crews, and daily use of his water tank for the trains. His lifelong interest and support of the local schools led him to found the Maineville Academy.
Henry was a Quaker for much of his life and as such was an active opponent of slavery. He was active in the abolition movement and he became the southern-most conductor for the Underground Railroad in Warren County. He assisted hundreds of slaves to make their way north to eventual freedom.
He graduated from Lehigh University and then earned a law degree from the National University Law School In Washington, D.C. . He married Katherine Deere in 1892 and joined Deere & Co. that same same as an assistant buyer. His father-in- law, Charles Deere was the founder of Deere & Co. William was elected treasurer of the company in 1897, and following Charles Deere’s death in 1907, he became the president of the company.
He worked at making the company a full line manufacturer of farm equipment, to include combine harvesters and John Deere tractors. He guided the company through many changes and much growth. In 1910 the Company consolidated 11 factories and 25 sale organizations in the U.S. and Canada into one large organization. William was president of the company for 21 years. It was ahead of most of the society in the early years in dealing with its employees. In 1907 it created a new non-contributory pension system for its employees who retired with more than 20 years of service. It also created a sick benefits and disability program for its employees.
Upon retirement in 1928, William Butterworth became John Deere’s first chairman of the board. In 1927 he was elected to the first of four terms as president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
William and his wife were strong supporters of scouting. They established Camp Katherine, a Girl Scout camp, in the 1930s on Butterworth land near the town of Foster.
It was later renamed Camp William Butterworth. He died in 1936.
Charles Clark – (1811-1877) Born in Lebanon, Clark was educated in Kentucky and moved to Mississippi in 1831. A brigadier general for the Confederacy during the Civil War, he was severely wounded and captured in the Battle of Baton Rouge. Feeling his wound was fatal, the Federals allowed him to return home. Though an invalid, he was elected governor of Mississippi in 1863 and remained in office until the end of the war.
Dr. Mary Leah Cook – (1869-1964) Dr. Mary Leah Cook was born in a log cabin on New Burlington Road, north of Waynesville, Ohio, on Sept. 25,1869. She was the daughter of John and Dinah (Spray) Cook. After graduating from the Harveysburg High School in 1887, she worked for some time in the office of Dr. Marie Romine, who encourged Mary to pursue her desire to become a doctor.
After attending Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, she taught for a year before moving to Oregon with her family. Her family soon moved back to Waynesville, but Mary stayed to teach in Oregon for 3 years. She then moved to Chicago and worked there for 12 years. In 1908, at the age of 39, she graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the University of Illinois. She was the only woman in her graduating class. She then moved to central Illinois with her Illinois license to practice medicine to take over the practice of another woman physcian who took a year long vacation. Following that, Dr. Cook moved back to Waynesville where she practiced medicine for the next 50 years. During that span, she also served two terms as the president of the Warren County Medical Society, and 18 years as the treasurer of that society. She also served as the president of the Wayneville Library for at least 30 years.
In 1961 the Wayne Township Library, which she helped start in 1917, was renamed the Dr. Mary L. Cook Library. She died on March 31, 1964.
Francis Dunlavy – (1768-1839) Dunlavy became the first teacher in the entire Miami Valley in 1797 when he established a log cabin school near what would soon be Lebanon. He was elected to the Northwest Territorial legislature in 1801. As a member of the constitutional convention in 1802, he was one of principal writers of Ohio’s first constitution. For 14 years, beginning in 1803, Dunlavy served as a president judge for ten counties in southwest Ohio. He is buried in Lebanon.
Merie Earle – (1889-1984) A cousin to character actor Clem Bevans, Merie was born Goldie Ireland in Morrow. Given the nickname “Merie” as a child, she did not begin her professional acting career until after her husband, Laurence Earle, had died. She was 76 years old. She appeared in over a dozen films and scores of television shows. She had the semi-regular role of “Maude Gormley” on “The Waltons” and was a frequent guest on “the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” She acted until her death at 95.
