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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Jul 12

The Freed Families of New Jasper: Needham and Laura Curl (Part I)

Posted on July 12, 2019 at 1:19 PM by Melissa Dalton

Several months back, we had a blog post about Loyd Curl. In that blog, we mentioned that there was little we knew about his parents, and at the time, that was true. However, while Joan was doing some research, she came across some fascinating information about the Curls, along with several other families!

Noah Spears, a slave owner from Paris, Kentucky (in Bourbon County) bought several families of slaves as to ensure the families stayed together. Spears grew up in a family that owned slaves, but he subscribed to a different view, and was influenced by the anti-slavery / abolitionist movement. Spears emancipated his slaves, and bought roughly 400 acres of land in New Jasper Township (near Stringtown) for the families to settle (Fig 1). According to Broadstone’s History of Greene County Ohio, Vol 1, there were four families that settled on the land – Curls, Smiths, Brooks, and Fergusons. However, we also learned that the Blackburn family was involved. Although we are not quite sure of the relationship, we believe the women were all sisters.

Fig 1. Excerpt from Broadstone's History of Greene County Ohio, Vol 1, p 339 (JPG)
Fig 1. Excerpt from Broadstone’s History of Greene County Ohio, Vol 1 p 339 (Greene County Archives)

As we previously wrote a blog about Loyd Curl, we wanted to highlight this family first. Needham Curl was born in Virginia around 1816. Laura, Needham’s wife, was born in Kentucky about 1819. The couple had two children, Charles (b. circa 1849) and Loyd (b. circa 1852). Many newspaper articles indicate that Needham and Laura were former slaves of Henry Clay (although one article claims they were former slaves of Cassius M. Clay).

The exact year of their emancipation is unknown (at least at this time), but Spears deeded land to these families in 1862 and 1863 (Fig 2). Needham Curl, along with Greenup Smith, were deeded 80.5 acres in Survey #1240 in 1862 (Fig 3). Then in 1863, Spears deeded another 49.75 acres in Survey #1995 (Fig 4). Both of these properties are listed as being bought for one dollar!

Fig 2. 1874 Greene County Atlas will land outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 2. Excerpt from the 1874 Greene County Atlas (Greene County Archives)

Fig 3. Greene County Deed Vol 40, p 400 (JPG)
Fig 3. Greene County Deed Vol 40, p 400 (Greene County Archives)

Fig 4. Greene County Deed Vol 41, p 350 (JPG)
Fig 4. Greene County Deed Vol 41, p 350 (Greene County Archives)

Needham and his family were well-known in the Xenia area. Needham worked as a farmer, but retired sometime in the 1870s. It turns out that Needham was one of the first black residents to serve as a juror in Greene County (in roughly 1868), and actually served on several juries throughout his lifetime (Fig 5). Laura was said to be quiet and did not spend much time out of the home unless it was related to her family or church.

Fig 5. Excerpt from March 6, 1890 issue of Xenia Daily Gazette stating Needham Curl served as juror
Fig 5. Article from May 23, 1893 issue of Xenia Daily Gazette stating Needham Curl served as juror (
Fig 5. Excerpts from the Xenia Daily Gazette about Needham Curl serving as juror (

Needham suffered from dropsy, and died on October 18, 1894 at the age of 78 (Fig 6). Laura survived him by roughly three years, but passed away in 1897 at the age of 80. The notice of her death in the Xenia Daily Gazette denotes that she was the “last” of the citizens who came to Greene County as part of the Spears settlement (Fig 7). Charles worked as a plasterer for most of his life, but died in 1910 at the age of 61 (Fig 8). Loyd passed away in 1911, and you can read more about his life by visiting our other blog post.

Fig 6. Notice in October 12, 1894 issue of Xenia Daily Gazette of illness of Needham Curl (JPG)
Fig 6. Notice in Xenia Daily Gazette of Needham Curl’s illness (

Fig 7. Obituary of Laura Curl in the July 2, 1897 issue of the Xenia Daily Gazette (JPG)
Fig 7. Death Notice of Laura Curl in Xenia Daily Gazette (

Fig 8. Obituary of Charles Curl in the October 24, 1910 issue of the Xenia Daily Gazette (JPG)
Fig 8. Death Notice of Charles Curl in Xenia Daily Gazette (

This is an incredible story, and we plan to dig a little deeper into the history of each family. Be sure to read our future blogs to learn more!

Until Next Time!

Greene County Archives


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