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.

Feb 13

Public Health during the Great Depression

Posted on February 13, 2020 at 8:10 AM by Elise Kelly

On October 28, 1929, also known as “Black Friday, “the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted by nearly thirteen percent. The U.S. stock market lost $30 billion in value and the United States experienced the devastating impact of the Great Depression for nearly a decade. This economic downturn significantly affected medical care and treatment. Individuals and families would often forego medical assistance and would suffer at home (See Fig.1). Unfortunately, a substantial increase in deaths from cancer, heart disease, and infections soared during this time period.

Fig. 1 Fight Tuberculosis (JPG)
Fig. 1 The Next to Go: Fight Tuberculosis (

Before 1938 when the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act was instituted, vaccines did not have to be tested or licensed. Some cases of polio were actually caused by trials of vaccines. Despite the difficulties during the Great Depression, advances were made in anesthetics and antibiotics. Under President Franklin Roosevelt’s Administration, agencies of the New Deal provided voluntary medical insurance and assistance for the disabled. Furthermore, these agencies sanctioned the enhancement of public health (including sanitation) campaigns (See Fig. 2).

Fig. 2 Public_Health_nursing (GIF)
Fig. 2 Public Health Nursing (

In 1931, the Greene County Board of Health reported that eight schools in the county had sanitary and safe water supplies and six schools had adequate lavatory facilities, including individual or paper towels. Forty-two schools were using outdoor toilets and six schools had adequate ventilation (See Fig. 3). Fortunately, as time progressed, more County schools became equipped with adequate lavatory facilities and safe water supplies. In addition, the Greene County District Board of Health distributed monthly bulletins to all teachers with suggested health and hygiene outlines.
Fig. 3Greene County Board of Health Annual Report 1931 Pg. 15 (JPG)
Fig. 3 Greene County Board of Health Annual Report, Pg. 15, 1931 (Greene County Archives)

During the Depression in 1933, a case of scarlet fever occurred in a dormitory on Antioch College’s campus. The Greene County Health Commissioner advised the Dean of the college to instruct the campus’ doctor to report the case to the Board of Health (See Fig. 4).

Fig. 4 Greene County District Board of Health Minutes Apr. 1933 (JPG)
Fig. 4 Greene County District Board of Health Minutes, April 1933 (Greene County Archives)

One way of spreading scarlet fever was to consume unregulated, raw milk. Outbreaks of diphtheria that infiltrated farm animals aided the spread illnesses like scarlet fever (See Fig. 5).

Fig. 5 Poster Regulation of the Milk Supply (JPG)
Fig. 5 FDA Regulation of the Milk Supply (

According to Greene County’s Board of Health Annual Report of 1934, milk regulation was under the guidance of the Ohio Milk Marketing Commission (See Fig. 6). Most people followed the Commission’s guidelines, but not all. According to this report, the Health Commissioner and Nurse were not instructing food and dairy handlers on personal hygiene.

Fig. 6 Greene County Combined Health Annual Report 1933 - Pg. 18 (JPG)
Fig. 6 Greene County Combined Health Annual Report, Pg. 17, 1934 (Greene County Archives)

Fortunately, children who had contracted scarlet fever, were frequently visited by the Health Commissioner and were quarantined (See Figs. 7 and 8). In October 1935, it was reported that five-hundred school children were immunized for scarlet fever by the County Health Board’s nurse. These immunizations and the annual public health fairs were important methods of controlling the spread of infectious diseases during such troublesome times.

Fig. 7 Greene County Combined Health Annual Report 1934 - Pg. 8 (JPG)
Fig. 7 Greene County Combined Health Annual Report, Pg. 8, 1934 (Greene County Archives)

Fig. 8 Greene County Combined Health Annual Report 1934 - Pg. 9 (JPG)
Fig. 8 Greene County Combined Health Annual Report, Pg. 9, 1934 (Greene County Archives)

Until Next Time!

Greene County Archives – National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health

Feb 07

Epilepsy and Lunacy: Medical Diagnoses of the 1800s

Posted on February 7, 2020 at 11:22 AM by Melissa Dalton

In April 2019, with much hard work from archivists and records managers around Ohio (including our very own Robin Heise), House Bill 139 was passed, which eliminated the exemption for any permanently retained record 75 years after its creation. There were some exceptions, but one of the most important records that became open is lunacy records.

