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.

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Jun 01

The Mysterious Case of Josephine Sheley: Part 2

Posted on June 1, 2018 at 8:53 AM by Melissa Dalton

The witness statements/depositions and newspaper articles indicate just how vague the details of the events leading up to the death of Josephine Sheley really are. Several people were interviewed by the coroner – Clara Sheley (who was recalled for additional questioning), Melda Sheley, Dr. F. W. Ogan, Dr. L. M. Jones, Thomas J. Pearson Jr., Ella McLaughlin, Sarah F. Ginn, and Perry H. Sheley.

It seems the only thing everyone agreed on is that Clara Sheley went to the bank for her brother, and stopped off at the butcher and got ground beef as well. The remaining details are jumbled; stories and memories harmonize at points, while others collide. However, here’s what I’ve been able to gather.

The depositions of Clara and Perry Sheley follow the same course, for the most part. Clara went to the bank to cash a check, and stopped at the butcher shop on the way. She ordered ground beef and told Tom Pearson she would return to pick up the meat after she finished up at the bank. She got the check cashed, went back to the butcher shop, got the meat that was waiting for her, and was met by her brother outside, at which point she gave him the meat, and they parted ways. This is where the stories diverged. Perry claimed Clara bought the meat without being asked, although Clara claimed Perry told her to buy it. Additionally, Perry stated he went back to the McLaughlin house to pick up a dress and apron, but Clara said that was done the day before (Figs 1 & 2).

Excerpt of Deposition of Clara Sheley (JPG)
Fig 1. Excerpt of Deposition of Clara Sheley (Greene County Archives)

Excerpt of Deposition of Perry Sheley (JPG)
Fig 2. Excerpt of Deposition of Perry Sheley (Greene County Archives)


Melda Sheley was questioned more about the events at home and the preparation of the meat. She did admit to preparing the meat for dinner, adding the usual ingredients, but noted that there was something that looked like pepper in the meat. She claimed that the meat caused their mouths to feel like it was on fire after eating some of it. Josephine told the children to stop eating it because she believed it was “poisoned”. Melda stated that most were ill for a day or so, but Perry and their mother were the worst. Perry remained ill for three or four days, and her mother seemed better after a few days, but then got worse. Melda was asked if they kept poison around, and if her mother ate more than the rest. She declared neither were true, and when asked if her mother exclaimed that Tom Pearson poisoned them, and she responded that she never heard her mother make such a claim, but others stated she did (but who those others were was not asked) (Fig 3).

Excerpt of Deposition of Melda Sheley (JPG)
Fig 3. Excerpt of Deposition of Melda Sheley (Greene County Archives)

The depositions of Ella McLaughlin and Sarah Ginn were the most at odds with Clara’s. Both women explained that they recalled Clara bringing the meat back to the house, and then giving it to her brother later. Additionally, McLaughlin claimed that there was “rough for rats” missing from their shed and neither she nor her husband knew what happened to it (Figs 4 & 5).

Excerpt of Deposition of Ella McLaughlin (JPG)
Fig 4. Excerpt of Deposition of Ella McLaughlin (Greene County Archives)

Excerpt of Deposition of Sarah Ginn (JPG)
Fig 5. Excerpt of Deposition of Sarah Ginn (Greene County Archives)


The last deposition of consequence was that of Tom Pearson. He verified that Clara came in, went to the bank, and then returned to pick up the meat. However, he claimed that he never asked who the meat was for, while Clara stated otherwise and that she told Pearson it was for her family (including her mother). He did admit to a dispute over a bill, and confronting Josephine (who outright refused to pay the bill), but was not asked to elaborate on said dispute (Fig 6).

Excerpt of Deposition of Tom Pearson (JPG)
Fig 6. Excerpt of Deposition of Tom Pearson (Greene County Archives)

On August 25, 1893, the coroner filed his findings (Fig 7). He determined that Josephine was poisoned, and Clara was the main suspect. He further recommended that the prosecution investigate the matter. Newspaper articles claim the stomach of Josephine Sheley was sent to Cincinnati for examination, but I have been unable to find any information about the results of such testing (Fig 8). Furthermore, our records indicate that no criminal case was ever filed against Clara Sheley, or anyone else for that matter. Various articles do specify guardianships and such (Fig 9), and there was a case filed against Clara and her siblings by a John Bailey, for partition of the family land (Fig 10). Each child, and Mr. Bailey, were guaranteed a share, and he was granted his portion, while the others requested the land stay together for the benefit of the children. Other than that, I couldn’t find much besides marriage and death announcements.

Coroner's Findings, filed August 25, 1893 (JPG)
Fig 7. Coroner’s Finding, filed August 25, 1893 (Greene County Archives)

Article from the Cincinnati Enquirer dated August 23, 1893 (JPG)
Fig 8. Article from The Cincinnati Enquirer dated August 22, 1893 (Newspapers.com)

Notice in Xenia Daily Gazette, dated August 23, 1893 (JPG)
Fig 9. Notice in Xenia Daily Gazette regarding guardianship of Melda Sheley, dated August 23, 1893 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Notice in Xenia Daily Gazette, dated November 14, 1893 (JPG)
Fig 10. Notice in Xenia Daily Gazette of transfer of land to John Bailey, dated November 14, 1893 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)


Shortly after her mother’s death, Clara moved to Fayette County, Ohio. It was there that she met her future husband, Harry C. Loveless, and they married on October 20, 1896 (Fig 11). Sometime before 1900, Clara and Harry moved back to Silver Creek Township, along with their two young children, and Harry worked as a farmer for many years (Figs 12 & 13). However, Clara and Harry moved to Xenia sometime before the 1920 Census (Fig 14). Clara, however, contracted pulmonary tuberculosis and died in 1924 at the age of 49 (Fig 15).

1896 Marriage Record for Clara & Harry (JPG)
Fig 11. Marriage Record of Clara B Sheley and Harry C. Loveless (Ancestry.com)

1900 U.S. Census (JPG)
Fig 12. 1900 Census (FamilySearch.org)

1910 U.S. Census (JPG)
Fig 13. 1910 Census (FamilySearch.org)

1920 U.S. Census (JPG)
Fig 14. 1920 Census (Ancestry.com)

Death Certificate for Clara Loveless (JPG)
Fig 15. Death Certificate of Clara B. Loveless (FamilySearch.org)


So the question remains. What happened to Josephine Sheley? Was it murder? Was it suicide? Was it just an unfortunate accident? We may never know.

UNTIL NEXT TIME…

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

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