Dr. John Evans – (1814-1897) Born in Waynesville, Evans moved to Indiana after becoming a doctor in 1838. There he helped establish the first insane asylum and school for the deaf in the state of Indiana. Evans moved to Chicago and helped establish Mercy Hospital and the Illinois Medical Society. He was founder and first president of Northwestern University. In 1862 President Lincoln appointed him the second governor of the Colorado Territory. In that position, he played a role in the establishment of Denver University. The towns of Evanston, IL and Evanston, CO are named after him.
Major General Edwin Forrest Harding – (1886-1970) Born in Franklin, Harding graduated from the West Point in 1909. Early in his military career he served in the Philippines, in Montana, as an instructor at West Point in China. Upon returning to the U.S., he taught at the Army Infantry School at Fort Benning. At the beginning of World War II he was a major general in charge of the 32nd Infantry Division. He retired from military in 1946 to his home in Franklin. He willed his home to the Franklin Area Historical Society, which now operates as the Harding Museum.
William Elmer Harmon – (1862-1928) Harmon was born in Lebanon. He grew up on the western U.S. Army posts in which his father was stationed. He graduated from Lebanon High School in 1881. Together with his brother and uncle, he went in the real estate business in 1887. By 1900 he was a multimillionaire and their real estate firm was said to be the largest in the world. He devoted the rest of his life in aiding others. He established the Harmon Foundation with its special emphasis on helping young people. Among his many philanthropic efforts, Harmon set up 119 playgrounds in small towns in 34 states. He built his first in Lebanon in 1911.
Woody Harrelson – (1961- ) Harrelson graduated from Lebanon High School in 1979 and has a degree in English and theater arts from Hanover College in Indiana. He first went to New York City to try and break into show business but with little success. In 1985, however, he won the part of “Woody” on the hit television show “Cheers.” Harrelson won an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for this role in 1989. He has made nearly two-dozen films. Harrelson was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for the 1996 film “The U.S. vs. Larry Flint.”
Alfred Holbrook – (1816-1909) Holbrook founded the Southwest Normal School in Lebanon, Ohio in 1855. It later changed its name to the National Normal University and was in existence for 62 years. Holbrook was an innovator in education. He avoided such tried and true teaching methods as tests and lectures. His students were encouraged to debate topics and delivered numerous recitations. Cordell Hull, secretary of state during FDR’s administration; Myers Y. Cooper, governor of Ohio; and A.B. Graham, founder of the 4H Club are just a few of the distinguished students who attended his college. Holbrook is buried in Lebanon.
Ahimaaz King was born in Connecticut. After his father’s death, Ahimaaz moved to live with his uncle in Xenia, Ohio. His uncle, J.W. King, was then the president of the Miami Powder Company. He and Ahimaaz later purchased a sawmill property in Gainesboro (later to be named Kings Mills, near The Little Miami River), south of Lebanon.
They soon moved to the property and built a series of buildings to house their new company, The Great Western Powder Company. The mills were completed in 1881 and production started soon thereafter. They built a company village with houses and a store for their workers. With his own wealth, Ahimaaz built a school, a church, a library, and a theater for the village. During his tenure with the company, he sponsored educational opportunities beyond the grade school level for many children of the company’s employees.
Following the death of J.W. King, his brother-in-law Reverend G.M. Peters became the president of the company and Ahimaaz became the operating manager. In 1887, the two formed the Peters Cartridge Company to make shotgun shells and ammunition for other weapons. They built a new factory with a shot tower just across the river from the powder mills. Steam generators which created electricity were installed to power the new factory.
On July 15, 1890, a series of massive explosions, heard as far as 15 miles away, destroyed the powder mills complex. Nine people were killed in the event. A later investigation concluded that the incident probably was caused by faulty coupling of railroad cars at the plant while they were being loaded with kegs of powder.
