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.

Aug 10

An Immigrant's Journey to America

Posted on August 10, 2018 at 9:07 AM by Melissa Dalton

A couple weeks ago, I posted a document from the probate records for the Estate of Max Simon. This record indicated that upon Simon’s death, his sisters, who were living in Germany, were to receive a stipend. However, after the start of World War II, the payments were halted per the request of the sisters. This estate file really captured our attention, and we believed it was a story that needed to be explored.

Max Simon was born on April 6, 1867 in the small town of Altleiningen, Germany. At the age of sixteen, Max boarded a ship in Bremen, Germany to come to the United States. According to his passport application from 1902, he arrived in New York in October 1886 (Fig 1). Although I found several passenger lists that list a “Max Simon”, due to inconsistencies in dates and age of passenger, I’m unable to pinpoint or determine which, if any, listed him.

Fig 1. 1902 Passport Application of Max Simon (JPG)
Fig 1. Passport Application of Max Simon, dated June 2, 1902 (FamilySearch.org)

On October 19, 1893, at the age of 26, Max became a naturalized citizen through the Montgomery County Probate Court. At the time of the passport application (in 1902), Simon planned to go aboard (likely to Germany to visit family), and was to return the United States within two years.

Simon became a prominent businessman in Xenia, first as a liquor dealer, and later as a horse dealer. Simon married his wife, Selma (maiden name unknown), in 1908. They had a son, Maurice, on March 1, 1910. At the time of the 1910 U.S. Census, the Simon family was living on South Galloway Street in Xenia, Ohio (Fig 2).

Fig 2. 1910 U.S. Census with Simon family outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 2. 1910 U.S. Census Record with Simon Family outlined in red (FamilySearch.org)

In 1913, the Simon family applied for new passports (Fig 3) and departed for Germany, with the intent to return within six months. They returned to the United States on the Imperator on October 29, 1913 (Fig 4). Then in 1916, Simon had his will drafted, which left his entire estate to Selma, with a condition that his two sisters, Bertha and Elsie, receive $100 every three months until their death (Fig 5).

Fig 3. 1913 Passport Application for Max, Selma, and Maurice Simon (JPG)
Fig 3. Passport Application for Max, Selma, and Maurice Simon, dated July 8, 1913 (FamilySearch.org)

Fig 4. List of U.S. Citizens aboard the Imperator, dated October 29, 1913 (JPG)
Fig 4. List of United States Citizens, Passenger List for Imperator, dated October 29, 1913 (Ancestry.com)

Fig 5. Last Will and Testament of Max Simon, dated November 21, 1916 (JPG)
Fig 5. Last Will and Testament of Max Simon, dated November 21, 1916 (Greene County Archives)

In 1919, Simon became very ill and required emergency surgery. Just a week later, on May 24, 1919 he succumbed to the illness. The death certificate listed cause of death as cholangitis, which is an infection of the bile duct (usually caused by a blockage of some sort) (Fig 6). The Xenia Evening Gazette covered his illness and death, expressing high regard for Simon (Figs 7 & 8).

Fig 6. Death Certificate of Max Simon (JPG)
Fig 6. Death Certificate of Max Simon (FamilySearch.org)

Fig 7. Article from the Xenia Evening Gazette, dated May 26, 1919 (JPG) Fig 8. Article from the Xenia Evening Gazette, dated May 28, 1919 (JPG)
Figs 7 & 8. Articles from the Xenia Evening Gazette, May 26 & 28, 1919 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Selma and Maurice stayed in the family home at first, and were listed on the 1920 U.S. Census as still on N. King Street (Fig 9). Simon left a rather large estate to his wife, upwards of $23,500, which equates to roughly $340,000 today (Fig 10). There are several “Statement in Lieu of Account” documents filed from 1922 through 1941, showing draws on the estate and payments sent to Max’s sisters per the will (Fig 11).

