William Hoel had an adventurous life with multiple exciting episodes.
He was born on March 7, 1824 in Sharon (Sharonville), Ohio to Edmund and Emiline Hoel. His father was a steamboat pilot on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.
At age sixteen Hoel left school to train with his father. Over the next three years he worked on several different side wheelers and eventually also became a pilot.
Hoel married Mary Riley of Cincinnati on August 1, 1849.
When riverboat pilot examinations were required in 1853, Hoel easily passed the test. In March of 1853, while he was on a river trip, Mary died shortly after giving birth to a son. Their son died in August of the same year. Both were buried in Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati.
An adventure was advertised in the “Cincinnati Gazette” on October 1, 1855. Monsieur Godard was offering a balloon voyage. It cost $50 for a ticket to fly on the America, described as an “immense balloon,” and an “elegant and gigantic craft”. It said, “This aerial ship contains 95,000 cubic feet of city gas! which is more than the consumption of the city for three days and will carry with it, for the first time in America, having just been received from Paris, an elegant three story frame house known as Godard’s Hotel and eight ladies and gentlemen…will take their seats in the reception room on the second story.” A table was also on the second floor and a dinner was to be served to the passengers at “12,000 feet high at 6 o’clock precisely”.
Hoel bought a ticket. There were four other male passengers, not the “eight ladies and gentlemen” mentioned in the ad.
The trip did not proceed as planned. Instead, at 6:00, while over Lebanon, Ohio, the balloon was hit by a severe thunderstorm. The house and ballast were dropped in an attempt to escape the downpour.
In spite of these efforts, the America crashed in Warren County near the village of Corwin. All five of the balloon occupants were injured. Hoel had broken ribs and bruises. He spent several days in a nearby farm house recovering.
In 1858 his father, Edmund Hoel bought a 100 acre farm near where the balloon accident had happened. The farm was named Kildere.
Hoel’s next adventure was serving in The Civil War. He worked on gunboats on the Mississippi River and was active in the Memphis and Vicksburg campaigns.
Following the war, Hoel took another adventurous but more peaceful trip. He sailed on The Quaker City on June 8, 1867. It visited several Europe ports and Palestine; included in the trip was attendance at the Great Paris Exposition.
Hoel’s father died in 1868 and he inherited the farm, Kildere.
On February 11, 1869 Hoel married Elizabeth Hunt. She was 18 years his junior. The newly married couple moved to Kildere.
More about Hoel’s life will be included in my next blog.