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.

Jun 05

Pandemic Parallels: Lessons from History

Posted on June 5, 2020 at 8:56 AM by Melissa Dalton

As many have heard and read during the COVID-19 pandemic, we can draw many parallels to the 1918 flu pandemic. Even in our blog a couple of weeks ago, we briefly mentioned such similarities. So, one might ask, what are those similarities? What was learned and how did it inform current experts and health officials? This week, we explore those lessons learned and how that knowledge has shaped the response today.

The 1918 flu pandemic killed roughly 50 million people globally, with 675,000 of those deaths being within the United States. The virus had an unusually high death rate in healthy adults age 15 to 34 years, and to date, no other pandemic has resulted in a comparable death rate. Experts believe that the virulence had many contributing factors, including World War I. Troops were mobilized across the globe, and these soldiers were quartered in close spaces and in large numbers. The science to better understand the virus was lacking, and there was no vaccine or antiviral drugs. Additionally, many healthcare workers (doctors, nurses, etc.) were called to serve, which greatly limited and stressed health services. (Visit to learn about the flu pandemic and other past pandemics).

Although there were no coordinated efforts to mitigate the pandemic, local communities took their own measures, which we will recognize as measures we have taken to combat the current COVID-19 pandemic. The timeline of events is eerily similar. On October 4, 1918, a warning was issued by the City Health Director to avoid public gatherings (Fig 1). The Dayton Daily News reported that the flu was spreading throughout Ohio, with New York and Philadelphia also experiencing rapid spread (Fig 2). On October 5, 1918, Xenia Health Officials closed all public places, which included churches, schools, theaters, bars, and poolrooms (Fig 3) – resulting in one of the quietest days in history (Fig 4).

Fig 1. Warning Is Issued (Spanish Flu), Xenia Evening Gazette, 4 Oct 1918 (JPG)
Fig 1. Warning Is Issued (Spanish influenza), Xenia Evening Gazette, 4 Oct 1918 (

Fig 2. Influenza Spreads Throughout Ohio, Dayton Daily News, 4 Oct 1918 (JPG)
Fig 2. Influenza Spreads Throughout Ohio, Dayton Daily News, 4 Oct 1918 (

Fig 3. All Public Places are Closed Here, Xenia Evening Gazette, 5 Oct 1918 (JPG)
Fig 3. All Public Places are Closed Here, Xenia Evening Gazette, 5 Oct 1918 (

Fig 4. Sunday One of Quietest Days in City History, Xenia Evening Gazette, 7 Oct 1918 (JPG)
Fig 4. Sunday One of Quietest Days in City History, Xenia Evening Gazette, 7 Oct 1918 (

Almost immediately, health organizations were trying to find ways to limit spread, and masks were viewed as a good countermeasure (Fig 5). The Xenia Evening Gazette reported over 300 deaths in 24 hours in Chicago on October 16, 1918 (Fig 6). However, by the end of October, the State Health Department began working with Governor Cox on how to lift quarantine (Fig 7). Schools began to reopen in November/December of 1918, and businesses began to reopen. Many cities and municipalities required residents to wear masks in public (Fig 8).

Fig 5. Female Clerks in New York City Wear Masks at Work, National Archives (JPG)
Fig 5. Female clerks in New York City wear masks at work (National Archives Identifier 45499337)

Fig 6. Over 300 Die in Chicago in 24 Hours of the Influenza, Xenia Evening Gazette, 16 Oct 1918 (JPG
Fig 6. Over 300 Die in Chicago in 24 Hours of the Influenza, Xenia Evening Gazette, 16 Oct 1918 (

Fig 7. Quarantine to be Lifted Slowly, Xenia Evening Gazette, 31 Oct 1918 (JPG)
Fig 7. Quarantine to be Lifted Slowly, Xenia Evening Gazette, 31 Oct 1918 (

Fig 8. Flu Masks Must be Worn in Marion, Xenia Evening Gazette, 18 Dec 1918 (JPG)
Fig 8. Flue Masks Must be Worn in Marion, Xenia Evening Gazette, 18 Dec 1918 (

As we read over these measures, the parallels are evident. On March 9, 2020, Governor DeWine declared a State of Emergency, and within the week, almost all public places were closed and deemed non-essential, including schools, public buildings, gyms, bars/restaurants, salons/barbershops, amusement parks, just to name a few. On March 22, 2020, a stay-at-home order was announced, which stayed in effect until May 1, 2020. Like in 1918, there has been quite an effort to find the right balance in reopening the state and protecting the public. Although there were three waves of the flu between 1918 and 1919, today, many state officials and experts are trying to put measures in place to mitigate a second wave of COVID-19.

We can see the parallels, and that is because experts have taken on the task of studying and understanding past pandemics, and finding what worked. It is in these times that we are reminded of the importance of documenting the past, and making strides to be good stewards of history.

Until Next Time.

National Archives

May 29

Greene County Public Health during WWII

Posted on May 29, 2020 at 1:56 PM by Elise Kelly

During these unprecedented times, Greene County Public Health (GCPH) has done an exceptional job of informing and preventing the spread of the Covid-19 virus (See Fig. 1). In addition to this commendable work, they have also been highlighting some of their history as they commemorate their 100th anniversary this year.

Fig. 1 Covid Image (JPG)
Fig. 1 Greene County Public Health Update for May 24, 2020 reported by ODH (Greene County Public Health)

The Greene County Archives houses and preserves many of GCPH’s historical material. We have scanned and shared a large amount of this material with them. We have also written two blog posts that showcase the issues and the actions taken by GCPH during the 1920s and 1930s. Today's post will illustrate what challenges GCPH encountered during World War II.

