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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Oct 19

Jealousy and Rage: A Recipe for Murder

Posted on October 19, 2018 at 3:39 PM by Melissa Dalton

Harold Igo tells another interesting tale titled, “House of the Fiery Ferns.” This story explores the events that led up to the murder of Denman Duncan…

They say Denman Duncan was a quiet and peaceful man; a painter and paper hanger, and the son of an Antioch professor (Fig 1). Rumor was that he had a drug habit, but was friendly with all he knew; albeit maybe too friendly with his neighbor, Maud (Taylor) Haines. Maud was the (much younger) wife of Lewis Haines, a man who did not take kindly to his wife’s affection for Duncan.

Fig 1. Denman C. Duncan, from Xenia Daily Gazette, dated September 16, 1915 (JPG)
Fig 1. Denman C. Duncan (Newspapers.com)

The story claims that Duncan might have been a painter and paper hanger by trade, but knew a great deal about plant physiology and loved to read. When the Haines and Duncan became neighbors, Maud took a liking to Duncan, viewing him affectionately. He would talk to her about plants, and she told her husband about his discoveries and Haines had his doubts that Duncan knew much of anything. Haines confronted the man one night, only to discover Duncan was well-read and probably knew more than he did. This angered him, and he left abruptly. During dinner that night, his wife continued her talk of Duncan and his knowledge of ferns. Haines had enough. He got up from the table and left the house, grabbing a hatchet on his way out. He walked the few steps to Duncan’s place, and silently opened the back door. He found Duncan quietly reading, crept towards him, and with one swing, hit Duncan in the head with the hatchet, killing him.

The legend Igo heard claimed that if one went to Springfield Road and looked down to the creek, they might see the glow of one of Duncan’s phosphorescent ferns (Fig 2).

Fig 2. Harold Igo's Story, "No. 6 House of the Fiery Ferns" (JPG) Fig 2. Harold Igo's Story, "No. 6 House of the Fiery Ferns" (JPG)
Fig 2. Harold Igo's Story "No. 6 House of Fiery Ferns" (JPG) Fig 2. Harold Igo's Story, "No. 6 House of the Fiery Ferns" (JPG)
Fig 2. Harold Igo’s Story, “No. 6 House of the Fiery Ferns” (Greene County Archives)

So, what really happened? Was it a case of jealous rage? There are many newspaper articles and records about Duncan’s murder. After reading through 50 pages of the Coroner’s Inquest, it was clear that Denman Duncan was a well-liked man. Many did reference his drinking and drug habit, but claimed he was always kind and peaceful. However, a few also noted his almost gregarious nature around Maud (Fig 3). They spent a great deal of time together, and were seen lying in his hammock together more than once, although no one thought anything indecent or lewd was going on between them. Haines felt differently. He believed Duncan paid “undue attention” to his wife, a claim Maud denied, and this attention was the cause of many fights (Fig 4).

Fig 3. Excerpt from John Harner's testimony as part of the Coroner's Inquest (JPG)
Fig 3. Excerpt from John Harner’s testimony as part of the Coroner’s Inquest (Greene County Archives)

Fig 4. Excerpt from Xenia Daily Gazette, dated September 16, 1915 (JPG)
Fig 4. Excerpts from Xenia Daily Gazette, dated September 16, 1915 (Newspapers.com)


The day of the murder, Mr. and Mrs. Haines were to attend the circus in Springfield. They left in the morning and returned late afternoon (although they only attended the parade). Haines was in an “angry mood”, and the couple quarreled throughout the day. They went to bed around 8pm, and heard Duncan about. Haines’ anger only increased when hearing Duncan, and he told his wife he “was going to kill” the man. Haines got out of bed, walked barefoot to Duncan’s home, entering the open rear door. He saw a hatchet near the kindling. Haines picked up the hatchet and crept toward Duncan, who was silently reading. Haines raised the hatchet, and with one blow, hit Duncan on the head, killing him instantly. Then Haines tried to make it look like a robbery, throwing Duncan’s pocketbooks onto the floor. He then walked back home, wiped the blood from his hands, and went to bed.

Denman Duncan was found several hours later by a young boy, no older than 4 years old. The boy went home to tell his mother, who, upon entering Duncan’s home, immediately ran to call for help. When the investigation began, the authorities had no leads. Then they found droplets of blood, and other circumstantial evidence, which led them to the Haineses. Both Maud and Lewis were taken in for questioning, and both denied any knowledge. After a few hours of interrogations, Maud broke down, telling the authorities her husband killed Duncan in a jealous rage. The authorities then went to Lewis, and upon realizing they knew, he confessed, claiming that “it was necessary to get Duncan out of the way to preserve his home life” (Fig 5). Haines pled guilty, being indicted and convicted of murder in the second degree. Haines was sentenced to life in prison, and was to be “kept at hard labor” (Figs 6 & 7).

Fig 5. Excerpts from Xenia Daily Gazette, dated September 16, 1915 (JPG)
Fig 5. Excerpts from Xenia Daily Gazette, dated September 16, 1915 (Newspapers.com)

Fig 6. Excerpt of State Record No. 12, page 15 (JPG)
Fig 6. Excerpt from State Record No 12, page 15 (Greene County Archives)

Fig 7. Article from Dayton Daily News, dated November 11, 1917 (JPG)
Fig 7. Article from Dayton Daily News, dated November 11, 1915 (Newspapers.com)


Maud was released and not charged as she assisted the authorities in indicting her husband. She later filed for, and was granted, a divorce in 1917 (Fig 8). Curious as to what happened to Haines, I searched for him in census records. I located him on the 1920 Census as an inmate in the Ohio Penitentiary, but after that, there’s nothing (Fig 9). I searched the Ohio Penitentiary records for his name, but did not find him. I checked the Ohio death records and there is a Lewis Haines that died in Franklin County in 1921, but I’m not sure it is the same Lewis Haines as the records are not available online. Others have searched as well, but no one can say exactly what happened to Haines… he just vanished.

Fig 8. Article from Xenia Daily Gazette, dated February 27, 1917 (JPG)
Fig 8. Article from Xenia Daily Gazette, dated February 27, 1917 (Newspapers.com)

Fig 9. 1920 U.S. Census with Lewis Haines outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 9. 1920 U.S. Census of Ohio Penitentiary Inmates (Ancestry.com)


(Edit: After a little more research, I ran across some notes by Don Hutslar in the compilation of Igo's stories by the Yellow Springs Historical Society. According to Hutslar (I have not been able to verify any of this information as of yet), Haines was sent to the London Prison Farm after serving 10 years of his sentence. In 1925 he was paroled, and then in 1927, Haines was pardoned.)

UNTIL NEXT TIME…

Sources:
Ancestry.com
FamilySearch.org
Greene County Archives
Newspapers.com


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