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.

Jul 20

The Curse of Friday the 13th

Posted on July 20, 2018 at 1:17 PM by Melissa Dalton

Historically, Western cultures have viewed Friday the 13th as unlucky. This superstition dates back to biblical times, having ties to the Last Supper, as well as the arrest and murder of the Knights Templar (to learn more about the history of the date and superstition, a simple Google search will provide ample reading material). Our story this week focuses on a Mr. John (Jack) M. Irwin and his new wife, Estella, and Mr. Irwin’s claim of bad luck.

John Irwin and Stella Fauver married in Montgomery County, Ohio on Friday, February 13, 1935 (I think you see where this is going). John was 38 years old and had never been married, whereas his soon to be wife, Stella, was 48 years old and, supposedly, had been married three times (Fig 1). However, it was not a happy ever after marriage. An article from the Xenia Evening Gazette, dated Friday, May 8, 1942, headlines, “Wedding on Friday, 13th Unlucky for Him, Husband Says” (Fig 2). The article claims that John Irwin filed suit against his wife for divorce (which was granted) (Fig 3), charging she was abusive and had “five living husbands”. This last claim was the one that caught my attention, and I went on a quest to find the five living husbands.

Montgomery County Marriage Record 131, Page 425 (JPG)
Fig 1. Marriage Record Vol. 131, p. 425, Jack M. Irwin and Stella Fauver (Montgomery County Records Center & Archives)

Article from Xenia Evening Gazette, dated Friday, May 9, 1942 (JPG)
Fig 2. Article from Xenia Evening Gazette, dated Friday, May 8, 1942 (NewspaperARCHIVES.com)

Final Record Vol 83, p 300 (JPG)Final Record Vol 83, p 301 (JPG)
Fig 3. Final Record Vol 83, pgs. 300-301 (Greene County Archives)


To find Estella, we had to work backwards. We were able to obtain the marriage record to John (Jack) Irwin from Montgomery County (thanks, Tina!) and from there, we were able to do some research using her former last name, Fauver. On the record, Stella claimed her former spouse, George Fauver, was deceased. I’ve been unable to find a marriage record, but I did find Estella on the 1930 U.S. Census, listed as an inmate at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Dayton, Ohio (Fig. 4).

1930 U.S. Census with Estella Fauver outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 4. 1930 U.S. Census with Estella Fauver outlined in red (FamilySearch.org)


The Census indicates that she was married, and the right age, but at this point, I’m not sure what happened to her husband. There are two records of death for a George Fauver in Ohio, with one date in 1933 and another in 1940.

However, the marriage record to John provides a wealth of information. It indicates the names of her parents, date and location of birth, and name of previous spouses (well, in her case, at least one of them). With this information, I was able to find Estella’s birth record (Fig 5) in Clermont County, Ohio. It is from there that I was able to trace her. Estella was on the 1900 U.S. Census record still living in Clermont County (Fig 6), but in 1908, she married Jeames A. Owens in Butler County (Fig 7). Additionally, they appear on the 1910 U.S. Census as living in Butler County (Fig 8).

1886 Birth Record of Estella Cooper in Clermont County, Ohio (JPG)
Fig 5. Birth Record of Estella Cooper in Clermont County, Ohio (FamilySearch.org)

1900 U.S. Census with Cooper family outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 6. 1900 U.S. Census with the Cooper family outlined in red (FamilySearch.org)

Marriage Record of Jeames Owens and Estella Cooper in Butler County, Ohio (JPG)
Fig 7. Marriage Record of Jeames Owens and Estella Cooper in Butler County, Ohio (FamilySearch.org)

1910 U.S. Census showing Jeames and Estella Owens living in Butler County, Ohio (JPG)
Fig 8. 1910 U.S. Census showing Jeames and Estella Owens living in Butler County, Ohio (FamilySearch.org)


I did find a J.A. and Estella May Owens living in Kentucky on the 1920 Census (Fig 9), but nothing else until the 1930 Census, where Estelle Fauver is found as being in St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.

