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.

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

Apr 19

Numbers Racket War in Xenia

Posted on April 19, 2019 at 8:30 AM by Melissa Dalton

In 1949, early on Easter Sunday morning, a bomb was hurled in the air and blasted through an East Market Street house in Xenia.

Fig. 1 299 East Market Street (JPEG)
Fig. 1 299 East Market Street - prior to 1962 the address was 323 East Market Street (Greene County GIS)

The nitroglycerine explosive tore off the front steps, shattered all of the windows (as well as the neighbors) and punctured a large hole in the front of the house. The home belonged to Earl Artis, who was known by the Xenia police as a notorious numbers racketeer. According to a newspaper report, Artis’ numbers operation grossed ten million a year from operations in Dayton, Columbus, Cleveland, Xenia, Springfield, Troy, Bellefontaine, Kent, Wilmington and Chillicothe.

Fig. 2 New Philadelphia Times Article, December 15, 1949 (PNG)
               Fig. 2 New Philadelphia Daily Times, December 12, 1949 (NewspaperArchive.com)

The two men who were suspected of the bombing were involved in Artis’ numbers operation. Melvin Clark of Cincinnati and Arthur “Little Brother” Drake of Cleveland were indicted in December 1949 by a grand jury for malicious destruction of property, unlawful possession and use of explosives. Both pled “not guilty” and Clark’s bond was set at $50,000.

Fig. 3 Melvin Clark Indictment (JPEG)
Fig. 3 Melvin Clark Indictment, Greene County Court of Common Pleas (Greene County Archives)


Fig. 4 Not Guilty Plea edited JPEG)
Fig. 4 Not Guilty Entry, Greene County Court of Common Pleas (Greene County Archives)

Clark applied for a reduction of bond, claiming that the bond’s amount was excessive and in violation of his constitutional rights. The court first claimed that the bond amount was sufficient because both Clark and Drake were indicted jointly. Drake had been recently tried and convicted in Cleveland for an offense similar to the one in Xenia. He was found guilty of the crime in Cleveland and was sent to the Ohio Penitentiary in 1950. Furthermore, the court concluded that the “bombing of anyone’s home is a very serious offense, and any person who places a bomb is a potential murderer.”

Fig. 5 Bail Decision edited (JPEG)Fig. 5 Bail Decision Page 1, Greene County Court of Common Pleas (Greene County Archives)

Fig. 6 Bail Decision continued edited (JPEG)
Fig. 6 Bail Decision Page 2, Greene County Court of Common Pleas (Greene County Archives)

However, in January 1950, Judge Frank Johnson reduced Clark’s bond to $15,000 and the trial was postponed.

Fig. 7 Entry Reducing Bond (JPEG)
Fig. 7 Entry Reducing Bond, Greene County Court of Common Pleas (Greene County Archives)

More than three terms of court elapsed since Clark was originally indicted and in 1951 it was ordered and decreed that Melvin Clark would be discharged. By 1953, the Prosecuting Attorney entered a nolle prosequi – (a formal notice of abandonment by a plaintiff or prosecutor of all or part of a suit or action) for the indictment.

After the bombing, Greene County and the State of Ohio took steps to crack down on the numbers racket that operated out of Xenia. However, trouble found Melvin Clark again. In 1952 Clark was charged with the fatal shooting of Oliver “Bull” Payne at a club in Newport, KY. Furthermore, in 1956, Earl Artis was sentenced to five years in federal prison and fined $5,000 for federal income tax evasion. He died in New York City in 1970.

Fig. 8 Coshocton County Democrat-Feb-01-1956 (PNG)
           Fig. 8 Coshocton County Democrat, February 1, 1956 (NewspaperArchive.com)

Luckily on that April 17, 1949 Easter morning, no one was killed by the blast.

Until Next Time!

Sources:
-Greene County Auditor’s Geographic Information System (GIS)
-NewspaperArchive
-Greene County Archives


Apr 11

Fritz and Dolores Russ: The Couple Behind Russ Nature Reserve

Posted on April 11, 2019 at 3:12 PM by Melissa Dalton

Have you ever been to Russ Nature Reserve in Beavercreek? Do you know the story of how the land and property became part of the park system in Greene County? We weren’t familiar with the story either, until we ran across records in the Parks & Trails files (Fig 1). This week, we’re going to look at the life of Fritz and Dolores Russ, the people who made Russ Nature Reserve possible.

