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 16

The Hanging of Jesse Ransbottom: Part II

Posted on February 16, 2018 at 3:59 PM by Melissa Dalton

Last week, we left off with the conclusion of the trial that convicted Jesse Ransbottom of murder and sentenced him to be executed by hanging. Ransbottom had three months until he met his fate, and continued with his claim of insanity - stating he did not have any recollection as to what happened and rarely, if ever, made any references to his wife. There were many attempts made to have the governor commute his sentence, however, those attempts failed. The week of his execution, there was purportedly an unofficial investigation to determine Ransbottom’s sanity, meaning the investigation was not done by any counsel or law official. It is believed the investigation was merely to demonstrate to the public that the County was not going to execute an insane man. The investigation found that he had “limited mental capacity, but not insane to any great extent.” The newspapers reported that if there was any insanity, it was due to “defective education – a naturally bad and depraved heart – and limited-mental capacity” (Fig 1).

Excerpt of the Xenia Torchlight dated January 31, 1850
Fig 1: Excerpt from Xenia Torchlight, January 31, 1850 (The Greene County Room)

Ransbottom had complete confidence he would be released, until they began constructing the gallows below his jail window. At that time, the jail was on the corner of the courthouse yard. The gallows covered an area of 18 ft by 13 ft and was enclosed by a fence as the sheriff stated the hanging would not become a spectacle.

The day of the execution arrived and thousands of people made their way to Greene County in the hopes of witnessing the execution. The fenced gallows was heavily guarded by General Stewart and his men, and no one was admitted entrance into the gallows. One newspaper article from an eye witness (many years later) claims that folks gathered to see a public hanging and to make sure Ransbottom was executed. There were rumors that the governor was going to commute his sentence at the last minute, and some came to make sure if that happened, they would do the deed themselves. Since no one was granted entrance to physically see him hanged, two residents, Mr. and Mrs. William Rhoades, agreed to watch from their house since they had a view into the gallows from a second story window. Mrs. Rhoades told the crowd she would wave a white cloth when Ransbottom dropped (Fig 2).

Article from Xenia Daily Gazette dated April 9, 1936Article from Xenia Daily Gazette dated April 9, 1936
Fig 2: Xenia Daily Gazette, April 9, 1936 (

Ransbottom had only one visitor the day of his execution, his son of about 10 years old, who stayed with him for several hours. At about three in the afternoon on January 25, 1850, Jesse Ransbottom was led to the gallows by the sheriff and a minister. He was reported to walk with “a firm step, cool and apparently indifferent” to what he was to meet at the end of the line. Ransbottom was asked if he had anything to say, to which he responded: “Oh, Lord! Have mercy on me! Oh, my poor mother! My poor wife! My poor children!” The sheriff affixed the rope around Ransbottom’s neck and before placing the black hood asked him if he had any final words. Ransbottom asked to be buried “up yonder”, pointing towards Champaign County. As the sheriff already had the grave dug just outside of Xenia, he responded, “I’ll see that you are buried decently.” The hood was then placed over the prisoner’s head and within seconds, the trap was released. Ransbottom died without a struggle (Fig 3).

Excerpt of the Xenia Torchlight dated January 31, 1850
Fig 3: Excerpt from Xenia Torchlight, January 31, 1850 (The Greene County Room)

Mrs. Rhoades waved the white cloth, and according to the article, the crowd rushed the fence, tearing it to pieces so they could see for themselves that he was, in fact, dead. However, there was nothing more to see, so the crowd dispersed quietly.

This marked the first, and last, legal execution in Greene County. News of his sentence and execution was widespread, with articles popping up in newspapers as far as Buffalo, New York (Fig 4).

Excerpt from the Cambridge Reveille dated October 27, 1849 Excerpt from The Portage Sentinel dated November 05, 1849Excerpt from The Buffalo Daily Republic dated February 16, 1850
Fig 4: Various newspaper articles from across the U.S. reporting the execution of Jesse Ransbottom (

However, we feel the story is not complete. There is nothing reported as to what happened to the Ransbottom children after the murder of their mother and execution of their father. We’ve decided to dig a little deeper and we hope you will join us next week to learn what became of the unfortunate children of Jesse and Fanny Ransbottom.

Until Next Time…

Broadstone, M. A. (1918). History of Greene County Ohio: Its People, Industries and Institutions. Indianapolis: B.F. Bowen & Company, Inc.
Greene County Archives (various collections)
The Xenia Torchlight, Greene County Room (various dates)
Xenia Daily Gazette, (various dates)


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