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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May 10

John Daniel Steele: The Man Behind the Steele Building

Posted on May 10, 2019 at 1:35 PM by Melissa Dalton

Many people, especially those who have been in Xenia for years, know about the Steele Building that once stood on the corner of Main and Detroit. Sadly, it was heavily damaged in the 1974 tornado, and subsequently, was razed. However, how much do you know about the man behind the Steele Building? This man came from a business-minded family, always had a keen eye for business himself, and became a prominent businessman in Xenia. Today, we are going to explore the life of John Daniel Steele.

John Daniel Steele, better known as J.D. Steele, was born on November 4, 1855 to David and Mary (Harbine) Steele of Alpha. Steele graduated from Xenia High School and completed his B.A. at the College of Wooster in 1877.

Upon graduation, Steele worked for his uncle, J. H. Harbine, and in 1881, bought M.C. Allison’s interest in Allison, Eavey & Carson, at which time the company was renamed Eavey, Carson & Steele (which was again changed to Eavey & Company shortly thereafter). Steele remained with the company until 1888, when he sold his interest and joined Hooven & Allison Company, becoming the secretary and general manager of the company. However, Steele made quite the name for himself in the region, organizing and incorporating other businesses such as the Steele, Hopkins & Meredith Company, and the Electric Light Company.

In 1893, Steele married Miriam E. Yockey (Fig 1), and they had three children – John, Margaret, and Florence. The family took up residence at a house located on the corner of Union and North Galloway in Xenia (Fig 2). Steele was a member of the Reformed Church, as well as a member of several fraternal organizations in the area. He also was a staunch republican, although he never pursued a political career.

Fig 1. Marriage record of John Daniel Steele and Miriam E. Yockey dated 1893 (JPG)
Fig 1. Marriage record of John Daniel Steele and Miriam E. Yockey (Greene County Archives)

Fig 2. 1913 Xenia City Directory
Fig 2. 1913 Xenia City Directory (Greene County Archives)

In the mid-1890s, Steele decided to construct a building in downtown Xenia (Fig 3). As plans were being submitted for the building, the residents took interest in what possibilities this structure would hold for the city. The construction on the building was completed in 1896 (Fig 4), and followed the Dutch Colonial Revival style, an architectural style popular for that time (Fig 5). The building housed many businesses throughout its life, and by viewing J.D. Steele’s estate file, it is clear that he remained quite profitable in his business dealings throughout his life.

Fig 3. Article on plans for Steele Building, Xenia Daily Gazette, December 4, 1894 (JPG)
Fig 3. Article on the plans for the Steele Building from the Xenia Daily Gazette, dated December 4, 1894 (

Fig 4. 1897 Greene County Tax Duplicate (JPG)Fig 4. 1896 Greene County Tax Duplicate (JPG)
Fig 4. 1897 Greene County Tax Duplicate (JPG)
Fig 4. 1898 Greene County Tax Duplicate (JPG)
Fig 4. Tax Duplicates for Steele Building site dated 1896, 1897, & 1898 respectively (Greene County Archives)

Fig 5. Steele Building in 1908 (JPG)
Fig 5. Steele Building in 1908 (Greene County Archives)

In 1922, tragedy struck the family with the death of John Daniel Steele, Jr. While packing for an upcoming trip to the Canadian Rockies and Alaska, Steele Jr. was preparing his .45 Colt revolver, accidentally discharging the weapon. The bullet pierced his heart and lung, and Steele died within hours of the accident (Fig 6).

Fig 6. Article on death of John Daniel Steele, Jr., Xenia Daily Gazette, March 27, 1922 (JPG)
Fig 6. Article on death of John Daniel Steele, Jr. from Xenia Daily Gazette, dated March 27, 1922 (

J.D. Steele retired from his business ventures in 1928, and according to the Xenia Daily Gazette (dated July 28, 1930), during Steele’s tenure with the Hooven & Allison Company, the company grew from a $300,000 to $6 million corporation!

During the final years of his life, Steele was burdened with illness. In June 1930, Steele wrote his will. On July 27, 1930, just over a month after completing his will, Steele passed away. However, due to the provisions made for all of his real and personal property, Steele’s estate file itself is rather small. Steele’s will instructed that a trust be created, and it is this file that is quite extensive, and clearly illustrates just how lucrative Steele was in his business. At the time of his death, his estate was worth just over $82,000 (Fig 7), which equates to over $1 million today.

Fig 7. J.D. Steele Trusteeship, Box 716, Case 469 (JPG)
Fig 7. Part of inventory from Trusteeship file of J.D. Steele, Box 716, Case 469 (Greene County Archives)

Until Next Time!

Greene County Archives
Robinson, G.F. (1902). History of Greene County, Ohio. Chicago, IL: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company.


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