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.

May 17

Severely Wounded WWI Soldier Finds No Luck at Home

Posted on May 17, 2019 at 8:58 AM by Melissa Dalton

On the morning of Tuesday, October 10, 1939, Charles Oberschlake was driving a team of horses along Grange Hall Road in Beavercreek Township when he was struck by a Pennsylvania Railroad train at a grade crossing. The Beavercreek farmer was severely injured and was taken to the hospital at the Soldiers Home. Surprisingly, Oberschlake’s team of horses escaped uninjured.

Subsequently, because of Oberschlake’s serious injuries, he filed a $30,000 lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.

Fig. 1 Journal 72 Pg. 448 - Charles Oberschlake (JPG)
Fig. 1 Greene County Common Pleas Journal 72, Pg. 448 (Greene County Archives)

In today’s economy that would be an equivalent of over $500,000. The case was eventually transferred to the U.S. Federal District Court in Dayton.

Fig. 2 Case Transferred (JPG)
Fig. 2 Greene County Appearance Docket (Greene County Archives)

We have not been able to determine the outcome of this case because the record is being held with the U.S. National Archives & Records.

Two years later, forty-eight year old Oberschlake was again seriously injured when he was struck by a bolt of lightning while atop a hay mound at his home on Grange Hall Road.

Fig. 3 xenia-evening-gazette-Jul-17-1941-p-5 Oberschlake (PNG)
Fig. 3 Xenia Daily Gazette, July 17, 1941 (Newspapers.com)

He tumbled off the wagon and suffered significant injuries. His face was badly burned and he was treated at Miami Valley Hospital. Unfortunately, lightning struck twice when in 1943, an electrical storm walloped the Oberschlake’s home, now near Yellow Springs. Chimneys were knocked down, windows were broken and the electrical power was cut off. Thankfully, none of the Oberschlake family members were harmed.

Fig. 4 xenia-evening-gazette-Jul-15-1943-p-5-1 edited (PNG)
Fig. 4 Xenia Evening Gazette, July 15, 1943 (Newspapers.com)

Incredibly, Charles Oberschlake experienced even greater misfortune much earlier than these three instances. Oberschlake, a native Iowan, joined the National Guard in 1916 as an infantryman. During the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, Sgt. Oberschlake of the American Expeditionary Forces (the formation of the United States Army on the Western Front) was severely wounded in action in September 1918.

Fig. 5 Meuse-Argonne Offensive (JPG)
Fig. 5 Saratoga Springs, New York National Guard Soldiers of the 165th Infantry at Landres-et-St. Georges in October 1918. Photo By: New York State Military History Museum (NationalGuard.mil)

The Meuse-Argonne Offensive stretched along the entire Western Front and was the deadliest campaign in American history.

Fig. 6 Colliers 1921Meuse-Argonne Offensive (JPG)
Fig. 6 Map of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, Collier’s New Encyclopedia (Wikimedia.org)

It resulted in over 26,000 soldiers being killed in action. One of Oberschlake’s eyes was considerably damaged during the Offensive and he permanently lost sight in the eye.

Fortunately, even after sustaining multiple injuries throughout his life, Oberschlake went on to live till the age of seventy-one. This stalwart Greene County farmer, veteran and father of three died in his home in April 1962. Charles Oberschlake is buried at Mount Zion Shoup Cemetery alongside his wife, Mottie.

Until Next Time!

Sources:
- Greene County Archives
- Newspapers.com
- NationalGuard.mil
- Wikimedia.org
- Archives.gov
May 10

John Daniel Steele: The Man Behind the Steele Building

Posted on May 10, 2019 at 1:35 PM by Melissa Dalton

Many people, especially those who have been in Xenia for years, know about the Steele Building that once stood on the corner of Main and Detroit. Sadly, it was heavily damaged in the 1974 tornado, and subsequently, was razed. However, how much do you know about the man behind the Steele Building? This man came from a business-minded family, always had a keen eye for business himself, and became a prominent businessman in Xenia. Today, we are going to explore the life of John Daniel Steele.

