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.

Sep 25

Events that Change the Course of Life

Posted on September 25, 2020 at 12:51 PM by Melissa Dalton

We never know what events will change a life. It could be a chance encounter or a new opportunity that presents itself. Today, we explore how a strange event changed the course of one young woman’s life, that of Abigail “Abbie” Shingledecker.

Abbie Shingledecker did not live a life of luxury. Although the exact events are unknown, by the age of 13, Abbie and her siblings were admitted to the Greene County Infirmary (Fig 1). This continued for several years, and on many admissions, her disposition is listed as indifferent. This is a sad way for a young girl/teenager to be described, and it provides a glimpse into what her demeanor and how difficult her life must have been.

Fig 1. Greene County Infirmary Admission record of Abigail Shingledecker and family (JPG)
Fig 1. Greene County Infirmary Admission record of Abigail Shingledecker and siblings (Greene County Archives)

Abbie’s life continued on this path, and as a young teenager of roughly 16, Abbie was admitted to the Infirmary to give birth to a son, William Shingledecker (Fig 2). Although the birth records indicate that a father was never named, within six months of giving birth, Abbie married Thomas Wright (Fig 3). With this marriage, along with later records indicating William’s last name changed from Shingledecker to Wright, it is likely Thomas was his father.

Fig 2. Greene County Birth Record of William Shingledecker, 26 Dec 1877 (JPG)
Fig 2. Greene County Birth Record of William Shingledecker, 26 Dec 1877 (JPG)
Fig 2. Greene County Birth Record of William Shingledecker, 26 Dec 1877 (Greene County Archives)

Fig 3. Marriage Record of Abigail Shingledecker and Thomas Wright, 1879 (JPG)
Fig 3. Marriage Record of Abigail Shingledecker and Thomas Wright (Greene County Archives)


It seems the couple had their troubles, and Abbie and William were living with her father, Nathaniel, off and on not long after the marriage (Fig 4). Sadly, by 1881, Abbie was readmitted to the Infirmary, and this time she had William and a one year old, George, with her. At 19 years old, and the mother of two, the admitting staff list her as “bad” and unable to support herself (Fig 5). There is no mention of the father, and he is not in the admission record, therefore his whereabouts are unknown. Within a month, Abbie ran off, taking the children with her. The family was readmitted again in 1882, and this time, they remained longer as Abbie was pregnant. Abbie left in March, and left the boys in the home. However, she returned in June and removed George (Fig 6).

Fig 4. 1880 Census with Abbie and William living with her father (JPG)
Fig 4. 1880 Census with Abbie and William living with her father (Ancestry.com)

Fig 5. Admission Record for Abbie and her children, 1881 (JPG)
Fig 5. Admission Records for Abbie and her children (Greene County Archives)

Fig 6. Admission Discharge Record for Abbie and the boys, 1882 (JPG)
Fig 6. Admission Discharge Record for Abbie and the boys, 1882 (JPG)
Fig 6. Admission/Discharge Records for Abbie and the boys (Greene County Archives)


Abbie’s hard times continued. Abbie gave birth to a daughter, Blanche, but she and the infant were reinstated at the Infirmary in April 1883. Sadly, Blanche died shortly thereafter. However, Abbie’s life was about to take an unknown course…

Elnathan Rife, a Civil War veteran and man about 25 years her senior, was in search of companionship. Rife’s first wife, Polly, passed away, and he was living a lonely life. In his despair, he contacted the Greene County Infirmary Superintendent to see if there were any candidates in his facility to fill the role of wife. He was provided with information about “fair ones” and Rife requested to marry Abbie Shingledecker. According to a very flowery newspaper article, Abbie took the news “like the noble little Abbie Shingledecker that she was, braced up and prepared for the event which was to rob her of the fascinating name of Shingledecker and change the course of her life” (Fig 7). And, that’s what appears to have happened.

Fig 7. Marriage of Elnathan Rife and Abbie Shingledecker, Xenia Daily Gazette, 19 Jun 1883 (JPG)
Fig 7. Article of marriage of Elnathan Rife and Abbie Shingledecker, Xenia Daily Gazette, 19 Jun 1883 (Newspapers.com)

As the 1890 Census is unavailable, we lose them for a few years; however, they are listed as living in Ross County in 1900 and 1910 (Fig 8). The couple returned to Greene County sometime after the 1910. However, Rife became ill in October 1918 and was admitted to the National Military Home in Montgomery County. He remained there until his death on January 16, 1919 (Fig 9). Abbie was notified of his death, and his body was returned to Cedarville, Ohio for burial.

Fig 8. 1910 Census record for Elnathan and Abbie (JPG)
Fig 8. 1910 Census record for Elnathan and Abbie (Ancestry.com)

Fig 9. Death Record of Elnathan Rife (JPG)
Fig 9. Death certificate of Elnathan Rife (Ancestry.com)


A little over a year after Elnathan’s death, Abbie married Henry Hayslett of Clifton, Ohio (Fig 10). Unfortunately, after their marriage, Abbie and Henry become difficult to find in the records. Another thing that is unclear is if Abbie was ever able to reconnect with her sons. They, too, seem to disappear from the records, and that could be due to moving out of the region, going to live with other families, or changing names.