After the United States entered the war, the population in defense areas significantly increased. There was an enormous surge in employment at the Army Air Field, Wright Field (later named Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) (See Fig. 2). Consequently, the rapid increase of population in Greene County and the City of Xenia generated numerous difficulties for GCPH.

Fig. 2 Wright Field (JPG)
Fig. 2 Wright Field in 1941 (courtesy of

Certain problems included: "private and public water supplies, proper garbage disposal, an increase in the number of pregnancy cases with delivery service required, and the ever present danger of epidemics" (See Fig. 3).

Fig. 3 Annual Report of Greene County-Xenia City Health Districts 1942, Pg. (JPG)
Fig. 3 Annual Report of Greene County – Xenia City Health Districts, 1942 (Greene County Archives)

In order to tackle the emergency, GCPH added several positions including a sanitarian and a part-time pediatrician. Furthermore, a “special immunization and vaccination campaign was requested by the State Department of Health and the United States Government. Diphtheria toxoid was supplied by the State Department of Health.” The U.S. Government, the State Department of Health, and the Greene County Health Department were concerned about an upsurge in infectious diseases because of the confluence of populations in defense areas.

Sanitation was a primary concern for GCPH. In 1943, a plumbing code was instituted for the County, a policy of sanitation improvement was established in Yellow Springs, and a salary increase for Greene County’s Sanitarian, William Marshall was approved (See Fig. 4).

Fig. 4 Board of Health Minutes, 1943, Pg. 36 (JPG)
Fig. 4 Greene County Board of Health Minutes, 1943, Page 36 (Greene County Archives)

In 1944, the County Public Health Department sought additional funds in order to combat the escalation of tuberculosis cases (See Fig. 5). Also, in 1944, the County’s Board of Health accepted Haines Hospital’s maternity license (See Fig 6). Formerly located in Jamestown, Haines Hospital was the only hospital in Greene County that accepted the delivery of children of military families under the Emergency Federal Program. During the war, some of the children of Greene County were welcomed into the world at Haines Hospital.

Fig. 5 Board of Health Minutes, 1944, 40 (JPG)
Fig. 5 Greene County Board of Health Minutes, 1944, Page 40 (Greene County Archives)

Fig. 6 Board of Health Minutes, 1944, Pg. 42 (JPG)
Fig. 6 Greene County Board of Health Minutes, 1944, Page 42 (Greene County Archives)

GCPH met the demands and challenges head on during World War II. They have been doing the same during the current pandemic.

Until Next Time!

Greene County Archives

May 22

The Importance of Documentation

Posted on May 22, 2020 at 1:02 PM by Melissa Dalton

Are you able to watch TV, listen to the radio, or scroll through social media without hearing or reading something about the current pandemic? I can almost guarantee that answer is a resounding “no”. We are inundated with information and updates about COVID-19 on a daily, if not hourly, basis. It’s even been ever-present within the County offices - the Greene County Commissioners are holding their meetings virtually, all County offices are closed to the public, and almost every social media account for the County has some mention of COVID-19 and information about how the department is conducting business (Fig 1).

Fig 1. COVID-19 Notice to Visitors (JPG)
Fig 1. COVID-19 Notice to Visitors (Greene County Archives)

From the beginning of this pandemic, state and federal officials have drawn parallels to the flu pandemic of 1918, which we plan to discuss in more detail in future blog posts. However, there is one glaring difference - Documentation.

When the current pandemic hit our region, Robin began looking through the newspapers from 1918-1919 to see how the flu pandemic was reported and documented. She was surprised to learn that most reporting was buried in the newspaper, and she had to scour each page to find such articles (see our Facebook page to read/see the articles).

We assumed the County records would provide a clearer understanding to how the flu pandemic affected our region. We searched the Commissioners Journals, Infirmary Commissioners Record, and Children’s Home Minutes (the Health Department records, unfortunately, do not start until 1920) - there was not a single mention of the flu. Not one. We do have some hints, though, such as the purchase of a “disinfecting machine” and an increase in population at the Infirmary and Children’s Home, but no mention of the actual pandemic (Fig 2).

Fig 2. Infirmary Commissioners Record Vol 1 p 175 (JPG)
Fig 2. Infirmary Commissioners Record Vol 1 p 179 (JPG)
Fig 2. Infirmary Commissioners Record Vol 1, pgs 175 & 179 (Greene County Archives)

So, why is that? Although we cannot say for sure, we have to keep in mind that there was an actual, physical war raging in Europe. The United States entered World War I in early 1917, so the focus was not on what was happening at home. Robin found that in every newspaper she reviewed, the war was front and center. However, it is interesting to note that the first cases of the flu were identified in military personnel in the spring of 1918. There still is speculation as to the origin of the flu, but the fact remains that the war did not help the spread.

One may ask, why does it matter? Why do we care how the flu pandemic of 1918 affected our region? There is one main reason: Understanding our past informs our future, and documentation is so vitally important to unlocking information about our past. As we think about the current pandemic, everyone has been affected in some way. Everyone has a story to tell about their experience. And, as we slowly move toward “normalcy” (what is actually normal anymore?), I encourage you to think about how your life has changed. Document it in some way – write in a diary or journal, create a blog, or post to social media (join our COVID-19 Facebook group). I can guarantee you that future generations will look back on this time and try to piece together how their ancestors dealt with such a monumental time in history, and your documentation will provide invaluable information.

Until Next Time!

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (
Greene County Archives