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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Sep 19

A Family's Account of Freedom

Posted on September 19, 2015 at 9:04 AM by Elise Kelly


 When growing up, many children learn about family traditions and listen to family stories that have been passed down for generations. We laugh, we cry, we ponder over the events that happened to our ancestors.

We're amazed to learn the great feats and challenges that our Great-Great Grandfather accomplished and overcame.
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Carr Family Photographs - Part of Yellow Springs Historical Society Collection

We pass on the traditions that our ancestors held - religion, recipes, crafts, etc.

Former Slave Family
Families are valuable communities in society. There are all sorts of different  families which help contribute to our diverse world. One unique family that we will study today was originally from the state of Louisiana.

Philip Piper was a wealthy Louisiana slave owner during the antebellum period. He began a relationship with one of his slaves (Nellie) and had four children with her while in Louisiana. It was not uncommon that slave masters forced their slave women to comply with sexual advances. However, this relationship was different than most master-slave relationships.

In 1859, Philip traveled to Greene County, Ohio to emancipate Nellie and their four children. Below is the deed that records Philip liberating his slave Nellie and his slave children. The document might be hard to see - here is the transcription:

"Philip Piper to Nellie Piper   Whereas Philip Piper of Catahoula Parish in the state of Louisiana is desirous of manumitting and liberating from servitude under the laws of said state of Louisiana certain of his slaves under the laws of said state to wit Nelly Piper generally known by the name of Nelly a colored woman considerably darker than a mulatto being of..." (Check out the whole record on our Educator's Page.

                          Part of Deed Record Vol. 37 Pg. 554
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While in Greene County, Philip purchased land in the Wilberforce area for Nellie.This area was a place where many former slave families settled. (This is because this area had a resort named Tawawa Springs; which was a place where many southern plantation owners brought only their slave women during the summer months. Tawawa Springs eventually closed and the private, historically black college - Wilberforce University was established in the area).


Now back to the Piper Family
Philip subsequently returned to Louisiana to oversee 16 slaves. Nevertheless, he came back to Greene County a year later and married Nellie. Philip and Nellie had to travel to Pennsylvania to get hitched because at the time, it was illegal for a biracial couple to marry in Ohio. They returned to Greene County and had the opportunity to see their children attend Wilberforce University. In 1879, Philip died and left his entire estate to Nellie and their six children.


             Piper Family Land - Levi Riddell's Survey Vol. 1 Pg.85
Piper Family Land.png

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Benjamin Arnett
In 1899, some of Nellie's property was sold off. Part of the land was sold to Benjamin Arnett who was Nellie's in-law.

Arnett was an early Civil Rights Activist. He was influential in getting Ohio's "Black Laws" repealed by serving as Greene County's Representative on the Ohio General Assembly in the 1880s.

It was not until 1916, that Nellie died in Xenia in the care of her youngest daughter, Josephine. According to Paul Buford (a relative of Nellie's), she was 100 years old when she passed. Paul made a detailed and charming sketch of where Nellie was buried.

Part of Paul Buford's Scrapbook
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The Pipers were quite an extraordinary family and the Greene County Records Center and Archives is proud to share their remarkable stories and experiences. Many of the sources in this blog are available to the public. We encourage anyone to come visit us and check out these fascinating records!

Until Next Time!

This Week's Trivia Question: What were Ohio's "Black Laws"?

Last Week's Trivia Answer: Name another type of bridge truss. - Warner Truss.

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