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 25

The Mysterious Case of Josephine Sheley: Part 1

Posted on May 25, 2018 at 12:27 PM by Melissa Dalton

Newspaper articles are a great resource, and can lead to unusual stories. While trying to decide on a topic for the blog post this week, I ran across a newspaper article that was printed with the title, “Death from Supposed Poison.” If that doesn’t catch your attention, I’m not sure what will! Want to hear the story? I thought you would…

The story begins with Josephine (or Josephene) Timberlake and Clinton Sheley (also listed of Sheeley in various places), who were married in Greene County, Ohio in 1873 (Fig 1). Josephine and Clinton had six children, and had a nice plot of land to farm in Silvercreek Township, near Jamestown (Fig 2). The records indicate that they had roughly 50 acres to their name, which appears to have been part of Clinton’s family plot at one point, which he inherited upon the death of his parents (Fig 3).

Marriage Record of Josephene Timberlake and Clinton Sheley, dated June 21, 1873 (JPG)
Fig 1. Marriage Records of Josephene Timberlake and Clinton Sheley (Greene County Archives)

1880 Census listing the Sheley family (JPG)
1880 Census listing the Sheley family (JPG)
Fig 2. 1880 Census (

1896 Atlas with the Sheley property outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 3. 1896 Atlas of Greene County (Greene County Archives)

The family did well, but in 1884, Clinton Sheley died of lung fever (pneumonia). Upon his death, assets were sold to pay debts, but his wife and children were left with the land (Fig 4).

Letters of Administration for Estate of C.L. Sheeley (JPG)
Fig 4. Letters of Administration for Estate of Clinton Sheley (Greene County Archives)

Josephine continued farming the land, and newspaper articles claim she did well for the family, selling wheat and other farm goods; however, there is some indication that the family did have issues with finances as time went on. What is true, we do not know. What we do know, though, is that Clara, the second oldest child, went to work and live with the McLaughlin family in town (Jamestown), when she was roughly 16 or 17 years old. She performed various tasks, but mostly worked as a maid/housekeeper/cook.

One day, Clara was called to come home as the family had taken ill. Josephine, and all four children living at home, were horribly sick. The local physician was called, and upon examination, he determined they were poisoned by eating meat laced with rat poison. Within days of the supposed poisoning, Josephine Sheley succumb to her illness, leaving her children orphans.

There are so many questions… What happened to the Sheley family? Why were they poisoned? Who poisoned them? I read through the newspaper articles, and the written statements, but the events leading up to the poisoning are unclear and conflicting. This case takes many twists and turns, so stay tuned for the second part of this story next week!

Until Next Time…

Greene County Archives

May 17

Family Feud

Posted on May 17, 2018 at 4:21 PM by Melissa Dalton

When a death certificate for the granddaughter of the deceased was found in an estate file, we had to do a little digging to learn why it was needed, especially considering she died 28 years after her grandmother. As we dug deeper and deeper into the file, we uncovered a curious story.
Sarah J. Hopkins passed in January 1915 and her husband, David, was appointed Administrator of the estate. In the Application for Letters of Administration, David listed four children as next of kin (Fig 1). You will notice that Della Hopkins is listed, but her whereabouts are “not known”, and the amount of personal property is tallied as $940. In June 1917, David Hopkins filed the First and Final Account, in which he only accounted for a total of $940, which was distributed between two separate accounts. Once various fees were paid, it left $672.22 to be distributed to the heirs of the estate (Fig 2).

Application for Letters of Administration (JPG)
Fig 1. Application for Letters of Administration

First and Final Account for Estate of Sarah Hopkins (JPG)
Fig 2. First & Final Account of the Estate of Sarah J. Hopkins

In August 1920, Della Hopkins, the daughter of David and Sarah, filed a Petition to Impeach Account for Fraud, stating that her father omitted $2,000 from the account, committing the “grossest of fraud”, and never filed an inventory of assets, which would have accounted for that missing sum of money. Della claimed that the account should include an additional three notes – two in the amount of $500 each, signed by Lena and A. C. Crothers, Della’s sister and brother-in-law; and one note in the amount of $1,000, signed by Laura and James Racer, Della’s other sister and brother-in-law (Fig 3).