1920 U.S. Census showing J.A. and Estella Owens living in Estill County, Kentucky (JPG)
Fig 9. 1920 U.S. Census showing J.A. and Estella May Owens living in Estill County, Kentucky (FamilySearch.org)

It’s here that things get fuzzy. We have proof of three husbands, but I am not sure about the claim of five living husbands. However, John Irwin must have had enough evidence against Estella to be granted the divorce. I might add that although it sounds like Estella might have been going from one husband to another, it appears John was looking for a new wife himself. I found a notice in the Xenia Evening Gazette, dated July 30, 1942 (just three short weeks after his divorce was granted), indicating John M. Irwin and Clara Reck received a marriage license in Cincinnati, Ohio (Fig 10).

Notice in Xenia Evening Gazette, dated July 30, 1942 (JPG)
Fig 10. Notice in Xenia Daily Gazette, dated July 30, 1942 (Newspapers.com)

There are many questions that remain unanswered in this story. When did Estella and Jeames separate? Who was Estella’s third husband and where did they live? When did she marry George Fauver? What happened to George? Did Estella have any children? What ever became of Estella? Did she marry again? Unfortunately, we may never know.

UNTIL NEXT TIME…

Sources:
FamilySearch.org
Greene County Archives
Montgomery County Records Center & Archives, Marriage Record Vol. 131, p. 425
NewspaperARCHIVE.com
Newspapers.com

Jul 13

Jealousy and Murder: The Joshua Monroe Story

Posted on July 13, 2018 at 1:53 PM by Melissa Dalton

Jealousy is a strange thing, and people do crazy things in fits of jealous rage. That holds true in this week’s story of Joshua Monroe, who killed his lover after she professed her intent to marry another.

The year was 1863, and Joshua Monroe was a married man, albeit unhappily, and had five children by his wife. Monroe took interest in his sister-in-law, Caroline Umbenhour (also recorded as Umbenhower). According to newspaper articles, Joshua and Caroline carried on an open relationship, and Caroline had a child by him. Several articles report that the two were members of the “free love” movement in Yellow Springs, making their open relationship less surprising. However, that all changed when Caroline accepted the marriage proposal of another man (Fig 1).

Excerpt from the Xenia Sentinel, dated November 11, 1864 (JPG)
Fig 1. Excerpt of article from The Xenia Sentinel dated November 11, 1864 (Newspapers.com)


On December 8, 1863, Monroe confronted Caroline, asking to speak with her regarding her upcoming marriage. She obliged, and they walked to the cemetery at the edge of town (Glen Forest Cemetery). They talked for about an hour, and Monroe professed his love for her. He asked if she intended to marry the man, and according to the court transcript, she replied, “Yes, unless death do separate” (Fig 2). At that proclamation, Monroe immediately struck her, stabbing her nine times in the stomach and chest, killing her instantly. Upon recognizing what he had done, Monroe took the knife to his own neck, slashing it, hoping to end his own life. A passerby found Caroline and heard Monroe moaning, and went for help. Although Monroe lost a great deal of blood, the doctors were able to stop the bleeding and close the wound, and he was taken to jail.

Excerpt from the Xenia Torchlight, dated November 1864 (JPG)
Fig 2. Excerpt of article from The Xenia Torchlight dated November 1864 (Greene County Archives)

Monroe was indicted for murder in the first degree and pled not guilty to the charges. The prosecuting attorney requested the sheriff summon men from throughout the County to serve as jurors (a process known as “venire facias”). Witnesses at trial, including his sister and daughter, claimed that Monroe suffered from “spells of despondency” and “mental trouble” (Fig 3), while others spoke of his peculiarities. Reports indicate that Monroe had several incoherent outbursts throughout the duration of the trial, and appeared to be an “unbalanced” man.

