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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Apr 26

Play Ball! ... But NOT on Sunday! by Amy Brickey

Posted on April 26, 2019 at 9:16 AM by Melissa Dalton

Baseball was as popular of a sport, and perhaps even more so, in the late 1800s and early 1900s as it is today. The Cincinnati Red Stockings had been one of the first all-professional baseball teams as early as 1869. Americans loved gathering to watch their favorite players knock one out of the park, or see the opposing team strike out at bat. There was all manner of baseball teams, even here in Xenia. One such team was a semi-professional baseball team called the Xenia Nationals. In 1910, the Xenia Nationals Baseball Club (Fig. 1) found themselves in some hot water thanks to Mrs. Carrie Flatter, President of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).

Fig 1. Xenia Nationals Base Ball Club, undated photograph (JPG)
Fig 1. Xenia Nationals Base Ball Club, undated photograph. Front row, L to R: Fred Fisher; Lawrence Rayner; William (Dad) Kearney; Charles Blessing; John Hayes; and a child mascot. Back row, L to R: Bill Dudley; Walter (Butch) Bentley; Michael O'Connor; Tom (Peanut) Hayes; and Lester Stiles. Photo courtesy of the Greene County Room, Green County Public Library.

In the spring of 1910, Mrs. Flatter went to the Greene County Probate Court and filed a complaint against the Xenia Nationals for “Exhibiting Base Ball on a Sunday.” Baseball playing on Sunday was against the law at this time, per the Sunday Laws, also known as the Blue Laws. Other activities that were illegal on Sundays under the Ohio General Code rule #13049 (Fig. 2) were African American minstrel groups, games of ten pins, variety shows, and circus acts. Sunday was meant to be a day of worship, rest, and family togetherness.

Fig 2. Topical Index to the General Code for the State of Ohio, 1910 (JPG)
Fig 2. Topical Index to the General Code of the State of Ohio, 1910

Judge Howard ordered the arrest of the Xenia National managers, Martin (Mart) Berry and George McDonnell (spelled McDonald in court documents). The arrest warrant for Berry and McDonnell was signed by Samuel Galloway, Justice of the Peace, on April 17, 1910, and they were subsequently brought before Greene County Probate Judge Charles Howard.

The two managers were brought to trial on May 20, 1910, and the Xenia Daily Gazette revealed that the courtroom was so crowded, that the session was taken to the assembly room in the basement of the courtroom (Fig. 3).

Fig 3. Article from the Xenia Daily Gazette regarding the baseball trial, dated May 20, 1910 (JPG)
Fig 3. Article from the Xenia Daily Gazette regarding the baseball trial, dated May 20, 1910

The verdict was returned as not guilty, but Mrs. Flatter and the WCTU were not finished with the ball club. Yet another complaint was filed against the Xenia National Base Ball Club for “Exhibiting Base Ball on a Sunday.” This time the WCTU filed an affidavit against four of the club’s players. Lester Stiles, Hugh Funderburg, Oscar Day, and Walter “Butch” Bentley were arrested with a trial date of August 18, 1910. After the trial, the jury deliberated for an excruciatingly long time of six hours. Eight jurors wanted to acquit the men while four wanted them convicted. It was 8:30 PM when Judge Howard finally dismissed the case as the jury “agreed to disagree” and could not be swayed one way or another on a verdict (Fig. 4).

Fig 4. Article from the Xenia Daily Gazette regarding the baseball trial, dated August 18, 1910 (JPG
Fig 4. Article from the Xenia Daily Gazette regarding the baseball trial, dated August 18, 1910

Despite Mrs. Carrie Flatter and the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement’s efforts to punish those who were breaking the law, their efforts were for naught. Flatter and other members of the WCTU were charged with the court costs from the baseball trials, and Mrs. Flatter was sued by Walter Bentley for false incarceration due to being absent from the game for which the trial was held.

The Xenia Nationals would not ever find themselves in court for playing baseball on a Sunday ever again, however, because of a bill passed in January of 1911. The Greeves’ Bill, or House Bill 110, declared that baseball playing was no longer a criminal act unless it was played in the “forenoon” (Fig. 5).

Fig 5. Passage of House Bill 110, amending section 13049 regarding Ohio's Sunday Laws (JPG)
Fig 5. Passage of House Bill 110, amending section 13049 regarding Ohio's Sunday Laws

If this story interests you, please come by the archives and see our small exhibit about the Xenia Nationals Base Ball Club, the men who played on the team, and the record of their arrests.

Sources:
Xenia Daily Gazette
Greene County Archives, Probate Box 434, Cases 988 & 989
The General Code of Ohio, 1910
Greene County Room, Greene County Library

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