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.

Jul 01

Happy Retirement, Joan!

Posted on July 1, 2022 at 9:48 AM by Melissa Dalton

This week, we celebrated the retirement of our long-time assistant, Joan Donovan. Joan has been an institution here at the Archives. While working in Microfilm, Joan was asked if she would be willing to provide coverage at the Archives during lunch, and eventually, they brought her on full-time… and the rest is history!

Joan sitting at her desk (PNG)Joan sitting at her computer desk

What can we say about Joan? Joan lives and breathes Xenia and Greene County history. She has lived here her entire life and is one of the most knowledgeable people I know, and not just about the local history! Her mind is like a steel trap – she retains dates, names, locations, and some great random facts and trivia (she really should play trivia at one of the local establishments – she would probably win each week). Joan’s knowledge and experience are supreme, and we were lucky to have her on our staff for close to 20 years!

Joan also has a fan club – no joke. We have had researchers call and request to speak to Joan, and when she’s been unavailable, they’ll refuse to speak to anyone else often saying, “she knows what I need”. I can’t say I blame them. Joan knows all the tricks and best places to find particular resources, even the obscure ones. Joan was usually the first person I asked when I couldn’t figure out a research question or find some records. She would always stop what she was doing and help – and typically knew exactly where to go.

Joan holding a framed photograph of our former intern, Amy (JPG)Joan holding a framed photograph of former intern, Amy (Brickey) Czubak.

Joan comes across as quiet and reserved, but once you get her going, she will tell you some fantastic stories. She survived the 1974 Tornado, but her family lost their home. Her father was the Xenia Post Master, and a well-known figure in our region. Joan has deep roots in Greene County and can tell you a great deal about her ancestors and the early settlers. 

Joan, Robin, Elise, and Melissa at the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party, 2019 (JPG)Joan, Melissa, Robin, and Elise at the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party, 2019

As we close out this chapter, I would like to share some words from my colleagues here at the Archives. 

Robin: Over the last seventeen years, Joan has been the “face” of the Archives, greeting patrons and assisting them in their research. Joan’s vast knowledge of local history, her love of genealogy, and knowledge of county records has allowed her to assist many patrons break through some of their genealogical brick walls! One such patron presented Joan with an Oscar for her outstanding research. Joan’s attention to detail allowed her to rediscover “Freedom Papers” among some of the early deed records that are housed in the Archives. These records had long been forgotten, but thanks to Joan, Greene County is one of the few counties in Ohio that has rediscovered these historically valuable records. I commend Joan for her dedication to Greene County and the Archives over the years. We will all miss Joan and wish her well as she begins her new adventure!

Joan holding her 15 years of service award (JPG)Joan holding the Certificate of Appreciation for 15 Years of Service (JPG)

Elise: When I first started here at the Greene County Records Center and Archives, I quickly realized that Joan was very knowledgeable in regards to the Archives’ records and Greene County’s local history. I became like a sponge, trying to soak up all that Joan knew. Whenever she was helping a visitor, I tried to listen attentively, learning how the Archives’ records can help with research. Even after a couple of years of working at the Archives, I still need to ask Joan for clarification on a certain record or local history event. She has always been very helpful to me and I learned a lot from her. I will miss Joan but I cherish the time we worked together. We had fun and a lot of laughs. 

Lori: My time with Joan has been short, but I have learned so much from her. I am working on the piles of study material she has left for me. Her knowledge is an inspiration! She has set the bar high, so I’ll keep this short. Thank you, Joan, for everything!

Joan, thank you for your hard work and dedication. We wish you the best in retirement, but hope you come back and visit us often!

You can see all the photographs from her retirement party on our Facebook page.

Jun 02

Greene County VIP - Bishop Daniel A. Payne

Posted on June 2, 2022 at 12:31 PM by Melissa Dalton

Our next Greene County VIP is Bishop Daniel A. Payne. Bishop Payne is known as one of the most important African American figures during the nineteenth century and was instrumental in the advancement of Wilberforce University and the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church (Fig 1).

Fig 1. Bishop Daniel A. Payne, circa 1891-1893 (JPG)

Fig 1. Daniel A. Payne, circa 1891-1893 (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

Daniel A. Payne was born on February 24, 1811, in Charleston, South Carolina. He was the son of free parents, who had African, European, and American Indian ancestry. Payne’s parents died before he reached adulthood and he went to live with a great aunt.

Payne was raised in the Methodist Church, and was self-taught - learning mathematics, physical science, and classical languages by candlelight. In 1829, at the age of 18, Payne opened a school for African American children in Charleston. The school was forced to close in 1835 after the passage of Bill No. 2639, restricting the education of enslaved and free people of color.