Excerpt from the Xenia Torchlight, dated November 1864 (JPG)
Fig 3. Excerpt of article from The Xenia Torchlight dated November 1864 (Greene County Archives)

On November 4, 1864, almost a year after the murder, counsel delivered their closing arguments, and the jury was sent for deliberation. It took a jury of Monroe’s peers only three hours to decide his fate. Monroe was found NOT GUILTY of murder in the first degree, but GUILTY of murder in the second degree, meaning he would serve life in prison at the state penitentiary (Fig 4).

Excerpt from State Record Vol. 3, p 395 (JPG)
Fig 4. State Record Vol. 3, page 395, The State of Ohio vs. Joshua Monroe (Greene County Archives)

Monroe wrote several letters during his incarceration in the county jail. I found one in the November 25, 1864 edition of The Xenia Sentinel (Fig 5). In the letter, Monroe wrote of loving all beings, friend or foe, and that he would never hurt anyone. He further stated that he had many issues with “deep melancholy”, had full faith in God and his plan, and that the separation from his family was unfair to them and caused great hardship. The letter continues, and repeats many of the same thoughts and themes. It’s a bit of a read, but if you have a few moments, I think you will find it rather interesting.

Part 1 of Article from the Xenia Sentinel dated November 25, 1864 (JPG)
Part 2 of Article from the Xenia Sentinel dated November 25, 1864 (JPG)Part 3 of Article from the Xenia Sentinel dated November 25, 1864 (JPG)
Fig 5. Letter from Monroe given to, and published in, the Xenia Sentinel on November 25, 1864 (Newspapers.com)

Monroe was eventually transferred to the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus, Ohio. On October 25, 1865, within a year of his transfer to the state prison, Monroe met a terrible doom. He was working with a machine in the chair shop, and a piece of his clothing got caught in the machine, and according to the Tiffin Tribune, was “whirled at a fearful rate killing him instantly, and mangling his body fearfully” (Fig 6).

Notice of Death of Joshua Monroe in the Tiffin Tribune, dated November 9, 1865 (JPG)
Fig 6. Notice in the Tiffin Tribune of Monroe’s death (Newspapers.com)

I tried to find something out about Monroe’s family after the murder and his subsequent death, but the records are silent. I couldn’t find a marriage, birth, or death certificate, and I was unable to definitively locate any of the known family members on census records. I believe much of this is due to the fact that they moved frequently, something Rosa Monroe, his daughter, alluded to during his trial. Unfortunately, without the record, the story goes silent; and so, this is where the Monroe story ends.

UNTIL NEXT TIME…

Sources:
Ancestry.com
Greene County Archives
Newspapers.com


Jul 13

Wilson "Bert" Highwarden: The Murderous Husband x2

Posted on July 13, 2018 at 1:51 PM by Melissa Dalton

Remember when I said last Friday that there was a strange side story? Well, get ready for a crazy tale…

After Simeon Highwarden and Elizabeth Hill ran off to Canada, they did live as husband and wife. After reviewing many records, it appears Elizabeth changed her name to Elizabeth Scott after they moved (we believe Scott was her maiden name, but have been unable to confirm). Although they claimed to be married, I also was unable to find any marriage records for the two. However, the 1871 and 1881 Canada Census lists them as married and living in Ontario. As you can see, they had several children, one of which was Wilson Bertrim “Bert” Highwarden (Figs 1 & 2), whose life takes a tumultuous turn.

1871 Canada Census (JPG)
Fig 1. 1871 Canada Census (FamilySearch.org)

1881 Canada Census (JPG)
Fig 2. 1881 Canada Census (Ancestry.com)

At the time of the 1881 Census, Wilson (aka “Bert”) was about 6 years old. I wasn’t able to find much until 1890, when he popped up on the voter registration list for Chicago (Fig 3). This document states he was living in Chicago for almost two years when he registered to vote, meaning he must have moved to the States around 1888 or so.

1890 Chicago Voter Registration List (JPG)
Fig 3. 1890 Voter Registration for Chicago, IL (Ancestry.com)

Sometime between 1890 and 1898, he met Mabel “Ada” Anderson of Champaign County, Ohio, and on March 30, 1898, they married and were living in Urbana Township (Fig 4). By 1900, they had two children, Donald and Raymond (Fig 5), and by 1910, they had two more children, Ethel and Grace (Fig 6).

