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.

Aug 17

Remembering a Wilberforce University Professor by Amy Brickey

Posted on August 17, 2018 at 2:52 PM by Melissa Dalton

While processing probate records for estates I came across a letter with a Wilberforce letterhead from 1907 (Fig 1) in the estate of Robert Stotts. The letter is in receipt of funds received from the estate and is signed by Earl Finch. It reads:

“Wilberforce Ohio
July 10 – 07
Received of J. H. Jones as administrator of the estate of Robert Stotts deceased the full sum of $400.00/x (Four hundred) dollars in trust for Robert E. Finch, for whom I am lawfully appointed and qualified Guardian, he being a minor and my natural son.
Signed
Earl Finch”

Fig 5. Xenia Daily Gazette article about the representation at the Races Congress (JPG)
Fig 1. Wilberforce letterhead circa 1907 (Greene County Archives, Filebox 537-A)

Earl Finch was Stotts’ son-in-law, but, more importantly, was a celebrated mathematics professor and dean at Wilberforce University in the early 1900s. He was born in Marion County, Ohio on 28 February 1877. The 1880 census reflects that his family was living in Bellefontaine, Logan County, so they must have moved soon after Finch was born. He graduated from Bellefontaine High School with top honors, then graduated from Wilberforce University in 1897. On 14 March 1904 Professor Finch married a young lady from his hometown, also a Wilberforce alum, Miss Laura Belle Stotts (Fig 2), but soon he was back at work with a notice appearing in the Xenia Daily Gazette mentioning lectures he planned to give to high school students about mathematics in higher education (Fig 3).

Fig 6. Obituary for Prof. Earl Finch from Crisis Magazine, April 1914
Fig 2: Marriage record for Earl Finch and Laura Belle Stotts (FamilySearch.org)

Fig 3. Xenia Daily Gazette article, May 1904 (JPG)
Fig 3. Xenia Daily Gazette article, May 1904 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

A year after his marriage, Professor and Mrs. Finch welcomed a baby boy into their lives. Just six months later, however, tragedy struck the tiny family. On 30 September 1905, the Xenia Daily Gazette reported that Laura Finch had died at six o’clock that morning from lockjaw. Although the paper did not report how she contracted lockjaw, they did write that she had been feeling well “last Sabbath” and was out riding. She reportedly fell ill after her ride and died within the week.

After the death of his wife, Professor Finch stayed out of the newspapers for quite some time. In 1909, however, he was back in the limelight. It appears Professor Finch accompanied some students from Wilberforce University to Howard University for a debate. The Xenia Daily Gazette recalls the day the students, and Finch, returned triumphantly from the debate (Fig 4). The paper states that the Professor Finch and the debate team returned to Xenia on a Friday morning at 8:30 via train. Greeting the returning debate champions was a marching brass band composed of “[e]veryone who could get any kind of instrument,” according to the Gazette. Then, once the debaters descended from the train, “[t]he men were carried on the shoulders of the seething crowd, to the carriages in waiting. The vehicles were handsomely decorated with gold and green, college colors, and upon the horses were fastened the Howard pennants – trophies of the conflict.”

Fig 1. Wilberforce letterhead circa 1907 (JPG)
Fig 4. Xenia Daily Gazette article, 10 May 1909 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Yet another, and perhaps more distinguished, honor would still be presented to Professor Finch. On 27 June 1911 the Xenia Daily Gazette reported another triumph for Wilberforce University’s mathematics professor and dean. Professor Finch was selected to represent Wilberforce University in London, England at the Races Congress. The article (Fig 5) stated that Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois and Professor Finch were the only African Americans from the United States who had been “given a place on the program.” Interestingly, Professor Finch did not give a talk in mathematics. Instead, his lecture was titled, “Mixed Marriages.”

Fig 4. Xenia Daily Gazette article 10 May 1909
Fig 5. Xenia Daily Gazette article about the representation at the Races Congress (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

For all the honors bestowed upon him, this still could not keep him from Death’s cold grasp. The great Professor Earl Finch passed away on 9 September 1913 from tuberculosis. He was only 36 years old. An April 1914 article in Crisis Magazine printed an obituary for him, including a picture of the much-loved Wilberforce University alum and professor (Fig 6). The obituary in the magazine stated, “With splendid sacrifice and unswerving loyalty he [Finch] forged on and did splendid work for the students and the community.” The Xenia Daily Gazette also printed an article about Professor Finch, again touching on his intellect and devotion saying, “Prof. Finch’s unselfish and devoted work in the University won for him a place in the hearts of the students, faculty and patrons of the institution that few people enjoy. He was a man of brilliant mind and was a teacher of unusual ability.”

