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 21

Diseases and Child Mortality in Early America

Posted on September 21, 2018 at 1:20 PM by Melissa Dalton

Life in the 19th and 20th centuries was not easy, but this was especially true for children. In the 1800s, up to 30% of children died before their first birthday, and 43% did not survive past their fifth birthday. If the child lived to ten, they still only had a 60% chance of surviving to adulthood. These are startling numbers, but when I look at our death records for the late 1800s / early 1900s, many of the children were dying of diseases that today, are treatable and preventable.

Just last week, I found a death record for an unnamed child of Harrison and Sarah Phillips, who died shortly after birth. This wasn’t that uncommon. On average, a women had six to nine children in her lifetime, with that number exceeding ten in many cases (Fig 1). With a mortality over 40%, there was a high probability that a child would die within their first year. Some children went unnamed (the sex of the child sometimes wasn’t reported), some were buried in unmarked graves, and some never had a traditional burial (Fig 2). One study I read claims that death occurred so soon, that the birth itself went unreported. This may seem strange to people today, but by not naming a child, the family could remain “unattached” until the child reached a certain age (usually their first birthday) (Fig 3).

Excerpt from The Xenia Gazette, dated August 13, 1900 (JPG)
Fig 1. Excerpt from The Xenia Gazette, dated August 13, 1900 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Death record showing several unnamed children in 1883-1885 (JPG)
Death record of unnamed infant in 1878 (JPG)
Fig 2. Sampling of death records indicating unnamed children from 1878 - 1885 (Greene County Archives)

Excerpt from The Spirit of Democracy, dated March 10, 1852 (JPG)
Fig 3. Excerpt from The Spirit of Democracy, dated March 10, 1857 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

A small sampling of our death records illustrate the common causes of death among children - consumption (tuberculosis), croup, whooping cough, smallpox, measles, cholera, typhus, typhoid fever, diphtheria, influenza, and scarlet fever (Fig 4). One of these (if not multiple) is seen on every page. Cholera, typhoid fever, diphtheria, and scarlet fever outbreaks were high, killing many children (Figs 5 & 6). In the 20th century, scarlet fever was the leading cause of death in children, with a mortality rate of 20%. Reasons for the high mortality rate can be traced to several factors. First, nutrition was a problem. Many had access to a limit amount of food, and nutritional value was low in many cases. Second, the idea of cleanliness and hygiene practices weren’t introduced until the late 1800s. People didn’t wash their hands or bathe regularly. Waste was thrown into streets and rivers. Housing in urban areas was crowded and dirty. Third, people were unaware how certain diseases were spread.

Sampling of causes of death in 1877 (JPG)Sampling of causes of death in 1883 (JPG)
Fig 4. Causes of death from 1877 - 1879 and 1883 - 1885 (Greene County Archives)

Excerpt from True American, dated August 19, 1857 (JPG)
Fig 5. Excerpt from the True American, dated August 19, 1857 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Excerpt from The Xenia Gazette, dated April 11, 1900 (JPG)
Fig 6. Excerpt from The Xenia Gazette, dated April 11, 1900 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that things started to change. Governments and medical professionals began to understand the spread of disease and overall health. Hygiene was promoted. Sewer systems and sanitation services were installed. The improvement of the environment and living areas greatly reduced the mortality rate. Additionally, the advent of antibiotics, vaccinations, fluid replacement therapy, and blood transfusions aided in the decline, as well as an understanding of nutritional needs.

We do not have percentages for the death rate of children in Greene County during this time period, but it probably was similar to the national average. Today, we have a much better understanding of diseases and how to prevent them. Due to this, the worldwide infant mortality rate is down to 4.3%, with the rate decreasing to less than 1% in developed countries. Some of these diseases, as well as others not noted, have been all but eradicated, and rates of survival are extremely high when treated. However, many underdeveloped countries still experience high infant mortality rates, and for the same reasons discussed above. The World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the United Nations are working to reduce these numbers, and one day, hope to end all preventable deaths in children (and adults).

Until Next Time…

Sources:
Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Greene County Archives
National Council of Biotechnology Information (NCBI)
NewspaperARCHIVE.com
PBS.org
World Health Organization (WHO)

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