The people of Waynesville were shocked when local notable, 54 year old Captain William Rion Hoel, was shot through the heart and killed on May 23rd, 1879 just a mile outside of Waynesville in Wayne Township at his home, Kildere Farm, located on Clarksville Road. A respected Ohio river captain and Civil War hero William Hoel, who was also widely known for his jealous temper and violent ways, believed that his wife Elizabeth Hunt Hoel and Dr. J. B. Hough, a physician with his office in Waynesville and a lecturer at Miami Valley College, were having an affair. On that inauspicious morning Captain Hoel had led everyone to believe he was traveling early to Cincinnati via the 4:00 A.M. train to get on the Ohio River but instead he clandestinely stayed in Waynesville and backtracked to his home to spy on his wife, Elizabeth. Dr. J. B. Hough was in the house delivering medicine and examining Elizabeth who had been feeling ill for many months. Believing that he had caught his wife and Dr. Hough in the act, he rushed into the parlor and threatened to kill Dr. Hough. There was a scuffle and Captain Hoel was shot with his own revolver during the struggle between the two men. The coroner’s inquest was conducted by Squire William Mannington of Waynesville, a retired shoemaker and Justice of the Peace, at Kildere Farm. He played the double role of Justice of the Peace and coroner since there was no coroner within 10 miles. The Hoel servants hinted at a love affair between Dr. Hough and Elizabeth during the proceedings. However, Dr. Hough was exonerated and he continued his career. No scandal ever seems to have sullied the good reputation of Elizabeth Hunt Hoel. A sympathetic community understood her nightmare of domestic violence even though they also tried to protect the reputation of a Civil War hero. Nevertheless, the details of William Hoel’s death are still a mystery and questions remain due to conflicts in the testimony taken at the inquest. Captain Hoel was one of the movers and shakers behind the building of the new St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, which was started in 1869. There is a memorial window in the St. Mary’s sanctuary dedicated to him. Captain Hoel was also noted for his model farm, Kildere. On December 1, 1869, the Miami-Gazette published a lengthy article about the farm praising the arrangement and convenience of the out-buildings and the large barn. He had a house with a furnace where he cooked his stock’s feed. His sheep shelter was highly praised. The article continues: “but it is difficult to enumerate the many objects of admiration in the way of convenience and utility which the Captain has so studiously endeavored to multiply over his place. Fence posts are firm, gates open without dragging on the ground, fences are in good order, and for every department of farm work there is either a complete convenience or else the improvement on the old slow and uncomfortable way of doing is going forward, and all with an enthusiasm and energy which is particularly noticeable in a gentleman who until the last few years has had his occupation confined to navigation on the water rather than irrigation on land; but his proficiency in the latter is such that we venture to say many old farmers might take valuable lessons in agricultural economy from the gallant commander of the famous Carondelet, ctc. From a pleasant observatory on the top of the Kildere barn, we had a splendid view of the magnificent country all around Waynesville ~~ miles and miles of the most fertile land, romantic and diversified scenery anywhere to be found in the whole western country.” Captain Hoel began to grow fruit on his farm around 1870. It was reported in the Miami-Gazette on May 11th, 1879 that “Captain W. R. Hoel has thirty acres of his fine farm set out in orchard, comprising 2000 peach, 500 apple, 400 pear, 200 quince and a number of plum and cherry trees; and all are in a thrifty condition.”
Captain and Elizabeth Hoel were educated people and enjoyed the arts. It was reported in the Miami-Gazette on June 22nd, 1870 that “Capt. and Mrs. W. R. Hoel drove to Cincinnati last Thursday to share in the concord of sweet sounds produced by the Saengerfest.” We also know that Captain Hoel was a passenger on the ship, The Quaker City, along with Mark Twain and other distinguished guests. The ship set sail on June 8th, 1867 on a pleasure excursion to Europe and Palestine, which included attendance at the Great Paris Exposition. This cruse was the source of Mark Twain’s first book, Innocents Abroad. The list of passengers can be found at http://www.twainquotes.com/18670609.html.
