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Baseball, Ohio (Final Part)

(Writer's Note: On Wednesday, February 13, 2019, the Lancaster Eagle Gazette published part of a series of articles over a period of seven months about the story of the post-WWII merger and naming of the consolidation of the villages of Baltimore and Basil. A Columbus newspaper sports writer named Bob Hooey suggested the name be "Baseball." His idea was based on joining parts of Basel---Basil was a misspelling of the Swiss city, perhaps by a young boy Henry Leonard who was making ballots for a vote between Basel and Geneva as the frontier village's name a few years after Ohio statehood---and Baltimore. Thus BaseBal(l). History was added to "America's game." A fascinating story unfurled. Because this writer experienced a severe case of procrastination, readers did not learn of the conclusion of this chapter of the century and a quarter rivalry and feuding between the "Twin Cities." This was like a seventh inning stretch when fans never sat down to finish the game. So, the faithful reader is entitled to Paul Harvey's "The Rest of The Story.")

(As throughout this story of "Baseball, Ohio," the writer has recovered much information from the Twin City News published from 1889 through 1969 and the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette published from 1809 to the present.)

A re-cap is in order considering the two and a half year pause. Recall the words of visiting Waverly Judge Earl Parker when he ruled Hooey's Baseball "out" as the name for the merged villages (as of 1946) even though it had proven the most popular in several "straw polls." Parker, in his 11-page decree following the November,1947, official vote, ordered the name Baltimore be retained "due to irregularities in the official ballots. A 75% favorable vote for the name Baseball was not reached. By simple calculation 626 verifiable signatures for the petitioners (for the name Baseball) and 429 in opposition makes a total of 1,055, and at a glance it may be seen that three fourths of the matter is 790 plus. It is therefore our conclusion on the whole record that the petitioners have failed to show proof that three fourths of the inhabitants of two municipal corporations desire the name requested in the petition. Entertaining this view, a judgment will be entertained against the petitioners." So, by some 165 votes the merger name for Basil and Baltimore, Baseball (consistently, the most popular choice in the unofficial votes leading up to the official vote) was not to be. But, as noted in the last few parts of the story, the tale of the merger of the "Twin Cities" was not quite over. Recall Judge Parker in November,1947, "....In bringing to a conclusion, TEMPORARILY AT LEAST (writer's emphasis), a long controversy over the name of the two villages." (Some residents, especially in the west end of today's Baltimore, would certainly refer to the great New York Yankee, Yogi Berra, "It ain't over 'til it's over!") As reported in the last parts of the story published, the citizens in old Basil were not only disappointed but were downright enraged at the broken promise that the new merger name would be neither Basil or Baltimore. There was talk on the west end of the new Baltimore of secession! Chairman of the Citizen's Secession Committee stated, "...from what has happened in court it is up to the old Basil people to make the next move. At this meeting, Chairman Ed Sands stated a decision from three alternative views could be made: 1) Start a petition for a new name; 2) Drop the dispute and accept the name Baltimore; 3) Start proceedings to withdraw---secession. (Secession was a legal option. Basil could vote to withdraw from Baltimore, re-enter Liberty Township and then re-establish itself as the Village of Basil with the Fairfield County Commissioners' approval.) The motion to secede, made by John Grube and seconded by Roy Gierhart, "came only after a lengthy discussion in which all citizens present at the meeting had expressed their opinions. The general feelings of those at the meeting were that if it was not possible to agree on a name for the biggest village in Fairfield County, it would not be possible to agree on any other municipal affair." The vote was 36 for secession and seven against. Though the committee was in favor of secession, emotion had overcome many of the old Basil families. In the big picture, most west enders of the new Baltimore realized there were more practical advantages than disadvantages came with Sands' choices. Voices such as Albert Murphy and other cooler heads won the day. Murphy admonished all residents to "weigh carefully the advantages to be secured by staying united against the disadvantage which would result from withdrawing." Another key element and calming factor was the voice of M.D. Custer, the Chairman of the Fairfield Paper Company and its Board of