1898 Marriage Record to Ada Anderson (JPG)
Fig 4. 1898 Marriage Record for Bert and Ada (Ancestry.com)

1900 US Census (JPG)
Fig 5. 1900 Census Record (FamilySearch.org)

1910 US Census (JPG)
Fig 6. 1910 Census Record (FamilySearch.org)

Ada and Bert had many problems, and Ada filed for divorce due to his drinking and abusive behavior. Bert did not take kindly to this, and he threatened her life many times – and one fateful day, he carried out his threat. Ada had returned to the home to gather some personal items, and when Bert approached her and told her to remarry him, Ada refused, infuriating him. Within an instant, Bert shot and killed her (Fig 7). Newspapers reported that after killing his wife, Bert “calmly” walked into the police station and turned himself in stating, “she got what was coming to her” (Fig 8). Highwarden was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to life in prison (Fig 9).

1911 Death Certificate of Ada Highwarden (JPG)
Fig 7. Death Certificate of Ada Highwarden (Ancestry.com)

Excerpt from The Daily Herald dated August 2, 1911 (JPG)
Fig 8. Excerpt from The Daily Herald dated August 2, 1911 (Newspapers.com)

Excerpt from The Marion Weekly Star dated January 6, 1912 (JPG)
Fig 9. Excerpt from The Marion Weekly Star dated January 6, 1912 (Newspapers.com)

This is where one would think the story ends, right? Well, sadly, it doesn’t. Highwarden only served six years (you read that right) for murdering his wife, and was granted clemency by Governor Cox in 1917. The exact reason wasn’t explicitly listed, but various articles stated it was due to good behavior and staying sober (easy to do when imprisoned) (Fig 10).

Excerpt from The Cincinnati Enquirer dated December 22, 1917 (JPG)
Fig 10. Excerpt from The Cincinnati Enquirer dated December 22, 1917 (Newspapers.com)

After being released, Highwarden returned to Champaign County, and in 1923, he married Rovilla Everett. If you look closely, the marriage records stated Highwarden had no previous marriages (Fig 11). This marriage did not go well either, and within a year of marriage, Rovilla filed for divorce. Highwarden did not approve of this, and without hesitation, shot her several times, killing her.

1923 Marriage Record for Rovilla Everett and Wilson B. Highwarden (JPG)
Fig 11. Marriage Record for Rovilla Everett and Wilson B. Highwarden (Ancestry.com)

Highwarden was arrested without incident, but told police that his wife, Rovilla, had been unfaithful. However, that claim did not help him and this time, there was no leniency or clemency. Judge Middleton, the same judge who sentenced him to life in prison for killing his first wife, sentenced him to death by electric chair. Highwarden plead for a new trial, but his request was denied (Fig 12). Highwarden didn’t have long between his trial and sentence of death, and on February 9, 1925, he paid the ultimate price for his crimes (Figs 13 & 14).

Excerpt from The News-Journal dated October 28, 1924 (JPG)
Fig 12. Excerpt from the News-Journal dated October 28, 1924 (Newspapers.com)

Excerpt from The Tribune dated February 9, 1925 (JPG)
Fig 13. Excerpt from The Tribune dated February 9, 1925 (Newspapers.com)

1925 Death Certificate of Bert Highwarden (JPG)
Fig 14. Death Certificate of Bert Highwarden (Ancestry.com)

Highwarden’s actions not only ended the lives of two women, but forever altered the lives of Ada and Rovilla’s children. Ada’s children went to live with her parents, but all of Rovilla’s children were sent to the children’s home as they had no one to provide for them.

This is a deeply sad story, and although it is not specifically Greene County, I felt it was one that should be told. I also feel that this story just illustrates what one may find when sifting through records – the buried stories of our families and communities.

Sources:
Ancestry.com
FamilySearch.org
Newspapers.com