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.

Oct 19

Jealousy and Rage: A Recipe for Murder

Posted on October 19, 2018 at 3:39 PM by Melissa Dalton

Harold Igo tells another interesting tale titled, “House of the Fiery Ferns.” This story explores the events that led up to the murder of Denman Duncan…

They say Denman Duncan was a quiet and peaceful man; a painter and paper hanger, and the son of an Antioch professor (Fig 1). Rumor was that he had a drug habit, but was friendly with all he knew; albeit maybe too friendly with his neighbor, Maud (Taylor) Haines. Maud was the (much younger) wife of Lewis Haines, a man who did not take kindly to his wife’s affection for Duncan.

Fig 1. Denman C. Duncan, from Xenia Daily Gazette, dated September 16, 1915 (JPG)
Fig 1. Denman C. Duncan (

The story claims that Duncan might have been a painter and paper hanger by trade, but knew a great deal about plant physiology and loved to read. When the Haines and Duncan became neighbors, Maud took a liking to Duncan, viewing him affectionately. He would talk to her about plants, and she told her husband about his discoveries and Haines had his doubts that Duncan knew much of anything. Haines confronted the man one night, only to discover Duncan was well-read and probably knew more than he did. This angered him, and he left abruptly. During dinner that night, his wife continued her talk of Duncan and his knowledge of ferns. Haines had enough. He got up from the table and left the house, grabbing a hatchet on his way out. He walked the few steps to Duncan’s place, and silently opened the back door. He found Duncan quietly reading, crept towards him, and with one swing, hit Duncan in the head with the hatchet, killing him.

The legend Igo heard claimed that if one went to Springfield Road and looked down to the creek, they might see the glow of one of Duncan’s phosphorescent ferns (Fig 2).

Fig 2. Harold Igo's Story, "No. 6 House of the Fiery Ferns" (JPG) Fig 2. Harold Igo's Story, "No. 6 House of the Fiery Ferns" (JPG)
Fig 2. Harold Igo's Story "No. 6 House of Fiery Ferns" (JPG) Fig 2. Harold Igo's Story, "No. 6 House of the Fiery Ferns" (JPG)
Fig 2. Harold Igo’s Story, “No. 6 House of the Fiery Ferns” (Greene County Archives)

So, what really happened? Was it a case of jealous rage? There are many newspaper articles and records about Duncan’s murder. After reading through 50 pages of the Coroner’s Inquest, it was clear that Denman Duncan was a well-liked man. Many did reference his drinking and drug habit, but claimed he was always kind and peaceful. However, a few also noted his almost gregarious nature around Maud (Fig 3). They spent a great deal of time together, and were seen lying in his hammock together more than once, although no one thought anything indecent or lewd was going on between them. Haines felt differently. He believed Duncan paid “undue attention” to his wife, a claim Maud denied, and this attention was the cause of many fights (Fig 4).

Fig 3. Excerpt from John Harner's testimony as part of the Coroner's Inquest (JPG)
Fig 3. Excerpt from John Harner’s testimony as part of the Coroner’s Inquest (Greene County Archives)

Fig 4. Excerpt from Xenia Daily Gazette, dated September 16, 1915 (JPG)
Fig 4. Excerpts from Xenia Daily Gazette, dated September 16, 1915 (

The day of the murder, Mr. and Mrs. Haines were to attend the circus in Springfield. They left in the morning and returned late afternoon (although they only attended the parade). Haines was in an “angry mood”, and the couple quarreled throughout the day. They went to bed around 8pm, and heard Duncan about. Haines’ anger only increased when hearing Duncan, and he told his wife he “was going to kill” the man. Haines got out of bed, walked barefoot to Duncan’s home, entering the open rear door. He saw a hatchet near the kindling. Haines picked up the hatchet and crept toward Duncan, who was silently reading. Haines raised the hatchet, and with one blow, hit Duncan on the head, killing him instantly. Then Haines tried to make it look like a robbery, throwing Duncan’s pocketbooks onto the floor. He then walked back home, wiped the blood from his hands, and went to bed.

