“Remember the Maine!” – That was the battle cry surrounding the mysterious sinking of the U.S.S. Battleship Maine in Havana Harbor and the beginning of the Spanish-American War.
President McKinley was empowered by joint resolution of Congress, April 17, 1898, to demand that Spain withdraw from Cuba or face a military action to accomplish this objective1. Why now introduce this topic? Ah, you got it! The centennial is near and the event is part of Bexley’s history.
Though we were not yet even a village (that occurred in 1908) the area around Broad and Drexel hosted a total of 15,000 troops, from all over Ohio, for three weeks in tents on wooden platforms, while being prepared for combat assignment.
The site between Dale Avenue to the south and Maryland Avenue to the north with Dawson on the east and Park (later Parkview) on the west provided easy access to water and sewage line extensions along with street car lines. Division Headquarters was established on April 19 in the original part of what is now the Ruch House at 46 N. Parkview Ave3.
With war declared April 25, Governor Asa Bushnell needed a temporary site to accommodate the massive influx of National Guardsmen and volunteers that immediately followed. The Governor’s office contacted John C. Bullitt of Philadelphia, developer of the Bullitt Park subdivision, to gain permission to use that five hundred acres east of Columbus which had been platted in the early 1890’s2.
Thousands of well-wishers and curiosity freaks came out to visit the camp, especially on those two or three weekends the camp was in full swing. Capital University students joined the guardsmen and volunteers in athletic contests while others were marching to band music or participating in other training exercises. Marcy M. Carothers, a noted Ohio writer and editor and mid-to-latter century Bexley resident, offered this description of the scene.
“Sunday at Camp Bushnell is a sight to see. Trains arriving at Union Station disgorge hundreds of relatives and friends of the men in camp, and they travel to Bushnell on crowded street cars and in hired transfer wagons, horse drawn hacks, and carriages. Those living closer arrive in buggies and by bicycle, the latest craze. Photographers and hawkers of food and souvenirs add to the dust and commotion in camp.”4
With this mustering accomplished in eight days, Ohio became the first state to send a volunteer regiment to the field, the 1st Ohio Cavalry leaving on May 13 to Camp George H. Thomas, in Georgia with the last of the volunteers leaving May 20.
In 1934, Dr. Edward G. Mills, prominent on the Bexley Board of Education, led a fund drive focusing on the school children and their parents for the modest amount necessary for a memorial to Camp Bushnell in the form of an eleven ton granite boulder. .
It is located on Bexley Circle at the intersection of East Broad Street and Drexel Avenue amidst what was then the campground in 1898.
To learn more about Camp Bushnell and Bexley’s becoming the community we all know, check the following references:
- other articles on this website;
- the article file at the Bexley Historical Society Cottage;
- the Bexley Library
Find more information on Ohio and Columbus history at the Columbus Metropolitan Library and the Ohio Historical Society.
adapted from article by Ed Hamblin
Bexley Historical Society President, 1997-2002
Originally published in Historical Herald, May 1997
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1 John D. Hicks and George E. Mowry. A Short History of American Democracy (Boston, Ma: Houghton Mifflin Co, 1956) pp. 558-59.
2 The Columbus Dispatch, “Arts & Leisure”, March 25, 1995
3 Edith Mae Hamilton Herrel and Lavada Kugn Hogg, Bexley Images (Bexley, Oh: Bexley Historical Society, 1978) pp. 56.
4 Marcy M. Carothers, Published Vignette, (Bexley, Oh: The Bexley Historical Society, 1978).