Fig 9. 1920 U.S. Census with Selma and Maurice Simon outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 9. 1920 U.S. Census with Selma and Maurice Simon outlined in red (FamilySearch.org)

Fig 10. Article from the Xenia Evening Gazette, dated June 25, 1919 (JPG)
Fig 10. Article from Xenia Evening Gazette, dated June 25, 1919 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Fig 11. Statement in Lieu of Account, filed May 24, 1922 (JPG)  Fig 11. Statement in Lieu of Account, filed May 19, 1937 (JPG)Fig 11. Receipt showing payment to Bertha and Elsie, dated May 15, 1928 (JPG)
Fig 11. Various Statement in Lieu of Account documents filed with Probate Court (Greene County Archives).

Sometime before 1930, Selma married Samuel Posner, and she and Maurice moved to Dayton (Fig 12). Selma continued sending the $100 to Bertha and Elsie, but in 1939, they requested that the last three payments be held “due to the prevailing economic condition in Germany” (Fig 13). Correspondence in July 1940 and June 1941 show that payments did resume and were received by Elsie and Bertha (Fig 14). In July 1941, Selma filed a Statement in Lieu of Account stating that she was withholding the payments as it “was impossible to safely transmit these funds due the conditions caused by the present war in Europe” (Fig 15). This document further stated that the sisters were forced to move to Frankfurt.

Fig 12. 1930 U.S. Census with Posner family outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 12. 1930 U.S. Census with Posner family outlined in red (FamilySearch.org)

Fig 13. Statement in Lieu of Account, filed May 17, 1939 (JPG)
Fig 13. Statement in Lieu of Account, Estate of Max Simon, FB 522 (Greene County Archives)

Fig 14. Letter verifying payment to sisters, dated June 23, 1941 (JPG)
Fig 14. Letters part of the Estate of Max Simon, FB 522 (Greene County Archives)

Fig 15. Statement in Liew of Account, filed July 7, 1941 (JPG)
Fig 15. Statement in Lieu of Account, Estate of Max Simon, FB 522 (Greene County Archives)

Unfortunately, that was the last document filed with the Court. Finding out what happened to the sisters has proven difficult as there is little information about them in the records. The fact that the Simon family was Jewish and forced to move to Frankfurt, an area heavily bombed during WWII, coupled with the lack of filings after 1941, we speculate that his sisters, Elsie and Bertha, were either civilian casualties of the bombings or possibly were imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. Sadly, we believe the sisters did not survive the war.

This story isn’t all sad though; we do have some happy news to end on for you! Selma Simon Posner lived a long life, and died in 1985, just one month shy of her 100th birthday!

UNTIL NEXT TIME…

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

Aug 03

Death at Simms Station

Posted on August 3, 2018 at 11:50 AM by Melissa Dalton

Ambition and confidence typically are considered good qualities. These qualities provide the determination needed to succeed, however, there are times when they can lead one to do, and make, irrational decisions. This week’s blog follows a story of a man whose ambition and confidence proved to be fatal.

Fred J. Southard was born on October 22, 1879 in Pine Grove, Michigan to parents, Nathan and Letitia (Veley) Southard (Fig 1). According to newspaper articles, Southard had a “spirit of adventure” and set out on his own at a young age. Rumor was he went west and worked on farms, but then made his back to Great Lakes region and settled in North Dakota, and later moved to Minnesota. He married Alva (or Alta, but maiden name unknown) sometime in the early 1900s, and it was at this time that Southard began to excel in the business world (Fig 2).
Birth Record of Fred J. Southard, Van Buren Co, Michigan (JPG)
Fig 1. Birth Record of Fred J. Southard, Van Buren County, Michigan (FamilySearch.org)

1910 U.S. Census with Fred and Alta (Alva) Southard outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 2. 1910 U.S. Census with Fred and Alta (Alva) Southard outlined in red (FamilySearch.org)


Southard started his own mortgage company, F. J. Southard Mortgage, which he remained president until his death. He also was president of the Farmers and Merchants Bank of Minnesota, but resigned just days before his untimely demise (Fig 3). Reports indicate that he became interested in flying and aviation roughly a year or so prior to his death. He went to California to attend the Curtiss Flying School for about a month. He returned to Minnesota for a short time, but decided to continue with his aviation endeavors. Southard came to Dayton to attend the Wright Flying School at Simms Station, and purchased a Wright model biplane.

