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 31

Providing Electricity for Greene County

Posted on January 31, 2020 at 6:40 AM by Elise Kelly

For a generation now, the United States has enjoyed and reaped the benefits of electrical power. A simple turn of a switch illuminates a room, parking lot, or a country road. But it is important to remember that only two hundred and fifty years ago, during the colonial era, candles were used to light indoor and outdoor areas.

By the early nineteenth century, gas lighting was introduced in the United States. One of the main sources of fuel for gas lighting was whale oil (See Fig. 1). In the 1840s, artificial gas (which was produced by distilling coal) was utilized to generate electricity to light some of America’s towns, including Xenia. Xenia first utilized artificial gas and by the 1880s, one of these artificial gas companies installed an electric plant for the purpose of lighting the streets of Xenia. However, it was determined that the plant would not produce an adequate amount of electricity for private consumers.

Fig. 1 Whale Oil (JPG)
Fig. 1 Liquid spermacti wax from a whale’s skull was extracted and used as fuel to light cities around the world. (Image via Jonathan Nathan Cobb, Public Domain)

In 1905, natural gas was introduced in Greene County by fuel companies including, the Ohio Fuel Company (See Fig. 2). This new type of fuel was mostly derived from the natural gas fields in Ohio. It was reported in 1918, the Ohio Fuel Company had 2,171 customers in Xenia. During this time, electricity was regarded as a coveted luxury and many private consumers were still using gas light and candles well into the 1930s.

Fig. 2 Commissioners Journal Vol. 16, Page 219 (JPG)
Fig. 2 Greene County Commissioners’ Journal, Vol. 16, Page 219 (Greene County Archives)

In 1914, Dayton Power & Light (DP&L) purchased the Xenia Gas & Electric Company and the Cedarville Light & Power Company (See Fig. 3). By 1918, DP&L was providing electric light and power to 28,000 customers in Dayton, Xenia, Wilmington, and other small towns. According to the Greene County Commissioners’ Journals dated between the 1920s and 1930s, DP&L was diligently acquiring contracts to install electrical lines all throughout the county.

Fig. 3 Commissioners Journal Vol. 21 Pg. 450(JPG)
Fig. 3 Greene County Commissioners’ Journal, Vol. 21, Page 450 (Greene County Archives)

DP&L erected an electrical pole line that ran just south of the Corporation Line of Osborn (See Fig. 4). This electrical line served thirteen of the nineteen houses in the vicinity. Perhaps the residents of the area, who did not receive this electrical power, opted out of the service? Were they still using natural gas? This location is now the City of Fairborn and is near the Rona Hills Estates.
Fig. 4 Commissioners Journal Vol. 29, Page 4 (JPG)

Fig. 4 Greene County Commissioners’ Journal, Vol. 29, Page 4 (Greene County Archives)

Dayton Power & Light was responsible for transmitting and distributing electric light, heat, and power to private and public entities. Another region of Bath Township that the company installed electrical service was along a half mile stretch of Sand Hill Road (See Fig. 5). Residents received 1000 watts or 1 kilowatt of electrical service. According to a study conducted by the United State Department of Labor, the average annual consumption of electricity in 1937 was 793 kilowatt-hours. Customers now had the opportunity to have complete indoor lighting and the convenient use of small, electric appliances.

Fig. 5 Commissioners Journal Vol. 29, Page 232(JPG)
Fig. 5 Greene County Commissioners’ Journal, Vol 29, Page 232 (Greene County Archives)

Even in rural areas of Greene County, DP&L began incorporating electrical lines. In Sugarcreek Township intersecting the Little Miami River and between Lower Bellbrook Road and what is now State Route 725, an electrical pole was furnished (See Figs. 6 and 7). Small lines of electric power were also being constructed in Jefferson and Ross Townships. This is quite impressive, since in 1932, only ten percent of rural America was electrified.

Fig. 6 Commissioners Journal Vol. 29, Page 31 (JPG)
Fig. 6 Greene County Commissioners’ Journal, Vol. 29, Page 31 (Greene County Archives)

Fig. 7 Greene County Road Map, Circa 1935 (JPG)
Fig. 7 Greene County Road Map, circa 1935 (Greene County Archives)

Dayton Power & Light significantly helped bring Greene County into the modern, accessible age.

Until Next Time!

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


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