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.

Jan 16

Celebrating a Century of Service: The Greene County Public Health Department

Posted on January 16, 2020 at 11:27 AM by Elise Kelly

Did you know, that this year the Greene County Public Health Department is celebrating a century of service? In 1920, Greene County established a Board of Health District. Interestingly, the City of Xenia was already operating a public health department. City public health departments were established much earlier in the United States than county public health districts.

The first American public health departments were launched at the city level during the late eighteenth century. Several American cities, along the upper half of the east coast, claim to be the first in the nation to have instituted a board of health. For example, the city of Boston claims that in 1799, the nation’s first board of health and health department were created. Paul Revere, a patriot of the American Revolution, was the city’s first health commissioner (See Fig. 1).

Fig. 1 Paul_revere_ride (GIF)
Fig. 1 Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride, April 18, 1775 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Public health boards and departments were established to prevent, protect and promote the health of the public. The conception of state health boards was initiated by the mid-to-late nineteenth century. It was not until much later, that county health boards were instituted.
In February 1920, Dr. R. H. Grube, a member and later president of Greene County’s Medical Society, was appointed as Greene County’s Health Commissioner for a term of three months. This continually renewed contract stipulated the salary of one hundred dollars per month. This amount would be the equivalent in today’s economy to around $1300 (See Fig. 2).

Fig. 2 Greene County District Board of Health Letter 1920 (JPG)
Fig. 2 Greene County District Board of Health Letter, 1920 (Greene County Archives)

Dr. Grube began his medical career in 1897 and served as the Health Commissioner for the City of Xenia before joining the County. As a leading member of Greene County’s Medical Society, Dr. Grube frequently gave informative lectures regarding the prevention of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis. Dr. Grube operated as the County Health Commissioner for twelve years and retired in 1932 (See Fig. 3).

Fig. 3 xenia-evening-gazette-Aug-19-1932-p-1 (PNG) (3)
Fig. 3 “Dr. R. H. Grube Will Leave Post,” Xenia Evening Gazette, August 19, 1932 (Newspapers.com)

During Dr. Grube’s tenure, a public health nurse named Pearl Wittenmyer, was hired for the county health district. One of Nurse Wittenmyer’s duties included managing the public health exhibit at the Greene County Fair (See Fig. 4). This would have been an ideal opportunity to inform the public of the County’s public health services.

Fig. 4 Greene County District Board of Health Minutes 1928 edited (JPG)
Fig. 4 Greene County District Board of Health Minutes, 1928 (Greene County Archives)

Dr. Grube and the District Health Board approved a maternity hospital in Yellow Springs in 1928 and combated an outbreak of smallpox in the village of Osborn in 1922 and 1923 (See Fig. 5). Dr. Grubbe made it a priority to vaccinate all of the Osborn school children in order to contain the virus (See Fig. 6).

Fig. 5 Greene County District Board of Health Minutes 1923 (JPG) (2)
Fig. 5 Greene County District Board of Health Minutes, 1923 (Greene County Archives)

Fig. 6 xenia-evening-gazette-Nov-10-1922-p-14 (PNG)
Fig. 6 Xenia Evening Gazette, November 10, 1922 (Newspapers.com)


Upon Dr. Grube’s retirement, Dr. W.C. Marshall, a practicing physician in Yellow Springs, became the Greene County Health Commissioner. Next month, we will explore what the District Public Health’s concerns were during Dr. W.C. Marshall’s term.

Until Next Time!

Sources:
Greene County Archives
Newspapers.com
Oregon Health and Science University – Historical Collections
Wikimedia Commons
Jan 10

The Dangers of the Powder Mills (Part III)

Posted on January 10, 2020 at 1:06 PM by Melissa Dalton

This week, we conclude our discussion of the history of Goes Station and the powder mills. Powder mills were a popular industry in the years leading up to and after the Civil War, and many saw it as an opportunity to make some great profits. However, the industry came at a dangerous, and many times, deadly cost.

According to many articles and papers, mill workers were well paid for their work due to the potential danger of the job. This did allow the mill owners to secure ample employees. They were told to wear shoes without nails (or only work in socks), not carry any metal objects, and to only use wooden tools. Although these precautions may have stopped some disasters, many still occurred.

