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.

May 23

Murder in Cedarville

Posted on May 23, 2019 at 3:48 PM by Melissa Dalton

Last week, we posted a photograph of downtown Cedarville, which was part of a criminal case exhibit (Fig 1). This week, we give you the full story...

Fig 1. Exhibit photograph from murder trial of George Dean (JPG)
Fig 1. Exhibit photograph from murder trial of George Dean (Greene County Common Pleas Court)

Cedarville wasn’t always a dry town. After prohibition ended in 1933, bars and other establishments began selling liquor in the village. Although there were those that were happy about the end of prohibition, others fought to outlaw the sale of alcohol in the village. In 1946, that group had more fodder for the fight – a double murder at a local bar.

On March 1, 1946, Gladys Reynolds, 18-year-old wife of army private, Robert Reynolds, visited the Bit n’ Bridle on Xenia Avenue in Cedarville. The bar was busy, and another patron, H.L. “Jack” Thornton, had a little too much to drink. However, it is here that the events of the evening become unclear. There were two different stories relayed to the detectives - the story told by the bar owner and the story as told by various witnesses.

According to the bar owner, George Dean (originally from Kentucky), he refused to serve Thornton, and ordered him to leave the establishment. Another patron bought Thornton a beer, but Martha Dean, George’s wife, took the beer away from him. Dean told Thornton he was calling the police, went behind the bar, grabbed a revolver, and started walking to the telephone. Thornton followed, and they struggled. Dean hit him over the head with the gun, and it discharged, striking Mrs. Reynolds, who was getting ready to put a nickel in the jukebox. Ms. Reynolds was shot in the chest and killed instantly. Dean, fearing for his life, shot Thornton twice at close range, with both shots hitting him in the chest. Thornton fled from the bar, where he collapsed on the sidewalk. Dean claimed only to discharge the weapon three times (Fig 2).

Fig 2. Article from the Xenia Daily Gazette, dated March 2, 1946 (JPG)
Fig 2. Article from the Xenia Daily Gazette, dated March 2, 1946 (JPG)
Fig 2. Article from the Xenia Daily Gazette, dated March 2, 1946 (Newspapers.com)

As the police worked through the investigation, they realized parts of Dean’s story just didn’t add up. The details described by eye witnesses related a different set of events. Witness statements indicated that Thornton was drunk and asked to leave; however, there may not have been an altercation as originally claimed. These accounts point to Dean getting the gun, hiding it in his shirt, and as Thornton approached, Dean turned and discharged the revolver. It was then that a struggle ensued. The first bullet struck the wall near the kitchen and telephone, supposedly stopping the clock at the time of the incident (Fig 3). The second bullet struck Mrs. Reynolds, killing her instantly (Fig 4). A third bullet was found embedded in the wall near the door, and three struck Thornton (two in the chest, and one went through his arm); for a total of six shots being fired (meaning Dean emptied the weapon). Thornton stumbled out of the bar and collapsed on the sidewalk, while Dean made his way upstairs. Three of the shells were missing, and it was believed that while Dean was upstairs, he tried to flush them down the toilet (as he told the officers he only discharged the weapon three times).

Fig 3. Exhibit photograph from murder trial of George Dean (JPG)
Fig 3. Exhibit photograph from murder trial of George Dean (Greene County Common Pleas Court)

Fig 4. Exhibit photograph from murder trial of George Dean (JPG)
Fig 4. Exhibit photograph from murder trial of George Dean (Greene County Common Pleas Court)

Thornton was taken to Springfield Hospital, but died within a few days of the shooting. The investigation also uncovered many weapons within the establishment, with Dean having several guns, heavy clubs, and a blackjack. The discovery of the weapons did not help Dean’s claim either. Dean was charged with two counts of second degree murder, which he pleaded not guilty, and the trial was scheduled for April 1946 (Fig 5). In the meantime, this incident provided proponents of the alcohol ban with a stronger platform. There are several articles in the Cedarville Herald that pointed to alcohol as the root of many problems in society, and the murders at the Bit n’ Bridle just solidified their claim (Fig 6).

Fig 5. Article from The Cedarville Herald, dated March 22, 1946 (JPG)
Fig 5. Article from The Cedarville Herald, dated March 22, 1946 (Cedarville University Digital Commons)

Fig 6. Article from The Cedarville Herald, dated March 8, 1946 (JPG)
Fig 6. Article from The Cedarville Herald, dated March 8, 1946 (Cedarville University Digital Commons)

Dean’s trial started on April 9, 1946. Seventeen witnesses testified against Dean, and just four days later, Dean was convicted of two counts of first degree manslaughter. Dean’s defense team appealed for a new trial, but it was overruled. Dean was sentenced to one to twenty years for each count, and the terms would run concurrently (Fig 7). We haven’t been able to determine his exact sentence, but he was transported to the Ohio Penitentiary in May 1946. Dean only served three years for the two counts of manslaughter, being paroled on July 5, 1949 (Fig 8).

