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.

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Feb 15

The Hanging of Jesse Ransbottom: Part I

Posted on February 15, 2018 at 10:23 AM by Melissa Dalton

Greene County has only seen one legal hanging, that of Jesse Ransbottom.  Some of the facts may be a little fuzzy as the event happened over 150 years ago, but it is an intriguing story nonetheless.

Jesse Ransbottom and Fanny Jenkins were born and raised in Virginia , where they were married in 1827 (Fig 1).  According to his family, Jesse was known to have "episodes", abusing his wife and attempting suicide many times.  The claim was that while a worker in a coal bank, he was involved in some sort of accident or attack (the details are not clear) from which he never fully recovered, causing his "crazy spells". 

1830 Census
Fig 1: 1830 U.S. Census showing Jesse Ransbottom and Fanny Jenkins' family in Culpeper County, Virginia (FamilySearch.org)

According to the testimony of family, and the census records the decades prior, Jesse Ransbottom and his family left Virginia sometime between 1830 and 1840, taking up residence in Muskingum County, Ohio (Fig 2).  Only a few months prior to the vicious murder, Jesse Ransbottom moved his family to Fairfield, Ohio in Greene County. 

1840 Census
Fig 2: 1840 U.S. Census showing Ransbottom family in Muskingum County, Ohio (FamilySearch.org)

The story goes that Ransbottom was jailed for stealing a cow, leaving his family without any provisions during his absence.  Several neighbors and townspeople of Fairfield took it upon themselves to help out Fanny Ransbottom and her children during this difficult time, making sure they would not starve.  On June 20, 1849, a few days after his release from jail, Fanny returned from a meeting (some stories claim it was a prayer meeting), and as soon as she entered the home, she knew her husband meant to do her harm.  Fanny went running and screaming, with her youngest child in her arms, towards the back of the property.  Jesse caught her at the fence, pulled her head back, and brutally slashed her throat with a razor.  He then stabbed her in the chest two or three times with a knife.  Jesse left her lifeless body where it lay and walked back to the house.  There he attempted to cut his own throat, but said it "hurt too much" and would wait for "someone else to do it." Although Fanny's screams were heard and neighbors came running to her aid, no one was able to save her from her husband's jealous rage.  When asked why he killed his wife, Jesse stated that it was the fault of neighbors for caring for his wife while he was gone, claiming he was jealous of Fanny and the help she received.  Jesse did not attempt to flee and was arrested without further incident (Fig 3).

1896 Atlas of Fairfield with Ransbottom property outlined in red
Current view of Ransbottom property outlined in red
Fig 3: Map of Ransbottom Property - 1896 Map and Current Map (Greene County Archives / Greene County Auditor, GIS Maps)

The trial for the murder of Fanny Ransbottom began October 18, 1849 and Jesse plead not guilty for reason of insanity.  The trial lasted several days and there was testimony from roughly 25 people, including family and neighbors.  Many of Ransbottom's family members claimed that Jesse was afflicted with illness and was not a person of high mental capacity.  However, others claimed that he was just a "drunk" and discredited their testimony in his defense.  There were several eye-witnesses to the murder and Jesse's fate was sealed.  Upon closing arguments, it only took the jury roughly 40 minutes to come back with the verdict of murder in the first degree, and the judge ruled that Jesse Ransbottom "be hanged by the neck until you are dead" on January 25, 1850 (Fig 4). 

State Record No. 2, pg. 257
State Record No. 2, pg. 258
State Record No. 2, pg. 259
State Record No. 2, pg. 260
Fig 4: State Record No. 2, pg. 257-260 - State of Ohio vs. Jesse Ransbottom (Greene County Archives)

The story doesn't end there, so stay tuned!

Until Next Time...

Sources:
FamilySearch.org
Greene County Archives
Greene County Auditor, GIS Maps

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