In 1896, G.M. Peters received a patent for his invention of the first mechanized shotgun shell loading machine. This resulted in a more efficient and profitable production capacity for the company.
Ahimaaz King died in 1909.
Coates Kinney – (1826-1904) Kinney was called the “Poet Laureate of Ohio.” Born in New York, his family settled east of Springboro when he was 13. He attended the Springboro Academy. He then taught school, studied law with Thomas Corwin and attended Antioch College. After the Civil War he became professor at Judson College in Illinois. He returned to Ohio, entered state politics, and then operated a newspaper in Xenia. Kinney wrote three volumes of poetry, but is best remember for the 1849 poem “Rain on the Roof” written in the Warren County community of Mount Holly. He is buried in Corwin, OH.
Frank Lickliter II – (1968- ) A golfer on the PGA Tour, Lickliter is a graduate from Wright State University in 1991 with a degree in sociology. In 2001 he finished in the top 30 in the PGA Tour money list based on his career-high eight “top-10″ finishes and his victory of the Kemper Insurance Open.
Ralph Phillips Lowe – (1805-1883) Born in Warren County, he graduated from Miami University in 1829. In 1838 he moved to Muscatine, Iowa and practiced law. Later he relocated to Lee County, Iowa where he served as judge in 1852. Lowe was elected the fourth governor of Iowa in 1857. While in office he helped establish a state agricultural college that would later become Iowa State University. He sat on the court bench until 1867, serving four years as its chief justice. In 1874 he moved to Washington D.C.
A. G. McBurney – (1817-1894) Andrew G. McBurney was born in Hamilton, County. He moved with his family to Lebanon in 1803 and learned the trade of cabinet making. Self-educated, his desire to better himself led him to study law with an attorney in Lebanon. He eventually became a law partner to Thomas Corwin. His reputation and skill as a lawyer grew rapidly and he was twice elected to the Ohio senate. In 1865 he was elected lieutenant governor of Ohio. In 1871 he was co-counsel with the famed Civil War “Copperhead” Clement L. Vallandigham in a murder trial. He was the only witness to see Vallandigham accidentally shoot himself in the Golden Lamb. McBurney is buried in Lebanon.
John McLean – (1785-1861) Born in New Jersey, his family came to what is now Ridgeville when he was 14. In 1807 McLean founded The Western Star, Ohio’s oldest weekly newspaper, in Lebanon. That same year he became a lawyer. He served as a U.S. Congressman, a member of the Ohio Supreme Court, as the U.S. Postmaster, and, as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court for 31 years. While on U.S. Court, his position on the “Dred Scott” case made him a favorite of the antislavery movement. Three times McLean’s name was put in nomination for the U.S. presidency. In 1858, McLean lost the republican nomination for President to Abraham Lincoln.
Ormsby M. Mitchel was born August 28, 1810, near Morganfield, Kentucky, His father died when he was 3. In 1814 his mother moved her family to Ohio. They finally settled in Lebanon, in Warren County. He attended school but left at the age of 12 to take a job as a clerk in a local store. While doing this he continued to study. In 1825, he obtained an appointment to the United Stated Military Academy at West Point with the help of then fellow Lebanon resident John McLean, Postmaster General of the United States. Ormsby graduated from the Academy in 1829.
The Army then assigned him to teach mathematics at West Point. In 1831 he was reassigned to an artillery unit located in Florida. He resigned his commission in 1833 to move to Cincinnati to open a law office. In 1834 he returned to teaching when he became a professor of mathematics, natural philosophy, and astronomy at Cincinnati College. He was also instrumental in establishing a law school at the university. He soon took a leading role in establishing an observatory at the college, recruiting prominent citizens to donate land and building costs for the project. The observatory was completed in 1845. He then resigned his professorship but remained as the chief operating officer of the observatory. He also published the first monthly astronomy magazine in the U.S. He also began to give lectures across the United States on astronomy. He also helped establish observatories for the United States Navy in Washington and one for Harvard University.
