2017 Contest Winner
And the winning essay is.....
Cheryl Nelson-Conley! –
"I found my family’s 'missing link' in the Greene County Archives"
The 2017 "I Found It In the Archives" Winning Essay:
It was once said that those who have no knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture are like a tree without roots. I began the search for my past with the goal of becoming a member of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) and ended with an additional goal of “wanting to know”.
My search began with family information that was gathered in the 1970s prior to digitization. The research needed to include official verification of the past in addition to documented data that was not found or that was unavailable at the time of the original search.
During the past 4 years, I have requested and received documents from the Greene County Archives regarding my Nelson-Westfall family in Greene County, Ohio. Often my request resulted in additional documents being sent because they might be of interest to me. The Archives sent me the following records:
• Deed and land records such as a land grant to John Nelson from President John Quincy Adams and deeds from parents to children proving relationship
• Estate documents for the wife of James Westfall
• Information on other Westfall family members in Greene County
• A 1797-1810 Enumeration which provided a unique picture of life in the past
• Internet links to other resources.
John (1776-1847) and Catharine (Westfall) Nelson (1788-1851) lived and died in Fairborn, Greene County. The family is buried in Cost Cemetery.
James Westfall (father of Catharine Nelson) died in Greene County, in 1801, after settling there, with his family, in the late 1700s.
The documentation enabled me to “link” my 6th, 7th and 8th generation Greene County families to me and to each other. The lineage was certified by the genealogist at the Washington, D.C. NSDAR. This lineage will now always be available through the NSDAR website and could enable further research by future generations. In addition, a Revolutionary War patriot who lived in Greene County, Ohio has been added to the NSDAR database.
Now I “know” and I am a member of the NSDAR. I have begun my NSDAR community service with mentoring grade school children in reading.
The Greene County Archives has become a part of my past, present, and future, and the ripple effects of my volunteer work will be the legacy of this partnership. Thank you!
2016 Contest Winner
And the winning essay is........
Allan Hogue! - "Against the Tide"
We wish Allan the best of luck as he moves on to the state competition!
The 2016 "I Found It In the Archives" Winning Essay:
The document was hard to read: the page was dark with age and the cursive letters were from a bygone era. In the Greene County Emancipation Record of Free Blacks, 1805-1845, located at the Greene County Archives, I found that my ancestor Frederick Bonner left Virginia for Ohio because of a, “clear conviction of the injustice and criminality of depriving my fellow creatures of their natural right.” Frederick Bonner was a devout Methodist from Tidewater, Virginia. He freed his slaves and moved to Ohio because of his religious conviction of the immorality of slavery.
“Many of Frederick Bonner’s like minded friends and neighbors in Virginia came and settled in Xenia, forming a community that has been distinctly Methodist in religion for more than one hundred years” (History of Greene County Ohio, Broadstone). The church initially met in Frederick Bonner’s home and was called the Bonner Society. After a short time, a 30’ by 30’ log church was erected and later replaced with a brick structure. The Union Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the oldest in Ohio, has served the Union Neighborhood continuously since 1809.
The conviction of that group of anti-slavery Virginians influenced events that occurred nearly a half century years later when Elias Drake built a hotel and resort a short distance north of Xenia. Mr. Drake’s resort was a health spa for water treatment called Xenia Springs (also called Tawawa Springs). “[T]he resort was popular among southern planters who arrived with their entourages of slaves and hunting dogs.... Many of the neighboring farmers were United Presbyterian Seceders, Methodists, or Quakers, all antislavery in sentiment, and ill will toward the resort naturally arose” (Hutslar & Simmons, Taking the Waters).
The Methodist Episcopal Church purchased the Xenia Springs Resort from Mr. Drake in 1855 to establish a university of higher education for “youth of color,” and that was the origin of Wilberforce University. Wilberforce University became a destination point on the underground railroad for blacks seeking freedom and “an intellectual mecca from slavery’s first rule: ignorance” (History of Wilberforce University).
What an astonishing discovery. My great-great-great grandfather had a, “clear conviction of the injustice and immorality,” of slavery and the courage to act upon it. His moral convictions along with those of his like-minded Virginians contributed to the establishment of the first African-American University in the United States. The action taken by that abolitionist community stands as a testament that, “God can use evil for good.” (Genesis, 50:20)
2015 Contest Winner
And the winning essay is........
Amber McKenzie! - "The Dark Side of My Family History"
We wish Amber the best of luck as she moves on to the state competition!
