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114 July Fourth's ago - Jule Benroth set a record

He amazed a large Bluffton crowd by

driving 50 miles per hour down Main Street


The crowds gasped as the car roared by and it was really a thrill for the jammed throngs lining Main Street. All traffic was stopped for the event and the street was cleared. The event was to be a race against time and open for competition, but Jule made the run without being challenged.
CHECK ALL THE ADDITIONAL DETAILS AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS STORY.

Imagine a hot air balloon ascension in Bluffton years before the Wright brothers flew the first airplane.


Imagine Bluffton’s first-ever automobile to hit a speed of 50 miles per hour – 114 years ago – as an enormous crowd watched in awe.


During a 30-year period from about 1890 to 1920 Bluffton’s Fourth of July celebrates were the biggest events of the year here.


Several included hot-air balloon ascensions. And, only five years after the first gasoline-powered vehicle was owned in Bluffton, a local driver, with the last name of Benroth did race down Main Street at a record-breaking speed.


To prove these statements, we’ve highlighted two Fourth of July celebrations, one from 1899 and another from 1909.


Did we mention one celebration included a 260-foot tight wire slide made by a man holding to a pulley by his teeth? Add that to the mix.

Image of hot-air balloons in 1900



1899 Fourth of July highlights

Described in advance this way by the Bluffton News, “Bluffton expects to eclipse all former attempts at celebrating this year. The people of neighboring towns are invited to come to Bluffton on the Fourth.”


Certainly the high-wire act described next would be a show-stopper even today. This story sounds like a scene from The Wizard of Oz, if only we could add the flying monkeys. A high-wire slide performed by a Professor William Southworth was one event as a tight wire was stretched from the tower of the town hall to a telegraph pole near another Main Street building.


Southworth made the slide successfully holding to the pulley by his teeth. The distance was 260 feet and established a world’s record in high wire sliding.


An hour later a balloon was sent up with the professor hanging to the parachute.


The balloon sailed on for quite a distance before it came down. It sailed in a southwesterly direction where the drop was successfully accomplished, coming down near Fred Geiger’s residence.


Southworth was busy that day. He made a balloon ascension in Harrod in the morning. He then day rode a bike from Harrod to Bluffton and back to Harrod, quite an accomplish for one day. For the Bluffton performance he received $10.

1909 Ford - could be the car Jule Benroth

drove at at 50 miles per hour

1909 Fourth of July highlights

The story of the celebration follows, and a few explanations are necessary.


• The first automobile to be owned in Bluffton was in 1904. So, the reference to a vehicle racing at 50 miles per hour in 1909 was probably the first time ever a vehicle drove that fast down in Bluffton.

•Schmidt’s field, where the Bluffton city baseball team played the Lima White Sox, was located on Vance Street where Community Market now is located.


• The band concert mentioned took place in the Presbyterian Church lawn.


• A.D. Lugibihl was a Main Street business man and in many ways the unofficial chamber of commerce director (the chamber did not exist in 1909).


• N.W. Cunningham, featured speaker, was a Bluffton businessman, who started the Bluffton News in 1876 and later the Commercial Bank. He was a Democrat candidate for the Fourth District of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he lost in a very close race.


Here’s the story:

An unusual sight at the Bluffton Fourth of July celebration was the sensational speed exhibition given by Jule Benroth in an auto, flying down Main Street at the dizzy speed of 50 miles per hour.


The crowds gasped as the car roared by and it was really a thrill for the jammed throngs lining Main Street. All traffic was stopped for the event and the street was cleared. The event was to be a race against time and open for competition, but Jule made the run without being challenged.


Cal Moser and Cyrus Schumacher were the contestants in a motorcycle race. Again the crowd was thrilled by these two speedsters. Cal won first in the event and Cyrus was awarded second place.


After a few selections by the Citizen’s Band the crowd went to Schmidt’s field to witness the ball game between the White Sox of Lima and the Bluffton team. The contest turned out to be unusually interesting, the score being 1 to nothing in favor of Lima. The score was made on an error.


After matches at the Sanitorium tennis courts the assembled people were entertained at the church park in the evening by Prof. Stratton’s Kid Band.


Rev. W.A. Settlage read the Declaration of Independence after which A.D. Lugibihl, president of the celebrating committee introduced N.W. Cunningham, the speaker of the evening.


At the close of the evening Sidney Hauenstein and the Citizen’s Band entertained the throngs in the best open air concert ever given in our city.


The formal close of the day’s celebration with a beautiful and spectacular display of fireworks sponsored by the Bluffton merchants.

More details
Main Street was bricked in 1906, so the vehicle Benroth drove had a rather bumpy race, but at least it wasn't a dirt runway.
We don't know if the vehicle had a speedometer or if someone was timing the vehicle.
We can project that if the car started at the Benroth garage (the Mercy Health building today), it could have obtained the speed of 50 miles per hour by the time in reached today's CVS building.
We also know that all the horses were removed from Main Street during this event, or else they would have caused havoc because of the noise.

The news clipping about the 1909 Bluffton Fourth of July celebration


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