To supplement his income he served as a construction engineer for the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad and in a similar position for the Little Miami Railroad during 1836 and 1837. In 1859 he was appointed superintendent of the Dudley Observatory at Albany, N.Y. here he continued his research on the development of telegraphic determination of longitude.
When the Civil War began, he volunteered his services and was commissioned as a Brigadier General. His first duty was to organize the northern Kentucky defences around Cincinnati. He then briefly was in command of the Military Department of Ohio. He later participated in the Fort Donaldson campaign in Feb. 1862 and then in the capture of Nashville, Tennessee. Following that, he led a force into Alabama where he seized the city of Huntsville in April of 1862. He was then promoted to Major General for his efforts. His next assignment was as commander of the 10th Army Corps and the Department of the South at Hilton Head, South Carolina. He died from yellow fever in Beaufort shortly after assuming his command in September of 1862.
A persistently bright region near the Mars south pole that was first observed by Mitchel in 1846 is named in his honor- “The Mountains of Mitchel”. It is located near 70S 40E. An impact crater on the same planet was named in his honor. Mitchell, Indiana, was named for him after he surveyed it for the owners. The first post-Civil War freedman’s town created in the U.S. (on Hilton Head Island) was named in his honor. Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, was also given his name.
Jeremiah Morrow – (1771-1852) Morrow was born in Pennsylvania, but for most of his life he lived near Foster in the Little Miami River. He helped write Ohio’s first constitution. For ten years he was Ohio’s first and only U.S. congressman. He also served as a U.S. senator, governor of Ohio, and as a president of the Little Miami Railroad. The town of Morrow in Warren County is named after him, as is Morrow County in north central Ohio. The Jeremiah Morrow Bridge, over the Little Miami River, in Warren County is the highest bridge in Ohio.
William Augustus Newell – (1817-1901) Newell’s parents moved to Franklin from New Jersey shortly before his birth. Before he was three his family returned to New Jersey, settling in New Brunswick. He graduated from Rutgers College in 1836. After attending the University of Pennsylvania’s medical school, he practiced medicine in Allentown, NJ. In 1846 he was elected to Congress. Newell became governor of New Jersey in 1856. In 1865 he returned to Congress. He was unsuccessful in his attempt to return to the New Jersey governorship in 1884. He returned to New Jersey in 1885.
Dolly Noble – (1861-1930) Born Dolly Woolwine in Lebanon, she was younger sister of opera singer Laura Bellini. She studied acting in Cincinnati and Washington, D.C. While in Cincinnati, she met the noted actor Milton Noble and soon joined his theater company. In 1880 they married and soon became one of America’s most popular acting couples of the late 1800s. The two made their home in Brooklyn, NY.
Gordon Ray Roberts – (1950- ) Roberts graduated from Lebanon High School in 1968. He served as a rifleman in the 101 Airborne Division during the Vietnam War. In Thua Thien Province on July 11, 1969 he earned the Medal of Honor for “extraordinary heroism in action at the risk of his life.” He is the youngest living recipient of the Medal of Honor. Roberts is currently a major in the U.S. Army.
Marty Roe – (1960- ) Roe is the lead singer of the country and western group Diamond Rio. A 1979 graduate of Lebanon High School, Roe attended college in Nashville, TN. After graduation he became a member of a band that performed at Opryland in Nashville. In 1991 the group reorganized as Diamond Rio and issued their first CD. The band has earned more awards than any other country group of the 1990s. They have received eight Grammy nominations and numerous country vocal group of the year awards. In 1998 Diamond Rio became the first band since 1984 to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
Dr. Marie Downing Romine – Dr. Maria M. Downing Romine was among the first women doctors to be licensed to practice Medicine in the state of Ohio.
She was born Oct. 16, 1848 in Humphrey, Pennsylvania, one of five children of Jacob Downing (1807-1862) and Jane Underwood Downing (1813-1907). Near the end of the Civil War, Jane Dowing moved her family to the Harveysburg area, south of Waynesville in eastern Warren County. Jane’s sister, Matilda Downing Underwood (wife of Zephaniah), was a respected Quaker minister of the Grove Meeting House in Harveysburg.
