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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Nov 12

The Life of a Local Xenian

Posted on November 12, 2021 at 1:51 PM by Melissa Dalton

We really love looking at the old newspapers. Even the larger publications have more of a “hometown” newspaper feel, and you learn quite a bit about a community and the residences that call it home. While trolling the newspaper archives for a project, we sometimes run across a headline that catches the eye. Although it may be unrelated to our topic or project, one sometimes cannot help but get pulled in and want to learn more. That’s exactly what happened with this article (Fig 1).

Fig 1. Young Xenian Eats 17 Eggs on a Bet, Xenia Daily Gazette, 10 Apr 1917 (JPG)

Fig 1. Young Xenian Eats 17 Eggs on a Bet, Xenia Daily Gazette, 10 April 1917 (

Did the headline make you giggle, too? Did you ask why this was covered in the newspaper? So, of course, we had to look into the protagonist here and learn a little more about the teen who ate 17 eggs on a bet of $3 (that’s about $60 today), taking a dollar from each of the darers (or antagonists if you will) – Fred Turner, Guy Caplinger, and Dan Cummings.

So, what did we learn about John Simison, Jr? John Abner Simison, Jr. was born on March 23, 1900 to John Abner and Orpha May (Wright) Simison of Xenia, Ohio (Fig 2). John was the youngest of the children, being the sixth child born.

Fig 2. Registration of Birth No. 2, 1942 (JPG)

Fig 2. Registration of Births No.2 – 1942, Greene County Probate Court (Greene County Archives)

John Sr. was a foreman at the Xenia Shoe Manufacturing Co. and in 1915, John Jr. was working there as a machine hand (Fig 3).

Fig 3. 1915 Xenia City Directory (JPG)

Fig 3. 1915 Xenia City Directory (

It was at the age of 17 that John Jr. was dared by some friends to eat 16 eggs (he had to eat an additional one after half a fried egg fell to the ground). If you read the article, you likely got the war references as well. WWI had been raging in Europe for several years, and at the time of this article, the United States had just declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. Just a few months later, John Simison, Jr. registered for the draft (Fig 4). It doesn’t appear he was ever drafted into service though.

Fig 4. WWI Draft Registration for John Simison, Jr., September 1918 (JPG)

Fig 4. WWI Draft Registration for John Abner Simison, Jr., September 1918 (

John Jr. went to work for the Pennsylvania Railroad, and worked as a conductor and brakeman. We actually came across another article indicating he was injured while riding the side of the car he was switching. According to the article, he was sideswiped by another track on an adjacent track, but did not sustain serious injuries (Fig 5). People working in these positions were prone to injuries as they had to stand on the outside of the engine to couple/uncouple rail cars.

Fig 5. Trainman Hurt in Pennsy Accident, Xenia Daily Gazette, 24 Nov 1926 (PNG)

Fig 5. Trainman Hurt in Pennsy Accident, Xenia Daily Gazette, 24 November 1926 (

John married Gertrude Harner on May 25, 1920 in Newport, Kentucky (Fig 6). The couple settled in Xenia and started a family. They had two children, Richard and Jack (John).

Fig 6. Marriage Record of John A. Simison and Gertrude Harner, 25 May 1920 (JPG)

Fig 6. Marriage Record of John A. Simison, Jr. and Gertrude Harner, 25 May 1920 (

Around 1930, the Simison family began making trips to Pasadena, California to visit with family. In 1936, John and Gertrude moved the family to California, eventually making Pasadena their home (Fig 7).

Fig 7. 1940 Voter Registration for Los Angeles, CA (JPG)

Fig 7. 1940 Voter Registration for Los Angeles, CA (

Although we do not have access to many census records after they moved, city directories provided insight into were living and occupations. John worked mostly as an auto mechanic, but we also found him doing sales and listed as an aircraft worker. Gertrude worked in decorating, flower arrangement, and sales for in a hardware store and a gift shop.

John and Gertrude remained in California the rest of their lives. Gertrude died on August 30, 1974 at the age of 72 (Fig 8). She was buried in Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, California. John died eight years later on November 20, 1982 at the age of 82. He was buried next to his wife in Rose Hills Memorial Park.

Fig 8. Obituary of Gertrude Simison, Xenia Daily Gazette, 9 Sep 1974 (JPG)

Fig 8. Obituary of Gertrude Simison, Xenia Daily Gazette, 9 September 1974 (

We hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about this former Xenian! And remember, sometimes just one newspaper article can lead you to an interesting story!

Until Next Time!


Greene County Archives


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