SKETCH OF THE HISTORY OF OAKLEY
from 1852 -- 1952
FOUR MILE STAND
OAKLEY IS BORN
THE OAKLEY SCHOOL
THE OAKLEY BANK
THE FIRST NEWSPAPER
OAKLEY AN INDUSTRIAL CENTER
THE OAKLEY POST OFFICE
THE OAKLEY LIBRARY
THE OAKLEY MOVIE THEATERS
THE CHURCHES OF OAKLEY
THE RACETRACK -- PILLARS CLUB -- THE VILLAGE WELL
ANNEXATION OF OAKLEY
100 YEARS -- CELEBRATED BY OAKLEY
A TRIBUTE TO OAKLEY
DATES OF OAKLEY'S DEVELOPMENT
Centennial Paper -- 1952
Article by Harry L. Bale
Old papers and books saved by Col. Ruzicka
It was New Year's Eve -- the year of 1852. The new Four Mile Tavern was celebrating its grand opening. Raucous laughter and stomping of hob-nailed shoes, boisterous shouting, and the consumption of many fifths of whiskey gave evidence of the Wagoners’ approval. They were the drivers of the four-horse freighters and one six-horse “Mountain Ship”. These Wagoners had their own standards of decorum, befitting such an occasion. This celebration was intensified by the advent of the New Year. Little did these Wagoners know that they were also celebrating the embryonic life of Oakley, be that as it may. Four Mile House was now officially established.
The question comes to mind, “Why did this Way station of Four Mile come into being in 1852?” The answer must be sought thirty-two years earlier. In the year of 1820 a stock company built Madison Road extending from Woodburn Avenue, (Walnut Hills) to Ebersole Avenue in Madisonville. It did so upon the information that the Old National Road, from Cumberland, Maryland, to Springfield, Ohio, was under construction. Also it was informed that this route would be extended to Wooster Pike and end at Ebersole Avenue. This construction was completed in 1838. Because of the foresight of this company, Madison Road was ready to carry the traffic into Cincinnati in 1838. This new route brought with it a need for personal services for passengers, and for coach and freight personnel, as well. This need was recognized by John W Schrimper. Also motivated by the fact that a personal profit should be forthcoming, he built the Four Mile House at the north-east corner of the B&O tracks (Baltimore and Ohio) on Madison Road. This memorable date was 1852.
After about fourteen years Mr. Schrimper sold his business to Mr. Ferd. Kretzsch in 1866? The freight Wagon traffic increased greatly, necessitating a blacksmith shop, for both Wagon repairs and horse shoeing. With this added service the business prospered. He maintained a good business, even though the B&O improved its services to the city to such an extent, that in 1878, he entered the grocery business. The freighters then were becoming almost non-existent.
OAKLEY IS BORN
In 1866 -- Anthony Brown, a farmer, sold thirty-five acres to Paul Schuester. This was recorded as plot #28, Columbia Township, and was located south of the B&O tracks and west of Madison Road to Brwonway Avenue. Mr. Schuester had the idea of making this part into a hamlet, which would carry his name as Achuesterville. A many by the name of J.T. Wilson had the “Vision” that the land in the neighborhood of Four Mile House would increase in value. With this thought in mind he bought land east of Madison Road and also south of Brownway. These two men were now large land owners around Four Mile. Each felt that he was a little more important than the other. Schuester felt that Four Mile should be called Shusterville, and Wilson said that “it should be called Wilsonville. Finally a compromise was reached, and they both agreed upon the name of Oakley. Some say it was named after a bishop by the name of Oakley. Other people say it was because of the many oak trees in this area. The important result was that Oakley was born. The name OAKLEY was registered at the Hamilton County Courthouse, May 30th, 1869.
This little hamlet of Oakley grew ever so slowly. In 1880 this hamlet had fewer than two hundred inhabitants. Although small, it recognized the need for a school. The citizens wanted their children to receive an education. (See Oakley School).