Petition to Impeach Account for Fraud (JPG)Petition to Impeach Account for Fraud (JPG)
Fig 3. Petition to Impeach Account for Fraud

In December 1920, the Probate Judge ruled that the $1000 note signed by the Racers was not an asset of the estate; however, the two $500 notes from the Crothers were, and Mr. Hopkins was ordered to correct and amend the account, and recover those funds. David Hopkins appealed the decision, but the ruling came back the same. In April 1921, Mr. Hopkins filed the Corrected and Amended Account (Fig 4), and requested time to collect. In September 1921, Mr. Hopkins filed an Application to Compound Claims, requesting to settle and discharge the notes upon payment of $727, claiming that there was severe doubt that they [the Crothers] could pay the full amount, and they offered to pay the above amount as payment in full. The Judge agreed to the terms.

Corrected and Amended Account (JPG)
Fig 4. Corrected and Amended Account

Supplementary Distributive Account (JPG)
Fig 5. Supplementary Distributive Account

It took until July 1922 for David Hopkins to file the Supplementary Distributive Account, in which he lists the distribution of the funds of the estate (Fig 5). The funds were distributed to two of the children, Della and Leander, but Lena Crothers never collected her share. Lena’s share was deposited into the county treasury in 1935. In 1937, Della Hopkins notified the Court that her sister, Lena, was deceased, and she and her niece, Fay Racer, were the only surviving beneficiaries. Della received $94.70 as her share of the distribution, but Fay never requested her share to be disbursed (Fig 6). In December 1943, Della filed an Application for Payment of Funds for Fay’s share, as Fay never received her share and subsequently, passed away (Fig 7). Upon receiving the death certificate of Fay (Racer) Quinn, the Judge ruled that Della was the sole beneficiary of the funds, and ordered the remaining funds be distributed to her (Fig 8).

Application [To Distribute Funds to Della and Fay] (JPG)Application [To Distribute Funds to Della and Fay] (JPG)
Fig 6. Application [To Distribute Funds to Surviving Beneficiaries of Lena Crothers]

Application for Payment of Funds (JPG)Application for Payment of Funds (JPG)
Fig 7. Application for Payment of Funds

Entry [Decision of Judge to Distribute Remaining Funds to Della Hopkins] (JPG)Entry [Decision of Judge to Distribute Remaining Funds to Della Hopkins] (JPG)
Fig 8. Entry [Granting Distribution of Funds to Della Hopkins]

I’m not sure what the dynamic was for the members of the Hopkins family, and I’m sure there is much more to this story, but it surely is not an uncommon one. Money can lead people to do fantastic things, and many families are estranged due to such financial disagreements, and the Hopkins were not unique in their fight.

Until Next Time…

Greene County Archives, Probate Records

May 11


Posted on May 11, 2018 at 7:28 AM by Melissa Dalton

Remember when I said last Friday that there was a strange side story? Well, get ready for a crazy tale…

After Simeon Highwarden and Elizabeth Hill ran off to Canada, they did live as husband and wife. After reviewing many records, it appears Elizabeth changed her name to Elizabeth Scott after they moved (we believe Scott was her maiden name, but have been unable to confirm). Although they claimed to be married, I also was unable to find any marriage records for the two. However, the 1871 and 1881 Canada Census lists them as married and living in Ontario. As you can see, they had several children, one of which was Wilson Bertrim “Bert” Highwarden (Figs 1 & 2), whose life takes a tumultuous turn.

1871 Canada Census (JPG)
Fig 1. 1871 Canada Census (

1881 Canada Census (JPG)
Fig 2. 1881 Canada Census (

At the time of the 1881 Census, Wilson (aka “Bert”) was about 6 years old. I wasn’t able to find much until 1890, when he popped up on the voter registration list for Chicago (Fig 3). This document states he was living in Chicago for almost two years when he registered to vote, meaning he must have moved to the States around 1888 or so.