As we learned in a previous blog, the Austin brothers, along with Benjamin Carlton, formed the Austin & Carlton Powder Company in 1846, converting the old scythe factory into a powder mill (Fig 1). Within a few years of the mill opening, it experienced several explosions, killing at least 5 people. An article in the Xenia Torchlight, dated 29 November 1849, claimed that it was the “fourth time in two years the mill has exploded.”

Fig 1. Greene County AuditorTax Duplicate, 1845 (JPG)
Fig 1. Greene County Auditor Tax Duplicate, 1845 (Greene County Archives)

In 1855, Joseph W. King purchased the Austin & Carlton Powder Co., renaming it the Miami Powder Company. Under his watch, the Miami Powder Co. experienced great expansion, building new facilities and increasing machinery. As the business grew, so did the small town of Goes Station. According to a few articles, company-owned homes and stores popped up in the area to provide housing and services to the employees.

In the early years, the Company was producing roughly 4000 kegs of rifle powder and 1300 kegs of blasting powder. The start of the Civil War brought an increased need for powder production, and the Miami Powder Co. supplied the Union Army with black powder. At the height of the War, they were producing more than double their usual annual totals, roughly 10,000 kegs of rifle powder and 3800 kegs of blasting powder.

According to several sources, the mill converted from water to steam power in 1871 (Fig 2). Within a matter of years, in 1877, King sold his shares and started a new powder mill in Kings Mill, Ohio, leaving the Company in the hands of the other partners.

Fig 2. Plat of Land of the Miami Powder Co., Riddell Vol. 2, p. 27 (JPG)
Fig 2. Plat of Land of the Miami Powder Co., Riddell Vol. 2, p 27 (Greene County Archives)

However, even with different management and increasing security measures over the years, it did not protect the large mill site from explosions (Fig 3). Between 1860 and 1885, there were at least 15 men killed in explosions at the Miami Powder Company. According to some sources, upwards of 42 men were killed at the site by 1886. Then in 1886, the Company experienced its most destructive explosion. Around 10:00am on March 1, 1886, the boiler in the dry house, which was housing thousands of pounds of powder, exploded, which ignited the powder housed inside. The building was ripped to shreds, leaving a crater about 10 feet deep where the building once stood, and killed the 3 men working in the building. Trees were uprooted, windows blown out, nearby homes and bridges were damaged, and the explosion was felt from Cincinnati to Columbus (Fig 4).

Fig 3. Washginton Galloway Diary, 1872 p. 34 (JPG)
Fig 3. Washington Galloway Diary, 1872, pg 34 (Greene County Historical Society)

Fig 4. Article from the Xenia Evening Gazette, March 1, 1886 (JPG)
Fig 4. Article from the Xenia Evening Gazette, March 1, 1886 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

After the explosion, the Company rebuilt and work continued; however they did have difficulty finding employees (Fig 5). The Miami Powder Co. sold the property to Aetna Explosives in 1920. Aetna only owned it for a short while, selling to Hercules Explosives Corporation in 1921. In 1927, the property was transferred to Hercules Powder Co. (appears to be same company, but under new name).

Fig 5. 1910 Sanborn Map of the Miami Powder Co. Mills (JPG)
Fig 5. 1910 Sanborn Map of the Miami Powder Co. Mills (Greene County Room)

It appears that the owner of the Hercules Powder Co. decided to stop producing at Goes Station, and closed the powder mill in 1922. However, in the last 36 years of its existence, the mill wasn’t free of disasters. From what we can gather through old newspapers and Greene County records, there were at least 10 more explosions, which killed approximately 12 people. There are some that claim there was one final explosion that destroyed many of the buildings, prompting the owners to close and sell the business. However, we were unable to locate anything to substantiate this claim (even though it wouldn’t be surprising due to the history of the mill).

After the mill was abandoned, it stood empty for several years. In 1929, E.H. Hunt bought the property, comprising over 350 acres, but had no plans to use the property for anything more than investment purposes (Fig 6). In 1944, Hunt sold the property to Dr. W. A. Hammond. It appears the land stayed in the family for several decades, and was sold to Hydebrook Farms, LLC in 2002. Today, all that remains of the mill are a few lone buildings.

