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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May 23

Murder in Cedarville

Posted on May 23, 2019 at 3:48 PM by Melissa Dalton

Last week, we posted a photograph of downtown Cedarville, which was part of a criminal case exhibit (Fig 1). This week, we give you the full story...

Fig 1. Exhibit photograph from murder trial of George Dean (JPG)
Fig 1. Exhibit photograph from murder trial of George Dean (Greene County Common Pleas Court)

Cedarville wasn’t always a dry town. After prohibition ended in 1933, bars and other establishments began selling liquor in the village. Although there were those that were happy about the end of prohibition, others fought to outlaw the sale of alcohol in the village. In 1946, that group had more fodder for the fight – a double murder at a local bar.

On March 1, 1946, Gladys Reynolds, 18-year-old wife of army private, Robert Reynolds, visited the Bit n’ Bridle on Xenia Avenue in Cedarville. The bar was busy, and another patron, H.L. “Jack” Thornton, had a little too much to drink. However, it is here that the events of the evening become unclear. There were two different stories relayed to the detectives - the story told by the bar owner and the story as told by various witnesses.

According to the bar owner, George Dean (originally from Kentucky), he refused to serve Thornton, and ordered him to leave the establishment. Another patron bought Thornton a beer, but Martha Dean, George’s wife, took the beer away from him. Dean told Thornton he was calling the police, went behind the bar, grabbed a revolver, and started walking to the telephone. Thornton followed, and they struggled. Dean hit him over the head with the gun, and it discharged, striking Mrs. Reynolds, who was getting ready to put a nickel in the jukebox. Ms. Reynolds was shot in the chest and killed instantly. Dean, fearing for his life, shot Thornton twice at close range, with both shots hitting him in the chest. Thornton fled from the bar, where he collapsed on the sidewalk. Dean claimed only to discharge the weapon three times (Fig 2).

Fig 2. Article from the Xenia Daily Gazette, dated March 2, 1946 (JPG)
Fig 2. Article from the Xenia Daily Gazette, dated March 2, 1946 (JPG)
Fig 2. Article from the Xenia Daily Gazette, dated March 2, 1946 (Newspapers.com)

As the police worked through the investigation, they realized parts of Dean’s story just didn’t add up. The details described by eye witnesses related a different set of events. Witness statements indicated that Thornton was drunk and asked to leave; however, there may not have been an altercation as originally claimed. These accounts point to Dean getting the gun, hiding it in his shirt, and as Thornton approached, Dean turned and discharged the revolver. It was then that a struggle ensued. The first bullet struck the wall near the kitchen and telephone, supposedly stopping the clock at the time of the incident (Fig 3). The second bullet struck Mrs. Reynolds, killing her instantly (Fig 4). A third bullet was found embedded in the wall near the door, and three struck Thornton (two in the chest, and one went through his arm); for a total of six shots being fired (meaning Dean emptied the weapon). Thornton stumbled out of the bar and collapsed on the sidewalk, while Dean made his way upstairs. Three of the shells were missing, and it was believed that while Dean was upstairs, he tried to flush them down the toilet (as he told the officers he only discharged the weapon three times).

Fig 3. Exhibit photograph from murder trial of George Dean (JPG)
Fig 3. Exhibit photograph from murder trial of George Dean (Greene County Common Pleas Court)

Fig 4. Exhibit photograph from murder trial of George Dean (JPG)
Fig 4. Exhibit photograph from murder trial of George Dean (Greene County Common Pleas Court)

Thornton was taken to Springfield Hospital, but died within a few days of the shooting. The investigation also uncovered many weapons within the establishment, with Dean having several guns, heavy clubs, and a blackjack. The discovery of the weapons did not help Dean’s claim either. Dean was charged with two counts of second degree murder, which he pleaded not guilty, and the trial was scheduled for April 1946 (Fig 5). In the meantime, this incident provided proponents of the alcohol ban with a stronger platform. There are several articles in the Cedarville Herald that pointed to alcohol as the root of many problems in society, and the murders at the Bit n’ Bridle just solidified their claim (Fig 6).

Fig 5. Article from The Cedarville Herald, dated March 22, 1946 (JPG)
Fig 5. Article from The Cedarville Herald, dated March 22, 1946 (Cedarville University Digital Commons)

Fig 6. Article from The Cedarville Herald, dated March 8, 1946 (JPG)
Fig 6. Article from The Cedarville Herald, dated March 8, 1946 (Cedarville University Digital Commons)

Dean’s trial started on April 9, 1946. Seventeen witnesses testified against Dean, and just four days later, Dean was convicted of two counts of first degree manslaughter. Dean’s defense team appealed for a new trial, but it was overruled. Dean was sentenced to one to twenty years for each count, and the terms would run concurrently (Fig 7). We haven’t been able to determine his exact sentence, but he was transported to the Ohio Penitentiary in May 1946. Dean only served three years for the two counts of manslaughter, being paroled on July 5, 1949 (Fig 8).

Fig 7. Article from The Cedarville Herald, dated May 10, 1946 (JPG)
Fig 7. Article from The Cedarville Herald, dated May 10, 1946 (Cedarville University Digital Commons)

Fig 8. Article from The Cedarville Herald, dated April 15, 1949 (JPG)
Fig 8. Article from The Cedarville Herald, dated April 15, 1949 (Cedarville University Digital Commons)

As for the dry vote, the local Dry Federation got petitions circulating for the ballot in November 1946, and received the required signatures to put it to a vote (Fig 9). Additionally, the liquor license held by Dean for the Bit n’ Bridle was revoked in September 1946. The wet-dry vote in November ended with a recount, and the dry vote winning 299 to 175 (Fig 10). To this day, Cedarville is still dry.

Fig 9. Article from The Cedarville Herald, dated July 26, 1946 (JPG)
Fig 9. Article from The Cedarville Herald, dated July 26, 1946 (Cedarville University Digital Commons)

Fig 10. Article from The Cedarville Herald, dated November 22, 1946 (JPG)
Fig 10. Article from The Cedarville Herald, dated November 22, 1946 (Cedarville University Digital Commons)

Until Next Time!

Sources:
Cedarville University Digital Commons
FamilySearch.org
Greene County Archives
Greene County Common Pleas Court
NewspaperARCHIVE.com
Newspapers.com


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