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.

Feb 23

The Hanging of Jesse Ransbottom: Part III

Posted on February 23, 2018 at 12:40 PM by Melissa Dalton

This week marks the final installment of our Ransbottom story. We know for sure that Fanny and Jesse had two children – the child Fanny was carrying when she was murdered, and David, the child that was boarding with another family (and visited his father the day of the execution). Although we cannot say definitively that the people discussed below are the children of the Jesse and Fanny Ransbottom, all evidence points to them being so.

According to the court transcript, David Ransbottom was boarding/working with the Sheley family prior to the murder. Additionally, he is listed on the 1850 Census (Fig 1) as still living with the Sheley family. In the 1860 Census, David is a day laborer, living with the Elson family in Miami County (Fig 2). Sometime after moving to Miami County, David met Margaret Ann Cooper, and on November 11, 1860, they married (Fig 3).

1850 Census showing David living with Sheley Family1860 Census showing David living with Elson Family
Figs 1 & 2: 1850 Census showing David living with Sheley Family in Greene County, Ohio / 1860 Census showing David living with Elson Family in Miami County, Ohio (FamilySearch.org)

David Marriage
Fig 3: Marriage License of David Ransbottom and Margaret Ann Cooper (FamilySearch.org)

David joined the Army and was a member of the 11th Regiment, Company B, of the Ohio Infantry. This regiment was organized and stationed at Camp Dennison from April until June 1861. The unit reorganized in June, but the “three months’ men” were discharged. It appears that David was a part of the men mustered out, because he joined the 36th Regiment, Company G, of the Indiana Infantry on October 22, 1861. David was captured during the Battle of Chickamauga, a campaign fought September 18-20, 1863. We are unsure of his whereabouts (prisoner of war, etc.) after being captured, but he died in Baltimore on March 17, 1865 (Figs 4-6). David Ransbottom was buried in Loudon Park National Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland (Fig 7).

36th Indiana Infantry List
Pension file for DavidPension file for David
Figs 4-6: Various Military Records of David Ransbottom (Archive.org / FamilySearch.org)

Headstone of grave of David Ransbottom
Fig 7: Headstone of grave of David Ransbottom (FindAGrave.com)

Howard was merely a toddler when his parents died. According to the Greene County Infirmary Admission and Discharge records, Howard was admitted on June 22, 1849, just two days after his mother was brutally murdered. The 1860 Census lists him as living in the poor house (Fig 8). The Admission/Discharge records indicate that he was discharged in 1860 (Fig 9). However, there also is a possibility that Howard may have, if only briefly, lived with a Shaker family in the Watervleit Shaker Community around 1857 (Fig 10), but the Admission/Discharge records do not make any reference to him being discharged prior to 1860. It appears that Howard was in and out of the Infirmary as a teenager, mostly with a condition of “weak” or “diseased” eyes, between 1860 and 1862 (Figs 11-12). Howard joined the Union Army as part of the 113th Regiment, Company I, of the Ohio Infantry in early 1862.

1860 Census listing Howard as living in poor house
Fig 8: 1860 Census listing Howard as living in poor house (FamilySearch.org)

Excerpt from Admission/Discharge Records for Greene County InfirmaryFig 9: Greene County Infirmary records indicate that Howard was admitted June 22, 1849 and discharged April 16, 1860 (Greene County Archives)

Excerpt from Shakers of OhioMap of Watervleit Shaker Community in Montgomery County
Fig 10: Excerpt from Shakers of Ohio / Map of Watervleit Shaker Community in Montgomery County, Ohio

Howard admitted to Infirmary in 1860
Excerpt from Admission/Discharge Records for Greene County Infirmary from 1862
Figs 11-12: Various Admission/Discharge Records showing Howard in and out of Infirmary between 1860 and 1862 (Greene County Archives)

Also in 1862, we ran across something interesting in the Admission/Discharge records – the birth of Howard Ransbottom II – born October 20, 1862. Although the mother is never listed, each time, Howard II is admitted and discharged at the same time as Rowena Seldomridge. Young Howard appears many more times, but the last admission was 1865, when he was five years old. The record is silent after that (Figs 13-16). [As a side note: it is quite possible that Howard was unaware of the birth of his son. He joined the military prior to the birth and wasn’t discharged until 1865. His military records indicate he was single/unmarried and had no family or relatives.]

Birth of Howard Ransbottom II
Howard II and Rowena Seldomridge admitted when Howard is still baby
Howard II and Rowena admitted again when Howard is a toddler
Last time records indicate that Howard II and Rowena were admitted to Infirmary
Figs 13-16: Various Greene County Infirmary Admission and Discharge Records for Howard II and Rowena Seldomridge (Greene County Archives)


Howard (Sr.) fought in the Civil War and was discharged in 1865 after his service term expired, and he was recorded as a disabled soldier. According to the record found from the National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (in Dayton), Howard was disabled due to “inflammation in both eyes.” Howard lived the remainder of his life in the Dayton Soldiers Home and died on February 2, 1907, being buried in the Dayton National Cemetery. The record indicates the cause of death was syphilis, which might explain his lifelong battle with diseased eyes (Figs 17-19).

