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.

View All Posts

Sep 25

Events that Change the Course of Life

Posted on September 25, 2020 at 12:51 PM by Melissa Dalton

We never know what events will change a life. It could be a chance encounter or a new opportunity that presents itself. Today, we explore how a strange event changed the course of one young woman’s life, that of Abigail “Abbie” Shingledecker.

Abbie Shingledecker did not live a life of luxury. Although the exact events are unknown, by the age of 13, Abbie and her siblings were admitted to the Greene County Infirmary (Fig 1). This continued for several years, and on many admissions, her disposition is listed as indifferent. This is a sad way for a young girl/teenager to be described, and it provides a glimpse into what her demeanor and how difficult her life must have been.

Fig 1. Greene County Infirmary Admission record of Abigail Shingledecker and family (JPG)
Fig 1. Greene County Infirmary Admission record of Abigail Shingledecker and siblings (Greene County Archives)

Abbie’s life continued on this path, and as a young teenager of roughly 16, Abbie was admitted to the Infirmary to give birth to a son, William Shingledecker (Fig 2). Although the birth records indicate that a father was never named, within six months of giving birth, Abbie married Thomas Wright (Fig 3). With this marriage, along with later records indicating William’s last name changed from Shingledecker to Wright, it is likely Thomas was his father.

Fig 2. Greene County Birth Record of William Shingledecker, 26 Dec 1877 (JPG)
Fig 2. Greene County Birth Record of William Shingledecker, 26 Dec 1877 (JPG)
Fig 2. Greene County Birth Record of William Shingledecker, 26 Dec 1877 (Greene County Archives)

Fig 3. Marriage Record of Abigail Shingledecker and Thomas Wright, 1879 (JPG)
Fig 3. Marriage Record of Abigail Shingledecker and Thomas Wright (Greene County Archives)


It seems the couple had their troubles, and Abbie and William were living with her father, Nathaniel, off and on not long after the marriage (Fig 4). Sadly, by 1881, Abbie was readmitted to the Infirmary, and this time she had William and a one year old, George, with her. At 19 years old, and the mother of two, the admitting staff list her as “bad” and unable to support herself (Fig 5). There is no mention of the father, and he is not in the admission record, therefore his whereabouts are unknown. Within a month, Abbie ran off, taking the children with her. The family was readmitted again in 1882, and this time, they remained longer as Abbie was pregnant. Abbie left in March, and left the boys in the home. However, she returned in June and removed George (Fig 6).

Fig 4. 1880 Census with Abbie and William living with her father (JPG)
Fig 4. 1880 Census with Abbie and William living with her father (Ancestry.com)

Fig 5. Admission Record for Abbie and her children, 1881 (JPG)
Fig 5. Admission Records for Abbie and her children (Greene County Archives)

Fig 6. Admission Discharge Record for Abbie and the boys, 1882 (JPG)
Fig 6. Admission Discharge Record for Abbie and the boys, 1882 (JPG)
Fig 6. Admission/Discharge Records for Abbie and the boys (Greene County Archives)


Abbie’s hard times continued. Abbie gave birth to a daughter, Blanche, but she and the infant were reinstated at the Infirmary in April 1883. Sadly, Blanche died shortly thereafter. However, Abbie’s life was about to take an unknown course…

Elnathan Rife, a Civil War veteran and man about 25 years her senior, was in search of companionship. Rife’s first wife, Polly, passed away, and he was living a lonely life. In his despair, he contacted the Greene County Infirmary Superintendent to see if there were any candidates in his facility to fill the role of wife. He was provided with information about “fair ones” and Rife requested to marry Abbie Shingledecker. According to a very flowery newspaper article, Abbie took the news “like the noble little Abbie Shingledecker that she was, braced up and prepared for the event which was to rob her of the fascinating name of Shingledecker and change the course of her life” (Fig 7). And, that’s what appears to have happened.

Fig 7. Marriage of Elnathan Rife and Abbie Shingledecker, Xenia Daily Gazette, 19 Jun 1883 (JPG)
Fig 7. Article of marriage of Elnathan Rife and Abbie Shingledecker, Xenia Daily Gazette, 19 Jun 1883 (Newspapers.com)

As the 1890 Census is unavailable, we lose them for a few years; however, they are listed as living in Ross County in 1900 and 1910 (Fig 8). The couple returned to Greene County sometime after the 1910. However, Rife became ill in October 1918 and was admitted to the National Military Home in Montgomery County. He remained there until his death on January 16, 1919 (Fig 9). Abbie was notified of his death, and his body was returned to Cedarville, Ohio for burial.

Fig 8. 1910 Census record for Elnathan and Abbie (JPG)
Fig 8. 1910 Census record for Elnathan and Abbie (Ancestry.com)

Fig 9. Death Record of Elnathan Rife (JPG)
Fig 9. Death certificate of Elnathan Rife (Ancestry.com)


A little over a year after Elnathan’s death, Abbie married Henry Hayslett of Clifton, Ohio (Fig 10). Unfortunately, after their marriage, Abbie and Henry become difficult to find in the records. Another thing that is unclear is if Abbie was ever able to reconnect with her sons. They, too, seem to disappear from the records, and that could be due to moving out of the region, going to live with other families, or changing names.

Fig 10. Marriage Record of Abbie Rife and Henry Hayslett, 1920 (JPG)
Fig 10. Marriage record of Abbie Rife and Henry Hayslett (Greene County Archives)

Abbie experienced great hardship in her early life. Although her arranged marriage to Elnathan may seem strange to us today, these types of marriages weren’t unheard of at the time. And, seeing as the couple stayed together until Elnathan’s death close to 30 years later, we hope that it means they had a good life together.

Until Next Time!

Sources:
Ancestry.com
Greene County Archives
Newspapers.com

Comments

You must log in before leaving your comment