Directors. As the main employer in the community since the 1890's, the paper mills were a major player in the development of this story. Custer was a Baltimore man. Sands became a key player as well. He was a strong business supporter of Basil but he had a bigger vision for the entire Twin Cities. (The writer had the privilege of knowing Mr. Sands. He was a fountain of information of this community's legacy. His humanity and philanthropy can still be recognized in the Baltimore area and Fairfield County.) Speaking of legacy. Though Basil lost its official designation as an incorporated village, residents who value the history of this community recognize much of Basil remains. To list some of those undeniable pieces of Basil's contributions and remembrances to this community's development and successes, keep in mind the following: 1)......In the last published part of this Baseball, Ohio, story we learned of a Basil man who, every day of his life, was reminded of his birthplace. His parents named him BASIL Arthur Hensel. He moved to Chicago but his name traveled with him. He questioned changing his name by January 1, 1948, when there would no longer be an official Basil, Ohio. Though he had married one of the Baltimore "Creed girls," he wasn't sure about changing his first name to Baltimore! His only hope seemed to be success by the Basil seceeders. Didn't happen. Hensel decided to be called Arthur henceforth! 2)......Today in the west end of Baltimore are the following: BASIL Joint Fire District, historic Old BASIL Firehouse, BASIL Park, BASIL Garden Club, BASIL Roads (North, South, West), BASIL Street. 3)......Two local businesses carry the name Twin Cities (BASIL and Baltimore): Twin City Frozen Foods in the east end of town (recently sold by Robert George after generations of family ownership. Twin City Poultry Supplies opened in 1981 by Victor and Corene Hakes in an old building store in the west end of town. The business has since evolved into an on-line service. 4).....BASIL Memorial Cemetery and Old BASIL Cemetery are located in old Basil (west end of current Baltimore). 5).....In 1965 paleontologists gave the name BASILosauras (King Lizard) to a pre-historic whale, a "top predator in its environment." Insignificant? Hardly, to the people of old Basil. As we near 200 years (1825 and one day apart in the two villages' dedications) of the famous, or infamous as you like it, the residents of Basil have always taken pleasure in superiority over their east enders! "King" or "top" indicate superiority so a "win" in the rivalry that often stretched into feuding. 6).....In January, 2021, an obituary appeared in the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette demonstrating that an on-going rivalry still exists for many families( especially the long-time ones who remember clearly the feuding). The obit author wanted readers to know that the deceased was identified as "a man who had been raised in BASIL, Ohio, not Baltimore.." 7).....The late renowned local historian George Stilwell represented one of those old BASIL families. He never forgave Judge Earl Parker of Waverly for the egregious (in George's mind) decision to re-install the name Baltimore for the merger. When traveling south on Route 23 through the judge's hometown, George would visit the cemetery where Parker was attempting to RIP. George would make that difficult. He knew how to hold a grudge! 8).....As the reader of this story knows, 1825 was a significant year. It was the year the Twin City rivalry began in earnest. On March 1, New Market, first name for Baltimore, was officially dedicated. On March 2, BASIL, chosen over Geneva, was officially dedicated. Basil won some events in the rivalry and Baltimore won its share. Later this year, BASIL will get top billing again. Coincidence would have it that 1825 was also the announcement of the Ohio&Erie Canal survey. Both villages were hoping their frontier settlement would be privileged to be on the canal, by itself, for bragging rights! Neither could claim this one-ups-man-ship. However, the canal would bring along eight locks in the area of the the two villages. This would mean commerce, growth and success for both. Fast forward to 2021. Later this year, one of the locks, Lock #8, the Bibler Lock will be recognized as a National Registry District within the Ohio and Erie Canal Southern Descent. A special plaque will be erected at the Bibler Lock which opened for business in October,1831. For those who know the whereabouts of the eight locks, you know Lock 8 is near old Basil. BASIL'S latest huzzah! (Writer's end note: Having lived in the east end of Baltimore for nearly 60 years, I still think of the west end of Baltimore as Basil. After all, My wife, Portia, was from old BASIL. (But we married in the east side.) Jim N. Reed Writer/Correspondent Lancaster, Ohio September 21, 2021


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