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Two well-known Highland Countians pass away the very same day

Lead Summary
Steve Roush-
Ladies and gentlemen, after I penned an offering last week on how the local bar association unanimously recommended vacating and tearing down the venerable Highland County Courthouse in uptown Hillsboro back in 1960, I have been asked multiple times how I stumbled across such an article that was published decades ago. Well, to be totally honest with you, I simply stumbled across that story.

Over the summer, at the behest of Highland County historian Jean Wallis, I portrayed the “ghost” of Chauncey Gross, who was a founder of the old Gross-Feibel Safe Company that was part of the Hillsboro landscape since the early 1900s.

Actually, the factory he built in 1908 still stands across from Hillsboro High School’s Richards Memorial Field on North Elm Street, much to the chagrin of some. But don’t blame that on Chauncey Gross, who is also my great-grandfather. After all, he’s been dead since Feb. 5, 1960 – almost six decades. While I wasn’t alive when my great-grandfather passed away, I’m sure the edifice looked much better then, because I remember a time when it when it didn’t look like it does today.

Since that Ghost Walk in the Hillsboro Cemetery back in August (and oh, how I miss summertime and August), I have wanted to know even more about the relative I never met, and I learned quite a lot about one Chauncey Bennett Gross during my time preparing for the Ghost Walk. I can thank my father, Wesley Kenneth “Ken” Roush, and Granville Barrere (1878-1954), the longtime publisher, editor and proprietor of the Hillsboro News-Herald, who published several articles on the early days of the Gross-Feibel Company, for adding to my knowledge of Mr. Gross.

Since I knew when Chauncey B. Gross died, I looked through newspapers the week after he passed away, and in the Feb. 9, 1960 edition, I found a front page story entitled “Founder of Gross-Feibel firm claimed.” At the top of the page is where I found “Bar Association recommends new courthouse for county.”

I could wax eloquent on the life and times of Chauncey Gross, and one of these days I’ll do an offering or three (or more) on my great-grandfather who was born in 1871. But on this day, I’ll talk a bit about another well-known Highland Countian who passed away the exact same day as Mr. Gross, McKinley H. “Mack” Sauer.

Folks who enjoy Highland County history, along with those who remember the 1950s and ’60s, will remember Mack Sauer as nationally known humorist, speaker and radio personality who was a former newspaper editor and publisher. Born on July 28, 1896 near Powellsville in Lawrence County, Sauer graduated from Wheelersburg High School in Scioto County. He later attended Ohio State and Ohio University. In the 1930s, Sauer came to Leesburg and is considered the village’s “most famous person” by many, including the village’s website. He also lived in Hillsboro later on and was a part owner of WSRW, plus was owner, publisher and editor of the Leesburg Citizen and Lynchburg News for a number of years.

While the death of Chauncey Gross was expected – he was 88 and had broken his hip, which was almost a death sentence back in those days – the death of Mack Sauer was unexpected.

You see, Mack Sauer was a Republican candidate for Congress, and on the last full day of his life, he was a speaker at the guest night meeting of the Clermont County Schoolmasters Club in Williamsburg. Midway through his address, Sauer made his way over to a chair and slumped down. Since he was a longtime humorist, the audience of about 100 people believed, at first, it was a typical Mack Sauer joke, just a gag – but soon realized he was critically ill. It was reported, “He had not been feeling well that day, which was unusual for him.”

Mack Sauer, 63, of Hillsboro, died at 12:20 a.m. Friday, Feb. 5, 1960 at the Highlands Community Hospital, where he had been confined for about three hours after suffering a heart attack. Though he was in Williamsburg when he suffered the heart attack, Sauer requested that he be brought by ambulance to the Hillsboro hospital.

Funeral services for Mack Sauer were held that Monday at 2 p.m. at the Hillsboro Church of Christ, with longtime local pastor Dr. Paul Jones officiating. Like my great-grandfather Chauncey Gross, McKinley H. “Mack” Sauer, son of Christian and Anna Miller Sauer, was laid to rest in the Hillsboro Cemetery in February of 1960.

Let’s pause for now, and we’ll continue next week with more on the life and times of Mack Sauer.

Steve Roush is a vice president of an international media company, is vice chairman of the Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees and is a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at

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