Expedition Team: Dave Miller, Rosie Miller

Date: October 1, 2022

This is Ohio’s second oldest Inn and believed to be a stagecoach stop.  Built between 1814 and 1816 by Germantown founder and town Proprietor Philip Gunckel, the original hotel had three sections and the first-floor fireplace in the banquet room is the original fireplace. In 1862 it was operated by William Leighty who changed the name to the Leighty House. Famous American Henry Clay and several others gave speeches from the iron balcony. The name was changed back to The Florentine Hotel in 1911. It was always the social hub of the town. Today it is an American steakhouse restaurant. Recently, Rosie and I ate here, and I enjoyed for the first time, an appetizer of fried green tomatoes.


A long title but a great story! The Dayton Wright Airplane Company on Springboro Pike in Moraine made the nation’s first bomber, the Dehavilland DH-4.  It was used in the tail end of World War I primarily for daytime bombing, observation and artillery spotting.  The plant in Moraine produced 3,106 DH-4s.

The first DH-4 arrived in France in May 1918, and the 135th Aero Squadron flew the first DH-4 combat mission in early August. Unfortunately, the early DH-4s had drawbacks including the fuel system.  These problems led to the title of “The Flaming Coffin”, even though only eight of the 33 DH-4s lost in combat by the US burned as they fell.

Perhaps the most notable mission flown in the DH-4 was the brave attempt by Lt. Harold Goettler (Photo #5) and Lt. Erwin Bleckley of the 50th Aero Squadron to find and assist the famed “Lost Battalion” on October 6, 1918.  During a resupply mission to this surrounded unit, their DH-4 was shot down.  Both men posthumously received the Medal of Honor.

The Lost Battalion was the US 77th Division surrounded by Germans in the Argonne Forest.  Of the 554 soldiers, only 194 were rescued.  The 77th Division was low on ammo, low on food, was under relentless fire by the Germans and was being pelted by friendly fire from American cannons who did not know their location in the forest. The hero, a carrier pigeon named Cher Ami.  Despite severe wounds from German rifles, the pigeon flew 25 miles back to Army headquarters with an important message about the Battalions location.  The pigeon became a WWI hero and is stuffed and on display at the Smithsonian Museum. 


The City of Moraine is fortunate to have a major river waterway flowing north to south through the city. The river has been a focal point of recreation for over 100 years.

The Miami Shores area became known as the “Playgrounds of the Miami Valley” as in the late 1920’s to 1950’s wealthy Oakwood and Dayton business owners and residents purchased lots and built small summer cottages. They came on weekends to relax, cookout, fish, boat and bath. Public docking places were available for launching boats and offering limited boat rentals. Beautiful parkways and a natural swimming pool/hole fed by spring water was promoted. Lot’s were sold for only $95 and up.  Over 5,000 attended a July 4, 1929 promotional event at Miami Shores that featured free peanuts, popcorn, crackerjack and pop.

The Dayton Herald Newspaper July 3, 1930 advertisement promotion sponsored by the The Moraine Development Company encourages people to spend the July Fourth at Moraine Riverview at the Community Recreation Park along the Moraine riverbank on the east side of the river just north of the old steel bridge. This was a greenspace area located where the housing subdivision is across from today’s Moraine Municipal Building along Main Street.  People were invited to the park to relax and picnic on Independence Day. 

A year later in the September 11, 1931 Dayton Herald Newspaper, an article promoted the 1st Annual Journal and Herald Outboard Motorboat Regatta. The races were held just south of the old Sellars Road Steel Bridge (today’s Main Street Bridge) right on the Moraine/West Carrollton border near Holes Creek. Grandstand seating was provided on the east side of the river with additional parking through the cooperation of the Miami Shores Company by crossing the bridge to the west side of the river.  The boat races were conducted under the supervision of the Miami Valley Boat Club.

These were some of the early special events in the Miami Shores area to promote water recreation and the sales of houses or cottages. Part 2 next month, will look from 1940 through 2021 and how the use of the Miami River for water recreation continued to grow.


Expedition Team:  Dave Miller, Rosie Miller

August 3, 2021

We stopped by the old Lake County Sheriff’s House and Jail built in 1882.  The jail on the southeast of Courthouse Square was 50’ x 120’ with six cells. Photo #2, #3 & #4 show the jail today. Photo #6 & #7 show the jail in 1934 hours after Dillinger escaped. 

The jail gained national interest when Public Enemy #1 John Dillinger carved a gun out of wood (Photo#8) and used it to escape on March 3, 1934 along with inmate Herbert Youngblood. They stole guns from the jail, Sheriff Lillian Holley’s 1933 Ford V-8 car from Main Street Garage two buildings north of the jail, took three hostages and headed for Chicago where the car was abandoned (Photo#5).