Fig 10. Marriage Record of Abbie Rife and Henry Hayslett, 1920 (JPG)
Fig 10. Marriage record of Abbie Rife and Henry Hayslett (Greene County Archives)

Abbie experienced great hardship in her early life. Although her arranged marriage to Elnathan may seem strange to us today, these types of marriages weren’t unheard of at the time. And, seeing as the couple stayed together until Elnathan’s death close to 30 years later, we hope that it means they had a good life together.

Until Next Time!

Sources:
Ancestry.com
Greene County Archives
Newspapers.com

Sep 18

Guardianships for The Doris Duke Trust in Greene County

Posted on September 18, 2020 at 1:13 PM by Melissa Dalton

Some time ago, we published a blog on a link in Greene County to the Doris Duke Trust. Well, just a couple weeks ago, Joan came across the guardianship files for those same recipients of said trust funds. As such, we thought we’d revisit this story.

We’re sure many of you know the name… I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard or read something, and the project was sponsored or funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. If you know the name, but aren’t familiar with the story, we’ll give you a brief history of the Duke family.

Doris Duke was born on November 12, 1913, and was the only daughter of James Buchanan “Buck” Duke (Fig 1) and Nanaline Holt Inman. James B. Duke was an industrialist and philanthropist, becoming the owner of the largest tobacco company in the United States. He and his brother formed a power company as well, which later became Duke Energy.

Fig 1. James Buchanan Duke (JPG)
Fig 1. James Buchanan Duke (Wikimedia Commons)

Prior to his death in 1925, Duke established The Duke Endowment, a $40 million trust fund. This endowment would fund Duke University (formerly Trinity College), Davidson College, Furman University, Johnson C. Smith University, not-for-profit hospitals and children’s homes in the Carolinas, just to name a few. Upon his death, roughly another $67 million was added to the trust, and the remainder of his estate, roughly $100 million, went to Doris (Fig 2).

Fig 2. Doris and her father, James (JPG)
Fig 2. Doris and her then husband, James Cromwell (Wikipedia)

As part of the Trust, descendants of James B. Duke were to receive an inheritance throughout their lifetime. Doris did not have children (she had a daughter that died shortly after birth), but James’s sister, Mary Elizabeth, became a recipient, making her descendants heirs. And that’s where we find our connection.

One of my coworkers created a simplified family tree to help keep the names and relations straight for this particular lineage (Fig 3). Mary Elizabeth had a son, Edwin Buchanan. Edwin married and had a daughter, Marion. Marion is where our story picks up. Marion and her husband, General John Walker Sessums, Jr., moved to Greene County as Sessums was originally assigned to Wright Field around 1935, upon completion of Air Corps Engineering School. It is here where the couple laid roots.

Fig 4. The Duke Family Tree (JPG)
Fig 3. The Duke Family Tree (Greene County Archives)

The couple had three children – Marion (b. 1934), Jean (b. 1937), and John (b. 1940). Guardianships were established to manage the trust funds the family would receive for the care of each minor – receiving $100 per month per child (equivalent to roughly $1800 per month), and receiving up to $200 per month (looks like it may have been increased incrementally due to inflation) by the time they each reached the age of 21 (Fig 4). Once of age, guardianship was terminated.

Fig 5. Example of disbursement of funds from The Doris Duke Trust  for the Sessums children (JPG)
Fig 4. Example of funds received from The Doris Duke Trust for the Sessums children (Greene County Archives)

The monies received from the Trust allowed for the Sessums to provide some of the best schooling and services for their children. For example, they hired a private governess and nurse for the children, and once school age, the children received private education and lessons, attended camps, and expenses such as clothing, shoes, toys, medical bills, automobiles, insurance, and weddings were paid almost completely using the Trust funds (Fig 5).

Fig 6. Examples of Accounts filed in the Greene County Probate Court regarding expenses of the Trust
Fig 6. Examples of Accounts filed in the Greene County Probate Court regarding expenses of the Trust
Fig 6. Examples of Accounts filed in the Greene County Probate Court regarding expenses of the Trust
Fig 5. Examples of Accounts filed with the Greene County Probate Court regarding expenses of the Trust funds for Marion, Jean, and John, respectively (Greene County Archives)

Although we aren’t sure exactly how much each descendant received as part of their inheritance, it was surely in the millions, distributed at various points throughout their lifetime. According to a relatively recent news story on one descendant, there are hundreds of James B. Duke descendants receiving monies from the Trust today, including some in the Sessums line. So, if you find you’re related to James Buchanan Duke, it may be worthwhile to look into that a bit closer.