Fig 2. Marriage record for Earl Finch and Laura Belle Stotts (JPG)
Fig 6. Obituary for Professor Earl Finch from Crisis Magazine, April 1914 (Literary Digest)

While the man is long gone, his memory and intellect remain very much alive. Surprisingly it is not his work in mathematics that perseveres, but his ideas on race and the effects of their mixing. The paper he presented at the Races Congress is still discussed in books written today, allowing the brilliant spirit and mind of this former Greene County resident to live on in perpetuity.

Sources:
Ancestry.com
Crisis Magazine, April 1914
FamilySearch.org
Greene County Archives
Newspaperarchive.com
The Literary Digest Volume XLIII July 1911 – December 1911

Aug 10

An Immigrant's Journey to America

Posted on August 10, 2018 at 9:07 AM by Melissa Dalton

A couple weeks ago, I posted a document from the probate records for the Estate of Max Simon. This record indicated that upon Simon’s death, his sisters, who were living in Germany, were to receive a stipend. However, after the start of World War II, the payments were halted per the request of the sisters. This estate file really captured our attention, and we believed it was a story that needed to be explored.

Max Simon was born on April 6, 1867 in the small town of Altleiningen, Germany. At the age of sixteen, Max boarded a ship in Bremen, Germany to come to the United States. According to his passport application from 1902, he arrived in New York in October 1886 (Fig 1). Although I found several passenger lists that list a “Max Simon”, due to inconsistencies in dates and age of passenger, I’m unable to pinpoint or determine which, if any, listed him.

Fig 1. 1902 Passport Application of Max Simon (JPG)
Fig 1. Passport Application of Max Simon, dated June 2, 1902 (FamilySearch.org)

On October 19, 1893, at the age of 26, Max became a naturalized citizen through the Montgomery County Probate Court. At the time of the passport application (in 1902), Simon planned to go aboard (likely to Germany to visit family), and was to return the United States within two years.

Simon became a prominent businessman in Xenia, first as a liquor dealer, and later as a horse dealer. Simon married his wife, Selma (maiden name unknown), in 1908. They had a son, Maurice, on March 1, 1910. At the time of the 1910 U.S. Census, the Simon family was living on South Galloway Street in Xenia, Ohio (Fig 2).

Fig 2. 1910 U.S. Census with Simon family outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 2. 1910 U.S. Census Record with Simon Family outlined in red (FamilySearch.org)

In 1913, the Simon family applied for new passports (Fig 3) and departed for Germany, with the intent to return within six months. They returned to the United States on the Imperator on October 29, 1913 (Fig 4). Then in 1916, Simon had his will drafted, which left his entire estate to Selma, with a condition that his two sisters, Bertha and Elsie, receive $100 every three months until their death (Fig 5).

Fig 3. 1913 Passport Application for Max, Selma, and Maurice Simon (JPG)
Fig 3. Passport Application for Max, Selma, and Maurice Simon, dated July 8, 1913 (FamilySearch.org)

Fig 4. List of U.S. Citizens aboard the Imperator, dated October 29, 1913 (JPG)
Fig 4. List of United States Citizens, Passenger List for Imperator, dated October 29, 1913 (Ancestry.com)

Fig 5. Last Will and Testament of Max Simon, dated November 21, 1916 (JPG)
Fig 5. Last Will and Testament of Max Simon, dated November 21, 1916 (Greene County Archives)

In 1919, Simon became very ill and required emergency surgery. Just a week later, on May 24, 1919 he succumbed to the illness. The death certificate listed cause of death as cholangitis, which is an infection of the bile duct (usually caused by a blockage of some sort) (Fig 6). The Xenia Evening Gazette covered his illness and death, expressing high regard for Simon (Figs 7 & 8).