In 1898, Oakley was incorporated as a village. It's population then with 650 people. It built the town hall at 3219 Madison Road, in 1900, which also have the voluntary fire department and the village of jail. The governing body was as follows:
John Seegar - 1st Mayor 1898. His old house still stands at 3074 Madison Road
J. D. Lindsey - Clerk
E. F. Seilkop - Treasurer
Henry Doberman - Marshall
The Village council consisted of six members:
D. E. Fletcher -- Henry Krueger -- William Bower -- Henry Miller -- F.E.Kroetzsch -- Henry Melcher -- Henry Miller
The first tax levy passed August 30, 1898. This tax was 4.25 mills. The entire roster of adult residents in the village, August 30, 1898, the time of its incorporation, may be found on page 2, Section #3, chapter #8, Eastern Hills Journal -- Centennial Edition, September 12, 1952. It is in “The Colorful Story of Oakley” written by historian Harry L. Hale.
Civic pride began to bud just a little. The incorporated citizens were slowly finding a “togetherness”. On September 5, 1901, The village fathers passed an ordinance permitting the Cincinnati Bell Telephone Company to set poles and string wires into the city. Sometime later gas and water pipes were laid. The council also granted the Sun Vapor Street Lighting Company a street lighting franchise.
The following men served one term of two years as Mayor of Oakley, the exception being Mr. Keller, the last Mayor of Oakley, who served three two-year terms, (namely 6 years.)
1898-1900 John Seegar
1900-1902 Fred Schmidt
1902-1904 Wm. Broerman
1906-1912 Conrad Keller (Jan. 7,1913, date of annexation)
The historical events of Oakley as it developed in its civic, industrial, and religious achievements will be found under each specific classification.
OAKLEY FIRST FIRE FIGHTERS.
The first organized fire fighting equipment in 1898 was a hand-drawn and hand-operated pump. The water was pumped from a pond, creek, or well. If there was no water available, the fire burnt itself out. In 1906 a horse-drawn hose wagon and pump was used. In case of fire the Volunteer firefighter took any horse that was available. After annexation, however, Oakley received a modern fire department. In 1953, a new fire house was finished on Marburg Avenue just north of Brotherton Road, at a cost of $241,000.00. It still is at that location.
OAKLEYS’ POLICE DEPARTMENT
The history concerning police work is vague. Before the incorporation of the Village, it seems that some men were chosen by neighbors to act as police. This responsibility was in addition to his regular employment. Such police work was paid for solely in prestige (and, of course, represented the undisputed authority.) After Oakley became a village, the police department consisted of Marshall---WM, Reckman, Gus Bezenah, Frank Schlotman, Otto & Charles Kassner, and these officers were paid for their services. In 1935 a nightwatchman for Oakley businessmen was hired.
In 1869 the Oakley villagers sent a petition to the school board of Columbia Township, requesting a school. In 1870 this board purchased a site for a school from Theodosia Johnson. A one-room schoolhouse was built upon this lot in 1870. It was known as Columbia Township School-District 11. Eleven years later in 1881 a meeting was held in the school building by Oakley citizens who wished to change the name, inas much as Four Mile had been given the name of Oakley. It was to be called the Special School District of Oakley. The men on this committee were: Charles S. Davis, Frank McCord, R.E. Seilkop, Alfred White, Wm. R. McComas, and Oscar A. Schmidt, Chairman.
A school board was elected and the following six were members of Oakley’s first school board, July 19, 1881: Messrs, Fletcher, Kirk, McComas, McCord, Seilkop, and White, President.
The first official act of the board was to collect $200.00 due from the Columbia Township Boards. The first principle was Mr. Joshua R. Childs and the first teacher was Miss Emma Shadel. This was the complete faculty. A year or so later a Mr. John Wright became principal. In 1893 a four room addition was added to the one room schoolhouse. Mr. H.L. Crane became principal in 1893 and remained until his retirement in 1936. In 1913 the school became a part of the Cincinnati School System. The Oakley Masonic Temple stands on the site of the first Oakley School.
In 1910 a movement was started to purchase land on the south side of the B&O tracks for a new school. After opposition was overcome, the citizens were given the opportunity to vote on the $80,000.00 School Bond Issue. The bond was overwhelmingly approved. The Wersel property was purchased and the new school built upon this site in 1912. This is the present location of the Oakley School.