Denman Duncan was found several hours later by a young boy, no older than 4 years old. The boy went home to tell his mother, who, upon entering Duncan’s home, immediately ran to call for help. When the investigation began, the authorities had no leads. Then they found droplets of blood, and other circumstantial evidence, which led them to the Haineses. Both Maud and Lewis were taken in for questioning, and both denied any knowledge. After a few hours of interrogations, Maud broke down, telling the authorities her husband killed Duncan in a jealous rage. The authorities then went to Lewis, and upon realizing they knew, he confessed, claiming that “it was necessary to get Duncan out of the way to preserve his home life” (Fig 5). Haines pled guilty, being indicted and convicted of murder in the second degree. Haines was sentenced to life in prison, and was to be “kept at hard labor” (Figs 6 & 7).

Fig 5. Excerpts from Xenia Daily Gazette, dated September 16, 1915 (JPG)
Fig 5. Excerpts from Xenia Daily Gazette, dated September 16, 1915 (

Fig 6. Excerpt of State Record No. 12, page 15 (JPG)
Fig 6. Excerpt from State Record No 12, page 15 (Greene County Archives)

Fig 7. Article from Dayton Daily News, dated November 11, 1917 (JPG)
Fig 7. Article from Dayton Daily News, dated November 11, 1915 (

Maud was released and not charged as she assisted the authorities in indicting her husband. She later filed for, and was granted, a divorce in 1917 (Fig 8). Curious as to what happened to Haines, I searched for him in census records. I located him on the 1920 Census as an inmate in the Ohio Penitentiary, but after that, there’s nothing (Fig 9). I searched the Ohio Penitentiary records for his name, but did not find him. I checked the Ohio death records and there is a Lewis Haines that died in Franklin County in 1921, but I’m not sure it is the same Lewis Haines as the records are not available online. Others have searched as well, but no one can say exactly what happened to Haines… he just vanished.

Fig 8. Article from Xenia Daily Gazette, dated February 27, 1917 (JPG)
Fig 8. Article from Xenia Daily Gazette, dated February 27, 1917 (

Fig 9. 1920 U.S. Census with Lewis Haines outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 9. 1920 U.S. Census of Ohio Penitentiary Inmates (

(Edit: After a little more research, I ran across some notes by Don Hutslar in the compilation of Igo's stories by the Yellow Springs Historical Society. According to Hutslar (I have not been able to verify any of this information as of yet), Haines was sent to the London Prison Farm after serving 10 years of his sentence. In 1925 he was paroled, and then in 1927, Haines was pardoned.)


Greene County Archives

Oct 12

Murder of William "Billy" Fletcher

Posted on October 12, 2018 at 3:07 PM by Melissa Dalton

Are you ready for the next ghost story? We thought so! Harold Igo (1943) wrote a series of ghost stories, which were compiled and published by the Yellow Springs Historical Society, and we have a good one for you. This story starts with a haunting, and ends in murder…

Igo’s story begins in 1866, after the Civil War has ended. Many people fell on hard times after the war, and according to his story, George Folk (Folck) was no different. He was having difficulties keeping his farm afloat, and had 10 children and a wife to care for. Life became too hard for him, and one night, he drank himself to death (Fig 1).

Fig 1. Harold Igo's story, No. 13 Hamlet Ghost in Osborn (JPG)
Fig 1. Harold Igo’s story, No. 13 Hamlet’s Ghost in Osborn (Greene County Archives)

His wife (who remains unnamed in the story), struggled to survive, and all her children were doing what they could to save the farm and family. Then one day, a young man named Billy Fletcher, came to the rescue. Within a year of him coming into their lives, he saved the family farm, and won the heart of the (much older) widow Folk. Fletcher and Folk were married, much to the dismay of the Folk children.

The Folk boys (and in-laws) were so unhappy with the union that they decided to take matters into their own hands. They started “haunting” Billy Fletcher with the ghost of their late father, attempting to scare Fletcher with ghostly figures and whispers. However, Fletcher was unnerved. The boys were displeased with his lack of response to these hauntings, and one son-in-law, Will Pettigrew, decided he had enough. One night, Pettigrew drew Fletcher out of his house to the barn. Fletcher barely made it to the barn when he was shot dead. Pettigrew turned himself in for the murder, but claimed that Fletcher tried to kill him. Although authorities found that Fletcher never fired his gun, they “winked” and never revealed this information. The story concludes that Pettigrew was found “not guilty” of murder, and hoisted on shoulders and paraded out of the court, with a committee gifting him a new suit and sack of flour.

