Clock Tower

Out of the Clock Tower



Hello and welcome to the Greene County Archives' blog, "Out of the Clock Tower".  Please join us as we share information on archival issues, news, special events, and highlights from our collection.

Before the archives program began in Greene County in 1996, permanent records were stored in every conceivable space, in basements, garages, and closets. Usually they were in boxes of various shapes and sizes, although seldom adequately labeled, but occasionally they were just in loose piles of books and papers. Most notable were the old records stuffed into the clock tower of the County Courthouse, where they shared their home with pigeon droppings.

Now, there is a clean, environmentally controlled, well appointed location for the county archives, where our historical records are housed in standard sized boxes on steel shelves. We have taken note of their journey in the name for our blog.

Sep 14

Harrison Phillips: The Soul of a Soldier

Posted on September 14, 2018 at 9:41 AM by Melissa Dalton

I came across an old newspaper article from September 10, 1936 with the headline “Harrison Phillips Dies Thursday; Was Civil War Veteran” (Fig 1), which included an image of the gentleman. Mr. Phillips was African-American, a Civil War veteran, and a long-time resident of Greene County. He was 96 years old at the time of his death, and according to the article one of the “oldest veterans in the county.” The obituary isn’t long, but the few details mentioned made me curious about his life and service.

Fig 1. Obituary of Harrison Phillips in the Xenia Evening Gazette, dated September 10, 1936 (JPG)
Fig 1. Obituary of Harrison Phillips in the Xenia Evening Gazette, dated September 10, 1936 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Harrison was born in Lexington, Kentucky on July 4, 1840. His father was Allen Phillips, but his mother’s name is illegible on the death record; however, we believe her first name was Leona (maiden name unknown). Due to the time and location of his birth, we believe he was born into slavery, and little is known of his childhood until he enlisted.

On July 15, 1964, just a few weeks after his 20th birthday, Harrison enlisted as a Private in the Army, under the alias Harrison Fields, to fight with the U.S. Colored Troops in the Civil War (Fig 2). He was assigned to Company B, 117th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry. This regiment took him from Kentucky to Maryland to Virginia. After Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865, Harrison’s regiment stayed in Virginia until the end of May. In June, the regiment was moved to Texas, which is where he would stay. On January 1, 1866, Harrison was promoted to Corporal (Fig 3), and the 117th Regiment was mustered out on August 10, 1867.

Fig 2. United States Colored Troops Enlistment form for Harrison Fields, aka Harrison Phillips (JPG)Fig 2. United States Colored Troops Enlistment form for Harrison Fields, aka Harrison Phillips (JPG)
Fig 2. United States Colored Troops Enlistment form for Harrison Fields, aka Harrison Phillips (Fold3.com)

Fig 3. Company Muster Roll indicating promotion from Private to Corporal (JPG)Fig 3. Company Muster Roll indicating promotion from Private to Corporal (JPG)Fig 3. Company Muster Roll indicating promotion from Private to Corporal (JPG)
Fig 3. Company Muster Roll indicating promotion to Corporal (Fold3.com)


After the Civil War, he and his soon to be wife, Sarah (sometimes referred to as Sallie), moved to Ohio. They married in Greene County on February 4, 1869 (Fig 4). I was unable to find them on the 1870 Census, but the couple were on the 1880 Census and living in New Jasper Township (Fig 5). By this time, they had two children, Lizzie and Dickey (Richard).

Fig 4. Marriage record of Harrison Phillips and Sarah Fields (JPG)
Fig 4. Marriage record of Harrison Phillips and Sarah Fields (Greene County Archives)

Fig 5. 1880 U.S. Census with Phillips family outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 5. 1880 U.S. Census with Phillips family outlined in red (HeritageQuest.com)


Harrison and Sarah stayed in Greene County. Harrison worked various jobs, but mostly as a farmer/farmhand. By the time of the 1900 Census (Fig 6), Lizzie and Richard had left home, but two more children, Jesse James and Sarah Leona, were listed. Something else of interest is that the Phillips’ had a total of ten children, with only four surviving. This is indicated on the 1910 Census as well (Fig 7. When I saw this, I went to our birth and death records to see if I could learn anything about the other six children. In total, I was able to find birth records for seven of their children.