Expedition Team: Dave Miller, Rosie Miller

Date: April 30, 2021

The Olde Wayside Inn in downtown West Union is Ohio’s Oldest Standing Inn Still in Use. Built in 1804 as the Bradford Inn by General David Bradford, it served travelers along Zane’s Trace, the original route from Maysville, Kentucky to Wheeling, West Virginia. Notable visitors to the tavern included President Andrew Jackson in 1829 on his way to his inauguration, Mexican General Santa Anna in 1836 and American statesman Henry Clay. Rooms are only $65 a night!!!


Did you know the world record for flying an airplane to the highest altitude was once set in 1921 by Moraine based pilot Bernard Whelan in a plane built in Moraine? Here is the story.

Trained by the Wright Brothers at a rate of $1 per hour. Whelan toured the country as an exhibition flyer, helping make America aviation conscious. At the outbreak of world War I Whelan became a civilian instructor for the budding Army Air Corps then a part of the Signal Corps. At the end of the war, he joined Howard Rinehart (Photo #1 with Orville Wright) as test pilots at the Dayton-Wright airplane Company on Springboro Pike flying the DeHavilland DH-4 airplane.

The last aircraft designed by Orville Wright was named after him and called the Dayton-Wright OW.1 Aerial Coupe, a four seat touring aircraft. With an unsupercharged engine, light wing loading, a length of 48 feet and an enclosed cabin, pilot Whelan (Photo #2) flew the plane to McCook Field in Dayton, the original site of the Army Air Corps test center. McCook Field was used for the world record attempt rather than Moraine because McCook Field had proper certification by its flight test staff.

Two attempts were made on May 22, 1921. Disappointed over the results of the morning flight, the fire extinguishers, oxygen tanks and other paraphernalia were removed from the plane. On the afternoon test flight Whelan set an altitude record of 19, 710 feet flying the Dayton-Wright OW.1 Aerial Coupe. The Aerial Coupe reached the record altitude after a 2 hour 31 minute flight over Dayton. Three Dayton-Wright Airplane Company mechanics accompanied Whelan on the flight.

Two years later, in 1923, Whelan and Rinehart formed the Rinehart-Whelan Company establishing a pioneering charter service carrying passengers (Photo #4) on cross-country trips, training and photography from their airport called the Moraine Flying Field (Photo #3) . The Moraine Flying Field is located just east of the Northlawn Bridge-Springboro Pike intersection or just north of todays Fuyao Glass America factory. Whelan flew many cross country trips piloting Charles Kettering, Edward Deeds and other company executives on business trips.


Pathe Sound News filmed a race challenge between an interurban trolley and a biplane in Moraine in 1930. The film was shown all across the country at movie theaters. For you younger readers, since there were no televisions in 1930, major news events were filmed and shown at movie theaters prior to the feature film.

The race began at Moraine Flying Field (Photo#1) which was located just east of the Springboro Pike/Northlawn Blvd intersection and just north of Fuyao Glass America. The race ended near where todays Frisch’s Restaurant is located at the intersection of South Dixie Drive and 741 (Photo#2).

The Trolley was a Cincinnati and Lake Erie (C&LE line) whose maintenance building was located just west of today’s Springboro Pike and Main Street intersection (Photo #4) The C&LE was electric high speed interurban streetcar/trolley railroad that operated until 1939 in depression era Ohio. C&LE ran twenty high speed “Red Devil” interurban passenger cars between Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus and Toledo.

Back to the race, the race was arranged by the trolley company. The trolley had an edge as it took off and the plane had to taxi and get airborne. The interurban car ran over 90 mph and just beat the airplane (Photo#3).


Expedition Team: Dave Miller, Matt Miller

There were six photos taken in Moraine by the Wright Brothers in 1898 at the Pinnacles. The Pinnacles is a cliff where the Wright Brothers observed birds soaring in the updrafts and they determined their wing warp theory for the airplane based upon the birds wing movement during flight. One of the 1898 photos was titled “Bridge Behind the Pinnacles” (Photo #1). After many hikes through the Pinnacles and surrounding woods, the bridge was located in 2015 by Moraine resident Matt Miller (Photo #2). The bridge still stands intact today. There is some deterioration on the southwest side but overall the bridge is solid and supports hikers and mountain bikers who cross the bridge using the trail.

If you look real close at the photo, is it an optical illusion or is there a person standing on the bridge? At first, I thought it could be one of the Wright Brothers but upon closer exam it could be a woman wearing a black skirt, white blouse, black bow and dark hair or hat. Could this be Katherine Wright their sister?

A loose brick from the north side of the bridge (Photo #3) shows it was manufactured ay Peebles Brick in Portsmouth, Ohio probably between 1905 and 1918. The bridge though is much older than that.

The bridge is located .1 mile from the Pinnacle Road Bike Trail, one mile north of the Pinnacles and just east of the closed Pinnacle Road Landfill. During heavy rain the stream will create a five foot waterfall about 50 yards downstream (Photo#4). Volunteers and I are developing the 1.1 mile “Wright Brothers Pinnacles Hiking Trail” with access trailheads at both the Pinnacle Road Bike Trail and at the Main Street Bike Trail. We hope to have the trail open in 2022.