The Oakley School PTA was formed in 1913. Mrs. Henry Seilkop was the first president. Mrs. W.F. Seilkop, 4431 Brazee Street, became president in 1931. She held the distinction of having been the only president who also had a daughter become president of the PTA in 1949, and her name is Mrs. Robert Schroder.
THE OAKLEY BANK
The village of Oakley was still in a rather primitive state when the Oakley Bank opened its doors, June 3, 1907. The village had shown no promise of developing into a progressive community and certainly had no indication of ever becoming one of Cincinnati's foremost industrial communities.
What Oakley needed was a leader, a man with foresight, intuition, and a sincerity of purpose, a man who would recognize the true potential of this little village. Col. R. Ruzicka proved to be that “MAN”. He was born in Norwood, Ohio, October 7th, 1882. After finishing his schooling, in the Norwood Schools, he secured a position in a Norwood bank. There, besides learning the banking business, he became acutely aware of the position a bank held in the development of a community. This awareness, helped him recognize the enormous growth potential that existed in the village of Oakley. At the age of 23, armed with this dynamic vision, he met with the village fathers to discuss the possibility of a bank in Oakley. He had to overcome a certain amount of resistance to change, but finally succeeded. The village fathers saw the possibilities that existed and that a bank was truly essential for the growth of their village.
On June 3, 1907, Col. Ruzicka started the Oakley Bank in the fire engine house. In its humble beginning he served as; cashier, teller, bookkeeper, and janitor. Mr. John Rempe was the first president. Mr. H.L. Crane, principal of the Oakley school, was the first depositor. Col. Ruzicka's strong belief in the potential growth of Oakley was attested by the fact that he became a citizen of Oakley. He was married to Miss Gertrude Koverman and settled in this village. The Ruzickas were truly “OAKLEYITES”. They were blessed with four children. Mrs. Kreimer, one of his daughters, still lives at the old homestead, 2561 Erie Avenue, with the mother, who now is one hundred and four years old.
The Oakley Bank moved from the fire engine house quarters, on the southwest corner of Brazee, in December, 1907. Col. Ruzicka’s vision of the Oakley's industrial potential unfolded almost as a story book. From 1909 through 1916, eleven manufacturing companies composed the industrial might of Oakley. After this industrial growth was established, Colonel Ruzicka turned his attention to the civic growth of Oakley. His first step was to form a Business Men's Club, and have this organization publish the first monthly News Media, The Oakley Bulletin. This brought forth a new “togetherness” of the villagers. They were thus inspired with his intense civic pride. The last Oakley News Media was the Enterprise from 1925 to 1930. Other civic activities and which Col. Ruzicka was the activating force were, (1) acquiring the Wersel property, upon which the new Oakley School was built, (2) annexation of Oakley to Cincinnati, the wisdom of which he recognized very clearly, (3) building of the Oakley Square, which he brought about after frequent appeals at the City Hall, (4) paving of Madison Road, (5) building of homes on old race track acreage. All these accomplishments were vital to the growth and progress of Oakley, (6) He built the Oakley Bank Building as we see it today. Col. Ruzicka remained active in the affairs of Oakley until his retirement.
Col. Ruzicka was a colonel in the Ordinance Department of the U.S. Army during the Second World War. He was in charge of a division of Critical Materials, which had been sent to our fighting men. He was instrumental in forming the U.S. Army Officers Reserves Corps, which advocated Military preparedness for the U.S. at all times. Col. Ruzicka’s active career ended in his passing January 24th, 1966. He was laid to rest with military honors.
Yes, Col. Ruzicka was “Mr. Oakley”. He was energy and enthusiasm personified. He had strength of resolution and sincerity of purpose. His philosophy was, “Man does not find his life worth living; he makes it worth living”. He lived that philosophy and Oakley owes him a debt of gratitude.
OAKLEY an INDUSTRIAL CENTER
If the citizens have the desire and the ambition, the prerequisites for growth are three: transportation, communication, and land. Oakley had these essential three. The answer--Oakley became a giant industrial center.
