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.

Jul 19

The Freed Families of New Jasper: The Blackburn and Ferguson Families (Part II)

Posted on July 19, 2019 at 9:27 AM by Melissa Dalton

In last week’s blog post, we discussed how Noah Spears, a slave owner from Paris, Kentucky (in Bourbon County), bought several slave families in order to ensure that the families stayed together. Spears eventually emancipated his slaves and bought roughly 400 acres of land in New Jasper Township (near Stringtown) for the families to settle on. Two of the families that we are going to highlight this week are the Blackburns and the Fergusons.

Katy Ferguson, née Blackburn was born a slave and was the daughter of David and Emily Blackburn. David Blackburn was born into slavery in 1808 in Harrison County, Kentucky. (See Fig. 1)

Fig. 1 Map_of_Kentucky_highlighting_Harrison_County (PNG)
Fig. 1 Map of Kentucky highlighting Harrison County (image via Wikimedia Commons)

He was presumed to be the son of his slave master, whose name was also David Blackburn. Upon his master’s death, David Blackburn was granted his freedom upon the condition that he pay one hundred dollars for his emancipation. At the age of forty-one, David was granted his freedom and settled as a farmer in Greene County, Ohio in 1859. He later became a reverend and preached in Xenia. According to an obituary found in the Xenia Gazette, David Blackburn was remembered as being a deeply religious man and an earnest Republican. He died in his early seventies in 1880. (See Fig. 2)

Fig. 2 Rev. David Blackburn Obituary cropped (JPG)
Fig. 2 An excerpt of Rev. David Blackburn’s Obituary, Xenia Gazette, June 21, 1880 (

Katy Ferguson's mother, Emily, was enslaved by the Spears family just south of Harrison County in Bourbon County, Kentucky. Emily passed away before Noah Spears emancipated all of his slaves. Prior to Katy settling in Greene County, she married a native Kentuckian, Edward Ferguson. They had five children and in September 1863, several months after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, the whole Ferguson Family settled in New Jasper Township. Katy and her siblings (Hannah and Harriet) were the ones who were deeded the land. Katy had to pay one dollar to Noah Spears for eighty-three and a half acres of land in Survey #1995. (See Figs. 3 & 4)

Fig. 3 Katy Ferguson Deed (JPG)
Fig. 3 Deed Vol. 41 pg. 350 (Greene County Archives)

Fig. 4 Katy Ferguson Deed pg. 2 (JPG)
Fig. 4 Deed Vol. 41 Pg. 351 (Greene County Archives)

In 1865, the Ferguson family acquired more acreage from Noah Spears. (See Fig. 5)

Fig. 5 1874 Greene County Atlas highlighted (JPG)
Fig. 5 1874 Greene County Atlas – Section of New Jasper Township (Greene County Archives)

By 1880, Edward, Katy, and some of the Ferguson children, were now living on East Market Street in Xenia. Edward worked as a plasterer and died before the turn of the twentieth century. The Ferguson Family owned the land in New Jasper Township up until 1913 when they sold it. By this time, Katy was bedridden and was being taken care of by her son, John Ferguson. Less than a year before Katy died in September 1917 (See Figs. 6 & 7), her son, John Ferguson died.

                                     Fig. 6 xenia-daily-gazette-Sep-27-1917-p-8 (PNG)
Fig. 6 Katy Ferguson’s Obituary, Xenia Daily Gazette, September 27, 1917 (

Fig. 7 Katy Ferguson Death Record (JPG)
                           Fig. 7 Katy Ferguson’s Death Record (

According to John Ferguson's obituary, he was very active in Xenia’s local government and served as an assistant court bailiff and a tax assessor. (See Fig. 8)

Fig. 8 xenia-daily-gazette-Dec-23-1916-p-8 (PNG)
Fig. 8 John Ferguson's Obituary, Xenia Daily Gazette, December 23, 1916 (

After their mother’s passing, the only living Ferguson child was Jennie Womack, née Ferguson. Jennie Womack celebrated her eightieth birthday in 1930 at the Christian Church in Xenia. At this time, she was the oldest member of the church, having been a member for sixty years. For several years, this remarkable family lived, worked, and worshipped in Greene County. Many of them are buried in Cherry Grove Cemetery in Xenia.(See Fig. 9)

Fig. 9 Katy Ferguson grave marker (JPG)
         Fig. 9 Katy Ferguson’s Grave Marker (Photographed by Amy Frederick; Image via

Until Next Time!

