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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Apr 19

Numbers Racket War in Xenia

Posted on April 19, 2019 at 8:30 AM by Melissa Dalton

In 1949, early on Easter Sunday morning, a bomb was hurled in the air and blasted through an East Market Street house in Xenia.

Fig. 1 299 East Market Street (JPEG)
Fig. 1 299 East Market Street - prior to 1962 the address was 323 East Market Street (Greene County GIS)

The nitroglycerine explosive tore off the front steps, shattered all of the windows (as well as the neighbors) and punctured a large hole in the front of the house. The home belonged to Earl Artis, who was known by the Xenia police as a notorious numbers racketeer. According to a newspaper report, Artis’ numbers operation grossed ten million a year from operations in Dayton, Columbus, Cleveland, Xenia, Springfield, Troy, Bellefontaine, Kent, Wilmington and Chillicothe.

Fig. 2 New Philadelphia Times Article, December 15, 1949 (PNG)
               Fig. 2 New Philadelphia Daily Times, December 12, 1949 (

The two men who were suspected of the bombing were involved in Artis’ numbers operation. Melvin Clark of Cincinnati and Arthur “Little Brother” Drake of Cleveland were indicted in December 1949 by a grand jury for malicious destruction of property, unlawful possession and use of explosives. Both pled “not guilty” and Clark’s bond was set at $50,000.

Fig. 3 Melvin Clark Indictment (JPEG)
Fig. 3 Melvin Clark Indictment, Greene County Court of Common Pleas (Greene County Archives)

Fig. 4 Not Guilty Plea edited JPEG)
Fig. 4 Not Guilty Entry, Greene County Court of Common Pleas (Greene County Archives)

Clark applied for a reduction of bond, claiming that the bond’s amount was excessive and in violation of his constitutional rights. The court first claimed that the bond amount was sufficient because both Clark and Drake were indicted jointly. Drake had been recently tried and convicted in Cleveland for an offense similar to the one in Xenia. He was found guilty of the crime in Cleveland and was sent to the Ohio Penitentiary in 1950. Furthermore, the court concluded that the “bombing of anyone’s home is a very serious offense, and any person who places a bomb is a potential murderer.”

Fig. 5 Bail Decision edited (JPEG)Fig. 5 Bail Decision Page 1, Greene County Court of Common Pleas (Greene County Archives)

Fig. 6 Bail Decision continued edited (JPEG)
Fig. 6 Bail Decision Page 2, Greene County Court of Common Pleas (Greene County Archives)

However, in January 1950, Judge Frank Johnson reduced Clark’s bond to $15,000 and the trial was postponed.

Fig. 7 Entry Reducing Bond (JPEG)
Fig. 7 Entry Reducing Bond, Greene County Court of Common Pleas (Greene County Archives)

More than three terms of court elapsed since Clark was originally indicted and in 1951 it was ordered and decreed that Melvin Clark would be discharged. By 1953, the Prosecuting Attorney entered a nolle prosequi – (a formal notice of abandonment by a plaintiff or prosecutor of all or part of a suit or action) for the indictment.

After the bombing, Greene County and the State of Ohio took steps to crack down on the numbers racket that operated out of Xenia. However, trouble found Melvin Clark again. In 1952 Clark was charged with the fatal shooting of Oliver “Bull” Payne at a club in Newport, KY. Furthermore, in 1956, Earl Artis was sentenced to five years in federal prison and fined $5,000 for federal income tax evasion. He died in New York City in 1970.

Fig. 8 Coshocton County Democrat-Feb-01-1956 (PNG)
           Fig. 8 Coshocton County Democrat, February 1, 1956 (

Luckily on that April 17, 1949 Easter morning, no one was killed by the blast.

Until Next Time!

-Greene County Auditor’s Geographic Information System (GIS)
-Greene County Archives


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