THE CINCINNATI MILLING MACHINE COMPANY
The Cincinnati Milling Machine was the first to recognize that these essential qualifications existed in Oakley, so much so that in 1904 this company bought one hundred acres at its present location. This was the beginning of the Oakley Factory colony. It built the modern foundry that same year. In May 1909, the office and factory building was completed. Operation of the plant was begun that same year. This company has contributed much to Oakley. In fact the Cincinnati Milling Machine has been the leader in its field. It is also internationally known.
THE CINCINNATI BECKFORD RADIAL DRILL COMPANY
The Cincinnati Beckford company came to Oakley in 1909 and opened its doors for business in 1910. This company had begun in 1874. It's growth after moving to Oakley was phenomenal. The Beckford Company was a leader in its field and helped Oakley to become the industrial center that it is.
THE WILLIAMSON HEATER COMPANY
In 1909, the Williamson Heater Company purchased twenty-five acres of land in the industrial area, and in 1910 began the manufacture of furnaces. It now is also manufacturing central air conditioning units.
THE MODERN FOUNDRY
The Modern Foundry was built in 1907 in the factory area to meet the casting needs of the neighboring companies.
THE ALVEY FERGUSON COMPANY
The Alvey Ferguson Company, makers of conveyor belts and conveying machinery, came to Oakley in 1911.
THE FACTORY POWER COMPANY
The Factory Power Company began in 1907. It was founded to provide power for members of the manufacturing center.
THE CINCINNATI LATHE COMPANY
The Cincinnati Lathe and Tool Company came to Oakley in 1912. Its products were lathes made according to specifications.
THE CINCINNATI FROG AND SWITCH COMPANY
This company began in 1909. With the growth of railroads there was a great demand for frogs and switches.
THE CINCINNATI BALL-CRANK COMPANY
The Cincinnati Ball-crank Company joined the factory colony in 1911.
THE OAKLEY MACHINE TOOL COMPANY
In 1914 the Oakley Machine Tool Company made tools to individual requirements.
THE TRIUMPH ELECTRONIC COMPANY
The Triumph Electronic Company came to Oakley in 1910 as manufacturers of large electric and ice machinery motors.
THE CINCINNATI PLANER COMPANY
The Cincinnati Planer Company came to Oakley in 1910. It manufactured both large and small planers for finishing metal castings.
THE INCANDESCENT COMPANY
The Incandescent came to Oakley in 1910. It sold its property to the Twentieth-Century Baking Company. This property now belongs to the Mead Paper Company.
THE BROWN FENCE COMPANY
The Brown Fence Company was built on Robertson avenue in 1917. Mr. Robertson established this plant. He owned the property north of Robertson avenue. The avenue carries his name today.
FAY & EGAN COMPANY
Fay & Egan Company bought land from Robertson in 1919 and erected a plant to make wood-working lathes.
VICTOR ELECTRIC rented space from Fay & Egan in 1920 to manufacturer small motors and appliances.
GOODALL COMPANY in 1940 acquired property where the old grandstand of the race track had been. It manufactured palm beach suits for men. In 1950, the Trailmobile Company bought that property, as well as the Victor Electric, Fay & Egan and Brown Fence property.
THE LA BOITEAUX PAPER BOX COMPANY built its present building at Drakewood Drive and Madison Road.
The first Industrial company in Oakley was the FRED REMPE & SON LUMBER & PLANING MILL COMPANY, established in 1880. Fred Rempe's son John later became President of the Oakley Bank.
THE OAKLEY POST OFFICE
Oakley's first mail service was handled by a post office station at George Koehl’s grocery. It was opened in 1900. On October 20, 1910, Oakley had its first real post office. It was a branch of the main Cincinnati Post office, and was located on Brazee Street. In 1940 the Oakley Post Office moved to its present location at 3215 Brotherton.
THE OAKLEY LIBRARY
The Oakley library began in Barton's Drug Store (now Slaughter’s) in 1907, at Brazee and Madison Road. Mr. Barton acted as a librarian. Several years later a one-room store at the Oakley Square was used as a library. Musalfaretta Mummert was in charge as the first official librarian. This library later was moved to a store on Madison Road near Gilmore Avenue. The present library on Gilmore Avenue was open on May 3, 1940. This is the library you can see today. You may now obtain complete Library service at the Oakley Branch.
