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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Jan 07

The County Seat: A Brief History of Xenia

Posted on January 7, 2022 at 2:10 PM by Melissa Dalton

Did you know that the current Xenia charter was signed on January 1, 1918, but Xenia was originally incorporated in 1817? So, why was the charter signed over 100 years later?

When Xenia was originally founded, it was organized under a federal form of government. However, in 1918, the city adopted the commission-manager form of government. This form of government is used most frequently by local government in the United States, and combines elected officials with appointed administrators. The idea is that by having an elected body and appointed body as part of the government, it creates a system of checks and balances, and promotes transparency.

So now that we have had our government lesson, how about a little history lesson?

Greene County was one of the first counties created by the Ohio General Assembly (Fig 1). Xenia was named the county seat in 1803 and the town was laid out. The first home built in Xenia was that of John Marshall, located on the corner of West Third and South West streets. Shortly thereafter, the first business, schoolhouse, and a courthouse were constructed in town. Due to the many waterways in the region, Xenia saw many milling businesses pop up, particularly gristmills and sawmills. The town also attracted factories such as cordage and twine, paper, tobacco, shoes, and meat packing (Fig 2). Xenia also became home to many churches from various faiths and denominations.

Fig 1. 1803 Ohio County Map (JPG)

Fig 1. Map of Ohio in 1803 (Greene County Archives)

Fig 2. 1879 Map of Xenia depicting paper mill (PNG)

Fig 2. 1879 Map of Xenia depicting paper mill (Greene County Archives)

By 1817, Xenia was incorporated as a town, and gained city status in 1834. That same year, Xenia elected its first mayor, Cornelius Clark. After the Little Miami Railroad came through Xenia in the 1840s, the city witnessed great growth. The introduction of the railway allowed farmers the opportunity to ship goods instead of driving along the dirt roads (Fig 3). It also allowed businesses, such as the mills and factories, to ship products faster as they were now able to ship via rail (Fig 4).

Fig 3. 1873 Map of the 5th Ward in Xenia depicting railroad depot and roundhouse (JPG)

Fig 3. 1873 Map of the 5th Ward in Xenia, with the railroad depot and roundhouse (Greene County Archives)

Fig 4. 1922 Map of Xenia depicting schools, churches, and businesses (JPG)

Fig 4. 1922 Map of Xenia depicting schools, churches, and businesses (Greene County Archives)

In addition to the growth of businesses, other resources were made available to residents. In the 1870s and 1880s, telephone, electricity, and a water works system came to Xenia. In the early 1900s, natural gas was introduced (Fig 5), as was mass transit, making Xenia a hub for the interurban and trolleys. Additionally, Xenia opened its first public library.

Fig 5. Commissioners Journal Vol 16 p 219 (JPG)

Fig 5. Commissioners Journal Vol 16, p 219 (Greene County Archives)

Sadly, Xenia also is known for the 1974 Tornado, which killed 33 people, left 10,000 homeless, and destroyed many businesses, schools, churches, and city buildings (Fig 6). However, the city and residents of Xenia did not let the tornado destroy their spirit. The city came together and rebuilt.

Fig 6. Arrowhead and Windsor Park after 1974 tornado (JPG)

Fig 6. Arrowhead and Windsor Park neighborhoods after tornado (Greene County Archives)

The mass transit system remained for many years, but in the 1980s, the last of the railroads ceased operation in the region. As such, the railways were replaced with bike trails, creating a large bike trail system in Ohio. Today, Xenia is known as the “Bicycle Capital of the Midwest”. The city (and region) also offer some wonderful parks and recreation opportunities for residents (Fig 7).


Fig 7. Xenia Station panel from Rails to Trails online exhibit (JPG)

Fig 7. Xenia Station slide from online exhibit (Greene County Archives)

Until Next Time.

Sources:

Census.gov

Greene County Archives

Wilson, C. K. (2010). Historic Greene County: An illustrated history. Historical Publishing Network

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