Although Igo’s story is a good one, there are many inaccuracies. First, names in this story are incorrect. This story actually is about the Jacob Folck family, not George. Jacob Folck married Elizabeth Frick on December 2, 1819 in Greene County, Ohio (Fig 2). Jacob and Elizabeth had several children (some records indicate upwards of 10 children, but we haven’t been able to confirm that).

Fig 2. Marriage License of Jacob Folck and Elizabeth Frick (JPG)
Fig 2. Marriage Certificate of Jacob Folck and Elizabeth Frick (JPG)
Fig 2. Marriage Record of Jacob Folck and Elizabeth Frick (Greene County Archives)

The Folck families and Frick families all owned a great deal of land in Bath Township, and bought, sold, and willed to family members (Fig 3). However, the plots of most interest for this story are in Section 31 Township 3 Range 8 AND Section 7 Township 3 Range 8. Jacob owned parts in both, and in Section 31, he bought the land from his step-son, Henry Wilson. Wilson’s great-grandfather, Henry Landis, left him the land in his will. Henry sold the land to Jacob Folck in 1840, but when Jacob died in 1866, his will left all land to his wife, and then in equal shares to his legal heirs. So, where does that leave Henry and his rights to the land, over 200 acres, he sold to Jacob?

Fig 3. 1874 Greene County Atlas with Folck/Frick Property oulined (JPG)
Fig 3. 1874 Greene County Atlas with two plots of land outlined (Greene County Archives)

Not long after the death of Jacob Folck, William “Billy” Fletcher entered the picture. Records indicate that Billy and Elizabeth married in April 1868 (Fig 4). Stories abound that the Folck children were angered with the marriage, especially considering Elizabeth was close to 20 years his senior, and in her 70s.

Fig 4. Marriage Record of Elizabeth Frick and William Fletcher (JPG)
Fig 4. Marriage Record of Elizabeth Folck and William Fletcher (Greene County Archives)

One fateful night in July, just months after the marriage of Billy and Elizabeth, Billy was shot and killed by Henry Wilson, Elizabeth’s oldest son, in what Henry reported as self-defense. Henry’s statement indicated that Billy shot him first, and he returned fire. After realizing Billy was dead, Henry walked straight to the authorities and turned himself in.

The authorities came out of the farm and investigated. Washington Galloway was called to map the crime scene (Fig 5) to allow them to better understand what happened. However, Henry’s story just didn’t match up. The investigation proved that Billy’s gun was never fired and Henry was indicted for murder in the first degree (Fig 6). The trial went as expected, and on April 12, 1869, Henry was found guilty of the crime. Henry filed a motion for a new trial, which was granted. The second trial was heard, and on November 30, 1869, Henry was found not guilty, and told to “go home without day [delay].”

Fig 5. Washington Galloway map of the Fletcher crime scene (JPG)
Fig 5. Washington Galloway map of the Fletcher crime scene (Greene County Archives)

Fig 6. State Final Record 4, pg 491 (JPG)
Fig 6. State Final Record 4, pg. 491 (Greene County Archives)

Fig 7. State Final Record 4, pg 497 (JPG)
Fig 7. State Final Record 4, pg. 497 (Greene County Archives)

So, why do you think Henry killed Billy? Did you think it was in self-defense? Or, do you think Henry just didn’t like Billy and questioned his intentions? Do you think Henry was worried Billy would try to take the family land? Whatever the reason, we may never know…

Until Next Time…

[Side note: We will delve deeper into the Folck/Frick story and family history in a later blog post. It’s too good of a story to not tell!]

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

Oct 05

Haunting of Ye Olde Trail Tavern

Posted on October 5, 2018 at 6:15 PM by Melissa Dalton

Most people love a good ghost story. Almost every town has their own stories of hauntings or ghosts, and Greene County is no different. One of the most widely known hauntings in our county would be that of the Ye Olde Trail Tavern (Fig 1), and there is even a YouTube video of employees discussing the haunting at the Tavern. However, before we get into the ghost stories, how about a little background into the Hafner family.

Fig 1. Ye Olde Trail Tavern (JPG)
Fig 1. Ye Olde Trail Tavern (Greene County GIS Maps)

Francis (Frank) Hafner was born in Germany in 1819 and came to America in the 1830s. He made his way to Greene County, and settled in Yellow Springs to work at the Neff House in 1842. Within a year of arriving in Yellow Springs, Frank married Mary A. Scroufe. Frank built the family cabin in the newly founded village of Yellow Springs, and that is where he and his wife raised their four children – Mary Ellen, William, Charles, and Frank Jr (Fig 2).

