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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Dec 11

Staff Favorite Records, Part I: Manumission Records

Posted on December 11, 2020 at 11:25 AM by Melissa Dalton

This year, we started the Greene County Archives Newsletter, Beyond the Clocktower. As part of our quarterly publication, we have a section for a favorite record, which is selected by the staff. In our first publication, Robin highlighted her favorite record, Manumission Papers. To learn more about this record, and why it's her favorite, keep reading!

Since February is Black History Month, it seems appropriate that my favorite records housed at the Archives are Emancipation and Freedom papers. We are very fortunate in Greene County to have both of these records in our collection and I believe these are truly our most historically valuable records.

Front Cover of Emancipation of Free Blacks 1808-1845 (PNG)
?Front Cover of Emancipation Record of Free Blacks 1808-1845 

In 1804, the Ohio General Assembly enacted the Ohio Black codes to govern black and mulatto people residing in the state. According to these Codes, free blacks and mulattos were required to register their names with the local court. This registration process required providing emancipation papers or witnesses in order to corroborate a person’s “free” status and a guaranteed surety of five hundred dollars for the African American’s good behavior. Many of these manumission records include the persons’ names, detailed physical descriptions, where they originally lived, and the names of their former owners. Most often, manumission records and freedom papers were the first records to document these individuals journey from property to personhood. By 1849, most of Ohio’s Black Codes had been repealed and African Americans were no longer required to post bond or register freedom papers.

Emancipation Record of Free Blacks 1808-1845, p. 1 (JPG)
Emancipation Record of Free Blacks 1808-1845, p. 1

The manumission and freedom records that we have in Greene County can be found among Common Pleas Court records and Recorder’s Deed records, but these records could have been recorded anywhere. There was not any consistency between counties and you never really know where these records might pop up.

Emancipation Record of Free Blacks 1808-1845, p. 20 (PNG)
?Emancipation Record of Free Blacks 1808-1845, p. 20

These manumission and freedom papers document the lives of men, women, and children who were either born free or were set free from the bondages of slavery in the south and made their way to Greene County, Ohio to start their new lives. These records and the people that they document are an important piece of Greene County’s history.

Next week, we will highlight Elise's favorite record, so stay tuned!

Until Next Time!

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