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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Mar 23

1913 Dayton Flood and the Creation of Fairborn

Posted on March 23, 2018 at 1:17 PM by Melissa Dalton

This week marks the 105th anniversary of the 1913 Dayton Flood. This storm had devastating effects to the region due to the culmination of a melting snow, overly saturated earth, and heavy rain storms. This week’s blog recounts the events leading up to the flood, and its consequences, especially to one small village in Greene County.

The Miami Valley experienced a freak windstorm on Good Friday, March 21, 1913, and temperatures fell rapidly. Heavy rains began to fall on Easter Sunday, dropping 8 inches to 12 inches of rainfall, causing the Great Miami River to reach its highest point for the average year. The ground was so saturated that 90% of the rain became runoff, contributing to the rising Great Miami and its tributaries. On Tuesday, March 25, 1913, the police and other city officials were warned that the levees were weakening and the river overflowed its banks at a rapid rate. Not long after, the southside levees failed, and flood waters poured into the streets and entered downtown (Fig 1). The flood waters continued to rise, and on Wednesday, March 26, 1913, the water crested downtown at 20 feet (Figs 2-4). The flood waters damaged a gas line around 5th and Wilkinson, causing the line to rupture and explode. Due to the flooding, the fire and rescue were unable to get to the fire, and almost an entire city block was lost to fire.

1913 Flood: Springfield Street in Dayton under water (JPG)
Fig 1. Springfield Street in Dayton under water (Wright State University, DDN Collection)

1913 Flood: 4th Street looking toward Main St (JPG)
Fig 2. 4th Street looking towards Main Street (Wright State University, DDN Collection)

1913 Flood: photo taken at the INN on west 2nd street (JPG)
Fig 3. View of West Second Street (Wright State University, DDN Collection)

1913 Flood: NCR Boat helping people during the flood (JPG)
Fig 4. NCR Rescue Boat assisting those stranded (Wright State University, DDN Collection)

The storm was catastrophic. More than 360 people lost their lives, 20,000 homes were destroyed, and about 70,000 people were left homeless (Dayton’s population at the time was 116,000). Additionally, about 1,400 horses perished, as well as almost 2,000 other domestic animals.

The citizens of Dayton, led by John H. Patterson, were determined to make sure this never happened again. Hydrological engineer, Arthur Morgan, was hired to conduct a series of studies of the watershed. Upon completion of the studies, Morgan recommended that several dams be constructed, as well as altering the channel of the river through Dayton. Ohio’s Governor, James Cox, approved of this plan and Morgan was commissioned to write the Ohio Conservancy Act, which allows the state to establish watershed districts, and tax the districts to raise funds for improvements. Although the Act was challenged as to its constitutionality, the Act was passed in 1914, and in 1915, the Miami Conservancy District (MCD) was created.

The MCD began construction of the five dams – Englewood, Huffman, Germantown, Taylorsville, and Lockington – in 1918, with the project being completed in 1922. Of the five dams, one is located in Greene County, Huffman Dam (Fig 5). Huffman Dam regulates the flow of the Mad River into the Great Miami River. However, due to the location of one small village, Osborn, it was going to be flooded if there was ever another major event. This was reason enough for the village, with a total population of roughly 1,000 residents, to be relocated. Osborn was acquired by the MCD, and since there was no imminent risk, they allowed the homeowners to stay until they could figure out the best way to remove the structures. It was during this time that residents, led by the mayor and city attorney, decided to take a stand and created the Osborn Removal Company. The formation and incorporation of this company was to allow the citizens to keep their homes and purchase new property outside of the flood basin, next to the town of Fairfield. The Osborn Removal Company bought the properties back from the MCD, and the original owners were given the opportunity to buy their homes back for a fair price, and move them to the new town.

Constructing Huffman Dam (JPG)
Fig 5. Construction of Huffman Dam (Miami Conservancy District)

The move of Osborn began in 1922, and took about two years, with nearly 200 houses moved (Fig 6). Additionally, the town was platted, graded, and streets and sidewalks were completed, all within this two year time frame. LaPlant-Choate Manufacturing Co. even moved many shade trees and replanted in new Osborn (Fig 7).

Zeller Family moving their home (JPG)
Fig 6. Zeller Family preparing to move house to new Osborn (Routt)

Aerial of New Osborn (JPG)
Fig 7. Aerial view of New Osborn (Routt)

Osborn and Fairfield co-existed from 1924 to 1950, at which time they decided to merge. The two towns took portions of their names, creating what is now Fairborn (Fig 8). However, what makes this story so inspiring is the power of the human spirit. The citizens of Osborn worked together to come up with a solution to the problem. They made sure homeowners were given a fair shake and made it so the new village of Osborn was even better than the original. The tenacity and resolve of the citizens is a reminder that we can accomplish great things if we are willing to put aside differences and work together.

1950 Engineer Map of the City of Fairborn (JPG)
Fig 8. 1950 Engineer Map of the newly formed City of Fairborn (Greene County Archives)

Until Next Time…

Greene County Archives
J. David Rogers, University of Missouri-Rolla, Natural Hazards Mitigation Institute: Flood-Updated.pdf
Miami Conservancy District
Routt, Allan, Early Views of Fairfield & Osborn Ohio, 2010.
Wright State University


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