Until Next Time…

Sources:
Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
Duke University Libraries: https://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/uarchives/history/articles/james-buchanan-duke 
Greene County Archives
U.S. Air Force: https://www.af.mil/About-Us/Biographies/Display/Article/105651/major-general-john-walker-sessums-jr/


Sep 11

Senseless Murder in Beavercreek Township

Posted on September 11, 2020 at 12:38 PM by Melissa Dalton

Sometimes you run across something in records that piques interest. While Elise was working to inventory some records, she happened upon an entry in the Surveyor Record Index that indicated the survey was completed for a murder that took place in Beavercreek Township in 1885. This week, we explore the records to learn exactly what happened.

George Holverstott was an older farmer in Beavercreek Township, living about five miles outside of Xenia. His neighbors, newlyweds Joseph and Elizabeth Wolf (Fig 1), were a young couple with a puppy that liked to run and chase. This dog had a habit of chasing Holverstott’s turkeys, and one Friday evening in August 1885, the old farmer had enough. Holverstott grabbed his gun and was determined to kill the dog as he insisted that it was killing his turkeys. Wolf protested, and tried to stop him – and that’s when Holverstott shot Wolf, killing him (Fig 2).

Fig 1. Marriage Record of Joseph Wolf and Elizabeth Gruber, 1885 (JPG)
Fig 1. Marriage Record of Joseph Wolf and Elizabeth Gruber, 1885 (Greene County Archives)

Fig 2. Article documenting murder of Wolf, Sandusky Daily Register, 24 Aug 1885 (JPG)
Fig 2. Article documenting murder of Wolf, Sandusky Daily Register, 24 Aug 1885 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Holverstott turned himself in for the murder; however, he was surprised to learn he would be held for an indictment of murder in the first degree and required to remain in jail until the trial. The murder of young Wolf upset many farmers and neighbors in Beavercreek Township, and a mob formed with the plan to “take care” of Holverstott themselves and hang him for the murder. Holverstott’s sons got word of the plot, and contacted the Sheriff. The lynch mob met at the Greene County Fairgrounds, and were promptly met by police and told to vacate the premises, as well as their plans, or they all would be facing a much worse fate. It was enough to subdue the mob, and they went home without incident (Fig 3).

Fig 3. Article on lynch mob to kill Holverstott, Cincinnati Commercial Gazette, 04 Nov 1885 (JPG)
Fig 3. Article on lynch mob plan to kill Holverstott, Cincinnati Commercial Gazette, 04 Nov 1885 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Holverstott attempted to get the murder charge dropped to manslaughter, but was unsuccessful. Subsequently, he pleaded not guilty to the charge of second degree murder. Holverstott’s murder case was fraught, as his attorneys also withdrew as counsel after his sons did not provide the agreed upon assistance as promised (Fig 4).

Fig 4. Holverstott's attorneys withdraw as counsel, Xenia Daily Gazette, 15 Dec 1885 (JPG)
Fig 4. Holverstott’s attorneys withdraw as counsel, Xenia Daily Gazette, 15 Dec 1885 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

The trial did not go well for Holverstott, and he was found guilty of murder in the second degree. Holverstott and his attorneys filed a petition for a new trial, and a hearing was held in January 1886. The Court overruled the petition, and Holverstott accepted the verdict, and the sentence of life in prison (Fig 5). Holverstott was taken to the Ohio Penitentiary on January 23, 1886 to serve his life term.

Fig 5. State Record No 7 p 562, Holverstott's murder case (JPG)
Fig 5. State Record No 7 p 563, Holverstott's murder case (JPG)
Fig 5. State Record No 7 p 564, Holverstott's murder case (JPG)
Fig 5. State Record No 7 p 565, Holverstott's murder case (JPG)
Fig 5. State Record No 7 p 566, Holverstott's murder case (JPG)
Fig 5. State Record No 7 pgs 562-566 documenting Holverstott’s case (Greene County Archives)


After spending twenty years in prison, Holverstott applied to the State Board of Pardons. According to one article, Holverstott stayed out of trouble in prison and even stopped another prisoner from escaping. When his case came before the Board, no one knew his name or story, and were surprised to learn that he had never applied for a pardon. The Board heard his case, and determined they would approve and grant his pardon. Holverstott was released from prison on November 30, 1906, serving twenty-one years of his life sentence (Fig 6).

Fig 6. Article on Pardon of Holverstott, Xenia Daily Gazette, 28 Nov 1906 (JPG)
Fig 6. Pardon of Holverstott, Xenia Daily Gazette, 28 Nov 1906 (Newspapers.com)

At the age of 77, Holverstott returned to Greene County to his family. The records and newspapers remain quiet on Holverstott after his release, and he lived out the remainder of his days in Greene County. Holverstott died at the Greene County Infirmary on July 3, 1922 at the age of 95 (Figs 7 & 8).

Fig 7. Obituary of George Holverstott, The Dayton Herald, 05 Jul 1922 (JPG)
Fig 7. Obituary of George Holverstott, The Dayton Herald, 5 Jul 1922 (Newspapers.com)

Fig 8. Death Certificate of George Holverstott (JPG)
Fig 8. Death Certificate of George Holverstott (FamilySearch.org)


Until Next Time…

Sources:
FamilySearch.org
Greene County Archives
NewspaperARCHIVE.com
Newspapers.com