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 09

Dispute Leads to Violence

Posted on October 9, 2020 at 12:31 PM by Melissa Dalton

We couldn’t tell you how many times our records have demonstrated neighborly disputes. Maybe the disputes are over property lines, or damage to land or other personal property – it truly ranges and the reasons seem infinite. We’ve even seen some for cows or other pasture animals damaging crops. However, this week we look at a dispute over a shared ditch.
The ditch, located on the border of Ross and Silvercreek Townships (just north of Jamestown), ran through the property of J. A. Mercer and had an outlet on the property of William Harris (Fig 1). Both men were well-known farmers. Mercer was the son of William Mercer, a prominent attorney and justice of the peace in the County. Harris was a well-known Civil War veteran. Although the families were neighbors for some time, the ditch caused many disagreements (Fig 2).

Fig 1. 1896 Atlas with Mercer and Harris property outlined (JPG)
Fig 1. 1896 Atlas with Mercer/Harris property outlined (Greene County Archives)

Fig 2. 1900 Census with both families outlined (JPG)
Fig 2. 1900 Census with both families outlined (Ancestry.com)


One day, while the two were viewing the ditch with Silvercreek township trustees, the two men began to argue. Apparently there was some “bad blood” between the men, and neither were in an amiable mood. By all accounts, Mercer made a comment about his father (William Mercer) making a claim concerning the ditch, to which Harris countered with “You’re a liar” – and that’s when the fists went flying (Fig 3), and Mercer punched Harris. Harris, who happened to have a pocket knife in his hand, stabbed Mercer several times before the trustees were able to break them apart.

Fig 3. Wealthy Farmer is Stabbed by Neighbor, Xenia Daily Gazette, 29 Apr 1914 (PNG)
Fig 3. Wealthy Farmer is Stabbed by Neighbor, Xenia Daily Gazette, 29 Apr 1914 (NewspaperArchive.com)

The doctors were called to attend to Mercer, and Harris was ordered to go home. Immediately after the altercation, both men expressed extreme regret over the situation, and how horribly they reacted to the situation. Mercer’s wounds were serious, but not life-threatening, and they expected him to be fine with proper treatment (Fig 4).

Fig 4. Each Begged the Other's Pardon, Dayton Daily News, 30 Apr 1914 (JPG)
Fig 4. Each Begged the Other’s Pardon, Dayton Daily News, 30 Apr 1914 (Newspapers.com)

According to the newspapers, a grand jury was to convene in May to determine if charges would be brought against Harris (Fig 5). However, when I looked through the Common Pleas Court Appearance Docket, and the Criminal Appearance Docket for that time period, Harris is not listed as being charged or indicted. Additionally, the newspapers do not mention or indicate that Harris was ever charged after claiming there would be a hearing. This leads one to believe that charges likely were dropped, which is quite possible seeing as the men both apologized and deeply regretted the clash.

Fig 5. Cutting Affray to be Investigated, Xenia Daily Gazette, 30 Apr 1914 (PNG)
Fig 5. Cutting Affray to be Investigated, Xenia Daily Gazette, 30 Apr 1914 (NewspaperArchive.com)

After the altercation, it appears the neighbors lived a quiet life, or at least free of further disputes. Mercer and his wife moved to Jamestown proper prior to 1920 (Fig 6), but moved back to the township prior to the 1930 Census (Fig 7). J. A. Mercer died in 1934 and was buried in Old Silvercreek Cemetery.

Fig 6. 1920 Census with Mercer family outlined (JPG)
Fig 6. 1920 Census with Mercer family outlined (Ancestry.com)

Fig 7. 1930 Census with Mercer family outlined (JPG)
Fig 7. 1930 Census with Mercer family outlined (Ancestry.com)


Harris and his wife, Elizabeth, were listed on the 1920 Census as still living in Ross Township (Fig 8). However, they moved to Montgomery County shortly thereafter, as Harris was admitted to the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Dayton in 1923 (Fig 9).

Fig 8. 1920 Census with Harris family outlined (JPG)
Fig 8. 1920 Census with Harris family outlined (Ancestry.com)

Fig 9. W.A. Harris records from National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers
Fig 9. William A. Harris admission/discharge records for the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (Ancestry.com)


It appears he was in and out of the hospital for several years, but his date of death is not indicated on the paperwork. There is some suggestions that he may have died in the late 1920s, but due to lack of information (and the fact that it is such a common name), we cannot confirm it is the same William Harris. So, if you are related to this William Harris and know more information about his later years, please feel free to share any information you have.

Until Next Time.

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

Comments

Mariellen Teeters
October 10, 2020 at 10:50 AM
Within the family the last known residence of William and Elizabeth was on Dayton Hill in Xenia. William was the son of Evan Harris, who was first school teacher in Caesarcreek Twp. Evan was the son of Stuart Harris an early settler. Williams brother Marshall John S. Harris was the first lawman killed in Greene County (Cedarville). Both William and Elizabeth are buried in Stewart Cemetery, Bowersville. My grandmother Edythe Harris Davis was raised by William and Elizabeth at the residence listed in the dispute.

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