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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Oct 30

More than 200 Years of History - "The Old Union Church"

Posted on October 30, 2015 at 3:09 PM by Elise Kelly

 Last week as I was preparing for our student visit here at the archives, I came across an interesting letter that was part of the items found in the 1901 Time Capsule. As discussed in a previous blog post, the time capsule contains many artifacts that were collected during 1901.

Students from Warner Middle School in Xenia.
Items from the 1901 Time Capsule
 All the items were placed neatly in a copper box and buried in the cornerstone of the Courthouse. Unearthed 100 years later, we have the opportunity to learn about the history of Greene County through letters, photographs, advertisements, pamphlets, etc.

Among many of these items is a letter describing the history and establishment of the.....(See Below)sfds
Letter included in 1901 Time Capsule

The letter goes on to explain that many of the first settlers of the County were from "Old Virginia" and were of "Methodist stock." Why they migrated to Ohio is poignantly portrayed in the letter (See Below).

"They came to get a way from slavery some of them owning slaves, and giving them their freedom for conscience sake."

The man who led this migration was Frederick Bonner, a prominent Methodist and slave owner from Virginia. Under the direction of John Wesley, an early Methodist minister, several Methodists became advocates and leaders in the abolition of slavery.

Frederick Bonner recognized the cruel injustice of the institution of slavery. Written in our Emancipation Record of Free Blacks book, Bonner's enlightened convictions are scrawled out on the page (See Below).

Greene County Emancipation Record of Free Blacks (1805-1845)
"I Frederick Bonner of Dinwiddie county being possessed of Slaves and from clear conviction of the injustice & criminality of depriving my fellow creatures of their natural right, do hereby emancipate and set free from a state of slavery the following negroes, namely, Sam, Sela, Lucy, who are all well and sound and nearly in the prime of life,..."

Leaving the state of Virginia where slavery was legal, Bonner and his family traveled north to the newly established state of Ohio - a place where slavery was outlawed. Investing in two-thousand acres of land two miles south of Xenia, Bonner and his family planted their roots. Subsequently, several of Bonner's friends and neighbors from Virginia followed and settled in the area, forming a "distinctly Methodist community." (Broadstone, 512).

 These early settlers met and worshiped in Frederick Bonner's home but by 1807, they felt the need to establish an official church and erect a public place of worship.

The united efforts are described in the letter (See Below).

"they hewed the logs and erected a good log church, covered with a clapboard roof, warmed with a huge fire place, in one end, and lit with tallow dips - made and donated by the sisters."

As the years went by and other churches were established, the Union Church became part of the Mad River Circuit - a circuit made up of many churches. A bishop or reverend would be assigned a circuit and would make his way to all the churches to preach. The first one assigned to the Mad River Circuit was Bishop Francis Asbury - a Missionary from England and a good friend of Frederick Bonner. A couple of years later, the circuit was named the Union Circuit and encompassed a large area of the lower Miami Valley.

While the congregation grew, a wood frame building was constructed and then later a brick edifice replaced it during the 1850s. This building still stands and is in use by the present congregation (See Below).

Union United Methodist Church located at the corner of Union and Washington Roads in Xenia Township. It is the oldest Methodist church in Greene County.

Towards the end of the letter, the writer expresses that the congregation at the present time of 1901 was flourishing  The writer concludes with a list of the surnames of the early Methodist settlers of Greene County (the Bonners, the Sales and the Maxeys were all former slaver owners. Frederick Bonner's daughter married a Pelham - See Below).


Pictured below is an 1855 Xenia Township Map. Circled in red are the locations where many of the parishioners lived.
1855 Greene County Map

Today the church is named the Union United Methodist Church. In 2007, the church celebrated its 200th Anniversary!

Until Next Time!

This Week's Trivia Question: Name some of the communities that were part of the Union Circuit?
Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question: When was the Russian Civil War? - 1917-1922. 


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