The 2015 "I Found It In the Archives" Winning Essay:
I’ve been a history buff for as long as I can remember. A few years ago I became curious about my own family’s history. I started an Ancestry account and began tracing my ancestors. My second great grandfather’s name was William Otenbarger. For a few years he was only a name and a couple of dates in my family tree. One day I did an internet search and found a newspaper article. The article called him, William Otenbarger, the Osborn child murderer and it spoke of a court trial in Xenia. I was very curious about this so I went to the Greene County Archives. The staff was very helpful and even scanned and emailed over 50 pages of court records to me.
The records told me that my ancestor was being tried for murdering his three year old stepdaughter, Lizzie Shearer. He hit her in the head with a hatchet. He stated that it was an accident and she ran behind him as he was chopping kindling. Witnesses testified that there was no kindling on the property and that day he used corncobs to start a fire, not wood. There were many witness accounts of previous abuse of the little girl at the hands of my ancestor. Neighbors had seen him hurting her and had heard his parents speak of the abuse. His parents denied saying anything about the abuse in court and William’s wife, the mother of the child did not testify. People had heard him yell and threaten Lizzie. Neighbors seen him dragging her across his yard, throw her into the front door on two different occasions and roughly pull her off a fencepost to the ground. The doctor who examined her also noticed old and new bruises all over her body. After a long court trial, William Otenbarger was found guilty of murder in the second degree and sentenced to life at the Ohio Penitentiary. He was later granted a second trail and the outcome was the same.
I ordered his prison admission record which told me what he looked like. I also discovered that William received a pardon after serving only 12 years in prison from some newspaper articles. He was given the pardon because he had perfect behavior in prison.
There’s something unpleasant in everyone’s family history. William’s immediate family may have stood by him, but his descendants do not. As researchers, we take on the task of finding and passing on our family’s history. As I pass down the good things other ancestors of mine have done, I’ll also pass on William’s story. The crimes he committed against a defenseless child will not be forgotten.
2014 Contest Winner!
And the winning essay is........
Deborah Dushane! "If He Hadn't Shot the Town Sheriff....."
We wish Deborah the best of luck as she moves on to the state competition!
The 2014 "I Found It In the Archives" Contest Winner:
As the only grandchild on my mother's side of the family, I spent a great deal of time with my grandparents, Harry Robertson and Gertrude Kramer Weymouth, in Dayton, Ohio. Over breakfast, my grandfather and I would plan for the day and I would learn several family stories. He told me one morning that HIS grandmother was Hannah Good..."because she was a good woman..." . I always remembered that as I started on genealogy as a hobby in 1985.
As I became school age, another story became the primary one. If I got a good grade card, I would get $1. My grandfather would sigh and say, "It would be more if my Uncle Ike hadn't shot the town sheriff and we had to sell the farm to keep him out of jail.". As a six year old, I would nod, and about that time my mother would come in from the kitchen, proclaim that the story was not true and to not tell me 'stories like that' because I would go to school and tell everyone. After she left, he would light a cigarette and say that it was true and that I should remember this.
This scenario played out several times a year (I was a good student) until junior high. Then, a dollar just didn't go very far and we neglected the routine.....but, I never forgot the story.
I retired in 2007 and now, having a lot of time on my hands with nowhere to go, I decided to pursue my hobby a little more seriously. I found that I was eligible to join the Daughters of the American Revolution through my maternal line---Hannah Good (that Good Woman) married James D. Robertson in Cedarville, Ohio. James', ancestor had fought in the Revolution and I needed their marriage record as part of my proof.
Since I live in Michigan, I called the Greene County Archives and asked for help. The marriage record was no problem.....but, while on the phone, I asked about my childhood story. How would I go about researching this? I was advised that there were newspapers available from that period, and that my marriage license copy would be in the mail shortly.
Several days later, a rather large envelope came to the house. My goodness....that must be quite the marriage license! Much to my delight, there was information about Isaac Prugh Weymouth---my Uncle Ike. The Archivist wrote a short note and remarked that he was 'quite a character.'
Due to limited space, I learned that Ike did shoot Constable John Harris in 1883 in Cedarville, Ohio and since there were 'no witnesses' he was not charged. Ike was quite the 'media sensation' and over the years he was in and out of jail for disorderly conduct and such. Unfortunately, nineteen years after the event, he committed suicide at a sawmill in Lagonda (October 6, 1902) . His mother said that "he had never gotten over being falsely accused"-- however, frequent jail records seem to indicate otherwise.
We don't talk about this in front of my mother.