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 24

The Great 1886 Flood That Was Unleashed in Xenia

Posted on July 24, 2015 at 3:19 PM by Elise Kelly

" A Dark Night of Terror and Woe at Xenia."

"The Town Deluged and Whole Families Swept Away."

"Small Creeks Changed into Roaring Turbulent Rivers,"

These are just a few of the captivating headlines in a May 14, 1886 Cincinnati Enquirer article that chronicled the devastating effects of an enormous flood that engulfed Xenia and its surrounding areas.

During the night of May 12, 1886, a mighty thunderstorm hurled its way into town. Deep in blissful slumber, families were awakened by the loud cracks of thunder and the pelting rain. Some believed a cyclone had descended upon the town.
The storm could have looked something like this. (Recent scene outside the Archives)

Shawnee Creek (which runs through Xenia) became a roaring river.

The Creek courses through the streets of Water (now Third Street) and Detroit. These roads became completely immersed under water and in some areas water levels rose 15 to 30 feet high! Parts of the Little Miami Railroad tracks were uprooted.

The flood was caused by a small culvert that could not allow such a vast amount of water to pass through it. The culvert was located underneath a high embankment of the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railroad line. A huge lake gathered against the embankment and eventually a massive tidal wave poured into town.

Circled below is the major flood area (Shawnee Creek, Detroit and Water Streets, Little Miami Railroad  and Pittsburgh, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railroad).

                                         1874 Greene  County Map

Looking West on 2nd St. from Morris Foundation
 Houses were torn loose from their foundations and many were swept away.
The town's men used ropes, boats and ladders to rescue individuals and families. 
In one instance, five men rescued a nine-member family from rushing currents. 

 Sadly, others were unable to be rescued as they were helplessly drug  "down beneath the angry waters." (Cincinnati Enquirer article) 
The Entire Powell Family Perished in the Flood. Cause of Death -  Drowning. (See Below)
 Powell family.jpg  sdf
                              Greene County Death Records

Three bridges collapsed including the W. 2nd Street Bridge and the Main Street Bridge.

The image to the left is the W. 2nd Street Bridge. It was constructed over Shawnee Creek.

According to our 1886 Tax Record Book, George Bradley, the owner of the St. George Hotel, suffered a significant amount of damage to his residence which was located in "Barr's Bottom". (See Below)

                Assessed Damage to George Bradley's Buildings
                        Greene County 1886 Tax Record Book

           A total of twenty houses were destroyed in Barr's Bottom.

                                     1874 Greene  County Map

Flood waters began to spread west and east of Detroit street damaging John Leaman and E.J. McMillan's properties. (See Map Above).
Both properties had substantial damage to their properties.
(See Below).

                Assessed Damage to
John Leaman's Properties
                        Greene County 1886 Tax Record Book
                  Assessed Damage to E.J. McMillan's Properties
                         Greene County 1886 Tax Record Book

A day or two after the flood, Xenia City Council appropriated $1,000 for immediate relief. Thousands of dollars worth of damage occurred throughout Xenia and its surrounding areas. Even out at Goes Station the mills at the Miami Powder Company experienced major destruction and ruin. It most likely took many months for everyone to recover. Fortunately, many of these people came together to assist one another during this devastating calamity.

Until Next Time!

This Week's Trivia Question: During what war did the Miami Powder Company supply 10,000 kegs of rifle powder a year?
Last Week's Trivia Answer: 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? - A Hotel


"Destruction at Xenia." The Cincinnati Enquirer. 14 May 1886: 1. ProQuest Web. 21 Jun. 2015.



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