Fig 6. Death Certificate of Max Simon (JPG)
Fig 6. Death Certificate of Max Simon (FamilySearch.org)

Fig 7. Article from the Xenia Evening Gazette, dated May 26, 1919 (JPG) Fig 8. Article from the Xenia Evening Gazette, dated May 28, 1919 (JPG)
Figs 7 & 8. Articles from the Xenia Evening Gazette, May 26 & 28, 1919 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Selma and Maurice stayed in the family home at first, and were listed on the 1920 U.S. Census as still on N. King Street (Fig 9). Simon left a rather large estate to his wife, upwards of $23,500, which equates to roughly $340,000 today (Fig 10). There are several “Statement in Lieu of Account” documents filed from 1922 through 1941, showing draws on the estate and payments sent to Max’s sisters per the will (Fig 11).

Fig 9. 1920 U.S. Census with Selma and Maurice Simon outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 9. 1920 U.S. Census with Selma and Maurice Simon outlined in red (FamilySearch.org)

Fig 10. Article from the Xenia Evening Gazette, dated June 25, 1919 (JPG)
Fig 10. Article from Xenia Evening Gazette, dated June 25, 1919 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Fig 11. Statement in Lieu of Account, filed May 24, 1922 (JPG)  Fig 11. Statement in Lieu of Account, filed May 19, 1937 (JPG)Fig 11. Receipt showing payment to Bertha and Elsie, dated May 15, 1928 (JPG)
Fig 11. Various Statement in Lieu of Account documents filed with Probate Court (Greene County Archives).

Sometime before 1930, Selma married Samuel Posner, and she and Maurice moved to Dayton (Fig 12). Selma continued sending the $100 to Bertha and Elsie, but in 1939, they requested that the last three payments be held “due to the prevailing economic condition in Germany” (Fig 13). Correspondence in July 1940 and June 1941 show that payments did resume and were received by Elsie and Bertha (Fig 14). In July 1941, Selma filed a Statement in Lieu of Account stating that she was withholding the payments as it “was impossible to safely transmit these funds due the conditions caused by the present war in Europe” (Fig 15). This document further stated that the sisters were forced to move to Frankfurt.

Fig 12. 1930 U.S. Census with Posner family outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 12. 1930 U.S. Census with Posner family outlined in red (FamilySearch.org)

Fig 13. Statement in Lieu of Account, filed May 17, 1939 (JPG)
Fig 13. Statement in Lieu of Account, Estate of Max Simon, FB 522 (Greene County Archives)

Fig 14. Letter verifying payment to sisters, dated June 23, 1941 (JPG)
Fig 14. Letters part of the Estate of Max Simon, FB 522 (Greene County Archives)

Fig 15. Statement in Liew of Account, filed July 7, 1941 (JPG)
Fig 15. Statement in Lieu of Account, Estate of Max Simon, FB 522 (Greene County Archives)

Unfortunately, that was the last document filed with the Court. Finding out what happened to the sisters has proven difficult as there is little information about them in the records. The fact that the Simon family was Jewish and forced to move to Frankfurt, an area heavily bombed during WWII, coupled with the lack of filings after 1941, we speculate that his sisters, Elsie and Bertha, were either civilian casualties of the bombings or possibly were imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. Sadly, we believe the sisters did not survive the war.

This story isn’t all sad though; we do have some happy news to end on for you! Selma Simon Posner lived a long life, and died in 1985, just one month shy of her 100th birthday!

UNTIL NEXT TIME…

Sources:
Ancestry.com
FamilySearch.org
Greene County Archives
NewspaperARCHIVE.com

Aug 03

Death at Simms Station

Posted on August 3, 2018 at 11:50 AM by Melissa Dalton

Ambition and confidence typically are considered good qualities. These qualities provide the determination needed to succeed, however, there are times when they can lead one to do, and make, irrational decisions. This week’s blog follows a story of a man whose ambition and confidence proved to be fatal.