Excerpt of article from Dayton Daily News, dated May 21, 1912 (JPG)
Fig 3. Excerpt from article in Dayton Daily News dated May 21, 1912 (Newspapers.com)


Southard was eager to fly his machine, but due to the illness of Wilbur, training was delayed as Orville was caring for his brother. Worried Southard may try to fly his plane without the proper instruction, the Wright Brothers and their flying instructors did not permit him to take his airplane out alone, and even locked Southard’s plane in a hangar at Simms Station.

Southard drew weary of waiting, and on May 21, 1912, he decided he was going to take his “flying machine” for a solo flight. Early that morning, Southard broke into the hangar by removing the door from its hinges, and taxied his plane for takeoff. According to an eye witness, Southard had a smooth beginning, but shortly into the flight, the plane began to dip, and suddenly turned “turtle”, and plummeted roughly 100 feet to the ground. Southard was killed instantly (Fig 4).

Excerpt of article from Dayton Daily News, dated May 21, 1912 (JPG)
Fig 4. Excerpt from article in Dayton Daily News dated May 21, 1912 (Newspapers.com)

An inspection of the plane was completed by the mechanics and aviators at Simms Station, and it was reported that the machine was in proper working order. It was determined that the crash was due to human error and lack of experience of its pilot (Fig 5).

Death Certificate of Fred J. Southard (JPG)
Fig 5. Death Certificate of Fred J. Southard (FamilySearch.org)

Southard’s body was prepared by Greene County coroners, and an inventory of personal property and effects were recorded (Fig 6). His father, Nathan Southard, retrieved the body for burial in Michigan. Newspapers claim his wife was too distraught to make the trip to Dayton, but other reports indicate they were divorced. Most interesting is that one article claims he had a love interest in Dayton in which they discussed marriage. Whatever the case, Southard left a large estate, reportedly upward of $75,000, which amounts to almost $2,000,000 today (Fig 7).

Inventory of Coroner of personal effects of Fred J. Southard (JPG)
Fig 6. Inventory of P. C. Marquart, Coroner of Greene County, of personal effects of F. J. Southard (Greene County Archives Probate Records, FB 475)

Article from Xenia Daily Gazette, dated May 22, 1912 (JPG)
Fig 7. Article from Xenia Daily Gazette dated May 22, 1912 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)


In hindsight, the story of Southard was the culmination of events. Wilbur had contracted typhoid fever and was extremely ill (Fig 8). Orville was focused on caring for his brother, and the Wright Flying School and its students, were put on hold. Southard was an overly-ambitious and impatient man, unwilling to take the advice of distinguished and skilled aviators. All these taken together created the perfect storm.

Excerpt of Diaries by Bishop Milton Wright, pg 749 (JPG)Excerpt of Diaries by Bishop Milton Wright, pg 750 (JPG)
Fig 8. Excerpt from Diaries 1857-1917 by Bishop Milton Wright, p 749-750

And, this is what I love about this field and working in an Archive. All it takes is one randomly placed inventory in probate records to prompt someone to do a little bit of research and uncover a lost story.

Until Next Time…

Sources:
Greene County Archives
FamilySearch.org
NewspaperARCHIVE.com
Newspapers.com
Wright, Milton. 1999. Diaries, 1857-1917. Dayton, Ohio: Wright State University, p. 749-750.

Jul 27

The Greene County Agricultural Society: The Making of the Greene County Fair

Posted on July 27, 2018 at 8:15 AM by Melissa Dalton

The Greene County Fair is upon us! The fair is slated to begin on Sunday, July 29th and will run through Saturday, August 4th. This week, I thought we could learn a bit of the history of the fair, and show everyone some neat little historical fair items we have here in the Archives.

Did you know that this year marks the 179th Annual Greene County Fair? Did you also know that it is said to be the “oldest fair west of the Alleghenies”? Now that’s something that should grab your attention! So, let’s start at the beginning…

The Greene County Agricultural Society was established in 1834, but the first meetings to discuss the formation began in 1833 when the Commissioners made mention of “organizing an Agricultural Society” at a board meeting (Fig 1). The first fair on record was held in 1839 around the Courthouse Square. The fair was a huge success, and the following year, the location was moved to Columbus Pike to accommodate the size and growth of the event. It was at this location that the fair remained for several years, and in 1852, the Agricultural Society acquired the property from Elizabeth Williams. Washington Galloway did a survey of the trotting track (Fig 2), and even notated a trip to the 1858 fair in his fieldbook (Fig 3)!