Lunacy records are intriguing, yet disheartening. People would be declared “lunatics” for issues or reasons that, in many cases, would not be cause for such a determination today. Menopause, menstrual derangement, grief, fright, domestic trouble, religious excitement, poverty, nostalgia, jealousy, typhoid fever, dementia, old age… we even ran across a list of reasons to be declared a lunatic at the Toledo State Hospital, with one determination for “reads too much” (Fig 1). However, one that we run across frequently is lunacy due to epilepsy.

Fig 1. 1874 Annual Report from Longview State Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio (JPG)
Fig 1. 1874 Annual Report from Longview State Hospital in Cincinnati, OH (Ohio History Connection)

Historically, epilepsy has been wrought with stigma and misconceptions. In some societies, the disease was synonymous with evil, with the popular belief that someone suffering from seizures was possessed by demons. Another false belief was that only “feebleminded” or “weak-minded” people had seizures. Due to these beliefs, those suffering from epilepsy were treated poorly in society, and often times, sent to asylums or forced into poorhouses. However, the work and research of Dr. Hughlings Jackson helped redefine the disease and how it was treated. After his research, the medical boards and legislatures began evaluating the best treatment of epileptic patients.

In 1893, Governor William McKinley (whose wife, Ida, suffered from seizures) declared the opening of a facility for the specific care and treatment of epileptics, naming it the Ohio Hospital for Epileptics, located in Gallipolis, Ohio (Fig 2). This was the first state institution of its kind in the United States. In 1890, the Ohio government established the Ohio Hospital for Epileptics in Gallipolis, Ohio. When the facility opened, it could accommodate 250 patients (Fig 3). The patients were provided medical care, food and clothing, and an education.

Fig 2. Ohio State Hospital for Epileptics, 183 (JPG)
Fig 2. Ohio State Hospital for Epileptics, 1893 (Ohio History Connection)

Fig 3. Article from the Cincinnati Enquirer, dated February 14, 1894, regarding first man from Hamil
Fig 3. Article from The Cincinnati Enquirer, dated February 14, 1894, regarding first man from Hamilton County to be admitted to institution (

We have several records for Greene County residents diagnosed with epilepsy that were institutionalized or sent to live in the County Infimary. However, this case is different as the man, Mahlon Ogle, was sent to the Ohio Hospital for Epileptics (Fig 4). The Medical Certificate for Mr. Ogle, who was 37 years old, indicates that his “attacks” started just a year prior, and he would act incoherently; however the cause was unknown. Mr. Ogle was admitted to the hospital in June 1930. Upon his arrival, medical tests were conducted, and Ogle tested positive for syphilis. Due to the timing of the onset of epilepsy, it is likely that the syphilis had progressed significantly, causing the seizures and dementia. On August 11, 1930, just two months after his admission to the hospital, Mr. Ogle died. His death certificate lists syphilis, epilepsy, and tuberculosis as the causes of death (Fig 5).

Fig 4. Medical Certificate, Inquest for Epilepsy for Mahlon Ogle, dated June 11, 1930 (JPG)Fig 4. Medical Certificate, Inquest for Epilepsy for Mahlon Ogle, dated June 11, 1930 (JPG)
Fig 4. Medical Certificate, Inquest of Epilepsy for Mahlon Ogle, June 11, 1930 (Greene County Archives)

Fig 5. Death Certificate of Mahlon Ogle (JPG)
Fig 5. Death Certificate of Mahlon Ogle (

The Ohio Hospital for Epileptics expanded greatly over the years, adding cottages for women, and increasing capacity to roughly 1000 patients. The goal or intention of the facility was altruistic in nature, although that could not be said of other institutions for the same purpose that opened throughout the country. The Hospital operated for 83 years, closing its doors in 1976. All that remains are two water towers, which are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Until Next Time…

Greene County Archives, Probate Records
Kissiov, D., Dewall, T., & Hermann, B. (2013). The Ohio Hospital for Epileptics: The first “epilepsy colony” in America. Epilepsia, 54(9), 1524-1534. doi: 10.1111/epi.12335.
Ohio History Connection:

Jan 31

Providing Electricity for Greene County

Posted on January 31, 2020 at 6:40 AM by Elise Kelly

For a generation now, the United States has enjoyed and reaped the benefits of electrical power. A simple turn of a switch illuminates a room, parking lot, or a country road. But it is important to remember that only two hundred and fifty years ago, during the colonial era, candles were used to light indoor and outdoor areas.

