OKI Wanna Know: Who Were Reed Hartman, Fields & Ertel?

Sep 2, 2020

Updated: Friday, Sept. 4

We asked for your questions in our feature OKI Wanna Know and a number of people asked about the naming of a couple of prominent roads: Reed Hartman Highway and Fields-Ertel. The two intersect so we combined them into one story.

Let's start with the basics:

Joseph Reed Hartman was born June 9, 1898, and died March 26, 1969. In between then he graduated from Woodward High School, and after getting a chemical engineering degree from the University of Cincinnati, worked at Cincinnati Gas and Electric, which became Duke Energy.

According to Duke's records, he started as a research engineer but worked his way up to vice president of electric sales. That means he was in area development, what we call economic development today.

Joseph Reed Hartman worked for Cincinnati Gas & Electric from 1923-1963.
Credit Provided / Duke Energy

The president of the Blue Ash Historical Society, Tom Bell, says Hartman was very involved in the plan to build the international airport nearby. He says Cincinnati purchased a large chunk of land for that but the deal fell through.

"They were left with something like 1,600 acres of land that they weren't sure what to do with," he says. "The city of Cincinnati didn't want it. Blue Ash couldn't afford it. Reed Hartman was one of the people that helped start the industrial park, by selling the land to the different corporations and getting them to move to Blue Ash." 

To honor Hartman, the highway that runs through the industrial park was named for him.

Today, there is another man in Clifton with the same name. Only it's spelled differently.

"R-E-I-D H-A-R-T-M-A-N-N."

This Reid Hartmann is a doctor and says he was named at about the same time the highway was being built. He says his parents just liked the sound of the name.

"I recall calling in a prescription into one of our neighborhood pharmacies and I got the usual comment, 'Oh, Reed Hartman, like the highway,' and they asked if I was any relation. I assumed it would be the usual joke," he says. "It turns out that that pharmacist used to care for Reed Hartman and his family and he had very wonderful things to say about him."

That squares with Jim Wuenker's recollections.

"I have a lot of blessings in my life because of him. My dad died young, so he sort of became a mentor to me through Knox (Presbyterian) Church and he taught me a lot."

Wuenker came to work for Hartman at the utility after he got out of the Army in 1953. He says Hartman worked on what is now the Duke Energy Convention Center, the airport project, and the subsequent Blue Ash industrial park, where the highway that bears his name runs. He says Hartman wouldn't have cared much for the naming.

"Not at all. He was a genuinely humble man, low-key, just wanted to get things done working with people. He made sure the right people were involved and good things happened. I was fortunate enough to work for him for a number of years."

Reed Hartman is buried at Spring Grove Cemetery.

How Fields-Ertel Got Its Name

Reed Hartman Highway's northern terminus is at Fields-Ertel, the boundary, more or less, between Hamilton County and Butler and Warren counties. Assuming the road is named for two people, we turned to John Zimkus, historian and education director for the Warren County Historical Society.

"I do know the Ertel part," he says.

He says Daniel Ertel came from North Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, and settled in what is now Hamilton Township, in 1799."Which is on the east side of the Little Miami River, so it is not in Deerfield Township, where Fields-Ertel road is. The road was apparently begun in 1836 and it was completed in 1848."

The east end of the road back then, he says, led to a fording spot on the Little Miami. There wasn't a bridge, just a low spot where crossings were possible. On the other side was the thousand acres that belonged to Ertel's family. The road connected the Ertel farm with what is now US 42, Reading Road.

Daniel Ertel was a farmer. He and his wife Catherine had 11 children, and there are descendants still in the area today. But he wasn't famous. He wasn't a politician, or a hero or anything like that. So why did he get a road named for him? Zimkus has the answer:

"Roads back in those days often told you where you were going or who you were connecting," he says. For example, Lebanon Road leads to Lebanon, and Cincinnati-Dayton Road, well, you get the point."

The Fields in Fields-Ertel… well, that's a little harder. John Zimkus says he couldn't find anything, and researchers at the Butler and Hamilton county historical societies both said they came up empty, too. 

If you know where the Fields in Fields-Ertel comes from, or you have a question about Ohio, Kentucky or Indiana, we want to know.

After publishing this story, a number of people wrote in or tweeted a theory on the "Fields" in Fields-Ertel. 

@CincinnatiPhil tweeted "If roads were named to announce who or what they connected, perhaps the "fields" of Fields-Ertel was literally a series of fields that were well-known and used as a visual landmark at the time?"

And some even cited a source:

@rea_fulton tweeted "the fields in Fields Ertel is just inspired by the 'many fields' of Daniel Ertel according to Symmes Township.

This might explain the lack of a historical Fields family.