Howard's record from the US National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers1880 Census showing Howard living in Soldiers Home
Grave Registration Card for Howard
Figs 17-19: Various Military Records for Howard Ransbottom (Fold3.org / FamilySearch.org)

The Ransbottom boys had a rough life. Their story is tragic and I hoped for something good to happen to the boys, but David died in the Civil War and Howard fought illness and homelessness his entire life. I wished to learn something more of Rowena Seldomridge and poor little Howard, but to no avail. So sadly, this is where the story ends.

Until Next Time…

Sources:
FamilySearch.org
FindAGrave.com
Fold3.org
Greene County Archives
J.P. MacLean, PhD., Shakers of Ohio, Fugitive Papers Concerning the Shakers of Ohio, with Unpublished Manuscripts, The F. J. Heer Printing Co., Columbus: OH, 1907
NPS.gov
Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana: Vol. 5, Samuel M. Douglass, Indianapolis: IN, 1866

Feb 16

The Hanging of Jesse Ransbottom: Part II

Posted on February 16, 2018 at 3:59 PM by Melissa Dalton

Last week, we left off with the conclusion of the trial that convicted Jesse Ransbottom of murder and sentenced him to be executed by hanging. Ransbottom had three months until he met his fate, and continued with his claim of insanity - stating he did not have any recollection as to what happened and rarely, if ever, made any references to his wife. There were many attempts made to have the governor commute his sentence, however, those attempts failed. The week of his execution, there was purportedly an unofficial investigation to determine Ransbottom’s sanity, meaning the investigation was not done by any counsel or law official. It is believed the investigation was merely to demonstrate to the public that the County was not going to execute an insane man. The investigation found that he had “limited mental capacity, but not insane to any great extent.” The newspapers reported that if there was any insanity, it was due to “defective education – a naturally bad and depraved heart – and limited-mental capacity” (Fig 1).

Excerpt of the Xenia Torchlight dated January 31, 1850
Fig 1: Excerpt from Xenia Torchlight, January 31, 1850 (The Greene County Room)


Ransbottom had complete confidence he would be released, until they began constructing the gallows below his jail window. At that time, the jail was on the corner of the courthouse yard. The gallows covered an area of 18 ft by 13 ft and was enclosed by a fence as the sheriff stated the hanging would not become a spectacle.

The day of the execution arrived and thousands of people made their way to Greene County in the hopes of witnessing the execution. The fenced gallows was heavily guarded by General Stewart and his men, and no one was admitted entrance into the gallows. One newspaper article from an eye witness (many years later) claims that folks gathered to see a public hanging and to make sure Ransbottom was executed. There were rumors that the governor was going to commute his sentence at the last minute, and some came to make sure if that happened, they would do the deed themselves. Since no one was granted entrance to physically see him hanged, two residents, Mr. and Mrs. William Rhoades, agreed to watch from their house since they had a view into the gallows from a second story window. Mrs. Rhoades told the crowd she would wave a white cloth when Ransbottom dropped (Fig 2).

Article from Xenia Daily Gazette dated April 9, 1936Article from Xenia Daily Gazette dated April 9, 1936
Fig 2: Xenia Daily Gazette, April 9, 1936 (Newspapers.com)

Ransbottom had only one visitor the day of his execution, his son of about 10 years old, who stayed with him for several hours. At about three in the afternoon on January 25, 1850, Jesse Ransbottom was led to the gallows by the sheriff and a minister. He was reported to walk with “a firm step, cool and apparently indifferent” to what he was to meet at the end of the line. Ransbottom was asked if he had anything to say, to which he responded: “Oh, Lord! Have mercy on me! Oh, my poor mother! My poor wife! My poor children!” The sheriff affixed the rope around Ransbottom’s neck and before placing the black hood asked him if he had any final words. Ransbottom asked to be buried “up yonder”, pointing towards Champaign County. As the sheriff already had the grave dug just outside of Xenia, he responded, “I’ll see that you are buried decently.” The hood was then placed over the prisoner’s head and within seconds, the trap was released. Ransbottom died without a struggle (Fig 3).

Excerpt of the Xenia Torchlight dated January 31, 1850
Fig 3: Excerpt from Xenia Torchlight, January 31, 1850 (The Greene County Room)

Mrs. Rhoades waved the white cloth, and according to the article, the crowd rushed the fence, tearing it to pieces so they could see for themselves that he was, in fact, dead. However, there was nothing more to see, so the crowd dispersed quietly.