Fig 2. 1860 U.S. Census with Hafner family outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 2. 1860 U.S. Census with Hafner family outlined in red (

Prior to coming to Greene County, Hafner had been trained as a baker and confectioner. In 1852, Hafner decided to return to his previous training and started a bakery. Hafner was a well-known in Yellow Springs and served on village council for about thirty years. He owned a great deal of property as well. Frank Hafner passed away at his home on New Year’s Day 1895, at the age of 76 (Figs 3 & 4).

Notice of death of Francis Hafner in The Xenia Gazette, dated January 3, 1895 (JPG)
Fig 3. Notice of Francis Hafner’s death in The Xenia Gazette, dated January 3, 1895 (

Notice of death of Francis Hafner in The Xenia Gazette, dated January 10, 1895 (JPG)
Fig 4. Notice of Francis Hafner’s Death in The Xenia Gazette, dated January 10, 1895 (

Rumor has it that upon his deathbed, Frank asked Mary to take care of the homestead. Mary found this to be a great pressure on her, and she tried to keep her promise to him. Additionally, Frank made sure his will clearly defined his wishes for his estate. The real estate he owned was divided between his children, but no one was to take ownership until Mary’s death. One interesting part of his will was an article that stated the property was not to be transferred or sold for 15 years after Mary’s death, AND it was not to be sold to anyone who would “engage in liquor traffick [sic] either wholesale or retail” (Fig 5). Mary and her son, William, were co-executors, and William didn’t play nice. He tried to keep his mother from the accounts and books, but was ordered by the judge to stop his shenanigans and give his mother access to what she wanted.

Fig 5. Excerpt from Francis Hafner's Will (JPG)
Fig 5. Excerpt from Francis Hafner’s Will (Greene County Archives)

William seemed to be an interesting character. He had a child, Nettie, with Hattie Birch in 1874, but never had contact with the child. He became a physician and married Rebecca, who was over 20 years younger than him, around 1897. They never had children. Upon William’s death, he left all the entirety of his estate to Rebecca, besides the $10 that was to be given to Nettie. However, William added an unusual request – that Rebecca never remarry (Fig 6). Rebecca acquiesced, remaining a widow until her death.

Fig 6. Excerpt from William Hafner's Will (JPG)
Fig 6. Excerpt from William Hafner’s Will (Greene County Archives)

Mary Ellen and Charles were left the homestead (the current Ye Olde Trail Tavern). Myrtle Hafner (later King, and daughter of Frank Jr.), was to get the furniture she requested, as well as some property that was adjacent to the homestead. The others were left various properties as well. However, it is the homestead that is of consequence in this story. As far as I can tell, the homestead stayed in the Hafner/King family until 1965. In 1966, it was transferred to Edwin H. and Martha G. Luttrell, who in turn sold it to Upland Corporation in 1969. Upland Corporation sold the property in 2017 to Beardco LLC, who still owns it today.

Now that you have a little history into the family and property, how about those ghost stories? Let’s recount the claims. One story claims that there is a blond woman in a blue dress who roams the tavern. The stories usually don’t have her upset, but rather smiling as she floats from room to room. From what I’ve learned, many believe that this apparition is Mary Hafner, the wife of Francis Hafner, who continues to watch over the place even in death.

There is another story of a woman with long black hair, wearing all black, who haunts the upper floor. She is seen crying and unhappy. This was a new story to me, but some claim she is the daughter-in-law of Hafner, who was tricked into marrying one of the Hafner boys. One story claims it is Josephine, who married Frank Jr., while another story claims it is Rebecca.

I’m going to be honest, there was a great deal of family drama in the Hafner family, and I HAVE to do a future blog post to dig a little deeper… but what do you think? Who are these women? Do you believe one is Mary Hafner, fulfilling her promise to watch over the place? Do you think it is Josephine or Rebecca, saddened by a forced marriage or inability to remarry?

Next time you’re at Ye Olde Trail Tavern, keep your eyes, ears, and mind open. One of these apparitions just may decide to show themselves to you…

Until Next Time…

Greene County Archives / Greene County GIS Maps
Yellow Springs Heritage