This large building has dominated the first block of South Broadway in New Philadelphia since its construction and, when it was built, was considered state-of-the-art. I thought I would explore its construction and tell the story of how it became the focal point of an early 20th century Ohio Supreme Court case.
The Hensel family relocated from Somerset County, Pennsylvania to Tuscarawas County, Ohio before 1830 which was when Joseph Hensel (1805-1881) first appeared on the county’s census records. That same year he married another Pennsylvania-born person, Margaret Friebly (1810-1901), and the couple resided in York Township, Tuscarawas County. The couple had at least eight children, seven daughters and a son named Joshua F. Hensel (1834-1901). Joshua, like his father, worked as a laborer in New Philadelphia up until his marriage to Margaret Wallick (1831-1910) in the fall of 1855.
Joshua and Margaret had six children between 1857 and 1868. During that same period, Joshua obtained a wagon and began working as a Drayman in New Philadelphia. Drayman were people who would use their wagons within a community to move freight from railway stations or canal boats to their final destination in town. These businesses, if enlarged to multiple wagons, would later be referred to as transfer companies. Joshua’s business was interrupted briefly in 1864 when he served for three months in the 161st Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. A year later, the Hensels welcomed their second son, Samuel F. Hensel (1865-1944).
Samuel and his older brother were raised working with their father, learning different aspects of the family business. The older brother became a blacksmith, capable of fixing the family’s wagons as needed, and Samuel worked as a drayman himself. After the death of his grandfather Joseph Hensel in 1881 Samuel went into business for himself and, aside from his draying business, he also undertook numerous contracts for the county and the city. These contracts included moving dirt and fill, grading and watering streets to keep the dust down, transporting coal to the courthouse and jail, and many other jobs. This diversification gave Samuel Hensel the resources to continue to expand his business.
Samuel married Frances Wilson (1868-1934) in March 1887 and the couple built a home on West Front Street in New Philadelphia. The Hensels welcomed seven children into that home from 1887 until 1906. Meanwhile, Samuel’s business success permitted him to purchase other properties all around New Philadelphia and the county in order to expand his business and income. During the first decade of the 1900s Samuel started the Hensel Transfer Company, a company that offered both transfer services as well as storage. In order to meet the growing demand of the community for his services, Samuel purchased the eastern half of Lot 109 at the intersections of Plum and Salmon Alleys. There he planned to build a building capable of meeting his growing needs.
The construction of the building was the talk of the town for the months that it was underway. Articles appeared in the newspaper highlighting the building’s modern conveniences including its own water and electrical supply systems and a hydraulic elevator. The building was built to be 45 feet high with a 132′ x 66′ footprint and used two hundred thousand bricks. Steel supported the first floor with thousands of feet of lumber used throughout the rest of the structure. The newspaper reported that the completed building was over 26,000 square feet with the basement used for feeding horses, the first floor for storage of wagons and buggies, and the other floors for other storage. The community was invited to view the building at a grand opening event when it was completed in October 1907.
A year after the Hensel building’s construction, Ohio’s legislature passed something called the “Rose Law.” This law allowed Ohio counties to hold voter referendums on whether the county should be “dry” (prohibiting alcohol sales) or “wet” (allowing alcohol sales). Tuscarawas County, in November 1908, voted to be a “dry” county and it was this situation that led to Samuel Hensel’s journey to the Ohio Supreme Court. Early in the morning of Friday, February 24, 1911, Tuscarawas County authorities raided the Hensel Storage Barn based on a tip from a local man. They discovered 39 barrels filled with thousands of pint bottles of Hoster Brewing Company beer, a Columbus brewery, as well as an additional 6 gallon barrel of beer. The beer was confiscated and Samuel Hensel was charged with violating the Rose Law. It was reported that the scale of the raid “was without parallel in the state since the Rose Law became operative.”
Samuel Hensel, in his defense, claimed that he was merely storing the beer and not selling it and that did not violate the Rose Law. The local court disagreed and found him guilty in March 1911, fining him $200 for his crime. Hensel appealed his conviction to the circuit court and, in June 1911, his guilty verdict from the local court was reversed. The circuit court judge argued that if Hensel were held guilty for merely storing the beer in a dry county, you would then have to charge railroads and other express parties for the transfer and temporary storage of beer in dry counties. Tuscarawas County decided to appeal the circuit court’s ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court and, in March 1912, that court sided with Samuel Hensel. The beer was subsequently returned to Hensel.
Samuel Hensel’s business continued to grow and expand into other areas after he won his Rose Law case. The Hensel Transfer Company continued to operate their monumental storage building and fleet of vehicles while also diversifying into the construction, gravel, concrete, and coal businesses. Two years after his Ohio Supreme Court victory, Samuel ran for and won a seat as a Tuscarawas County Commissioner. Frances Hensel passed away in July 1934, but Samuel Hensel played an active role in the operation of all of his businesses right up until his death in April 1944. Samuel and Frances are buried in East Avenue Cemetery in New Philadelphia. The Hensel Transfer and Storage Building, the focal point of an important early 20th century Ohio Supreme Court case, still stands today.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2023.