Greene County Archives
Jul 12

The Freed Families of New Jasper: Needham and Laura Curl (Part I)

Posted on July 12, 2019 at 1:19 PM by Melissa Dalton

Several months back, we had a blog post about Loyd Curl. In that blog, we mentioned that there was little we knew about his parents, and at the time, that was true. However, while Joan was doing some research, she came across some fascinating information about the Curls, along with several other families!

Noah Spears, a slave owner from Paris, Kentucky (in Bourbon County) bought several families of slaves as to ensure the families stayed together. Spears grew up in a family that owned slaves, but he subscribed to a different view, and was influenced by the anti-slavery / abolitionist movement. Spears emancipated his slaves, and bought roughly 400 acres of land in New Jasper Township (near Stringtown) for the families to settle (Fig 1). According to Broadstone’s History of Greene County Ohio, Vol 1, there were four families that settled on the land – Curls, Smiths, Brooks, and Fergusons. However, we also learned that the Blackburn family was involved. Although we are not quite sure of the relationship, we believe the women were all sisters.

Fig 1. Excerpt from Broadstone's History of Greene County Ohio, Vol 1, p 339 (JPG)
Fig 1. Excerpt from Broadstone’s History of Greene County Ohio, Vol 1 p 339 (Greene County Archives)

As we previously wrote a blog about Loyd Curl, we wanted to highlight this family first. Needham Curl was born in Virginia around 1816. Laura, Needham’s wife, was born in Kentucky about 1819. The couple had two children, Charles (b. circa 1849) and Loyd (b. circa 1852). Many newspaper articles indicate that Needham and Laura were former slaves of Henry Clay (although one article claims they were former slaves of Cassius M. Clay).

The exact year of their emancipation is unknown (at least at this time), but Spears deeded land to these families in 1862 and 1863 (Fig 2). Needham Curl, along with Greenup Smith, were deeded 80.5 acres in Survey #1240 in 1862 (Fig 3). Then in 1863, Spears deeded another 49.75 acres in Survey #1995 (Fig 4). Both of these properties are listed as being bought for one dollar!

Fig 2. 1874 Greene County Atlas will land outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 2. Excerpt from the 1874 Greene County Atlas (Greene County Archives)

Fig 3. Greene County Deed Vol 40, p 400 (JPG)
Fig 3. Greene County Deed Vol 40, p 400 (Greene County Archives)

Fig 4. Greene County Deed Vol 41, p 350 (JPG)
Fig 4. Greene County Deed Vol 41, p 350 (Greene County Archives)

Needham and his family were well-known in the Xenia area. Needham worked as a farmer, but retired sometime in the 1870s. It turns out that Needham was one of the first black residents to serve as a juror in Greene County (in roughly 1868), and actually served on several juries throughout his lifetime (Fig 5). Laura was said to be quiet and did not spend much time out of the home unless it was related to her family or church.

Fig 5. Excerpt from March 6, 1890 issue of Xenia Daily Gazette stating Needham Curl served as juror
Fig 5. Article from May 23, 1893 issue of Xenia Daily Gazette stating Needham Curl served as juror (
Fig 5. Excerpts from the Xenia Daily Gazette about Needham Curl serving as juror (

Needham suffered from dropsy, and died on October 18, 1894 at the age of 78 (Fig 6). Laura survived him by roughly three years, but passed away in 1897 at the age of 80. The notice of her death in the Xenia Daily Gazette denotes that she was the “last” of the citizens who came to Greene County as part of the Spears settlement (Fig 7). Charles worked as a plasterer for most of his life, but died in 1910 at the age of 61 (Fig 8). Loyd passed away in 1911, and you can read more about his life by visiting our other blog post.

Fig 6. Notice in October 12, 1894 issue of Xenia Daily Gazette of illness of Needham Curl (JPG)
Fig 6. Notice in Xenia Daily Gazette of Needham Curl’s illness (

Fig 7. Obituary of Laura Curl in the July 2, 1897 issue of the Xenia Daily Gazette (JPG)
Fig 7. Death Notice of Laura Curl in Xenia Daily Gazette (

Fig 8. Obituary of Charles Curl in the October 24, 1910 issue of the Xenia Daily Gazette (JPG)
Fig 8. Death Notice of Charles Curl in Xenia Daily Gazette (

This is an incredible story, and we plan to dig a little deeper into the history of each family. Be sure to read our future blogs to learn more!