John Daniel Steele, better known as J.D. Steele, was born on November 4, 1855 to David and Mary (Harbine) Steele of Alpha. Steele graduated from Xenia High School and completed his B.A. at the College of Wooster in 1877.

Upon graduation, Steele worked for his uncle, J. H. Harbine, and in 1881, bought M.C. Allison’s interest in Allison, Eavey & Carson, at which time the company was renamed Eavey, Carson & Steele (which was again changed to Eavey & Company shortly thereafter). Steele remained with the company until 1888, when he sold his interest and joined Hooven & Allison Company, becoming the secretary and general manager of the company. However, Steele made quite the name for himself in the region, organizing and incorporating other businesses such as the Steele, Hopkins & Meredith Company, and the Electric Light Company.

In 1893, Steele married Miriam E. Yockey (Fig 1), and they had three children – John, Margaret, and Florence. The family took up residence at a house located on the corner of Union and North Galloway in Xenia (Fig 2). Steele was a member of the Reformed Church, as well as a member of several fraternal organizations in the area. He also was a staunch republican, although he never pursued a political career.

Fig 1. Marriage record of John Daniel Steele and Miriam E. Yockey dated 1893 (JPG)
Fig 1. Marriage record of John Daniel Steele and Miriam E. Yockey (Greene County Archives)

Fig 2. 1913 Xenia City Directory
Fig 2. 1913 Xenia City Directory (Greene County Archives)

In the mid-1890s, Steele decided to construct a building in downtown Xenia (Fig 3). As plans were being submitted for the building, the residents took interest in what possibilities this structure would hold for the city. The construction on the building was completed in 1896 (Fig 4), and followed the Dutch Colonial Revival style, an architectural style popular for that time (Fig 5). The building housed many businesses throughout its life, and by viewing J.D. Steele’s estate file, it is clear that he remained quite profitable in his business dealings throughout his life.

Fig 3. Article on plans for Steele Building, Xenia Daily Gazette, December 4, 1894 (JPG)
Fig 3. Article on the plans for the Steele Building from the Xenia Daily Gazette, dated December 4, 1894 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Fig 4. 1897 Greene County Tax Duplicate (JPG)Fig 4. 1896 Greene County Tax Duplicate (JPG)
Fig 4. 1897 Greene County Tax Duplicate (JPG)
Fig 4. 1898 Greene County Tax Duplicate (JPG)
Fig 4. Tax Duplicates for Steele Building site dated 1896, 1897, & 1898 respectively (Greene County Archives)

Fig 5. Steele Building in 1908 (JPG)
Fig 5. Steele Building in 1908 (Greene County Archives)

In 1922, tragedy struck the family with the death of John Daniel Steele, Jr. While packing for an upcoming trip to the Canadian Rockies and Alaska, Steele Jr. was preparing his .45 Colt revolver, accidentally discharging the weapon. The bullet pierced his heart and lung, and Steele died within hours of the accident (Fig 6).

Fig 6. Article on death of John Daniel Steele, Jr., Xenia Daily Gazette, March 27, 1922 (JPG)
Fig 6. Article on death of John Daniel Steele, Jr. from Xenia Daily Gazette, dated March 27, 1922 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

J.D. Steele retired from his business ventures in 1928, and according to the Xenia Daily Gazette (dated July 28, 1930), during Steele’s tenure with the Hooven & Allison Company, the company grew from a $300,000 to $6 million corporation!

During the final years of his life, Steele was burdened with illness. In June 1930, Steele wrote his will. On July 27, 1930, just over a month after completing his will, Steele passed away. However, due to the provisions made for all of his real and personal property, Steele’s estate file itself is rather small. Steele’s will instructed that a trust be created, and it is this file that is quite extensive, and clearly illustrates just how lucrative Steele was in his business. At the time of his death, his estate was worth just over $82,000 (Fig 7), which equates to over $1 million today.

