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 17

The Fury of the 1884 Cyclone That Hit Jamestown

Posted on July 17, 2015 at 4:30 PM by Elise Kelly

View Outside the Archives Parking Lot After Storm
Strange Weather Patterns

We sure have had some bizarre weather this summer. Heavy rainfall has been a weekly occurrence during these summer months. Overflowing
rivers and creeks throughout Greene County have wreaked havoc on crops, bike paths, and backyards.

Just this past Tuesday, a ferocious storm passed through Greene County and a torrential downpour pummeled the area. Here at the archives, the power shut down and we experienced a small amount of flooding in our parking lot.

Working in Xenia, I feel a little apprehensive when a storm rolls through because of the area's past storm experiences.

 Many of you know about the violent tornadoes that plowed through Greene County in 1974 and in 2000.

But are you aware that prior to these two catastrophic natural disasters, a menacing cyclone whirled through our county one hundred and thirty one years ago? It caused nearly a quarter of a million dollars worth of damage in Jamestown.

Damage after the 1974 Xenia Tornado

The Cyclone's Path in 1884

On a quite Sunday afternoon in April 1884, the wind began to pick up and trees began to sway rapidly in the town of Bellbrook. Neighbors came out of their houses to look up at the encroaching dark skies. A storm was about to hit. The cyclone blew off fifteen roofs but luckily no one was injured. With a vengeance, the cyclone headed northeast towards Jamestown.

                    Path of the Cyclone - 1896 Greene County Map

As the cyclone reached Silvercreek Township, it's first victim was the grounds of the Union Agricultural Society - which laid west of Jamestown. Almost every building of the Society was destroyed. Barreling east, the storm struck the town and completely demolished half of the houses.

The Damage

Below are some pages from the 1885 Greene County Tax Record Book. In the Jamestown Section, there were several noted pages that listed houses that were destroyed by the cyclone.

1885 Greene County Tax Record (Jamestown Section)
) 1885 Greene County Tax Record (Jamestown Section)
                                               "House blown down"
  Another Page from the 1885 Tax Record Book -  "Destroyed Cyclone" "House Destroyed"


 Jamestown after the Cyclone Hit. Photo from "Historic Greene County" by Catherine Kidd Wilson, Greene County Historical Society.
Sadly, five people were killed, forty were seriously injured, and nearly one hundred families were left homeless.

Almost every house and building had some sort of damage - especially the churches in Jamestown.

"Walls of Town Hall Fall into the Bakery"

Let's compare a section of an 1874 Jamestown Map (Pre-Cyclone Era) with a section of an 1896 Jamestown Map (After Cyclone Era). The Methodist church's roof blew off and the school house was in ruins. Townsfolk completely rebuilt the Methodist church from the ground up. The north section of Limestone Street was completely destroyed and the Christian Church was wrecked. Fortunately, the Catholic and African American Baptist churches survived and only had minimal damage to their structures.

On Xenia Street, the town hall and the bakery next door were not so lucky. The walls of the hall tumbled into the bakery next door and leveled the building. Six individuals were buried under the rubble but luckily, all survived!

Following the storm's aftermath, the citizens of Jamestown established the Citizen's Relief Committee to help rebuild the town. Looking at the 1896 Map, you can see that many of these buildings were rebuilt on the same ground where they previously stood.

                                         1874 Jamestown Map
                                              1896 Jamestown Map

Only two years later, Greene County was hit with a major flood. This will be discussed next week.

Until Next Time!

Broadstone, M.A. History of Greene County Ohio. Indianapolis, IN: B.F. Bowen & Company, 1918.

Special Dispatch to the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Jamestown: Almost Destroyed by the Cyclone." The Cincinnati Enquirer. 29 Apr. 1884: 1. ProQuest Web. 16 Jun. 2015.

Wilson, Catherine Kidd. Historic Greene County: An Illustrated History. San Antonio, TX: Historical Publishing Network, 2010.

This Week's Trivia Question: Look at both the 1874 and 1896 Jamestown Map. Can you find what business was there in 1874 but was no longer there in 1896?
Last Week's Trivia Answer: Living in the Digital Age of today, what has replaced the classroom chalkboard? - Interactive Boards (see image below).

                                 Image courtesy of AV Hire London via Flickr


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