1890 Chicago Voter Registration List (JPG)
Fig 3. 1890 Voter Registration for Chicago, IL (

Sometime between 1890 and 1898, he met Mabel “Ada” Anderson of Champaign County, Ohio, and on March 30, 1898, they married and were living in Urbana Township (Fig 4). By 1900, they had two children, Donald and Raymond (Fig 5), and by 1910, they had two more children, Ethel and Grace (Fig 6).

1898 Marriage Record to Ada Anderson (JPG)
Fig 4. 1898 Marriage Record for Bert and Ada (

1900 US Census (JPG)
Fig 5. 1900 Census Record (

1910 US Census (JPG)
Fig 6. 1910 Census Record (

Ada and Bert had many problems, and Ada filed for divorce due to his drinking and abusive behavior. Bert did not take kindly to this, and he threatened her life many times – and one fateful day, he carried out his threat. Ada had returned to the home to gather some personal items, and when Bert approached her and told her to remarry him, Ada refused, infuriating him. Within an instant, Bert shot and killed her (Fig 7). Newspapers reported that after killing his wife, Bert “calmly” walked into the police station and turned himself in stating, “she got what was coming to her” (Fig 8). Highwarden was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to life in prison (Fig 9).

1911 Death Certificate of Ada Highwarden (JPG)
Fig 7. Death Certificate of Ada Highwarden (

Excerpt from The Daily Herald dated August 2, 1911 (JPG)
Fig 8. Excerpt from The Daily Herald dated August 2, 1911 (

Excerpt from The Marion Weekly Star dated January 6, 1912 (JPG)
Fig 9. Excerpt from The Marion Weekly Star dated January 6, 1912 (

This is where one would think the story ends, right? Well, sadly, it doesn’t. Highwarden only served six years (you read that right) for murdering his wife, and was granted clemency by Governor Cox in 1917. The exact reason wasn’t explicitly listed, but various articles stated it was due to good behavior and staying sober (easy to do when imprisoned) (Fig 10).

Excerpt from The Cincinnati Enquirer dated December 22, 1917 (JPG)
Fig 10. Excerpt from The Cincinnati Enquirer dated December 22, 1917 (

After being released, Highwarden returned to Champaign County, and in 1923, he married Rovilla Everett. If you look closely, the marriage records stated Highwarden had no previous marriages (Fig 11). This marriage did not go well either, and within a year of marriage, Rovilla filed for divorce. Highwarden did not approve of this, and without hesitation, shot her several times, killing her.

1923 Marriage Record for Rovilla Everett and Wilson B. Highwarden (JPG)
Fig 11. Marriage Record for Rovilla Everett and Wilson B. Highwarden (

Highwarden was arrested without incident, but told police that his wife, Rovilla, had been unfaithful. However, that claim did not help him and this time, there was no leniency or clemency. Judge Middleton, the same judge who sentenced him to life in prison for killing his first wife, sentenced him to death by electric chair. Highwarden plead for a new trial, but his request was denied (Fig 12). Highwarden didn’t have long between his trial and sentence of death, and on February 9, 1925, he paid the ultimate price for his crimes (Figs 13 & 14).

Excerpt from The News-Journal dated October 28, 1924 (JPG)
Fig 12. Excerpt from the News-Journal dated October 28, 1924 (

Excerpt from The Tribune dated February 9, 1925 (JPG)
Fig 13. Excerpt from The Tribune dated February 9, 1925 (

1925 Death Certificate of Bert Highwarden (JPG)
Fig 14. Death Certificate of Bert Highwarden (

Highwarden’s actions not only ended the lives of two women, but forever altered the lives of Ada and Rovilla’s children. Ada’s children went to live with her parents, but all of Rovilla’s children were sent to the children’s home as they had no one to provide for them.

This is a deeply sad story, and although it is not specifically Greene County, I felt it was one that should be told. I also feel that this story just illustrates what one may find when sifting through records – the buried stories of our families and communities.