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

Nov 13

Enduring War, Insanity & Death - A Tragic Family Tale

Posted on November 13, 2015 at 2:13 PM by Elise Kelly

For centuries, tragic stories have appealed to audiences around the world. Whether it's a play by Shakespeare or a tragic family tale set to screen, audiences have been captivated.

We feel empathy for these tragic characters. We become fixated with the trajectory of their lives and we often desire different outcomes for their circumstances. 

Image to Left: Poster of c. 1884 production of Macbeth via Wikimedia Commons

One day our Archivist was indexing Greene County's Civil War Pension Records and stumbled upon two pension entries that listed the same name (See Below). Below are the claim records that she found. The first record is the "real" Humphrey Taylor, while the second record is a fraud. Can you find the discrepancies?

                 Civil War Pension Records, Jan. 16, 1889 - Jul. 10, 1889
            Civil War Pension Records, Jan. 16, 1889 - Jul. 10, 1889

Just an FYI, the person who filed the fraudulent claim never retrieved what was supposedly owed to him.

Wanting to find out who the "real" Humphrey Taylor was, our Archivist and her Assistant began to do some investigatory work. Her Assistant found a August 3, 1894 Xenia Gazette article declaring the death of Humphrey Taylor. (See Below - it states he was: blind, "that he had seen a great deal of service during the [Civil] war," and that he was about 50 years old. This information seemed to match up well with the first pension claim.)

                                    August 3, 1894 Xenia Gazette

They subsequently found Humphrey Taylor's 1869 marriage record. (See Below - Notice where his signature is, it states, "mark." Mr. Taylor placed a mark instead of signing his name because he was illiterate. Taylor was an African American man from Kentucky who our staff suspects was a slave before enlisting in the Union Army in 1864. 

                   Greene County Marriage Record  Book 4

Humphrey was a member of Company D of the Twelfth United States Colored Heavy Artillery Unit and trained at Camp Nelson in Kentucky. After the war, he and his common wife, Amanda Chandler, who was born a slave in Kentucky, (See Below) spent a couple of years at Camp Nelson.

                            Amanda Taylor Guardianship File

While at Camp Nelson, Humphrey would have lived in the barracks and Amanda most likely would have lived in the refugee camp on the outskirts of the army base. These refugee camps were disease ridden shanties where food, clothing and firewood were scarce.

Later, the couple traveled to Ohio where Humphrey legally married Amanda in 1869. A couple of years later, the family welcomed a son whom they named James.

Five years after James was born, Humphrey was appointed a guardian and was deemed an "imbecile." He was blind at this point of his life (See Pension Claim) and could not take care of his affairs. Tragically, during this time, his son James (nine years old) died (See Below).

                                Humphrey Taylor Guardianship File

Humphrey's wife Amanda was pregnant with their second child when their first son James passed away. She gave birth to a boy whom they named Paul. Terrible misfortune struck the family again when Paul, seven months old, died of consumption. This must have been extremely difficult for both parents.

Four years after Paul's death, his mother Amanda, was committed to the infirmary.

                             Amanda Taylor Guardianship File

According to documents found in Amanda's Guardianship File, Judge J.M. Steward found that, "...Amanda Taylor so charged is insane, and that her insanity has occurred during the time she has resided in this State, and that in consequence of her insanity she being at large, is dangerous to the community..."

In Amanda's physician record, it states that Amanda was manic for a long period of time. She had bouts of great anger without cause and gross delusions. This poor woman who had lived such a difficult and tragic life succumbed to consumption and died in the infirmary a year after she was committed. She survived so much and perhaps the deaths of her two children were all that she could take.

Next week we will discuss what happened to Humphrey Taylor.

Until Next Time!

This Week's Trivia Question: Explain what the consumption disease consisted of.

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question: Who coined the phrase, "No taxation without representation"? - Jonathan Mayhew, second congregational pastor of Old West Church.


You must log in before leaving your comment