Maria taught school for some years in Harveysburg. She married a local farmer, Jesse Romine. Unable to have children, Maria and her husband adopted one of her sister Rebecca’s daughters. Maria had longed wanted to become a doctor but never had the opportunity to study for that goal. She had adopted her niece in hopes she could be encouraged to become a doctor, but the girl was not interested. Jesse finally was successful in persuading Maria to go to medical school.
Maria attended the Laura Memorial Woman’s Medical College in Cincinnati. She graduated from that school in 1896. She has one of the first women doctors to be licensed to practice medicine in Ohio by the Ohio Medical Board, which began licensure of doctors in 1896. She was 48 when she gradulated! She then returned to Harveysburg to open her practice (in her home-which is still standing today in the village).
Dr. Maria M. Romine died Dec. 16, 1922 and was buried in Dec. 19, 1922 in the nearby Miami Cemetery in Waynesville, Ohio.
The Laura Memorial Women’s Medical College operated in Cincinnati from 1895 to 1903. It had earlier merged with the Woman’s Medical College of Cincinnati, and then later with the Presbyterian Hospital and Woman’s Medical College. The Laura Memorial Women’s Medical College subsequently merged with the Miami Medical College, which later became the College of Medicine of the University of Cincinnati. Graduates of the above schools are all considered to be graduates of the University of Cincinnati. Quite a heritage!
Rear Admiral James Findlay Schenck – James Findlay Schenck was born in June, 1807, in Franklin, Warren County, Ohio.
His father, William C.Schenck was a General in the U.S. Army during the Revolutionary War. Later he helped to survey the Ohio Territories. He was also the founder of Franklin.
James Finday Schenck was appointed to the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. in 1822. He resigned from there in two years and in 1825 received an appointment as a midshipman in the U.S. Navy. He was posted to the West India squadron where he served until 1832 when he was reassigned to the Mediterranean squadron. He received his commission as lieutenant in 1835. He was again detailed to the West India squadron in 1837, followed by a tour in the Brazil squadron.
In 1845, during the Mexican War, he was detailed to the Pacific squadron. During this war, he landed a force that captured Santa Barbara and San Pedro in California, and he participated in the march and capture of Los Angelos. He also participated in the bombardment and capture of Guaymas and the taking of Matzilan, Mexico.
He was promoted to Commander in 1853. In 1859, he was assigned to the East India squadron and while on this tour his ship was forced to destroy a hostile Chinese fort.
In 1862, Commander Schenck was assigned to the West Gulf Blockading squadron under the command of Admiral David Dixon Porter. Schenck was promoted to Commodore in 1864. He saw additional combat while serving in the West Gulf squadron as well as in his next assignment to the North Atlantic squadron.
James Findlay Schenck retired in June of 1869. He was promoted to Rear Admiral on the Retired List in 1970. He died in December of 1882.
Robert Cumming Schenck – (1809-1890) Schenck was the son of William C. Schenck, one of the founders of Franklin. In 1827 he graduated from Miami University and then taught there. After studying law with Thomas Corwin, he was elected to the Ohio legislature and later to Congress. He became the U.S. minister to Brazil before the Civil War. During the war he fought in both battles of Bull Run. He left the military in 1863, with the rank of major general, to take a seat in Congress. After several terms he accepted the position of U.S. minister to Great Britain in 1870.