Until Next Time!

Greene County Archives

Jul 02

The Gearhart Brothers of Greene County

Posted on July 2, 2019 at 10:09 AM by Elise Kelly

During these summer months, fans will fill baseball stadiums to watch their favorite teams play. Many boys in the stands will dream of making it in the big leagues and to one day play for a team like the Yankees or the Reds.

Fig. 1_Beavercreek News, June 18, 1969, Front Page (JPG)
Fig. 1 Beavercreek News, June 18, 1969 – Found in the 1969 Greene County Jail Time Capsule (Greene County Archives)

In New Lebanon, Ohio, five brothers played for Dixie High School’s baseball team during the 1920s and 1930s. One of those brothers, Lloyd Gearhart, went on to play outfield and first base for a minor league team named the Atlanta Crackers.

Fig. 2 Lloyd Gearhart (JPG)
Fig. 2 Dayton Daily News, June 19, 1945 (

In 1947, the New York Giants came calling for Gearhart and acquired him for $75,000! Gearhart was a skilled ballplayer who threw left-handed and batted right-handed. During his time in the majors, he hit a home run at the Polo Grounds in New York. Sitting in the stands that day was the Governor of New York, Thomas E. Dewey.

After Gearhart’s short but successful stint in the Major Leagues, he went on to play for minor league teams in Jersey City, New Jersey, Havana, Cuba, and Indianapolis, Indiana.

Fig. 3-1902_Indianapolis_Indians (JPG)
Fig. 3 1902 Indianapolis Indians (Image via Wikipedia Commons)

When his playing days were over, Gearhart became a scout for the New York Mets and managed a farm team for the Mets in Virginia.

By the 1970s, Lloyd Gearhart retired from baseball and settled in Greene County, where he served as Xenia’s Director of Recreation and Parks Department. He later became the Manager of Sports Activities at the Ohio Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphans' Home in Xenia. During Lloyd’s tenure in Greene County, his brother Russell Gearhart, served as the Greene County Clerk of Courts from 1952 up until his death in 1976.

Fig. 4 R.E. Gearhart (PNG)
Fig. 4 Russell E. Gearhart (Xenia Daily Gazette, September 23, 1976)

Prior to Russell's tenure as the Clerk of Courts, he worked at a stemmery, where he met his first wife, Mildred Fawley. A stemmery is a facility where tobacco leaves are stripped for the production of tobacco products.

Fig. 5 Marriage License Russell Gearhart (JPG)
Fig. 5 Greene County Probate Court Marriage Record Book 1931-1938 (Greene County Archives)

 After he left the stemmery, he worked for Xenia City Schools. By 1948, he began working in the County Clerk’s office and four years later, Russell Gearhart was elected the Clerk of Courts in 1952.

When Greene County’s new jail was constructed in 1969, a time capsule was placed in the building’s cornerstone. For posterity, Russell Gearhart added a couple of items in the time capsule. He included a brief biography of himself that was typed on his office’s letterhead, a School Days photograph of his son, Rickey Allen Gearhart, and an Auto Title holder with Gearhart’s portrait on the front.

Fig. 6 Auto Title holder, Russell E. Gearhart, Clerk of Courts (JPG)
Fig. 6 Russell Gearhart’s brief biography along with a photograph of his son, Rickey Gearhart. (Greene County Archives)

Fig. 7 Auto Title holder, Russell E. Gearhart, Clerk of Courts, front view (JPG)
Fig. 7 Auto Title holder (Greene County Archives)

When Russell Gearhart died at the age of sixty-six in September 1976, he was remembered as a very loyal and hardworking man. He was a member of several fraternal orders and the Spring Valley Firemen’s Association. His brother Lloyd was also fondly remembered. In 1995, Dixie High School in New Lebanon named its baseball field in his honor. Lloyd Gearhart died in 2001.

Until Next Time!

Greene County Archives
Society for American Baseball Research
Wikimedia Commons
Xenia Daily Gazette