Fig 6. Xenia Daily Gazette, January 10, 1929 (JPG)
Fig 6. Xenia Daily Gazette, January 10, 1929 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Until Next Time!

Sources:
Greene County Archives
Greene County Historical Society
Greene County Room
NewspaperARCHIVE.com

Jan 02

The Popular Custodian of Greene County

Posted on January 2, 2020 at 8:01 AM by Elise Kelly

As we begin a new year, I wanted to look back on what was happening in Greene County one hundred years ago. Flipping through Vol. 24 of the Commissioners’ Journal, I found an early 1920 entry regarding the contract renewal for the janitor of the County Courthouse (See Fig. 1). George Swartz, a life-long Xenia resident, began employment with the courthouse in 1918. His duties included repairs, taking care of the courthouse lawn, monitoring and reporting the supplies needed for the janitor, and winding the clock in the clock tower (See Fig. 2).

Fig. 1 Contract Renewal (JPG)
Fig. 1 Greene County Commissioners’ Journal Vol. 24, Pg. 268 (Greene County Archives)

Fig. 2 Agreement of employment (JPG)
Fig. 2 Greene County Commissioners’ Journal Vol. 24, Pg. 115 (Greene County Archives)

George Swartz was remembered as being a very jovial person who often sang and whistled while he worked. Swartz sang in home-town productions and even caroled a number at Xenia’s Opera House. Prior to his employment with Greene County, Swartz was the custodian for Xenia’s City Hall, beginning in the late 1890s. In 1902, while working in the City Hall Building, George Swartz and Officer Chambliss experienced quite a scare.

Officer Chambliss went down in the basement of the building to check the boiler valves and found a fire under one of the boiler’s apparatus. Officer Chambliss thought the boilers’ water had run out and that City Hall would blow at any point. Hearing of this, Swartz immediately checked the boilers and was relieved to discover that the building was not in danger. Swartz reminded Officer Chambliss that when the temperature of the boiler reached a certain point the water would stop running. If Officer Chambliss would have looked at the water gauge, he would have noticed that the water tank was half-full.

During the following year, City Hall was looking to go in a different direction with their maintenance and terminated George Swartz in 1903 (See Fig. 3). Swartz found work on the “paint gang” for the Pan-Handle railroad in southwest Ohio. However, it seems Swartz was back working as the custodian for City Hall by 1910 (See Fig. 4). There he worked until 1918, when he left and took a position with Greene County.

Fig. 3 XDG article (PNG)
Fig. 3 Xenia Daily Gazette, May 9, 1903 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Fig. 4 1910 Census Record (JPG)
Fig. 4 1910 Federal Census Record, Xenia City (Ancestry.com)

According to Federal Census records for the City of Xenia, George Swartz moved often, living on East and West Main Streets, North Collier Street, North Whiteman Street, and Dayton Avenue (See Fig. 5). George Swartz was married twice; his first wife named Anna suffered from paralysis for many years and died after forty years of marriage, in 1933. Sometime after Anna’s death, George Swartz married Angie Ruddick.

Fig. 5 Xenia City Map 1922 (JPG)
Fig. 5 1922 Xenia City Map, showcasing Dayton Avenue and West Main Street (Greene County Archives)

Throughout the years, it was often reported in the Xenia newspapers, of the fun fishing and hunting escapades that George Swartz and his buddies went on. On one trip around the hills of New Burlington, Swartz had forgotten his hunting rifle and had to resort to hunting rabbits with stones.

In 1944, at the age of seventy-three, George Swartz retired from his custodial work for the Greene County Courthouse. According to an article that commemorated Swartz’s long duty of service, it described how Courthouse officials had a soft spot for the custodian who always had a joke to tell (See Fig. 6).
Fig. 6 xenia-evening-gazette-Jun-21-1944-p-3 (PNG)
Fig. 6 Xenia Evening Gazette, June 21, 1944 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Four years later in January 1948, the “popular landmark of the Greene County Courthouse” died. George along with his second wife, Angie, are buried together at Woodland Cemetery in Xenia.

Until Next Time!

Sources:
Ancestry.com
FindAGrave.com
Greene County Archives
NewspaperARCHIVE.com