Fig 6. 1900 U.S. Census with Phillips family outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 6. 1900 U.S. Census with Phillips family outlined in red (HeritageQuest.com)

Fig 7. 1900 U.S. Census with Phillips family outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 7. 1910 U.S. Census with Phillips family outlined in red (HeritageQuest.com)


In 1915, at the age of 27, Jesse passed away. The obituary does not state how he died, but it was obvious that his death had a huge impact on the family (Fig 8). Then in 1929, Sarah Phillips died after suffering a stroke. Sarah’s obituary mentions her prominence in Yellow Springs (Fig 9).

Fig 8. Obituary of Jesse J. Phillips in the Xenia Evening Gazette, dated August 5, 1915 (JPG)
Fig 8. Obituary of Jesse J. Phillips in the Xenia Evening Gazette, dated August 5, 1915 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Fig 9. Obituary of Sarah Phillips in the Xenia Evening Gazette, dated November 2, 1929 (JPG)
Fig 9. Obituary of Sarah Phillips in the Xenia Evening Gazette, dated November 2, 1929 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)


After his wife’s death, Harrison remained in their home (Fig 10), but he wasn’t alone. His daughter, Leona, and her husband, John, lived next door. There is an indication that Harrison’s health was deteriorating, and he moved in with his daughter, Lizzie, who lived on S. College Street. This is where Harrison remained until his death on September 10, 1936 (Fig 11).

Fig 10. 1930 U.S. Census with Harrison Phillips outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 10. 1930 U.S. Census with Harrison Phillips outlined in red (HeritageQuest.com)

Fig 11. Death Certificate of Harrison Phillips (JPG)
Fig 11. Death Certificate of Harrison Phillips (FamilySearch.org)


Harrison lived a long life, was a soldier in the Civil War, and witnessed the Great War. He saw a society change and history being made. He experienced profound losses in his lifetime, but one would also believe great love in his family and community. It is stories like this that stand as a reminder of the perseverance and determination of the human spirit; that we get in life what we put into it; that it is ours to make.

Until Next Time…

Sources:
FamilySearch.org
Fold3.com
Greene County Archives
National Park Service: https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-battle-units-detail.htm?battleUnitCode=UUS0117RI00C
NewspaperARCHIVE.com

Sep 07

Mysterious Murder in Cedarville

Posted on September 7, 2018 at 2:42 PM by Melissa Dalton

Do you ever watch those shows about mysterious murders or cold cases? I would venture to guess there is one (if not many) on TV at any time of day. As a kid, I loved watching “Unsolved Mysteries”, wondering what became of the murderer and if the victim, who almost always was characterized as a great person without any enemies, would ever be avenged. This week, I’m channeling Robert Stack and recounting the 1903 unsolved murder of Cedarville resident, Jacob Harris.

Jacob Harris was born in 1841, and lived his entire life in Greene County, Ohio. Jacob married Martha Elizabeth McCollough in 1864 (Fig 1) and they had a child, Thomas, in 1865. It appears Elizabeth died in 1867 (I’ve not be able to verify this), and Jacob then married Elizabeth Albright, who was roughly ten years his senior, in 1868 (Fig 2).

Fig 1. 1864 Marriage Record of Jacob Harris and Martha Elizabeth McCollough (JPG)
Fig 1. 1864 Marriage record of Jacob Harris and Martha Elizabeth McCollough (Greene County Archives)

Fig 2. 1868 Marriage Record of Jacob Harris and Elizabeth Albright (JPG)
Fig 2. 1868 marriage record of Jacob Harris and Elizabeth Albright (Greene County Archives)


Jacob and Elizabeth lived in Cedarville, and I found them on the 1870 and 1880 census records (Figs 3 & 4). Jacob worked as a day laborer and is listed on the census as working at the lime kiln. However, in 1893, at the age of 61, Elizabeth died of heart problems.

