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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Jan 16

Celebrating a Century of Service: The Greene County Public Health Department

Posted on January 16, 2020 at 11:27 AM by Elise Kelly

Did you know, that this year the Greene County Public Health Department is celebrating a century of service? In 1920, Greene County established a Board of Health District. Interestingly, the City of Xenia was already operating a public health department. City public health departments were established much earlier in the United States than county public health districts.

The first American public health departments were launched at the city level during the late eighteenth century. Several American cities, along the upper half of the east coast, claim to be the first in the nation to have instituted a board of health. For example, the city of Boston claims that in 1799, the nation’s first board of health and health department were created. Paul Revere, a patriot of the American Revolution, was the city’s first health commissioner (See Fig. 1).

Fig. 1 Paul_revere_ride (GIF)
Fig. 1 Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride, April 18, 1775 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Public health boards and departments were established to prevent, protect and promote the health of the public. The conception of state health boards was initiated by the mid-to-late nineteenth century. It was not until much later, that county health boards were instituted.
In February 1920, Dr. R. H. Grube, a member and later president of Greene County’s Medical Society, was appointed as Greene County’s Health Commissioner for a term of three months. This continually renewed contract stipulated the salary of one hundred dollars per month. This amount would be the equivalent in today’s economy to around $1300 (See Fig. 2).

Fig. 2 Greene County District Board of Health Letter 1920 (JPG)
Fig. 2 Greene County District Board of Health Letter, 1920 (Greene County Archives)

Dr. Grube began his medical career in 1897 and served as the Health Commissioner for the City of Xenia before joining the County. As a leading member of Greene County’s Medical Society, Dr. Grube frequently gave informative lectures regarding the prevention of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis. Dr. Grube operated as the County Health Commissioner for twelve years and retired in 1932 (See Fig. 3).

Fig. 3 xenia-evening-gazette-Aug-19-1932-p-1 (PNG) (3)
Fig. 3 “Dr. R. H. Grube Will Leave Post,” Xenia Evening Gazette, August 19, 1932 (

During Dr. Grube’s tenure, a public health nurse named Pearl Wittenmyer, was hired for the county health district. One of Nurse Wittenmyer’s duties included managing the public health exhibit at the Greene County Fair (See Fig. 4). This would have been an ideal opportunity to inform the public of the County’s public health services.

Fig. 4 Greene County District Board of Health Minutes 1928 edited (JPG)
Fig. 4 Greene County District Board of Health Minutes, 1928 (Greene County Archives)

Dr. Grube and the District Health Board approved a maternity hospital in Yellow Springs in 1928 and combated an outbreak of smallpox in the village of Osborn in 1922 and 1923 (See Fig. 5). Dr. Grubbe made it a priority to vaccinate all of the Osborn school children in order to contain the virus (See Fig. 6).

Fig. 5 Greene County District Board of Health Minutes 1923 (JPG) (2)
Fig. 5 Greene County District Board of Health Minutes, 1923 (Greene County Archives)

Fig. 6 xenia-evening-gazette-Nov-10-1922-p-14 (PNG)
Fig. 6 Xenia Evening Gazette, November 10, 1922 (

Upon Dr. Grube’s retirement, Dr. W.C. Marshall, a practicing physician in Yellow Springs, became the Greene County Health Commissioner. Next month, we will explore what the District Public Health’s concerns were during Dr. W.C. Marshall’s term.

Until Next Time!

Greene County Archives
Oregon Health and Science University – Historical Collections
Wikimedia Commons


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