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By: Hillary Delaney
Though the sight is not uncommon in modern times, a hot air balloon is a wonder to behold. We have always been fascinated with flight, but the balloon represents a different kind of air travel. In the basket of a hot air balloon, the view passes more slowly, and the mechanics are simple physics. Little wonder that this trend was a national obsession in the 19th century.
There were several noteworthy balloon “events” in and around Boone County during the heyday of ballooning. Professor Harry Gilbert, a balloonist with ties to the circus and a flair for marketing, made a surprise stop in Boone County in 1877. Gilbert began his ascent from the grounds of the then two-year-old Cincinnati Zoological Gardens, and headed in the direction that the wind determined.
He landed on the Buckner farm, near Florence, and was met by Mr. Garvey, who owned neighboring property. Garvey was given a short ascension in the balloon, in return for a wagon ride back to Cincinnati. The highest altitude on this short jaunt over the river was 6,100 ft.
Another balloon adventure occurred in 1880. Two men who had departed Dayton the day before, landed on Henry Corbin’s farm in Union. A crowd, numbering about 300 people, soon arrived, having seen the craft in the air making its slow progress toward descent. Several people were given a rope-tethered ascension ride, taking them up to 400 feet, and down again before the aeronauts were on their way. Walton was to be the next stop, but the wind took them to the Howlett farm near Big Bone. Residents of the area were caught off-guard by the sight. One man took a shot at the balloon, while it was at a very high altitude. Others were flummoxed by its size when it descended, thinking it was “the size of a water bucket,” as it had appeared to them while in flight; its actual dimensions were 24×56 feet.
In 1914, the “Balloon Goodyear,” a forerunner to the famous blimp, landed on the Dolwick farm in Constance. The pilot, A.D. Preston and his assistant were competing in a national elimination race to earn a spot in the international race for the James Bennett Cup. They had departed St. Louis two days prior, but the balloon had malfunctioned. Preston, an experienced balloon pilot, had won the race in Paris the prior year. Fortunately, the little hamlet of Constance offered the Anderson Ferry as more reliable transportation for the men and their deflated balloon to make their way home.