Fig 4. 1880 U.S. Census with Harris family outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 3. 1870 U.S. Census with Harris family outlined in red (Ancestry.com)

Fig 4. 1880 U.S. Census with Harris family outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 4. 1880 U.S. Census with Harris family outlined in red (Ancestry.com)


Jacob remained in their home after Elizabeth’s death (Fig 5). According to various accounts, Jacob was well-liked and made smart use of his money. When not working, he would work as a trapper, and was in the business of buying and selling furs. This knowledge may have been what led to his untimely death.

Fig 5. 1900 U.S. Census with Jacob Harris outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 5. 1900 U.S. Census with Jacob Harris outlined in red (Ancestry.com)

On the morning of January 17, 1903, his young neighbor, Jennie Jeffreys, was walking by the Harris residence on her way home from work. She noticed the gate and door were slightly ajar, so we went to investigate. As she walked into the home, she noticed that house was torn apart and saw Mr. Harris facedown with his head covered. She knew immediately that something was not right, and ran home to tell her mother. She and her mother returned to the Harris home, and at the sight, Mrs. Jeffreys and her daughter went to notify the authorities. Word spread quickly of the brutal murder, and townsfolks flocked to the Harris residence. By the time the coroner arrived, many people had been in and out of the home. He ordered everyone to vacate the premises and began his investigation.

The coroner concluded that Harris put up quite the fight as they found evidence of the struggle throughout the house. He sustained cuts and bruises to his hands, face, and head, and they believed he was attacked by at least two men. Sadly, Harris was overpowered, and died from a “concussion of the brain caused by numerous blows on the head fracturing the skull. Said blows were inflicted by a party or parties unknown” (Figs 6 & 7).

Fig 6. Transcript from Coroner's Inquests, dated 17 January 1903 (JPG)
Fig 6. Transcript from Coroner’s Inquests, dated 17 January 1903 (Greene County Archives)

Fig 7. Article from The Dayton Herald, dated 19 January 1903 (JPG)
Fig 7. Article from The Dayton Herald, dated 19 January 1903 (Newspapers.com)


Several people were questioned in connection to the murder, and the County Commissioners offered a reward for any information that would lead to the arrest of the assailants (Fig 8). The authorities arrested five men – Charles Jeffreys, Ellis McMillan, Elza and Alva Shingledecker (twin brothers), and Thomas Tracy. It was learned that all five men took baths the night before the body of Harris was discovered, and all were acting “unusual” (Figs 9-12). However, there was no evidence against any of them, only suspicion.

Fig 8. Commissioners' Minutes Vol. 7 p. 61, dated 23 January 1903 (JPG)
Fig 8. Commissioners’ Minutes Vol 7, p. 61, dated 23 January 1903 (Greene County Archives)

Fig 9. Notice in The Hocking Sentinel, dated 5 February 1903 (JPG)
Fig 9. Notice in The Hocking Sentinel, dated 5 February 1903 (Newspapers.com)

Fig 10. Article from The Dayton Herald, dated 20 January 1903 (JPG)
Fig 10. Article from The Dayton Herald, dated 20 January 1903 (Newspapers.com)

Fig 11. Article from Xenia Daily Gazette, dated 21 January 1903 (JPG)
Fig 11. Article from Xenia Daily Gazette, dated 21 January 1903 (Newspapers.com)

Fig 12. Articles from the Xenia Daily Gazette, dated 23 January 1903 (JPG)
Fig 12. Articles from the Xenia Daily Gazette, dated 23 January 1903 (Newspapers.com)


Cedarville authorities requested the assistance of a detective agency out of Cincinnati, and Captain Grannan and his associate, Mr. Ferguson, helped work the case. The only new evidence they found was a torn, blood-stained coat. It was believed that one of the murderers was wearing the coat that the time of the murder. The maker of the coat, American Tailoring Company, claimed they could identify who purchased the coat, and this gave hope to the detectives. Samples were sent to for examination (Fig 13).

