A local landmark that has puzzled trail users for decades is about to be recognized with an Ohio State Historical Marker.
The Peters Cartridge Company, next to the trail at Grandin Road in Kings Mills, was known at the turn of the 20th century as “the most complete ammunition factory in the world.” At its height 100 years ago, it employed 3,000 workers and operated around the clock to supply ammunition for the United States and its allies in World War I. Its top-quality ammunition was also used in World War II and by hunters and exhibition shooters like Annie Oakley. The site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.
Incorporated in 1887, the company was successful in large part because of the creative genius of founder Gershom Peters, a Baptist minister who held at least 35 patents and invented the world’s first fully automatic cartridge-loading machine. Peters began working for King Powder Company in 1881, and became president of the company in 1885 upon the death of Joseph Warren King, its founder and Peters’s father-in-law. King Powder, located across the Little Miami River from the cartridge-loading factory, supplied Peters with its various types of quality gunpowder. Shot for the cartridges was made in the onsite shot tower. The original wood shot tower was replaced with the present brick structure during the first World War.
The original Peters buildings, on the other side of Grandin Road from the current location, were completely leveled in an explosion and resulting fires as a Little Miami Railroad engine collided with powder kegs on a siding on July 15, 1890. The railroad was found to be at fault for the accident which killed 11 people and injured many others. The present buildings beside the trail were built in 1916.
Recently the Peters factory has been the site of a massive cleanup of 42,000 cubic yards of soil and sediment contaminated with lead, mercury, copper, and other harmful materials. Begun in 2015, the soil remediation work has included removal of hundreds of trees, drainage remediation, and construction of a clay test pad and an impervious consolidation cell to contain the remediated soil. In July, after filling, the cell was capped and the area was graded and seeded with grass. The last phase of the work will be planting new trees in the fall.
The future of the Peters buildings is bright: local developers Ken Schon and Steve Bloomfield plan to transform them into 100 loft-style apartments with restaurants and pubs on the ground level. The shot tower and smokestack, with their beautiful tiling and prominent letter “P,” will be preserved.
The new historical marker will include information on both the company and Gershom Peters, thanks to the research of Dr. Karen Dinsmore and the Friends of the Twenty Mile House, who also worked to have the historical marker at the Butterworth farm erected beside the trail north of Loveland. All costs for the marker and ceremony must be paid by the applicant. To support this effort, you may send a contribution to honor a family member who worked at the factory or who served in either World War I or World War II, when Peters ammunition was used, or simply to show your support and appreciation for our local history. All donors will be recognized in the printed bulletin at the marker dedication ceremony on June 4, 2017; names of those honored will also be included. Checks earmarked “Peters Cartridge Marker” should be made out to the Warren County Foundation and sent to the foundation at 118 E. Main Street, Lebanon, Ohio 45036. All donations are tax deductible.