THE OAKLEY MOVIE THEATERS
Steinkamp’s in 1909 at Taylor and Madison, had the first five-cent show. In 1913 Park Hall theater was built and had stores on either side. Above was the meeting hall. In 1947 it was remodeled and called The Ambassador. In 1940, Twentieth Century Theater was built in a deep ravine and both still are in operation. The original theater “Steinkamps” was torn down and a gas station is now there.
THE CHURCHES IN OAKLEY
The first church organized within the limits of Oakley was St. Mark's Episcopal Church. In 1868 the first service was held in Weber's Restaurant by Reverend Peter Tinsley. On November 25, 1880, it was organized as a mission church. About 1884 James L. Gilmore donated a lot on Gilmore Avenue. A church was built. On Easter Sunday, 1890, the first service was held by Reverend David W. Cox, and the church is still used.
THE OAKLEY EVANGELICAL REFORMED CHURCH was organized November 15, 1905, in the home of George Koehl. After the organization meeting, Services were held in the town hall. A lot was purchased on Taylor Avenue in 1906 and a small church was built. The first Pastor was the Rev. Burkhardt. His successor was Rev. J. Gaenge. In 1941 the present new sanctuary was dedicated. In 1954 a new Sunday School building and Recreation Hall were added. In 1965 this church was celebrated its sixtieth anniversary.
ST. CECILIA CHURCH
The first Mass was held July 2, 1908, In the Oakley Town Hall. A portable altar was used. A temporary church was built on Gilmore Avenue and dedicated October 11th, 1908. The first pastor was the Rev. Timothy Deasy. St. Cecilia School was opened in 1913. The present St. Cecilia is now located on Madison Road. The architect Edward J. Schute has given Oakley a beautiful landmark in this outstanding structure. This new church was dedicated in 1928.
The above three churches were fully established during Oakley's village life.
THE OAKLEY BAPTIST CHURCH began in a temporary building located on Madison Road and was dedicated November 3, 1914, by Rev. Brown, Rev. Crane, and Rev. Herhert. The first pastor was G.R. Robins, September 1, 1915. On August 1, 1917, B.F. Fiscus, president of the board of trustees reported that the entire indebtedness on the lot and building had been paid. A new permanent structure was built. The corner stone was laid October 8th, 1922. The present new church was dedicated June 8th, 1924.
THE OAKLEY HYDE PARK CHRISTIAN CHURCH was organized October 5, 1913. The Park Hall served as a meeting place. Rev. Ira Harbaugh became the first full time pastor August 1, 1915. On June 10, 1923, the church moved to its present location on Madison Road.
OAKLEY METHODIST CHURCH was formally organized July, 1913. Rev T.G. Armbrust was the first pastor. The Congregation held services in the Park Hall until September 2, 1918, when the corner stone of its present location (Minot and Brownway) was laid.
THE ANNEXATION OF OAKLEY
The citizens of oakley decided that their village had more possibilities of growth if it would annex itself to Cincinnati. The village decided to do so. The official date of annexation was January 7, 1913. In keeping with this directive, January 7, 1913 was the last meeting of the official governing body of Oakley. It met with an apparent reluctance and probably some nostalgia. There were no resolutions nor ordinances offered, read, or passed. The governing body was now the council of the City of Cincinnati. Oakley was now part of the Queen City of the West and the Gateway to the South.
THE OAKLEY RACE TRACK, THE PILLARS CLUB
The first Oakley Race Track was built in the 1880’s by Fred Hazenfield. It was a half mile track to train the blooded horses of other people. In 1889, some of the owners of these horses felt that the track was too small. In the 1890’s it was made into a race track. Many high class stakes and handicaps were run. Meets were held twice a year, spring and fall. Grandfather Julius Fleishman stabled his horses there. A cottage in which he lived during the racing season still stands. The B&O ran a spur to the track and during the season ran two trains a day to bring both patrons and horses to the track.
