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.

Apr 19

Numbers Racket War in Xenia

Posted on April 19, 2019 at 8:30 AM by Melissa Dalton

In 1949, early on Easter Sunday morning, a bomb was hurled in the air and blasted through an East Market Street house in Xenia.

Fig. 1 299 East Market Street (JPEG)
Fig. 1 299 East Market Street - prior to 1962 the address was 323 East Market Street (Greene County GIS)

The nitroglycerine explosive tore off the front steps, shattered all of the windows (as well as the neighbors) and punctured a large hole in the front of the house. The home belonged to Earl Artis, who was known by the Xenia police as a notorious numbers racketeer. According to a newspaper report, Artis’ numbers operation grossed ten million a year from operations in Dayton, Columbus, Cleveland, Xenia, Springfield, Troy, Bellefontaine, Kent, Wilmington and Chillicothe.

Fig. 2 New Philadelphia Times Article, December 15, 1949 (PNG)
               Fig. 2 New Philadelphia Daily Times, December 12, 1949 (NewspaperArchive.com)

The two men who were suspected of the bombing were involved in Artis’ numbers operation. Melvin Clark of Cincinnati and Arthur “Little Brother” Drake of Cleveland were indicted in December 1949 by a grand jury for malicious destruction of property, unlawful possession and use of explosives. Both pled “not guilty” and Clark’s bond was set at $50,000.

Fig. 3 Melvin Clark Indictment (JPEG)
Fig. 3 Melvin Clark Indictment, Greene County Court of Common Pleas (Greene County Archives)


Fig. 4 Not Guilty Plea edited JPEG)
Fig. 4 Not Guilty Entry, Greene County Court of Common Pleas (Greene County Archives)

Clark applied for a reduction of bond, claiming that the bond’s amount was excessive and in violation of his constitutional rights. The court first claimed that the bond amount was sufficient because both Clark and Drake were indicted jointly. Drake had been recently tried and convicted in Cleveland for an offense similar to the one in Xenia. He was found guilty of the crime in Cleveland and was sent to the Ohio Penitentiary in 1950. Furthermore, the court concluded that the “bombing of anyone’s home is a very serious offense, and any person who places a bomb is a potential murderer.”

Fig. 5 Bail Decision edited (JPEG)Fig. 5 Bail Decision Page 1, Greene County Court of Common Pleas (Greene County Archives)

Fig. 6 Bail Decision continued edited (JPEG)
Fig. 6 Bail Decision Page 2, Greene County Court of Common Pleas (Greene County Archives)

However, in January 1950, Judge Frank Johnson reduced Clark’s bond to $15,000 and the trial was postponed.

Fig. 7 Entry Reducing Bond (JPEG)
Fig. 7 Entry Reducing Bond, Greene County Court of Common Pleas (Greene County Archives)

More than three terms of court elapsed since Clark was originally indicted and in 1951 it was ordered and decreed that Melvin Clark would be discharged. By 1953, the Prosecuting Attorney entered a nolle prosequi – (a formal notice of abandonment by a plaintiff or prosecutor of all or part of a suit or action) for the indictment.

After the bombing, Greene County and the State of Ohio took steps to crack down on the numbers racket that operated out of Xenia. However, trouble found Melvin Clark again. In 1952 Clark was charged with the fatal shooting of Oliver “Bull” Payne at a club in Newport, KY. Furthermore, in 1956, Earl Artis was sentenced to five years in federal prison and fined $5,000 for federal income tax evasion. He died in New York City in 1970.

Fig. 8 Coshocton County Democrat-Feb-01-1956 (PNG)
           Fig. 8 Coshocton County Democrat, February 1, 1956 (NewspaperArchive.com)

Luckily on that April 17, 1949 Easter morning, no one was killed by the blast.

Until Next Time!

Sources:
-Greene County Auditor’s Geographic Information System (GIS)
-NewspaperArchive
-Greene County Archives


Apr 11

Fritz and Dolores Russ: The Couple Behind Russ Nature Reserve

Posted on April 11, 2019 at 3:12 PM by Melissa Dalton

Have you ever been to Russ Nature Reserve in Beavercreek? Do you know the story of how the land and property became part of the park system in Greene County? We weren’t familiar with the story either, until we ran across records in the Parks & Trails files (Fig 1). This week, we’re going to look at the life of Fritz and Dolores Russ, the people who made Russ Nature Reserve possible.

Fig 1. File found in Parks & Trails records (JPG)
Fig 1. File found in Parks & Trails records (Greene County Archives)

Fritz J. Russ was born on September 23, 1920 in Jackson County, Ohio (Fig 2). Russ attended Ohio University, and graduated in 1942 with a bachelor of science in electrical engineering (Fig 3). That same year, Russ married Dolores Houser, also of Jackson County (although they did not meet until 1939). After graduation, Russ began his work at the Naval Research Laboratory, where he helped design the first high-voltage, RF-generated (radio frequency) power supply. After WWII, he worked on the development of instruments that would measure the force of atomic bomb blasts, and took part in the testing.

Fig 2. 1930 U. S. Census from Hamilton Township, Jackson County, Ohio (JPG)
Fig 2. 1930 U. S. Census from Jackson County, Hamilton Township, Ohio (Ancestry.com)

Fig 3. Fritz Russ, Jr., BSEE, Ohio University, College of Applied Science Yearbook (JPG)
Fig 3. Fritz Russ, Jr., BSEE, Ohio University, College of Applied Science Yearbook (Ancestry.com)

In the late 1940s, Russ continued his work at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB), developing a firing error indicator for aircraft guns. Russ was only at WPAFB for a short period, retiring his position so he and Dolores could start their own company (which had its beginnings in the basement of their home). In 1955, Fritz and Dolores founded Systems Research Laboratories (SRL), a company that grew into one of the leading companies in electronics and automation. In particular, SRL was instrumental in the advancements in technology for the space program.

