Saturday, July 5, 2003

Book recalls Kings Mills' booming community


Randy McNutt

DEERFIELD TWP. - On a weekend that revels in explosions, Kings Mills is still the king.

"Most kids in the Cincinnati area have heard of Kings Island, but how many have heard of Kings Mills?" asked writer-researcher Thomas D. Schiffer of Florence.

His book Peters and King: The Birth of the Peters Cartridge Co. and the King Powder Co. is a thorough, well-illustrated history of Kings Mills and the companies that produced shells for soldiers in several wars.

Although the town still exists, wedged between developments in growing Warren County, the brick factories do not. They are purposeless leviathans on the banks of the Little Miami.

The town was founded in 1886 to accommodate Peters, which had opened a decade earlier. By 1903, the town was served by an interurban line from Cincinnati.

"There is evidence that rents in the company-owned houses were cheap," Schiffer said. "Seven dollars a month has been mentioned.

"In addition, Kings Mills residents enjoyed utilities supplied by the company over the years. Electric power, in the form of streetlights and home lighting, was available long before it was offered to the surrounding area by a public utility."

Water was provided. So were toilets and sewers.

The town had one of the first county libraries, paved streets and sidewalks, and fire hydrants.

Schiffer has collected dozens of rare photographs of Kings Mills at the turn of the last century.

They include: Kings High School; the Cliff Hotel; The Manse, where some supervisors lived; the King Mansion on King Avenue; the Park Department store (originally a shell factory); Zentmeyer's Livery Stable; the Kings Mills Post Office; the Homestead Hotel, with 100 rooms; a row of homes on College Street; and the "Splendid Corpse," the old factories by the river.

"This is the story of a real company town that was designed to attract and maintain a cadre of effective workers - and it did just that," Schiffer said.

The oversized book, which costs $44.95, is available at the Warren County Historical Society Museum in Lebanon, Ohio Book Store in Cincinnati and Dickens Book Shop in Lebanon.

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TRENTON - The state will dedicate an Ohio historical marker at 1 p.m. today to commemorate the Elk Creek Baptist Church and Michael Pearce, founder of Trenton.

The ceremony will be held in Founder's Park at Miami and State streets.

The church, the first in Trenton, was founded in 1802. Its original building lasted from 1820 to 1924, when it was torn down.

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AMELIA - As a part of the Ohio Humanities Council speakers' program, Cathy Nelson will discuss Ohio's role in the Underground Railroad before the Civil War.

She will appear at 2 p.m. July 19 at the Amelia branch of the Clermont County Public Library, 58 Maple St.

Sign up by calling the library at 752-5580.

Randy McNutt's community column appears on Saturday. Contact him at the Enquirer, 7700 Service Center Drive, West Chester OH 45069. Telephone: 755-4158. Fax: 755-4150. E-mail:

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