William C. Schenck – William C. Schenck was born in New Jersey, in 1773, the son of a prominent Presbyterian minister. He became a surveror as an adult. In 1792 he moved to Ohio. In 1793 he was appointed a lieutenant in the militia of Hamilton County in the then Northwest Territory. During the winter of 1795/96, he and David C. Cooper laid out the town of Franklin (later to become a city) in the new Franklin township. In 1799 he was elected Secretary of the Council in the legislature of the Northwest Territory. In 1803 he moved to the town of Franklin. He also surveyed a tract of 4,000 acres in Licking County for his uncle and his parter. He laid out a town, named Newark, which was to become the county seat. He was given a third interest in the entire tract for his efforts. He went on later to serve in the Ohio legislature both as a representative and as a senator. He was also elected as a trustee of Miami University. He died in Columbus, Ohio in Jan. of 1821.
His diverse talents and interests enabled him to succeed and excell in life as an engineer, businessman, entreprenuer, farmer, pilot, cook, as a realtor, medical researcher, and, philanthropist. He engaged in philanthropy in many ways during his business career, aiding his employees and their families when in need, with educational assistance, and aiding the needy in the communities his businesses were located. He carried on with his philanthropy when he retired. One outstanding example was his taking the lead in getting a very, very, large YMCA complex built in the city of Lebanon, Ohio, for the benefit of all Warren County citizens. Another example was his interest in and donations he made to Wilmington College.
Ralph, as he liked to be called, rather than Mr. Stolle, was born in Newport, Kentucky in 1904. During his youth, he worked in the steel and construction industries. At the age of 18, with a borrowed $250.00 he purchased his first company, an electroplating company. He worked at, managed, and grew the company, while also attending the Ohio Mechanics Institute in Cincinnati, from which he graduated in 1925. From this point on, he continued to create or purchase additional companies during his lifetime. He survived the Great Depression, having seen his first company almost collapse, while he was very seriously ill. He rebounded, and soon found his aluminum anodizing company supplying aluminum products to help build both the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center in New York City. His companies helped to improve many household appliances, led to the development of better aluminum sideing for homes, and many other applications of the product in other industries. In the 1950s one of his companies was aiding in the development of polystyrene foam insulation. Other of his companies made aluminum parts for the automobile industry, produced lift truck masts, hydraulic and air-powered cylinders. etc.
In 1941 he purchased 3400 acres of farmland in Oregonia, just east of Lebanon, Ohio, in Warren County. After his death, his will revealed that he owned another 40 or so farms around the country as well. He incorporated his companies into the Stolle Corporation. His interest in medicine led him to set up a medical research company, along with research to be conducted on his farm to create new medicines and vaccines.
In the mid-1950′s he sold 49 % of his corporation to the ALCOPA Corporation – and then started up a new company, which over time was to own at least 20 other companies.
In the early 1960′s the easy-pull tab was invented for cans. Ralph’s company was asked to find a solution for a method of efficiently attaching the tabs to cans. The company responded by creating automated production machines with which millions of these cans with the tabs attached could be produced and at a much lower cost. This resulted in a packaging revolution in the alcoholic beverage industry, the fruit juice, and many other food packaging industries. Later, Ralph’s company improved on the easy-pull tab design, so that instead of separating from the container and causing certain safety/environmental problems, the tabs remained attached to the cans after being used to open them.
Ralph “retired” in his 70′s but remained hale and active to a lesser degree with his companies. He died in January of 1996.
William Henry Venable – (1836-1920) This 19th century educator and poet was born three miles southwest of Waynesville. He was educated at Lebanon’s National Normal University and later taught there. He was a principal of a school in Indiana and taught for a number of years in Cincinnati. In 1886 he began lecturing and writing in cities across the Midwest. He authored 22 books of poetry, philosophy, history, and other subjects. He gave the key address at Lebanon’s centennial celebration in 1902.
Russel Wright – (1904-1976) Wright was on of the most important American Industrial designers of the 20th century. He was born in Lebanon and was a 1921 graduate of Lebanon High School. After attending one year a Princeton he left to join a theatrical set studio. He then began his career as a designer and never looked back. Over the years he worked with furniture, dishes, glassware, silverware, linen, lamps, art pottery, and much more. He was the first designer to successfully market his creations using his own name as a well-defined brand.