One hundred years ago World War I was only five weeks away from a cease fire. Many men from around the country, including Miami County, had trained for combat in Europe. Some training even took place in local areas, such as Pleasant Hill. Are you aware that there is still a relic of some of that training right here is Miami County? Did you know Newton Township used to have its very own shooting range, complete with concrete bunker?
The old Newton Township-Pleasant Hill shooting range is a bit of a mystery to many, including me and Chuck Martin, one of Newton Township and Pleasant Hill’s historians.
Of course, there is no one still living that recalls when the shooting range was constructed and what its original purpose was in Newton Township. A date painted on one of the walls inside the bunker suggests a date of construction in the summer of 1910. The concrete wall and bunker are still in existence west of Pleasant Hill, and yet in relatively good condition. It mostly lies on Miami County Park District land.
A recent newsletter of the Pleasant Hill History Museum shared that Red Kramer, a longtime resident, used to tell the boys in the community that when he was a soldier his regiment would sit on the hill near the cemetery (Pleasant Hill) and shoot at targets.
It is known that the range was used during World War I and prior as a training ground for use of small firearms. Chuck Martin has located a few news articles referring to Ohio Infantry units utilizing the range for practice in 1915, 1916, etc. One article from 1916 noted that Co. A of Covington marched from Covington to Pleasant Hill and then spent the day at the range.
According to the Pleasant Hill History Museum newsletter, workers would place targets against the concrete wall for shooters on the range and then they would go into the bunker for protection while target practice was active. Once an ‘all-clear’ was given, then the workers would assist in retrieving the targets for evaluation.
If the range was constructed as early as 1910, was it for training soldiers who might be called to potential unrest along the Texas border when Pancho Villa joined Madero’s uprising against the Mexican dictatorship? It seems unlikely.
Was the shooting range wall and bunker built because of its rural location and in preparation for military training, or was it originally for sport and recreation, and later utilized by the military? These are still some of the details that are not known regarding this large structure.
Sometime after the First World War, the range seems to have fallen into disuse and eventually abandoned for the most part.
The range is still a curiosity to a number of people, and if anyone might have any information on the shooting range, or have a period scrapbook which yields some facts, then please contact the Pleasant Hill History Museum or Chuck Martin.
Patrick D. Kennedy is archivist at the Troy-Miami County Public Library’s Local History Library, 100 W. Main St., Troy. He may be contacted by calling (937) 335-4082 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org