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.

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Oct 02

Estate Records and the Stories They Tell

Posted on October 2, 2020 at 9:23 AM by Melissa Dalton

Estate records provide a wealth of information about a person. Although most focus on the real and personal property laid out in the records, there is much more we can learn. Wills and estate files provide insight into what the individual deemed important. Maybe a will highlights the love and adoration for a spouse or child, the history of the family home or property, or maybe it exposes tense family dynamics or feuds – and it is this last point that recently got our attention.
A couple of weeks ago, Joan shared a will that was part of the Estate of L. D. Wilson (Fig 1). In his will, Wilson explicitly stated that his wife, Margaret, was to have “no provision whatsoever” due to her infidelity and the fact that he was attempting to divorce her. All she would be entitled to would be any alimony directed by the Court.

Fig 1. Last Will and Testament of L.D. Wilson, page 1 (JPG)
Fig 1. Last Will and Testament of L.D. Wilson, page 2 (JPG)
Fig 1. Last Will and Testament of L.D. Wilson, page 3 (JPG)
Fig 1. Last Will and Testament of L. D. Wilson (Greene County Archives)

Obviously this will, and its salacious language, aroused some interest on our part, and we began to look into the records to see what we could learn… and we found Margaret to be the most interesting character of this story.

Margaret Ruth Anderson was born on February 26, 1895 to D.E. and Fanny Bell Anderson of Xenia, Ohio. Margaret married Fenton W. Chew on May 18, 1914 (Figs 2 & 3). Chew was of the same family that owned The Chew Publishing Co., publishers of the Xenia Gazette, and worked for the family business (Fig 4). Margaret and Fenton had two children, Robert and Donald (Fig 5). From little snippets in the newspaper about the couple hosting guests and parties, it appeared all rosy… then we came across an article tied to the couple, with the headline “Demands $50,000 for Alienation of Wife’s Love” (Fig 6).

Fig 2. Marriage Record of Fenton Chew and Margaret Anderson (JPG)
Fig 2. Marriage Record of Margaret Anderson and Fenton Chew, 1914 (Greene County Archives)

Fig 3. Wedding Shower for Margaret, Xenia Daily Gazette, 22 May 1914 (JPG)
Fig 3. Wedding Shower for Margaret, Xenia Daily Gazette, dated 22 May 1914 (Newspapers.com)

Fig 4. 1915 Xenia City Directory (JPG)
Fig 4. 1915 Xenia City Directory (Ancestry.com)

Fig 5. 1920 Census with Chew family outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 5. 1920 Census for Chew family (Ancestry.com)

Fig 6. Chew files for divorce and sues Wilson, Xenia Daily Gazette, 16 Feb 1921 (JPG)
Fig 6. Chew files for divorce and sues Wilson, Xenia Daily Gazette, 16 Feb 1921 (Newspapers.com)


According to Fenton Chew, Margaret had met Lawrence D. Wilson of Wilson Engineering and Contracting, and was meeting with him in secret for years, until one day, she “deserted” Chew for Wilson. Chew filed for divorce for extreme cruelty and desertion, and requested custody of the children. He then sued Wilson and his company for damages. The case ended with the Court agreeing with Chew on the merits of the petition for divorce, but granted custody to Margaret (Fig 7).


Fig 7. Divorce proceedings of Fenton W. Chew and Margaret A. Chew (JPG)
Fig 7. Divorce proceedings of Fenton W. Chew and Margaret A. Chew (JPG)
Fig 7. Divorce proceedings of Fenton W. Chew and Margaret A. Chew (JPG)
Fig 7. Divorce proceedings of Fenton W. Chew and Margaret A. Chew (JPG)
Fig 7. Divorce proceedings of Fenton W. Chew vs. Margaret A. Chew (Greene County Archives)

Margaret and the boys moved to an apartment on East Maple Street, and she continued her relationship with Lawrence. Two years after her divorce from Chew, Margaret married Wilson on September 27, 1924 (Fig 8). However, about ten years into the marriage, Lawrence filed for divorce due to “gross neglect of duty and extreme cruelty”. These divorce proceedings got grisly, and accusations abounded (Fig 9). The Court ruled that both parties were at fault, and their conduct precluded the Court from granting either of them a divorce. The case went to the Court of Appeals, which overturned that ruling, sending it back to the Common Pleas Court (Fig 10). Ultimately, the Court ruled to grant the divorce, as petitioned by Wilson, in early 1936. Margaret was awarded just under $2000 as part of alimony and restored to the last name of Chew.

Fig 8. Marriage Record of Margaret Chew and L. D. Wilson (JPG)
Fig 8. Marriage Record of Margaret Chew and L. D. Wilson (Greene County Archives)

Fig 9. Divorce proceedings of L. D. Wilson vs. Margaret Wilson (JPG)
Fig 9. Divorce proceedings of L. D. Wilson vs. Margaret Wilson (JPG)
Fig 9. Divorce proceedings of L. D. Wilson vs. Margaret Wilson (JPG)
Fig 9. Divorce proceedings of L. D. Wilson vs. Margaret Wilson (JPG)
Fig 9. Divorce proceedings of L. D. Wilson vs. Margaret Wilson (JPG)
Fig 9. Divorce proceedings of L. D. Wilson vs. Margaret Wilson (JPG)
Fig 9. Divorce proceedings of L. D. Wilson vs. Margaret Wilson (Greene County Archives)

Fig 10. New divorce hearing set, Xenia Daily Gazette, 28 Jan 1936 (JPG)
Fig 10. New divorce hearing set, Xenia Daily Gazette, 28 Jan 1936 (Newspapers.com)


In July 1936, Wilson suffered a stroke, which caused paralysis. Wilson never fully recovered, and died on December 4, 1936 at the age of 54 (Fig 11).

Fig 11. Obituary for L. D. Wilson, Xenia Daily Gazette, 04 Dec 1936 (PNG)Fig 11. Obituary for L. D. Wilson, Xenia Daily Gazette, 04 Dec 1936 (PNG)
Fig 11. Obituary of L. D. Wilson (Newspapers.com)

After the divorce, Margaret went to live with her mother, Fanny (Fig 12). An interesting note is that although she was restored to the last name of Chew with the divorce, she continued to use the last name of Wilson. She also never remarried. Margaret lived her latter years of her life in Wilmington, Ohio. She died on June 19, 1970, and is buried in Woodland Cemetery.

Fig 12. 1940 Census with Margaret and family outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 12. 1940 Census with Margaret and her family outlined (Newspapers.com)

Until Next Time!

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

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