Fred J. Southard was born on October 22, 1879 in Pine Grove, Michigan to parents, Nathan and Letitia (Veley) Southard (Fig 1). According to newspaper articles, Southard had a “spirit of adventure” and set out on his own at a young age. Rumor was he went west and worked on farms, but then made his back to Great Lakes region and settled in North Dakota, and later moved to Minnesota. He married Alva (or Alta, but maiden name unknown) sometime in the early 1900s, and it was at this time that Southard began to excel in the business world (Fig 2).
Birth Record of Fred J. Southard, Van Buren Co, Michigan (JPG)
Fig 1. Birth Record of Fred J. Southard, Van Buren County, Michigan (FamilySearch.org)

1910 U.S. Census with Fred and Alta (Alva) Southard outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 2. 1910 U.S. Census with Fred and Alta (Alva) Southard outlined in red (FamilySearch.org)


Southard started his own mortgage company, F. J. Southard Mortgage, which he remained president until his death. He also was president of the Farmers and Merchants Bank of Minnesota, but resigned just days before his untimely demise (Fig 3). Reports indicate that he became interested in flying and aviation roughly a year or so prior to his death. He went to California to attend the Curtiss Flying School for about a month. He returned to Minnesota for a short time, but decided to continue with his aviation endeavors. Southard came to Dayton to attend the Wright Flying School at Simms Station, and purchased a Wright model biplane.

Excerpt of article from Dayton Daily News, dated May 21, 1912 (JPG)
Fig 3. Excerpt from article in Dayton Daily News dated May 21, 1912 (Newspapers.com)


Southard was eager to fly his machine, but due to the illness of Wilbur, training was delayed as Orville was caring for his brother. Worried Southard may try to fly his plane without the proper instruction, the Wright Brothers and their flying instructors did not permit him to take his airplane out alone, and even locked Southard’s plane in a hangar at Simms Station.

Southard drew weary of waiting, and on May 21, 1912, he decided he was going to take his “flying machine” for a solo flight. Early that morning, Southard broke into the hangar by removing the door from its hinges, and taxied his plane for takeoff. According to an eye witness, Southard had a smooth beginning, but shortly into the flight, the plane began to dip, and suddenly turned “turtle”, and plummeted roughly 100 feet to the ground. Southard was killed instantly (Fig 4).

Excerpt of article from Dayton Daily News, dated May 21, 1912 (JPG)
Fig 4. Excerpt from article in Dayton Daily News dated May 21, 1912 (Newspapers.com)

An inspection of the plane was completed by the mechanics and aviators at Simms Station, and it was reported that the machine was in proper working order. It was determined that the crash was due to human error and lack of experience of its pilot (Fig 5).

Death Certificate of Fred J. Southard (JPG)
Fig 5. Death Certificate of Fred J. Southard (FamilySearch.org)

Southard’s body was prepared by Greene County coroners, and an inventory of personal property and effects were recorded (Fig 6). His father, Nathan Southard, retrieved the body for burial in Michigan. Newspapers claim his wife was too distraught to make the trip to Dayton, but other reports indicate they were divorced. Most interesting is that one article claims he had a love interest in Dayton in which they discussed marriage. Whatever the case, Southard left a large estate, reportedly upward of $75,000, which amounts to almost $2,000,000 today (Fig 7).

Inventory of Coroner of personal effects of Fred J. Southard (JPG)
Fig 6. Inventory of P. C. Marquart, Coroner of Greene County, of personal effects of F. J. Southard (Greene County Archives Probate Records, FB 475)

Article from Xenia Daily Gazette, dated May 22, 1912 (JPG)
Fig 7. Article from Xenia Daily Gazette dated May 22, 1912 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)


In hindsight, the story of Southard was the culmination of events. Wilbur had contracted typhoid fever and was extremely ill (Fig 8). Orville was focused on caring for his brother, and the Wright Flying School and its students, were put on hold. Southard was an overly-ambitious and impatient man, unwilling to take the advice of distinguished and skilled aviators. All these taken together created the perfect storm.

Excerpt of Diaries by Bishop Milton Wright, pg 749 (JPG)Excerpt of Diaries by Bishop Milton Wright, pg 750 (JPG)
Fig 8. Excerpt from Diaries 1857-1917 by Bishop Milton Wright, p 749-750

And, this is what I love about this field and working in an Archive. All it takes is one randomly placed inventory in probate records to prompt someone to do a little bit of research and uncover a lost story.

Until Next Time…

Sources:
Greene County Archives
FamilySearch.org
NewspaperARCHIVE.com
Newspapers.com
Wright, Milton. 1999. Diaries, 1857-1917. Dayton, Ohio: Wright State University, p. 749-750.