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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Jul 13

Jealousy and Murder: The Joshua Monroe Story

Posted on July 13, 2018 at 1:53 PM by Melissa Dalton

Jealousy is a strange thing, and people do crazy things in fits of jealous rage. That holds true in this week’s story of Joshua Monroe, who killed his lover after she professed her intent to marry another.

The year was 1863, and Joshua Monroe was a married man, albeit unhappily, and had five children by his wife. Monroe took interest in his sister-in-law, Caroline Umbenhour (also recorded as Umbenhower). According to newspaper articles, Joshua and Caroline carried on an open relationship, and Caroline had a child by him. Several articles report that the two were members of the “free love” movement in Yellow Springs, making their open relationship less surprising. However, that all changed when Caroline accepted the marriage proposal of another man (Fig 1).

Excerpt from the Xenia Sentinel, dated November 11, 1864 (JPG)
Fig 1. Excerpt of article from The Xenia Sentinel dated November 11, 1864 (Newspapers.com)


On December 8, 1863, Monroe confronted Caroline, asking to speak with her regarding her upcoming marriage. She obliged, and they walked to the cemetery at the edge of town (Glen Forest Cemetery). They talked for about an hour, and Monroe professed his love for her. He asked if she intended to marry the man, and according to the court transcript, she replied, “Yes, unless death do separate” (Fig 2). At that proclamation, Monroe immediately struck her, stabbing her nine times in the stomach and chest, killing her instantly. Upon recognizing what he had done, Monroe took the knife to his own neck, slashing it, hoping to end his own life. A passerby found Caroline and heard Monroe moaning, and went for help. Although Monroe lost a great deal of blood, the doctors were able to stop the bleeding and close the wound, and he was taken to jail.

Excerpt from the Xenia Torchlight, dated November 1864 (JPG)
Fig 2. Excerpt of article from The Xenia Torchlight dated November 1864 (Greene County Archives)

Monroe was indicted for murder in the first degree and pled not guilty to the charges. The prosecuting attorney requested the sheriff summon men from throughout the County to serve as jurors (a process known as “venire facias”). Witnesses at trial, including his sister and daughter, claimed that Monroe suffered from “spells of despondency” and “mental trouble” (Fig 3), while others spoke of his peculiarities. Reports indicate that Monroe had several incoherent outbursts throughout the duration of the trial, and appeared to be an “unbalanced” man.

Excerpt from the Xenia Torchlight, dated November 1864 (JPG)
Fig 3. Excerpt of article from The Xenia Torchlight dated November 1864 (Greene County Archives)

On November 4, 1864, almost a year after the murder, counsel delivered their closing arguments, and the jury was sent for deliberation. It took a jury of Monroe’s peers only three hours to decide his fate. Monroe was found NOT GUILTY of murder in the first degree, but GUILTY of murder in the second degree, meaning he would serve life in prison at the state penitentiary (Fig 4).

Excerpt from State Record Vol. 3, p 395 (JPG)
Fig 4. State Record Vol. 3, page 395, The State of Ohio vs. Joshua Monroe (Greene County Archives)

Monroe wrote several letters during his incarceration in the county jail. I found one in the November 25, 1864 edition of The Xenia Sentinel (Fig 5). In the letter, Monroe wrote of loving all beings, friend or foe, and that he would never hurt anyone. He further stated that he had many issues with “deep melancholy”, had full faith in God and his plan, and that the separation from his family was unfair to them and caused great hardship. The letter continues, and repeats many of the same thoughts and themes. It’s a bit of a read, but if you have a few moments, I think you will find it rather interesting.

Part 1 of Article from the Xenia Sentinel dated November 25, 1864 (JPG)
Part 2 of Article from the Xenia Sentinel dated November 25, 1864 (JPG)Part 3 of Article from the Xenia Sentinel dated November 25, 1864 (JPG)
Fig 5. Letter from Monroe given to, and published in, the Xenia Sentinel on November 25, 1864 (Newspapers.com)

Monroe was eventually transferred to the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus, Ohio. On October 25, 1865, within a year of his transfer to the state prison, Monroe met a terrible doom. He was working with a machine in the chair shop, and a piece of his clothing got caught in the machine, and according to the Tiffin Tribune, was “whirled at a fearful rate killing him instantly, and mangling his body fearfully” (Fig 6).

Notice of Death of Joshua Monroe in the Tiffin Tribune, dated November 9, 1865 (JPG)
Fig 6. Notice in the Tiffin Tribune of Monroe’s death (Newspapers.com)

I tried to find something out about Monroe’s family after the murder and his subsequent death, but the records are silent. I couldn’t find a marriage, birth, or death certificate, and I was unable to definitively locate any of the known family members on census records. I believe much of this is due to the fact that they moved frequently, something Rosa Monroe, his daughter, alluded to during his trial. Unfortunately, without the record, the story goes silent; and so, this is where the Monroe story ends.

UNTIL NEXT TIME…

Sources:
Ancestry.com
Greene County Archives
Newspapers.com


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