Dismayed, Payne moved north and enrolled in the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. He became ordained in 1839, becoming the first African American minister in the Lutheran Church in New York. He left the Lutheran Church and joined the A.M.E. Church in 1841, and became a minister in 1843.

During his time in Pennsylvania, he was the leader of the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee, which provided enslaved peoples food, clothing, and shelter, and assisted them in escaping to Canada. He again was focused on education and opened a coeducational school in Philadelphia. Payne also began acting as the historian for the A.M.E. Church and became ordained as the sixth bishop of the church in 1852 (Fig 2).

Fig 2. Daniel A. Payne, circa 1870-1890 (PNG)

Fig 2. Daniel A. Payne, circa 1870-1890 (Courtesy of the Ohio History Connection, https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/p267401coll36/id/5509)

Payne married his first wife in 1847, but she died the same year due to complications of childbirth. In 1854, Bishop Payne married Eliza Clark of Cincinnati.

Bishop Payne helped found Wilberforce University in 1856, but the university closed in 1862 due to the Civil War. In 1863, Bishop Payne negotiated the purchase of Wilberforce University on behalf of the A.M.E. Church. The same year, Payne was selected to be the president of Wilberforce University, a position he held until 1876 (Fig 3). Under his leadership, the enrollment grew rapidly, from just 12 students to 150 students by the end of his tenure.

Fig 3. 1870 U.S. Census with Daniel Payne and family outlined in red (JPG)

Fig 3. 1870 U.S. Census with Daniel Payne and family outlined in red (Ancestry.com)

Payne was a staunch abolitionist, skilled writer, and devoted educator. He was instrumental in organizing A.M.E. ministries throughout the South, gaining 250,000 new members for the church during the Reconstruction era. In 1888, Payne wrote a memoir, Recollections of Seventy Years, reflecting on his life. In 1891, he wrote the historiography of the A.M.E. Church, titled History of the American Methodist Episcopal Church (Fig 4).

Fig 4. Bishop Payne and other organizers of First District Missionary Society, 1893 (JPG)

Fig 4. Bishop Payne and ministers who assisted in the organization of the First District Missionary Society, Columbus, OH, 1893 (Courtesy of New York Public Library)

Bishop Daniel A. Payne died on November 2, 1893, at the age of 82. His services were held in Xenia, and his body was transported east for his final burial at Mount Zion Cemetery in Lansdowne, Maryland.

Until Next Time!



Harley, Danielle Kurash, "Bishop Daniel Payne: educating black saints in Ohio" (2002). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 3149. https://ecommons.udayton.edu/graduate_theses/3149

Greene County Archives

Library of Congress: https://www.loc.gov/item/2016690322/ 

New York Public Library: https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/

Ohio Memory/Ohio History Connection: https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/p267401coll36/id/5509 

May 26

Welcome our new Administrative Assistant, Lori Harris!

Posted on May 26, 2022 at 2:12 PM by Melissa Dalton

An introduction is in order, as I am the new Administrative Assistant at the Archives. My name is Lori Harris. Life has given me a variety of experiences to learn from. I grew up on a farm just outside of Springfield.

Family farm of Lori Harris (JPG)

Family Farm of Lori Harris, just outside of Springfield, Ohio

As I registered for Clark State Community College’s Police Academy, I met Iain Harris. Graduation rolled around and we were engaged. We have been married 30 years this June and have three children.

Children of Lori Harris (JPG)

Children of Lori Harris, 2011

Life can have a hectic pace while raising kids, working, and taking care of a household. Over the years, I found myself returning to an early passion time and time again. Finding out that I had ancestors active in so many of the early struggles to found America enthralled me. Ironic considering that my husband is British! I have had an unquenchable curiosity for family history since a teen, so I finally decided to jump into genealogy. After 30-plus years, it was about time!

I started by joining D.A.R. (Daughters of the American Revolution). I continued with webinars, local genealogy groups, and constant searching. I graduated with the Certificate in Genealogical Research program from Boston University-Continuing Professional Education, in May of 2021. I started volunteering with Greene County Archives in July of that year as well.

Ancestor of Lori Harris (JPG)

Ancestor of Lori Harris

I found that the preservation of family history documents and histories has a huge unmet need. Many unique and fascinating stories could be lost if we do not help bridge the digital divide between generations. The Archives is a unique opportunity to experience original records and how to maintain them. I am happy to be a part of preserving Greene County’s history. I’m a new face at the Archives, so feel free to introduce yourself when you stop in.

Until Next Time!