Middletown’s First Multi-Millionaire

23 April 2020- Butler County Connect Staff Report

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio – You’ve probably heard all about the modern-day businessmen and politicians of Butler County. You may have driven by the large mansion and paper company in Middletown Ohio. But have you heard of Paul J. Sorg, a former congressman for the Butler County area?
Paul J. Sorg, Photo public domain.
Paul J. Sorg was born into a family of German immigrants in Wheeling, West Virginia in 1840. In 1852, his family moved to Cincinnati, where he trained to become an ironworker. After serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, Sorg set his sights on the business realm.
In 1864, Sorg founded a tobacco company with John Auer, a German immigrant. Sorg knew nothing about the tobacco industry, but could keep books. Auer was experienced in tobacco rolling, but couldn’t keep books. The two agreed to use their strengths to form Wilson, Sorg and Company in Middletown with other locals in the business.
Not long after founding the company, the two sold their shares and founded a new company, producing a brand of tobacco they called “Biggest and Best.” With this company, the two men achieved great success, and Sorg became the first multi-millionaire of Middletown.
Sorg Opera House. Photo credit E. Todd Fowler

Middletown Charities

After achieving a great amount of wealth, Sorg and his wife Susan built a 35-room stone mansion in Middletown, which still stands today. In addition, Sorg gave to charities and civic organizations, funding the construction of the Sorg Opera House.
Sorg’s newfound wealth raised him to a great level of local prominence, leading him to run for congress in 1894. Sorg won the election as a democrat, and served 3 years representing Ohio’s 3rd district in the U.S. House of Representatives. Sorg’s executive secretary was James M. Cox, who was later elected to the same seat, and became the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee in 1920. Sorg was twice considered for the Democratic Party’s nomination for Governor of Ohio, but he declined both times.
After leaving public office in 1897, Sorg continued his tobacco operations in Middletown. Taking on various business and community roles in his later years, Sorg was extraordinarily involved in his community. Sorg was involved with the Middletown Gas Company, the Miami Cycle Company, the M. and C. Railroad Company, the Merchant’s National Bank. In 1899, Republican Ohio Governor Asa Bushnell appointed Sorg to be a delegate to the National Conference on Trusts, as Sorg had previous experience with businesses and corporations.
Sorg Mausoleum Woodside Cemetery in Middletown Ohio
Paul Sorg – Woodside Cemetery and Arboretum. Photo credit E. Todd Fowler
In May 1901, Sorg passed away in Middletown. He is entombed with his wife Susan inside a prominent mausoleum at Woodside Cemetery and Arboretum.