Fig 1. File found in Parks & Trails records (JPG)
Fig 1. File found in Parks & Trails records (Greene County Archives)

Fritz J. Russ was born on September 23, 1920 in Jackson County, Ohio (Fig 2). Russ attended Ohio University, and graduated in 1942 with a bachelor of science in electrical engineering (Fig 3). That same year, Russ married Dolores Houser, also of Jackson County (although they did not meet until 1939). After graduation, Russ began his work at the Naval Research Laboratory, where he helped design the first high-voltage, RF-generated (radio frequency) power supply. After WWII, he worked on the development of instruments that would measure the force of atomic bomb blasts, and took part in the testing.

Fig 2. 1930 U. S. Census from Hamilton Township, Jackson County, Ohio (JPG)
Fig 2. 1930 U. S. Census from Jackson County, Hamilton Township, Ohio (Ancestry.com)

Fig 3. Fritz Russ, Jr., BSEE, Ohio University, College of Applied Science Yearbook (JPG)
Fig 3. Fritz Russ, Jr., BSEE, Ohio University, College of Applied Science Yearbook (Ancestry.com)

In the late 1940s, Russ continued his work at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB), developing a firing error indicator for aircraft guns. Russ was only at WPAFB for a short period, retiring his position so he and Dolores could start their own company (which had its beginnings in the basement of their home). In 1955, Fritz and Dolores founded Systems Research Laboratories (SRL), a company that grew into one of the leading companies in electronics and automation. In particular, SRL was instrumental in the advancements in technology for the space program.

Due to the expanse of Fritz’s research and contributions to the engineering field, Ohio University awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1975 (Fig 4).

Fig 4. Fritz and Dolores Russ, Ohio University (JPG)
Fig 4. Fritz and Dolores Russ (Ohio University)

In 1987, SRL merged with Arvin Industries. It was then that Fritz and Dolores established the Russ Venture Group to continue work on personal projects.

The Russes were great contributors to their community, and also felt strongly about providing opportunities to those interested in pursuing an education in engineering. Due to their major contributions, three Ohio universities greatly benefited – Cedarville University, Ohio University, and Wright State University. In particular, Wright State University was able to build a new engineering and science building in 1992, formerly dedicated as the Russ Engineering Center. In 1994, Ohio University established the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology after the couple made one of the largest contributions to an engineering school in the United States.

In 1999, the Russes endowed the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize, which is administrated by Ohio University and the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). This prize of $500,000, awarded every two years, “recognizes an outstanding bioengineering achievement in widespread use that improves the human condition” (Fig 5).

Fig 5. National Academy of Engineering Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize (JPG)
Fig 5. National Academy of Engineering Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize (NAE website)

The couple remained committed to their communities, even in death. Fritz died on November 3, 2004 at the age of 84. When the inventory and appraisal was filed for his estate, the total estate was estimated at almost $60 million (Fig 6). As part of this, it was determined that the real property (roughly 12 different parcels of land, mostly in Greene County) would to be left to various organizations. However, Dolores remained in control of their home in Ohio (they had a place in Florida as well) until her death on January 2, 2008 at the age of 86. At that time, the executor deeded the two parcels, located on Kemp Road, to the Greene County Park District. This land, roughly 90 acres, is now home to the Russ Nature Reserve. The 4000 square foot ranch style home is being renovated to house a multi-use center. The Russ Nature Reserve has a nature playscape, hiking trails, small pond, garden, tree nursery, butterfly garden, and bee apiary. Visit the Greene County Parks & Trails website to learn more.

Fig 6. Inventory and Appraisal, Estate of Fritz J. Russ (JPG)
Fig 6. Inventory and Appraisal, Estate of Fritz J. Russ (Greene County Archives)

The legacy of Fritz and Dolores Russ is one of tenacity and dedication. The engineering community has greatly benefited from their work and contributions, but so has Greene County. Today, we honor them.

Until Next Time…

Sources:
Ancestry.com
Greene County Archives
National Academy of Engineering
Ohio University