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.

View All Posts

May 07

The Good Fight: The Story of Amelia Highwarden

Posted on May 7, 2018 at 3:27 PM by Melissa Dalton

When I first started back in November, Robin told me about something they found in the Probate records of Amelia Highwarden. Ms. Highwarden was committed to Longview Asylum in 1871, and the medical certificate stating the reason was enough to spark anyone’s interest.

The Medical Certificate of Amelia Highwarden (Fig 1), signed by Dr. Samuel Martin, states the following:
- Amelia is 45 years old;
- Troubles started when “her husband who has been unfaithful and has contracted an improper matrimonial engagement with another woman”; AND
- Cause of the disease is “her menstrual period ceasing”.

Medical Certificate of Amelia Highwarden (JPG)
Fig 1. Medical Certificate for Amelia Highwarden dated March 16, 1871 (Greene County Archives)

When I read her brief history, I was taken aback that anyone would blame menopause instead of her adulterous husband. However, when one takes into account that it was 1871, nothing should be surprising.

Although this is the document that got me interested in Amelia Highwarden, there is more to tell – and there’s even an ever-so-strange side story!

There is little known about Amelia until her marriage to Simeon Highwarden. I’ve been unable to find birth dates for Amelia or Simeon, but according to other records I’ve found, it appears they were born sometime in the 1820s. In many records, Simeon is listed as “African” or “colored”, and Amelia is listed as “colored”. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find much about either of them prior to their marriage, so questions like where they were born, were they freed slaves, when were they married previously, are left unanswered. However, I did learn that on November 2, 1854 (however, the court records indicate that the marriage was in October 1857), Amelia A. Ratliff and Simeon (or Simon) Highwarden married in Highland County, Ohio (Fig 2).

Marriage Record of Amelia and Simeon Highwarden, dated November 2, 1854 (JPG)
Fig 2. Marriage record of Simeon Highwarden and Amelia Ann Ratliff, dated November 2, 1854 (FamilySearch.org)

Shortly after marrying, Simeon and Amelia, along with her two children from her first marriage (she was widowed), moved to Xenia, Ohio. Amelia’s children inherited $100 from their father’s estate, and that money went to Simeon upon their marriage. In 1862, Amelia and Simeon bought property in Xenia, Lot 1 of the Hugh Carey Addition (Figs 3 & 4), using the children’s inheritance and the money Amelia earned. Records state that Simeon did not keep any job long, so the duties of caring for the family fell on Amelia. Then in 1864, Simeon ran off with Elizabeth Hill of Logan County, moved to Canada, and was living with Elizabeth as husband and wife.

1874 Map of the 4th Ward of Xenia City (JPG)
Fig 3. 1873 Galloway Map of the 4th Ward of Xenia - Lot 1 of the Hugh Carey Addition outlined in red (Greene County Archives)

Current Map of Lot 1 Hugh Carey Addition (JPG)
Fig 4. Current location of Lot 1 of Hugh Carey Addition (Greene County Auditor GIS Maps)

Upon arriving in Canada, Simeon conveyed the property in Xenia, on which Amelia and her children still lived, to J.H. Taylor of Canada for $700, in an attempt to get some cash for the property. When Taylor tried to evict Amelia, she refused to leave and instead, filed a petition for divorce and alimony on March 3, 1865, and later, she sued both Taylor and Highwarden for fraudulent sale of property and to have the property transferred to her sole ownership (Fig 5).

Notice in The Xenia Sentinel dated March 17, 1865 (JPG)
Fig 5. The Xenia Sentinel dated March 17, 1865 (Newspapers.com)

The judge temporarily granted her injunction, until the case was resolved. Amelia claimed that Simeon had no right to sell the property as he did not pay for it. Additionally, Amelia stated that Taylor was aware that Simeon had a “proper” wife and that he had no right to sell without her consent. Taylor claimed that Elizabeth signed the conveyance deed as the owner, therefore, he had rightful ownership. This case took just over a year, but in the end, Amelia triumphed. Not only did she receive judgment in her favor for divorce and alimony, but she also was awarded the rightful ownership of the property (Fig 6). Taylor gave notice that he planned to appeal, but if he did, he was not successful.

Greene County Common Pleas Journal No. 8 pg 284 (JPG)Greene County Common Pleas Journal No. 8 pg 285 (JPG)
Fig 6. Greene County Common Pleas Journal No. 8, pgs. 284-285 (Greene County Archives)

Although Amelia got her property, it appears the stress of the situation took its toll on her. The 1870 Census (Fig 7) shows her daughter and granddaughter living with her, but in March 1871, Amelia was committed to the Longview Asylum in Hamilton, Ohio. She was there only a few short months, and in June 1871, Amelia was released after she “recovered her health” (Fig 8).

1870 Census with Amelia Highwarden outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 7. 1870 Census with Amelia’s name outlined in red (HeritageQuest)

Letter from J. T. Webb, Superintendent of Longview Asylum, dated June 12, 1871 (JPG)
Fig 8. Letter from J. T. Webb, Superintendent of Longview Asylum, dated June 12, 1871

After release, Amelia returned to her home on East Market Street. The 1880 Census shows that Amelia’s granddaughter still was living with her, and she worked as a “wash woman” (Fig 9). Amelia passed away at her home on September 30, 1884 at the age of 60 (Fig 10).

1880 Census with Amelia Highwarden outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 9. 1880 Census with Amelia outlined in red (FamilySearch.org)

Obituary of Amelia Highwarden in the Xenia Daily Gazette, dated September 30, 1884 (JPG)
Fig 10. Obituary of Amelia Highwarden in the Xenia Daily Gazette, dated September 30, 1884 (NewspaperArchive)

Now, I know I told you there is a side story I found as I was researching the life of Amelia Highwarden. It does not take place in Greene County, but there is a connection to Simeon Highwarden; however, you’ll have to wait for that crazy story until next week!

Until Next Time…

Sources:
Ancestry.com
FamilySearch.org
HeritageQuest
Greene County Probate Records
NewspaperArchive.com
Newspapers.com

Comments

You must log in before leaving your comment