Expedition Team: Dave Miller, Jacque Kelly, Rosie Miller

Expedition Date: February 1, 2020

We visited the Garst Museum in Greenville where they had a display on the tragic September 2, 1925 crash of the airship.  The connection to Greenville is that the Shenandoah Commander Zach Lansdowne, who was killed in the crash at age 37, was from Greenville.  The October 25, 1924 “Daily News Tribune” newspaper’s lead article and photos show that the Shenandoah flew over Greenville and Commander Lansdowne signaled to his mother. The display had a tribute to Landsdowne, dozens of photos of the airship, newspaper articles, crash photos and a piece of the crashed airship.  Outside the museum I posed beside a memorial for the Commander.

The U.S. Navy built and operated airships for military purposes. They had enormous cruising range but even with the use of nonflammable helium, airships still had one fatal flaw. Their large size and slow speed made them difficult to control in thunderstorms. That is what happened in southeast Ohio where a massive storm tore it apart. Commander Zach Lansdowne and thirteen crew were killed when a large section crashed at Ava, Ohio.  The Shenandoah’s normal duty was scouting the US coastline for potential invaders but the final mission was a publicity stunt…meant to show off the Navy’s abilities at a series of fairs. Part 2 of our investigation is to visit the crash site and museum at Ava, Ohio.


Expedition Team: Debbie Arnold, Dave Miller
Expedition Date: February 2017 – June 2020

Former co-worker Debbie Arnold told be the story of, when she was about five years old, going with her father and viewing a body in a coffin that was dug up at Library Park and put on public display.

THE BODY:  On October 16, 1964 while digging to install a water fountain at Library Park, a ditch digger dug up an unmarked old fashioned cast iron coffin with a male body inside.  According to Debbie, after being eventually moved to Bell Vault & Monument Company on South Main Street the coffin was placed on public display where people could view it in hopes of identifying the cadaver.  Debbie remembers as a child going with her father and viewing the coffin and seeing the man’s skeletal face.  Debbie believes the body was buried later in Highland Cemetery.

THE INVESTIGATION: Library Park was once Miamisburg’s first cemetery founded around 1850 but the majority of the graves were relocated to Hill Grove Cemetery in 1884 by superstitious, frightened residents who were trying to rid the Library Park cemetery of the ghost of a murdered woman that appeared every night at 9pm (see my other article titled Miamisburg Library Park Ghost). The remainder of the coffins were relocated in the early 1890’s.  However, they forgot one coffin. The sharp dressed man in the coffin was called the “coffin dodger” by locals and was the first body buried at the new Highland Cemetery in 1965. 

During research I uncovered a Sat., Oct. 17, 1964 Dayton Journal Herald article that said the casket was believed to be more than 100 years old (circa 1844 to 1864). Mortician Richard Brough, who removed the coffin to the Hillgrove Cemetery Vault, said the male body who he called “Mr. X” was virtually mummified.  He had the remains of a man’s old-fashioned wing collar and bow tie which could be seen.  The man was approximately 40 years old at death, 6 to 6 foot two inches in height and with black hair streaked with grey.

Brough speculated that identification of the coffin must have been lost back in the 1890’s or it would have been removed with the other coffins.

Another article from the Dayton Daily News dated June 21, 1965 showed photo’s of the unique coffin.  The use of a cast iron coffin was an extremely expensive burial item 75 to 100 years ago. What I find fantastic about the coffin is that it looked like an Egyptian sarcophagus to me.  The cast iron design is incredible. My guess would be the man was very wealthy.

The coffin is 7 foot long and a firm or body fitting type with a robe design on the coffin and flower pattern at the base.

I interviewed Tim Bell who co-manages Highland Cemetery on Upper Miamisburg Road founded by his grandfather in 1965.  He said the unknown Miamisburg male cadaver has a marker and is buried in the front entrance to Highland Cemetery next to the flagpole.  He was buried on June 20, 1965, the very first burial in Highland Cemetery.  Tim says the elaborate bronze cast iron mummy case appears to be manufactured from A. J. Fisk Company out of New York.

My further research revealed that Almond Dunbar Fisk patented the Fisk Metallic Burial Cases in 1848 out of Providence, Rhode Island and had another plant in Long Island, New York.  A. D. Fisk did license the right to manufacture the burial coffins to the W. C. Davis & Company in Cincinnati.  The A. D. Fisk Company folded in December 1888.  The cast iron coffins were popular among wealthy families in the mid-1800’s.  A normal wooden coffin cost $2 and a A.J. Fisk coffin cost upwards of $100. The metal coffins were well sealed and more desirable by the wealthy to deter grave robbers.  It is speculated that the name of the person may have been on the flat surface 5 to 10 inches at the top of the coffin but eroded away. This type of burial indicated that the individual buried was someone of cultural or societal importance.

With that in mind, who is Mr. X?  Was the elaborate coffin ordered from the Cincinnati branch company and not the New York parent company? Since Miamisburg was founded in 1818, was the unidentified corpse a former Miamisburg pioneer that was wealthy and had influence in the community?