Fig 13. Article from the Xenia Daily Gazette, dated 23 January 1903 (JPG)
Fig 13. Article from the Xenia Daily Gazette, dated 29 January 1903 (Newspapers.com)

So whatever became of the bloody coat? I have no idea. The story disappeared from the papers after this. I tried various keyword searches for newspaper articles, scoured our criminal records, checked our probate records… but alas, I found nothing. It would appear that no one was ever charged or indicted for the murder of Jacob Harris. Out of mere curiosity, I searched the names of the accused in the papers. At least two of the men were accused of other crimes and arrested, and one was convicted of another murder. If one, or any, of these men murdered Jacob Harris, they were never charged.

The murder of Jacob Harris remains a mystery to this day… If you have any information on this case, write to us at the Greene County Archives. You need not to give your name.

Until Next Time…

Sources:
Ancestry.com
Greene County Archives
Newspapers.com



Aug 31

Elder-Beerman: The Rise and Fall of a Dayton Original

Posted on August 31, 2018 at 9:57 AM by Melissa Dalton

As Elder-Beerman sets to close its doors for the last time this week, we thought it might be interesting to look at the store’s long history in the region, 135 years to be exact.

In 1883, Boston Dry Goods Store opened in Dayton with Thomas Elder as one of the owners. The store moved to the Reibold Building in downtown Dayton in 1896, becoming the Elder & Johnston Co. department store. The department store operated out of their downtown location for more than 60 years.

Article in Dayton Daily News on April 1, 1905 regarding the new Elder & Johnston Co. department stor
Article in Dayton Daily News on April 1, 1905 regarding the new Elder & Johnston Co. department store in the downtown Dayton (ProQuest)

In 1950, Arthur Beerman established his own retail stores, which did very well. Beerman created partnerships in the area, and in 1962, Beermans merged with Elder & Johnston Co., creating Elder-Beerman.

Advertisement from Elder & Johnston Co. in the Dayton Daily News on June 26, 1907 (JPG)
Advertisement from Elder & Johnston Co. in the Dayton Daily News on June 26, 1907 (ProQuest)

Elder-Beerman witnessed growth over the next 30 years, opening a large downtown Dayton location (the five-floor Courthouse Square store), as well as stores in Hamilton County, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky. The distribution center in Fairborn opened in 1991 and in 1993, Elder-Beerman opened their 50th store at the Mall at Fairfield Commons.

1990 Architectural Drawing of the Elder-Beerman Distribution Center in Fairborn (JPG)
Floor plan for the Fairborn distribution center dated 1990 (Greene County Archives)

Unfortunately, the company began having financial trouble and filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which is classified as a reorganization bankruptcy. This meant that Elder-Beerman didn’t have to liquidate property, but had to implement a structured repayment plan. The reorganization was completed at the end of 1997 and Elder-Beerman did see growth during its first year as a publicly held company. The increase in sales and revenue were short-lived though, and Elder-Beerman reported losses in 2001.

1966.02.02_XDG
Advertisement in the Hamilton Daily News Journal dated April 21, 1970 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Elder-Beerman closed their Courthouse Square location in 2002, and in 2003, Bon-Ton acquired the company for just under $100 million. The following year, Bon-Ton eliminated almost three quarters of the jobs at the headquarters in Moraine. By 2009, Bon-Ton eliminated another 1150 positions and over the next several years began closing stores throughout the region, including Hamilton, Centerville, North Dayton, and Springfield. In 2014, many jobs at the Fairborn distribution center were moved as well.

By 2017, Bon-Ton was wrestling with over $900 million in debt. Unable to recover, Bon-Ton filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2018. Bon-Ton hoped to be purchased by another company, but the buy-out fell through when it was determined they wouldn’t be able to pay the associated fees. In April, Bon-Ton filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy, requiring the liquidation of all assets. All stores were slated to close by the end of August, and Elder-Beerman stores in the Dayton are closed on Wednesday, August 29, 2018.

Elder-Beerman was one of the region’s first, and last, homegrown department stores, but their story of decline isn’t a new one. Big department stores are addressing similar difficulties, and the future of many malls is bleak. In general, brick-and-mortar stores are facing a crisis. Many have been unable to compete with a growing digital world. Only time will tell if these companies can adapt and find a place in this demanding consumer environment.

Until Next Time…

Sources:
Greene County Archives
NewspaperARCHIVE.com
ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Dayton Daily News