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 26

Dead Men Tell No Tales

Posted on October 26, 2018 at 9:26 AM by Melissa Dalton

Halloween is right around the corner and we have two Greene County murders (and maybe hauntings??) to consider this week. Wednesday we told you about two of Igo’s stories, “Cut Throat in the Kitchen” and “The Ghost of the County Jail”. These two stories have a connection, and we’ve actually written blog posts about both of these murders (links below). Before we distinguish fact from fiction, let’s recount the ghost stories of each.

The first story, “Cut Throat in the Kitchen,” explores the tale of a haunting in Fairfield (now part of Fairborn). Matthew Geiss and his wife moved into a rundown house in Fairfield. There were rumors of ghosts, but Geiss didn’t care. However, one night he left his wife alone and made his way to Dayton. While out, his wife decided to do some knitting while she sat in the kitchen. She suddenly heard the door creaking, but saw nothing. She went back to her knitting humming to herself as she worked, but then the creaking came again, and when she turned around, she saw a dead man’s hand reach inside. Mrs. Geiss screamed and fainted, being found by her husband upon his return. When the story was told to the neighbors, they told the Geisses about a murder that took place in their very kitchen. The claim was that a man – drunk, angry, and jealous – slashed his wife’s throat and left to the bleed to death on the kitchen floor. Their children ran from the home in fear, hiding in the corn field behind the house (Fig 1).

Fig 1. "The Cut Throat in the Kitchen" by Harold Igo (JPG)
Fig 1. “Cut Throat in the Kitchen” by Harold Igo (Greene County Archives)

Does this story sound vaguely familiar? It should! This is the Ransbottom murder, and we covered it in a three-part blog post in February 2018 (http://www.co.greene.oh.us/Blog.aspx?IID=148#item, http://www.co.greene.oh.us/Blog.aspx?IID=149#item, and http://www.co.greene.oh.us/Blog.aspx?IID=150#item). We have provided links to the blogs, but here’s a quick recap of what really happened in on the Fairfield property. Ransbottom was in and out of jail, and his wife and children received help from neighbors. One night, shortly after being released from jail, Ransbottom came home to find his wife out. When she returned, he was drunk and angry. Realizing he meant to do her harm, she ran from the house. Ransbottom caught her in the back on the yard, slashed her throat, and then went into the house and attempted suicide by cutting his own throat. Ransbottom was charged and convicted of murder, and was hanged in Greene County, which was the only legal hanging in Greene County (Fig 2).

Fig 2. Notice in the Cambridge Reveille, dated October 27, 1849 (JPG)
Fig 2. Notice in Cambridge Reveille, dated October 27, 1849 (Newspapers.com)

The second story, “The Ghost of the County Jail”, recounts a story that a local man claims his father told him about a meeting with Ransbottom while he awaited his execution, and the suicide of a murderer roughly thirty years later. It is the second part of the story that is of consequence here. Igo’s story describes the indictment of a farmer, McCaslin, of the murder of his neighbor, Fogwell. McCaslin proclaimed innocence, but the evidence against him was enough to seal his fate. The authorities tried to wear McCaslin down, and told him the story of old Ransbottom. They told him if he didn’t confess, he would meet the same doom. McCaslin was left in his cell to contemplate. The next morning, the sheriff found McCaslin had hanged himself in his cell. The story claims he had a note pinned to his shirt that said, “Ransbottom, I’m coming” (Fig 3).

Fig 3. "The Ghost of the County Jail" by Harold Igo (JPG)
Fig 3. “The Ghost of the County Jail” by Harold Igo (Greene County Archives)

You may recognize this story as well. We covered it back in 2015 (http://www.co.greene.oh.us/Blog.aspx?IID=10#item and https://www.co.greene.oh.us/Blog.aspx?IID=9)! There are some inconsistencies in the story above. The main issue is that Fogwell was murdered by William Ritchison (also recorded as Richardson), not McCaslin. Fogwell and Ritchison were neighbors, and had been feuding for years. One night, Ritchison decided to end the feud once and for all. He ambushed Fogwell, shooting him several times (Fig 4). Fogwell didn’t die immediately, and revealed to authorities that Ritchison was the shooter. Ritchison was tried and convicted of murder, and sentenced to death by hanging (Fig 5). Ritchison appealed and was granted a second trial. To his dismay, the second trial ended with the same fate. Ritchison tried to escape, starved himself, and upon realizing he was not getting out of his cell alive, he took his own life.

Fig 4. Washington Galloway sketch of crime scene (JPG)
Fig 4. Washington Galloway sketch of crime scene (Greene County Archives)

Fig 5. Excerpt from 1873 Washington Galloway Diary, pg 61 (JPG)
Fig 5. 1873 Washington Galloway Diary, page 61 (Greene County Historical Society)

Both Ransbottom and Ritchison were men who met similar fates, and at no fault to anyone but themselves. They let anger and jealousy get the best of them, and suffered the ultimate price for their wicked ways. However, one might ask, was the ghost of Ransbottom in that jail cell with Ritchison? Was Ritchison being haunted and terrorized by Ransbottom, slowly driving him mad? Was the thought of suicide implanted by Ransbottom? Only you can decide what you believe happened…

Until Next Time…

Sources:
Greene County Archives
Greene County Historical Society
Igo, Harold. (1943). Haunted Houses: Spooky Tales of Yellow Springs. Yellow Springs Historical Society.
Newspapers.com


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