Fig 7. J.D. Steele Trusteeship, Box 716, Case 469 (JPG)
Fig 7. Part of inventory from Trusteeship file of J.D. Steele, Box 716, Case 469 (Greene County Archives)

Until Next Time!

Sources:
Greene County Archives
NewspaperARCHIVE.com
Robinson, G.F. (1902). History of Greene County, Ohio. Chicago, IL: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company.

May 02

Pioneer Family Cemetery in Xenia Township

Posted on May 2, 2019 at 3:51 PM by Melissa Dalton

In 2004, an archaeological investigation was conducted in an area south of the City of Xenia in search for a suspected small family cemetery.

Fig. 1 Archaelogical Dig (JPEG)
Fig. 1 The Archaeological Investigation (Archaeological Investigations-Gray & Pape Inc.)

Prior to the investigation, a fragmented grave stone was found in the area with the words inscribed Rachel….. Wife of…. This large tract of land (Virginia Military Survey #2242) was located south of State Route 35 between Union Road and State Route 380. The parcels of land (Virginia Military Survey #2242 and #2240) were originally purchased in 1808 by Alexander Stowe.

Fig. 2 1874 Atlas edited (JPEG)
Fig. 2 1874 Greene County Atlas – Xenia Township (Greene County Archives)

After Alexander’s death in 1840, the property was subdivided among his three children, Joseph, 100 acres in Survey #2242; Richard 50 acres in Survey #2240 and Elizabeth, 35 acres in Survey #2240. When the archaeological investigation was completed in 2004, it failed to uncover any remnants of a cemetery in the suspected area in Survey #2242. However, there is a deed record that references a cemetery (graveyard or burying ground) on Richard Stowe’s property in Survey #2240 which is south of Survey #2242.

In 1856, Richard Stowe and his family were looking to move westward to Illinois and sold their fifty-three acres to C.T. Jones. The deed states “exception therefrom forever, the grave yard on said premises as now enclosed and supposed to contain nine square poles of the above tract of land….”

Fig. 3 Deed 1 edited (JPEG)
Fig. 3 Richard Stowe to C.T. Jones 1856 Deed Vol. 32 Pg. 592 (Greene County Archives)

The graveyard contained nine square poles which is about half an acre. Thirteen years later, C.T. Jones sold the property to Joseph M. St. John. In the deed record it asserts, “excepting preserving a burrying ground of about 9 poles in the tract acquired from Richard Stowe & wife…..”

Fig. 4 Deed 2 edited (JPEG)
Fig. 4 C.T. Jones to Joseph M. St. John 1869 Deed Vol. 48 Pg. 413 (Greene County Archives)

We believe that it is more likely that the Stowe family cemetery was located on Richard Stowe’s property and not his brother Joseph. The father, Alexander Stowe, his wife Frances, and their son, Joseph were probably buried on the land owned by Richard Stowe. We believe this area is located at the corner of State Route 380 and East Krepps Road.

Fig. 5 Survey Gis edited (JPEG)
Fig. 5 Current Aerial View of State Route 380 and East Krepps Road (Greene County GIS)

Their remains were later reinterred at Woodland Cemetery in Xenia.

Fig. 6 Alexander Stowe gravemarker (JPEG)
Fig. 6 Alexander Stowe – 18 Dec 1769 – 11 Mar 1840 (FindAGrave.com)

However, it is still a mystery as to why the stone for “Rachel Stowe” was found in the area where Survey #2242 is located. Unfortunately, we were not able to find any records to show if a cemetery existed on this plot of land. We also have not been able to verify who Rachel Stowe was. Perhaps she married into the Stowe family or was a cousin of Alexander Stowe.

Until Next Time!

Sources:
- Gray & Pape Inc. Cultural Resources Consultants, Final Phase I Archaeological Investigations of the Suspected Stowe Cemetery Plot Located South of the City of Xenia, Greene County, Ohio, 2004.
- Greene County Archives
- Greene County GIS
- FindAGrave.com