Greene County Commissioners Journal Vol 5, pg 247 (JPG)
Fig 1. Excerpt from the Greene County Commissioners Journal Vol. 5, pg. 247 (Greene County Archives)

1860 Survey of Trotting Track at Fairgrounds (JPG)
Fig 2. 1860 Survey by Galloway of trotting track (Greene County Archives)

Galloway recalls trip to Greene County Fair in 1858 (JPG)
Fig 3. Galloway notates trip to 1858 Fair in Fieldbook 7, pg. 25 (Greene County Archives)

The Fair continued to draw appeal from residents and witnessed steady growth, and in 1867, it was determined that the location must be moved. A site was chosen in Xenia, but a faction from Jamestown was quite unhappy with the selection, claiming it was too far for them to travel to bring their livestock and goods. They established their own society, the Union Agricultural Society, and began holding their own fair, providing Greene County residents two separate fairs each year. However, in 1884, a tornado struck Jamestown, causing the Union Agricultural Society’s fair to close permanently.

The Greene County Agricultural Society purchased just under 40 acres for the fairgrounds (Fig 4), but the site was later sold to Eli Millen, at which time he began leasing the land to the Society. Upon his death, the land was transferred back to the Society, including approximately 10 additional acres. It is here where the fair has remained.

1867 Stock Certificate for Greene County Agricultural Society (JPG)
Fig 4. Shares were sold to maintain the fairgrounds (Greene County Archives)

The entertainment and programs of the fair haven’t changed too much over the years. Pulling contests, horse racing, produce, displays of handiwork, craftsmanship, and artisanship, all have been around since the beginning. To provide proper viewing and displaying of these events and programs, several buildings and a grandstand were erected (Figs 5 & 6).

Miscellaneous news articles reporting Fair revenue in the 1940s (JPG)
Fig 5. Various articles from the 1940s about Fair revenue (Greene County Archives)

Various Greene County Fair Ribbons (JPG)
Fig 6. Ribbons from various events and programs (Greene County Archives)


There have been only a couple times the fair almost shutdown, which would have ended its streak as one of the oldest fairs – in 1943 due to World War II and in 2001 after a tornado devastated the site. However, the Fair Board overcame both obstacles. In 1943, the Board decided the fair must continue and to “make this the best Greene County Fair on record” (Figs 7 & 8). In 2000, a tornado struck the fairgrounds, destroying several buildings and trees on the site. Due to hard work and dedication of the Board of Directors, the grounds were rebuilt and ready for the 2001 fair season!

Headline about the Fair in the Xenia Gazette, dated July 31, 1943 (JPG)Article about 104th Anniversary of the Fair in the Xenia Gazette, dated July 31, 1943 (JPG)
Fig 7. Headline and article about the 1943 Fair in the Xenia Gazette, dated July 31, 1943 (Greene County Archives)

Article about entertainment at the 1943 Fair in the Xenia Gazette, dated July 31, 1943 (JPG)Article about entertainment at the 1943 Fair in the Xenia Gazette, dated July 31, 1943 (JPG)
Fig 8. Articles about entertainment at the 1943 Fair in the Xenia Gazette, dated July 31, 1943 (Greene County Archives)


The fair started out as a 3-day event, but over the years, it has spread out to a full week’s worth of events and programs. This year, the fair will offer various discount days, rides, grandstand events, and lawn activities. To find a full calendar of events, please visit the Greene County Fairgrounds & Expo Center.

So, if you are looking for something fun and exciting to do next week, be sure to check out the “oldest fair west of the Alleghenies”, the Greene County Fair!

Sources:

Greene County Archives

Greene County Fairgrounds & Expo Center (n.d.). History, Retrieved July 25, 2018 from http://www.greenecountyfairgrounds.com/history

Baxter J. (2015, July 25). A bit of Greene County Fair history. Xenia Gazette. Retrieved from https://www.xeniagazette.com/opinion/1462/a-bit-of-greene-county-fair-history