Skip to main content

Comment from Robert Bowling

The nation continues to be divided over the national anthem, with some athletes kneeling at events including the Olympics. There has even been talk of replacing the Stars and Stripes. Protests against the flag and the anthem are not new, and in 1891 the Township of Fall Creek found itself embroiled in a controversy over the flag. The following year, Clay Township had a similar encounter that nearly ended in a bloodbath.

In February 1891, a flag raising ceremony was held at Fall Creek Township No. 2 School. It was the first school to have an American flag flown from the top of the building in the township. According to the teacher, it had nothing to do with politics but rather to instill patriotism in the students. Soon flags began to appear in other schools.

A few weeks after the flag ceremony, an act of vandalism occurred at School No. 6. The flag pole had been sawn off and the flag was taken away. There were no suspects and the prosecutor was investigating.

There was no clear motive, but even 25 years after the Civil War, emotions were running high. Democrats were still bitter at defeat while Republicans basked in glory. The newspapers were very partisan. There were two newspapers, the Hamilton County Democrat and the Hamilton County Ledger, which was a Republican newspaper.

Shortly after the vandalism at School No.6, an article appeared in an Anonymous Citizen’s Ledger that Samuel Ham, a teacher at School No.2, refused to let the flag fly. Fall Creek Township began to gain a reputation as treacherous rebels. A response from No.6 teacher Cora Morgan was posted in The Democrat alleging it was a slanderous lie made because Democrats refused to take up arms against the people who snatched the flag . Ham was an honorable teacher and no such act alleged by the ledger ever happened.

It was the assumption that the theft of the flag was the result of a personal matter and not because of anti-American sentiment. Shortly after the flag was hoisted, a photo of a rooster was posted on the front door. By 1840, in Greenfield, the rooster had become the symbol of the Democratic Party. The photo has been removed and someone has been heard to say that if the rooster goes down, so does the flag. Shortly after midnight, the suspects complied with their statement and the flag was removed.

Ham defended himself as the newspapers engaged in a war of words. The ledger Ham’s article printed, which came as a shock to many. It was alleged that this was a setup to make Democrats look bad. Someone showed up to donate a flag, but instead of presenting it, he hid it under a bush, then later retrieved it. Then the person could make the accusation that Ham refused the donation. But he couldn’t refuse something he didn’t know anything about.

The Democrat asked the ledger reveal its source, but he refused. By the end of April, the business had been abandoned and Fall Creek had been “bought out”.