Fig 7. Article from The Cedarville Herald, dated May 10, 1946 (JPG)
Fig 7. Article from The Cedarville Herald, dated May 10, 1946 (Cedarville University Digital Commons)

Fig 8. Article from The Cedarville Herald, dated April 15, 1949 (JPG)
Fig 8. Article from The Cedarville Herald, dated April 15, 1949 (Cedarville University Digital Commons)

As for the dry vote, the local Dry Federation got petitions circulating for the ballot in November 1946, and received the required signatures to put it to a vote (Fig 9). Additionally, the liquor license held by Dean for the Bit n’ Bridle was revoked in September 1946. The wet-dry vote in November ended with a recount, and the dry vote winning 299 to 175 (Fig 10). To this day, Cedarville is still dry.

Fig 9. Article from The Cedarville Herald, dated July 26, 1946 (JPG)
Fig 9. Article from The Cedarville Herald, dated July 26, 1946 (Cedarville University Digital Commons)

Fig 10. Article from The Cedarville Herald, dated November 22, 1946 (JPG)
Fig 10. Article from The Cedarville Herald, dated November 22, 1946 (Cedarville University Digital Commons)

Until Next Time!

Sources:
Cedarville University Digital Commons
FamilySearch.org
Greene County Archives
Greene County Common Pleas Court
NewspaperARCHIVE.com
Newspapers.com


May 17

Severely Wounded WWI Soldier Finds No Luck at Home

Posted on May 17, 2019 at 8:58 AM by Melissa Dalton

On the morning of Tuesday, October 10, 1939, Charles Oberschlake was driving a team of horses along Grange Hall Road in Beavercreek Township when he was struck by a Pennsylvania Railroad train at a grade crossing. The Beavercreek farmer was severely injured and was taken to the hospital at the Soldiers Home. Surprisingly, Oberschlake’s team of horses escaped uninjured.

Subsequently, because of Oberschlake’s serious injuries, he filed a $30,000 lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.

Fig. 1 Journal 72 Pg. 448 - Charles Oberschlake (JPG)
Fig. 1 Greene County Common Pleas Journal 72, Pg. 448 (Greene County Archives)

In today’s economy that would be an equivalent of over $500,000. The case was eventually transferred to the U.S. Federal District Court in Dayton.

Fig. 2 Case Transferred (JPG)
Fig. 2 Greene County Appearance Docket (Greene County Archives)

We have not been able to determine the outcome of this case because the record is being held with the U.S. National Archives & Records.

Two years later, forty-eight year old Oberschlake was again seriously injured when he was struck by a bolt of lightning while atop a hay mound at his home on Grange Hall Road.

Fig. 3 xenia-evening-gazette-Jul-17-1941-p-5 Oberschlake (PNG)
Fig. 3 Xenia Daily Gazette, July 17, 1941 (Newspapers.com)

He tumbled off the wagon and suffered significant injuries. His face was badly burned and he was treated at Miami Valley Hospital. Unfortunately, lightning struck twice when in 1943, an electrical storm walloped the Oberschlake’s home, now near Yellow Springs. Chimneys were knocked down, windows were broken and the electrical power was cut off. Thankfully, none of the Oberschlake family members were harmed.

Fig. 4 xenia-evening-gazette-Jul-15-1943-p-5-1 edited (PNG)
Fig. 4 Xenia Evening Gazette, July 15, 1943 (Newspapers.com)

Incredibly, Charles Oberschlake experienced even greater misfortune much earlier than these three instances. Oberschlake, a native Iowan, joined the National Guard in 1916 as an infantryman. During the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, Sgt. Oberschlake of the American Expeditionary Forces (the formation of the United States Army on the Western Front) was severely wounded in action in September 1918.

Fig. 5 Meuse-Argonne Offensive (JPG)
Fig. 5 Saratoga Springs, New York National Guard Soldiers of the 165th Infantry at Landres-et-St. Georges in October 1918. Photo By: New York State Military History Museum (NationalGuard.mil)

The Meuse-Argonne Offensive stretched along the entire Western Front and was the deadliest campaign in American history.

Fig. 6 Colliers 1921Meuse-Argonne Offensive (JPG)
Fig. 6 Map of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, Collier’s New Encyclopedia (Wikimedia.org)

It resulted in over 26,000 soldiers being killed in action. One of Oberschlake’s eyes was considerably damaged during the Offensive and he permanently lost sight in the eye.

Fortunately, even after sustaining multiple injuries throughout his life, Oberschlake went on to live till the age of seventy-one. This stalwart Greene County farmer, veteran and father of three died in his home in April 1962. Charles Oberschlake is buried at Mount Zion Shoup Cemetery alongside his wife, Mottie.

Until Next Time!

