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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Jun 25

J. Fred Smith, Music Dealer in Xenia

Posted on June 25, 2021 at 3:30 PM by Melissa Dalton

About a month ago, we shared a blog about the Bailey House, which we learned of through a small collection of advertisements. This week, we are sharing more! In particular, we have two postcards from J. Fred Smith, a music dealer in Xenia, Ohio (Fig 1). These postcards are quite colorful and have a tranquil aspect to them. They catch the eye, and we wanted to share them with you, along with a little bit that we learned about Smith and his life.

Fig 1. Postcards advertising music dealer, J. Fred Smith (JPG)Fig 1. Postcards advertising music dealer, J. Fred Smith (JPG)Fig 1. Postcards advertising J. Fred Smith, Pianos, Organs and Musical Merchandise (Greene County Archives)

James Fred Smith was born in England around 1836. The name is rather common, so locating him in the records has been a bit difficult without more detailed information. For example, without having a definitive date of birth, place of birth, name of parents, or date of arrival in the United States, it was almost impossible to know if we had the right James Fred Smith.

The first evidence we were able to find of him living in Greene County was a marriage record. In 1877, James Fred Smith married Jane G. Barber (Fig 2). Unfortunately, this was before more detailed information was included in the marriage record (names of parents, dates of birth, previous marriages, etc.), so all we have are names and a marriage date.

Fig 2. Marriage Record of James Fred Smith and Jane Barber, 1877 (JPG)Fig 2. Marriage Record of James Fred Smith and Jane Barber, 1877 (Greene County Archives)

In 1880, J. Fred, Jennie (aka Jane), and a 6-year-old child, Kittie, were living in Cedarville (Fig 3). Kittie appears to be the child of Fred from a previous marriage, although I was unable to find the previous marriage. There is a death record for a Kittie C. Smith in 1873, which could have been her mother, but these older records lack detail, so this is only a guess.

We learn more about J. Fred through the newspapers. In 1883, J. Fred Smith purchased Merrick’s Palace of Music and moved his family from Cedarville to Xenia (Fig 4).

Fig 3. 1880 US Census with Smith family outlined in red (JPG)Fig 3. 1880 US Census with Smith family outlined in red (FamilySearch.org)

Fig 4. Notice of purchase in Xenia Daily Gazette, 18 May 1883 (PNG)
Fig 4. Notice of purchase in Xenia Daily Gazette, 18 May 1883 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Fig 5. Advertisement in Xenia Daily Gazette for Merrick's Palace of Music (JPG)Fig 5. Advertisement in Xenia Daily Gazette for J. Fred Smith's Palace of Music (PNG)Fig 5. Advertisements in Xenia Daily Gazette for Palace of Music, Merrick’s dated 22 Jan 1883 & Smith’s dated 5 Jun 1883 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

After the purchase of the music business, J. Fred Smith shows up in the Xenia Daily Gazette quite frequently. There is a great amount of advertisements regarding changes in inventory or the building, but also for his involvement in the community. For example, he worked with the Sons of Veterans in 1890 to provide new musical instruments for the Orphan’s Home, as well as gave concerts or played music for a variety of social events in the area (Fig 6). There are even a few notes regarding his Christmas displays, as well as exhibitions at the fair (Fig 7).

Fig 6. Article in Xenia Daily Gazette, Smith provides music for meeting, 18 Apr 1890 (JPG)Fig 6. Article in Xenia Daily Gazette, Smith provides instruments for orphans, 5 Dec 1890 (PNG)Fig 6. Articles in Xenia Daily Gazette, 18 Apr 1890 (left); 5 Dec 1890 (right) (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Fig 7. Article in Xenia Daily Gazette regarding Christmas displays at store, 8 Dec 1886 (PNG)Fig 7. Article in Xenia Daily Gazette regarding display at fair, 13 Sep 1889 (PNG)Fig 7. Articles in Xenia Daily Gazette regarding displays and exhibitions – 8 Dec 1886 (left); 13 Sep 1889 (right) (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Smith’s business was known for selling pianos, organs, and other musical instruments and merchandise; however, he expanded beyond this inventory, and at times also sold art supplies, school and office supplies, frames and mouldings, stationery, hooks, engravings, and etchings.

On October 6, 1889, J. Fred and Jane had a son, Fred B. Smith (Fig 8). Just a few years later, in 1891, Smith advertised the sale of his business at cost. In 1893, James McCann bought the music store, and had a sale to offload all merchandise not pertaining to music (Fig 9). Smith stayed on staff as an employee.

Fig 8. Birth Record of Fred B. Smith, 6 Oct 1889 (JPG)Fig 8. Birth Record of Fred B. Smith, 6 Oct 1889 (Greene County Archives)

Fig 9. Notice of sale of store by Smith to James McCann, Xenia Daily Gazette, 20 Feb 1893 (PNG)Fig 9. Notice of sale of non-music merchandise, Xenia Daily Gazette, 24 Feb 1893 (PNG)Fig 9. Notices in Xenia Daily Gazette of purchase of store by James McCann (20 Feb 1893); and the sale of non-music merchandise (24 Feb 1893) (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

After the sale of his business, Smith remained active in the community, performing in choirs, singing, and playing at local events. In 1900, Smith’s wife, Jane, passed away and was buried in Cedarville. Four years later, in January 1904, their son, Fred, passed away at the age of fourteen after a lengthy illness (Fig 10). He was buried in Cedarville with his mother.

Fig 10. Obituary of Fred B. Smith, Xenia Daily Gazette, 6 Jan 1904 (PNG)
Fig 10. Obituary of Fred B. Smith, Xenia Daily Gazette, 6 Jan 1904 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

After the death of young Fred, it was difficult to find much more about James Fred Smith or his life, including when he died. He seems to have just faded from the records. If you have any information on his life after 1904, we would be interested to hear it!

Until Next Time.

Sources:
FamilySearch.org
Greene County Archives
NewspaperARCHIVE.com

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