The Miami-Gazette reported on May 8th, 1867: “THE EXPOSITION.~~ Among those favored ones who will have a view of the wonders of the Great Paris Exposition, Waynesville will have one representative in the person of Captain W. R. Hoel, who, we learn, will make one of the excursion party which numbers Gen. Sherman, Henry Ward Beecher and others. The neat little sum of three thousand dollars is all it takes to make the round trip, including the European Kingdoms, Palestine, the Holy land, Etc., Etc. We wish the genial Captain all the pleasure possible to be extracted from such a magnificent trip, and a safe return to “the gem of the ocean.” It is interesting that Captain Hoel did not take his wife on this long excursion.
His wife, Elizabeth Hunt Hoel, was a Quaker. Clarkson Butterworth, clerk of Miami Monthly Meeting, writes the following about Elizabeth Hunt Hoel a member of Miami Monthly Meeting, in 1897 in his Catalogue of Members: Miami Monthly Meeting: “Hoel, Elizabeth, b 1840.7.9, P.O. Waynesville, Ohio.~ is the widow of Capt. William Rion Hoel. Was the daughter of Dr. Samuel and Elizabeth (Thomas) Hunt and cousin to Elizabeth (Thomas) Frame and to M. Elizaberth (Gause) Packer both herein catalogued (see E. S. Frame) and sister to Thomas Hunt and Samuel Hunt, herein cataloged and cousin also to William T. Whitacre herein catalogued.” In 1860 Dr. Hunt was located in Morrow, Ohio (Warren Co.) with his children (1860 Federal Census : Roll #M653_1047 , page 165).
Elizabeth Hunt Hoel continued to live at Kildere Farm with her two children Sarah (9) and Rion (7). Rion was a deaf mute. According to Dennis Dalton (January 1982 from his 1970 notebook) Rion was deaf and mute ~ although once married he lived out his retirement years at the Friends Boarding Home where his sister, Mrs. William Mills, furnished the downstairs hall, when the Home opened in 1905.
Elizabeth Hunt Hoel (1840-1904) is buried in Miami Cemetery, Section G. Her daughter Sarah Mills made a large donation of furniture for the public areas of the newly built 1905 Friends Boarding Home in her memory. A large plaque in her honor still hangs in the FBH (now the Waynesville Heritage & Cultural Center). Captain W. H. Hoel is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery (Section 35, Lot 184) in Cincinnati.
At the beginning of the Civil War, Captain William R. Hoel was the pilot of the flagship “Cincinnati”, under Admiral Foote. On February 6th, 1862, while serving on the “Cincinnati”, Hoel was wounded during the Battle of Fort Henry. Two months later he volunteered to run the Rebel blockade at Island #10 at New Madrid, which he did successfully with the ironclad “Carondelet”. He was promoted to the rank of Acting Volunteer Lieutenant effective April 29th, 1862 in the regular army. He saw further action at Memphis, Vicksburg and Grand Gulf. He served with distinction in the campaign to take Vicksburg. He came to the aid of a disabled ship at Grand Gulf, which was being bombarded unbearably. He wedged his ship, the Pittsburgh, between the Rebel batteries at Grand Gulf and the USS Benton. The Benton was able to recover and Grant was able to cross the Mississippi to flank Vicksburg. He received another promotion to Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Commander on November 10th, 1864. Detached from the Pittsburgh, he then took command of Vindicator on March 1st, 1865, on which her served until July 7th, 1865. He was honorably discharged on 30 December 1865. The World War II destroyer, the USS Hoel I (DD-533), 1943-44, was named in honor of Captain William H. Hoel, as well as USS Hoel (DD-768), cancelled in 1946, and the USS Hoel (DDG-13), 1962-1994.
Stain Glass window in St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Waynesville:
"In Memory of a noble Man, William Rion Hoel,
one of the founders of this Church,
Died, May 23,1879."