This marked the first, and last, legal execution in Greene County. News of his sentence and execution was widespread, with articles popping up in newspapers as far as Buffalo, New York (Fig 4).

Excerpt from the Cambridge Reveille dated October 27, 1849 Excerpt from The Portage Sentinel dated November 05, 1849Excerpt from The Buffalo Daily Republic dated February 16, 1850
Fig 4: Various newspaper articles from across the U.S. reporting the execution of Jesse Ransbottom (Newspapers.com)


However, we feel the story is not complete. There is nothing reported as to what happened to the Ransbottom children after the murder of their mother and execution of their father. We’ve decided to dig a little deeper and we hope you will join us next week to learn what became of the unfortunate children of Jesse and Fanny Ransbottom.

Until Next Time…

Sources:
Broadstone, M. A. (1918). History of Greene County Ohio: Its People, Industries and Institutions. Indianapolis: B.F. Bowen & Company, Inc.
Greene County Archives (various collections)
The Xenia Torchlight, Greene County Room (various dates)
Xenia Daily Gazette, Newspapers.com (various dates)

Feb 15

The Hanging of Jesse Ransbottom: Part I

Posted on February 15, 2018 at 10:23 AM by Melissa Dalton

Greene County has only seen one legal hanging, that of Jesse Ransbottom.  Some of the facts may be a little fuzzy as the event happened over 150 years ago, but it is an intriguing story nonetheless.

Jesse Ransbottom and Fanny Jenkins were born and raised in Virginia , where they were married in 1827 (Fig 1).  According to his family, Jesse was known to have "episodes", abusing his wife and attempting suicide many times.  The claim was that while a worker in a coal bank, he was involved in some sort of accident or attack (the details are not clear) from which he never fully recovered, causing his "crazy spells". 

1830 Census
Fig 1: 1830 U.S. Census showing Jesse Ransbottom and Fanny Jenkins' family in Culpeper County, Virginia (FamilySearch.org)

According to the testimony of family, and the census records the decades prior, Jesse Ransbottom and his family left Virginia sometime between 1830 and 1840, taking up residence in Muskingum County, Ohio (Fig 2).  Only a few months prior to the vicious murder, Jesse Ransbottom moved his family to Fairfield, Ohio in Greene County. 

1840 Census
Fig 2: 1840 U.S. Census showing Ransbottom family in Muskingum County, Ohio (FamilySearch.org)

The story goes that Ransbottom was jailed for stealing a cow, leaving his family without any provisions during his absence.  Several neighbors and townspeople of Fairfield took it upon themselves to help out Fanny Ransbottom and her children during this difficult time, making sure they would not starve.  On June 20, 1849, a few days after his release from jail, Fanny returned from a meeting (some stories claim it was a prayer meeting), and as soon as she entered the home, she knew her husband meant to do her harm.  Fanny went running and screaming, with her youngest child in her arms, towards the back of the property.  Jesse caught her at the fence, pulled her head back, and brutally slashed her throat with a razor.  He then stabbed her in the chest two or three times with a knife.  Jesse left her lifeless body where it lay and walked back to the house.  There he attempted to cut his own throat, but said it "hurt too much" and would wait for "someone else to do it." Although Fanny's screams were heard and neighbors came running to her aid, no one was able to save her from her husband's jealous rage.  When asked why he killed his wife, Jesse stated that it was the fault of neighbors for caring for his wife while he was gone, claiming he was jealous of Fanny and the help she received.  Jesse did not attempt to flee and was arrested without further incident (Fig 3).

1896 Atlas of Fairfield with Ransbottom property outlined in red
Current view of Ransbottom property outlined in red
Fig 3: Map of Ransbottom Property - 1896 Map and Current Map (Greene County Archives / Greene County Auditor, GIS Maps)

The trial for the murder of Fanny Ransbottom began October 18, 1849 and Jesse plead not guilty for reason of insanity.  The trial lasted several days and there was testimony from roughly 25 people, including family and neighbors.  Many of Ransbottom's family members claimed that Jesse was afflicted with illness and was not a person of high mental capacity.  However, others claimed that he was just a "drunk" and discredited their testimony in his defense.  There were several eye-witnesses to the murder and Jesse's fate was sealed.  Upon closing arguments, it only took the jury roughly 40 minutes to come back with the verdict of murder in the first degree, and the judge ruled that Jesse Ransbottom "be hanged by the neck until you are dead" on January 25, 1850 (Fig 4). 

State Record No. 2, pg. 257
State Record No. 2, pg. 258
State Record No. 2, pg. 259
State Record No. 2, pg. 260
Fig 4: State Record No. 2, pg. 257-260 - State of Ohio vs. Jesse Ransbottom (Greene County Archives)

The story doesn't end there, so stay tuned!

Until Next Time...

Sources:
FamilySearch.org
Greene County Archives
Greene County Auditor, GIS Maps