Sources:
- Greene County Archives
- Newspapers.com
- NationalGuard.mil
- Wikimedia.org
- Archives.gov
May 10

John Daniel Steele: The Man Behind the Steele Building

Posted on May 10, 2019 at 1:35 PM by Melissa Dalton

Many people, especially those who have been in Xenia for years, know about the Steele Building that once stood on the corner of Main and Detroit. Sadly, it was heavily damaged in the 1974 tornado, and subsequently, was razed. However, how much do you know about the man behind the Steele Building? This man came from a business-minded family, always had a keen eye for business himself, and became a prominent businessman in Xenia. Today, we are going to explore the life of John Daniel Steele.

John Daniel Steele, better known as J.D. Steele, was born on November 4, 1855 to David and Mary (Harbine) Steele of Alpha. Steele graduated from Xenia High School and completed his B.A. at the College of Wooster in 1877.

Upon graduation, Steele worked for his uncle, J. H. Harbine, and in 1881, bought M.C. Allison’s interest in Allison, Eavey & Carson, at which time the company was renamed Eavey, Carson & Steele (which was again changed to Eavey & Company shortly thereafter). Steele remained with the company until 1888, when he sold his interest and joined Hooven & Allison Company, becoming the secretary and general manager of the company. However, Steele made quite the name for himself in the region, organizing and incorporating other businesses such as the Steele, Hopkins & Meredith Company, and the Electric Light Company.

In 1893, Steele married Miriam E. Yockey (Fig 1), and they had three children – John, Margaret, and Florence. The family took up residence at a house located on the corner of Union and North Galloway in Xenia (Fig 2). Steele was a member of the Reformed Church, as well as a member of several fraternal organizations in the area. He also was a staunch republican, although he never pursued a political career.

Fig 1. Marriage record of John Daniel Steele and Miriam E. Yockey dated 1893 (JPG)
Fig 1. Marriage record of John Daniel Steele and Miriam E. Yockey (Greene County Archives)

Fig 2. 1913 Xenia City Directory
Fig 2. 1913 Xenia City Directory (Greene County Archives)

In the mid-1890s, Steele decided to construct a building in downtown Xenia (Fig 3). As plans were being submitted for the building, the residents took interest in what possibilities this structure would hold for the city. The construction on the building was completed in 1896 (Fig 4), and followed the Dutch Colonial Revival style, an architectural style popular for that time (Fig 5). The building housed many businesses throughout its life, and by viewing J.D. Steele’s estate file, it is clear that he remained quite profitable in his business dealings throughout his life.

Fig 3. Article on plans for Steele Building, Xenia Daily Gazette, December 4, 1894 (JPG)
Fig 3. Article on the plans for the Steele Building from the Xenia Daily Gazette, dated December 4, 1894 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Fig 4. 1897 Greene County Tax Duplicate (JPG)Fig 4. 1896 Greene County Tax Duplicate (JPG)
Fig 4. 1897 Greene County Tax Duplicate (JPG)
Fig 4. 1898 Greene County Tax Duplicate (JPG)
Fig 4. Tax Duplicates for Steele Building site dated 1896, 1897, & 1898 respectively (Greene County Archives)

Fig 5. Steele Building in 1908 (JPG)
Fig 5. Steele Building in 1908 (Greene County Archives)

In 1922, tragedy struck the family with the death of John Daniel Steele, Jr. While packing for an upcoming trip to the Canadian Rockies and Alaska, Steele Jr. was preparing his .45 Colt revolver, accidentally discharging the weapon. The bullet pierced his heart and lung, and Steele died within hours of the accident (Fig 6).

Fig 6. Article on death of John Daniel Steele, Jr., Xenia Daily Gazette, March 27, 1922 (JPG)
Fig 6. Article on death of John Daniel Steele, Jr. from Xenia Daily Gazette, dated March 27, 1922 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

J.D. Steele retired from his business ventures in 1928, and according to the Xenia Daily Gazette (dated July 28, 1930), during Steele’s tenure with the Hooven & Allison Company, the company grew from a $300,000 to $6 million corporation!

During the final years of his life, Steele was burdened with illness. In June 1930, Steele wrote his will. On July 27, 1930, just over a month after completing his will, Steele passed away. However, due to the provisions made for all of his real and personal property, Steele’s estate file itself is rather small. Steele’s will instructed that a trust be created, and it is this file that is quite extensive, and clearly illustrates just how lucrative Steele was in his business. At the time of his death, his estate was worth just over $82,000 (Fig 7), which equates to over $1 million today.

Fig 7. J.D. Steele Trusteeship, Box 716, Case 469 (JPG)
Fig 7. Part of inventory from Trusteeship file of J.D. Steele, Box 716, Case 469 (Greene County Archives)

Until Next Time!

Sources:
Greene County Archives
NewspaperARCHIVE.com
Robinson, G.F. (1902). History of Greene County, Ohio. Chicago, IL: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company.