By the early nineteenth century, gas lighting was introduced in the United States. One of the main sources of fuel for gas lighting was whale oil (See Fig. 1). In the 1840s, artificial gas (which was produced by distilling coal) was utilized to generate electricity to light some of America’s towns, including Xenia. Xenia first utilized artificial gas and by the 1880s, one of these artificial gas companies installed an electric plant for the purpose of lighting the streets of Xenia. However, it was determined that the plant would not produce an adequate amount of electricity for private consumers.

Fig. 1 Whale Oil (JPG)
Fig. 1 Liquid spermacti wax from a whale’s skull was extracted and used as fuel to light cities around the world. (Image via Jonathan Nathan Cobb, Public Domain)

In 1905, natural gas was introduced in Greene County by fuel companies including, the Ohio Fuel Company (See Fig. 2). This new type of fuel was mostly derived from the natural gas fields in Ohio. It was reported in 1918, the Ohio Fuel Company had 2,171 customers in Xenia. During this time, electricity was regarded as a coveted luxury and many private consumers were still using gas light and candles well into the 1930s.

Fig. 2 Commissioners Journal Vol. 16, Page 219 (JPG)
Fig. 2 Greene County Commissioners’ Journal, Vol. 16, Page 219 (Greene County Archives)

In 1914, Dayton Power & Light (DP&L) purchased the Xenia Gas & Electric Company and the Cedarville Light & Power Company (See Fig. 3). By 1918, DP&L was providing electric light and power to 28,000 customers in Dayton, Xenia, Wilmington, and other small towns. According to the Greene County Commissioners’ Journals dated between the 1920s and 1930s, DP&L was diligently acquiring contracts to install electrical lines all throughout the county.

Fig. 3 Commissioners Journal Vol. 21 Pg. 450(JPG)
Fig. 3 Greene County Commissioners’ Journal, Vol. 21, Page 450 (Greene County Archives)

DP&L erected an electrical pole line that ran just south of the Corporation Line of Osborn (See Fig. 4). This electrical line served thirteen of the nineteen houses in the vicinity. Perhaps the residents of the area, who did not receive this electrical power, opted out of the service? Were they still using natural gas? This location is now the City of Fairborn and is near the Rona Hills Estates.
Fig. 4 Commissioners Journal Vol. 29, Page 4 (JPG)

Fig. 4 Greene County Commissioners’ Journal, Vol. 29, Page 4 (Greene County Archives)

Dayton Power & Light was responsible for transmitting and distributing electric light, heat, and power to private and public entities. Another region of Bath Township that the company installed electrical service was along a half mile stretch of Sand Hill Road (See Fig. 5). Residents received 1000 watts or 1 kilowatt of electrical service. According to a study conducted by the United State Department of Labor, the average annual consumption of electricity in 1937 was 793 kilowatt-hours. Customers now had the opportunity to have complete indoor lighting and the convenient use of small, electric appliances.

Fig. 5 Commissioners Journal Vol. 29, Page 232(JPG)
Fig. 5 Greene County Commissioners’ Journal, Vol 29, Page 232 (Greene County Archives)

Even in rural areas of Greene County, DP&L began incorporating electrical lines. In Sugarcreek Township intersecting the Little Miami River and between Lower Bellbrook Road and what is now State Route 725, an electrical pole was furnished (See Figs. 6 and 7). Small lines of electric power were also being constructed in Jefferson and Ross Townships. This is quite impressive, since in 1932, only ten percent of rural America was electrified.

Fig. 6 Commissioners Journal Vol. 29, Page 31 (JPG)
Fig. 6 Greene County Commissioners’ Journal, Vol. 29, Page 31 (Greene County Archives)

Fig. 7 Greene County Road Map, Circa 1935 (JPG)
Fig. 7 Greene County Road Map, circa 1935 (Greene County Archives)

Dayton Power & Light significantly helped bring Greene County into the modern, accessible age.

Until Next Time!

Broadstone, M.A. History of Greene County Ohio. Indianapolis, IN: B.F. Bowen & Company, Inc., 1918.
Greene County Archives