Due to the expanse of Fritz’s research and contributions to the engineering field, Ohio University awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1975 (Fig 4).

Fig 4. Fritz and Dolores Russ, Ohio University (JPG)
Fig 4. Fritz and Dolores Russ (Ohio University)

In 1987, SRL merged with Arvin Industries. It was then that Fritz and Dolores established the Russ Venture Group to continue work on personal projects.

The Russes were great contributors to their community, and also felt strongly about providing opportunities to those interested in pursuing an education in engineering. Due to their major contributions, three Ohio universities greatly benefited – Cedarville University, Ohio University, and Wright State University. In particular, Wright State University was able to build a new engineering and science building in 1992, formerly dedicated as the Russ Engineering Center. In 1994, Ohio University established the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology after the couple made one of the largest contributions to an engineering school in the United States.

In 1999, the Russes endowed the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize, which is administrated by Ohio University and the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). This prize of $500,000, awarded every two years, “recognizes an outstanding bioengineering achievement in widespread use that improves the human condition” (Fig 5).

Fig 5. National Academy of Engineering Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize (JPG)
Fig 5. National Academy of Engineering Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize (NAE website)

The couple remained committed to their communities, even in death. Fritz died on November 3, 2004 at the age of 84. When the inventory and appraisal was filed for his estate, the total estate was estimated at almost $60 million (Fig 6). As part of this, it was determined that the real property (roughly 12 different parcels of land, mostly in Greene County) would to be left to various organizations. However, Dolores remained in control of their home in Ohio (they had a place in Florida as well) until her death on January 2, 2008 at the age of 86. At that time, the executor deeded the two parcels, located on Kemp Road, to the Greene County Park District. This land, roughly 90 acres, is now home to the Russ Nature Reserve. The 4000 square foot ranch style home is being renovated to house a multi-use center. The Russ Nature Reserve has a nature playscape, hiking trails, small pond, garden, tree nursery, butterfly garden, and bee apiary. Visit the Greene County Parks & Trails website to learn more.

Fig 6. Inventory and Appraisal, Estate of Fritz J. Russ (JPG)
Fig 6. Inventory and Appraisal, Estate of Fritz J. Russ (Greene County Archives)

The legacy of Fritz and Dolores Russ is one of tenacity and dedication. The engineering community has greatly benefited from their work and contributions, but so has Greene County. Today, we honor them.

Until Next Time…

Sources:
Ancestry.com
Greene County Archives
National Academy of Engineering
Ohio University

Apr 05

From Greene County to the Battle of Bataan

Posted on April 5, 2019 at 1:28 PM by Melissa Dalton

On Tuesday, April 9th, Americans and Filipinos will remember that seventy-seven years ago in 1942, at least 75,000 U.S. and Filipino troops surrendered to the Japanese on the Peninsula of Bataan. The surrender culminated after several months of fighting in which the American and Filipino forces were severely undersupplied. After securing the area, the Empire of Japan thus controlled all of Southeast Asia.

Following the Allied surrender, the American and Filipino troops were forced to make a strenuous sixty-five mile march (the Bataan Death March) to Japanese controlled prisoner of war camps.

One of those prisoners included a former Osborn resident, Paul Denton Kundert. In March 1944, the Xenia Daily Gazette included a Greene County Chapter American Red Cross campaign announcement that listed Paul as one of the POWs.

PNG
                     Fig. 1 Xenia Daily Gazette, March 20, 1944 (Newspaper Archive)

In an earlier post, we briefly showcased this Naval Intelligence Officer who was imprisoned at the Manila Internment Camp and the Los Baños Prison Camp.

JPG
Fig. 2 Probate file for the estate of Jost J. Kundert, File Box 952, (Greene County Archives)

On February 23, 1945, over 2,000 Allied internees including Kundert were liberated from the Los Baños Prison Camp. In this week’s post, we want to expand the scope of Kundert’s life. Paul Denton Kundert was born in Bath Township to Jost (Joseph) and Agnes Kundert in 1916. In May 1928 Agnes died from uremia, which causes extreme and irreversible damage to the kidneys.

JPG
                         Fig. 3 Agnes Kundert Certificate of Death (FamilySearch.com)

After their mother passed, Paul and his sister Regine were taken in by their half-sisters, Audree Zeller and Beatrice Ford. In June of that year, Paul’s father petitioned the Greene County Court for possession of his two children whom he claimed were being held unlawfully. Jost (Joseph) was awarded custody of his two children in June 1928.

JPG
       Fig. 4 Greene County Common Pleas Journal 62, Pg. 632 (Greene County Archives)

However, by 1930, we find Paul and Regine living at the Ohio Pythian Children’s Home in Springfield, Ohio. This children’s home opened in 1895 and was responsible for the care of infants up to late adolescents.

JPG
Fig. 5 1930 Clark County, Springfield City, Ohio Pythian Children’s Home Census Record (FamilySearch.com)

What was perplexing is that their father Jost (Joseph), was still living during the 1930s and married a woman from Franklin County, Ohio in 1931. Perhaps the children returned to live with Jost (Joseph) after he re-married? In 1934, Paul turned eighteen and enlisted in the U.S. Navy. For more than ten years, he served in the military.

After the war, Paul married a woman also from Osborn and the couple later lived with their daughter in Virginia. Paul Denton Kundert passed away on April 10, 2004, the sixty-second anniversary of his capture.

Until Next Time!

Sources:
NewspaperArchive.com
FamilySearch.com
Greene County Archives