The notable people who enjoyed the sport were finally outnumbered by the influx of notorious characters and crooked gamblers, so that the track and oakley became degraded in the sight of many people. The last running race was in 1902 and the track closed in 1904.
The Pillars Club on Madison Road, where the Children’s Home now stands, was an expensive restaurant and inn for the wealthy patrons of the race track. The old club was destroyed by fire. A new Pillas Club was built in a wooded area between Brotherton Road and Marburg Avenue. It is now the Pillars subdivision.
The old race track is now an industrial section on the north side of Robertson Avenue and a residential section on the south side of Robertson Avenue.
THE OLD VILLAGE WELL
The spot which is now a safety platform in the middle of the intersection of Madison and Brotherton Roads was the old Oakley town well. This well was covered by a …?
In reviewing the history of Oakley, the outstanding fact is that this village developed from a farming community into one of the most important industrial centers of Cincinnati, of Ohio, of the United States.
In making a study of Oakley, Harry L. Hale discovered that in 1952 Oakley would be 100 years old. He brought this fact to the attention of the oakley business men and the industrialists of oakley. It was decided that this called for a celebration. It would also give Oakley the pause it needed to give recognition to those ancestors who contributed their share in making oakley what it is today. The date of September 12, 1952, was the date for the beginning of the celebration
The spirit of veneration for our founding fathers and this spirit of profound reflection in the history of Oakley, generated by this 100th anniversary celebration, is so sincerely expressed by a poem written by Mrs. R. Schroeder. She is one of the young daughters of the pioneer Seilkop family.
A TRIBUTE TO OAKLEY
Tell me, what it was like, Grandfather dear,
When you were a very young lad living here,
“It wasn’t the the size that counted”, he said.
As he patted the top of my tousled head.
“The visions we had I have lived to see
Accomplished by humble people like me.
Roads had to be built, homes, schools, churches too,
The lesson we learned proven here for you.
Man can progress, plan, hope, and build
If with conscience and faith his work is instilled.
With unified thought this community grew,
And with pride in its progress we gave it to you”.
The hope of Oakley of today is, that it will have the privilege in 2052 of celebrating its bicentennial. That the future citizens also, will have reason to be grateful for the contributions made by its “Citizens of today”.
Excerpts and data were compiled from an old book of Col. Ruzicka’s
Centennial paper - article by Harry L. hale
Dr. Edgar Gaenge
ARRANGED CHRONOLOGICAL ARE THE PERTINENT DATES IN OAKLEY’S DEVELOPMENT FROM 1852-1952
1820 Madison Road completed
1852 Four Mile established
1866 B&O tracks laid through Oakley to city
1869 May 30th-Four Mile named Oakley
1870 Eleventh District-Columbia Township-which eventually became Oakley’s first school
1880 Oakley Building and Loan Company established
1882 Oakley became a village 12 years after it was named
1890 St. Mark’s Episcopal Church established
1893 Four rooms were added to Oakley’s 1 room school house
1898 First Governing body for Oakley formed. John Seegar
1899 Fred Rempe & Son Planing Mill
1900 Town Hall-fire house & jail built. It is still in existence as a recreation hall at 3219 Madison Road
1900 First post office station at Koehl’s Grocery
1903 First street car to service Oakley
1904 Oakley Race track closed
1905 Oakley Evangelical Church, now called United Church of Christ of Oakley
1906 Corner stone laid for new church building
1907 First Library
1908 Cincinnati Milling Machine Co. bought 100 acres of land where Milling Machine Company now stands. Sold some acreage to other companies that wished to move to Oakley
1908 St. Cecilia Church was established 7-2-08
1908 Oakley Improved Building & Loan Co. established
1908 Cornerstone laid for North Hyde Methodist Church
1909 The Cincinnati Mill completed the first part of the office and factory building
1909 Steinkamp’s Moving Picture Show
1909 Williamson Heater Company moved to Oakley
1909 Modern Foundry was built
1909 Cincinnati Frog and Switch
1910 First News Media-The Monthly Oakley Bulletin
1910 Regular Post office established
1910 Triumph Electric Company
1910 Incandescent Light Company
1910 Beckford Tool Company
1910 Oakley Machine Tool Co.