Local historian Jim Blount has been the go-to guy for everything flood related as the city commemorates the centennial of the Great Flood of 1913.
Now, he and his wife, Jackie, have made a donation that helps put history in perspective.
“When I first started thinking about the centennial, I went to this gentleman right here,” said Curt Ellison at a ceremonylast week dedicating a pair of bronze markers the Blounts have donated to the city.
Ellison, a history professor at Miami University, is the director of the Michael J. Colligan History Project, a joint effort between the university and the Hamilton Community Foundation, and convener of the 1913 Flood Commemoration Committee.
For the Colligan Project, “I wanted to have four programs on the flood,” Ellison said. “I already knew that Jim Blount was the best historian of this city and county and he told me many stories about the flood.”
That series of four programs turned into 17 presentations along with historical displays, Ellison said.
“This is the person that provided the intellectual leadership of the centennial commemoration, evaluating the kinds of programs that would help us understand the event,” Ellison said.
“Council has been really supportive of this project and we appreciate the donation of the bronze plaque,” said Vice Mayor Carla Fiehrer, who cited other civic improvement projects that Blount has participated in and told him, “You’re the kind of resident that we appreciate in Hamilton because you keep pushing us to get things done.”
Blount said that he thought the markers would be a good addition to the commemoration activities because present-day Hamiltonians don’t know how much bigger the Great Miami River channel is today as compared to 1913.
“In 1913, however, the river had an hourglass shape,” Blount said.
North of the city, it was 600 feet wide, narrowing to 340 feet at the Black Street Bridge and was 390 feet wide at the High-Main Bridge.
Because of the work done by the Miami Conservancy District, however, the river channel is now 540 feet at the High-Main Bridge, a difference of about 50 yards or half a football field, Blount said
The Blounts’ donation consists of a pair of markers on the north side of the bridge with arrows pointing to each other, showing the difference in the size of the river channel. It is most dramatic on the West Side of the bridge.
Blount, former editor and columnist for the Hamilton JournalNews and a retired history teacher at Hamilton High School, has written several books and hundreds of articles on the history of Hamilton and Butler County.