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 30

A Villa in Xenia?

Posted on December 30, 2015 at 9:25 AM by Elise Kelly

 In towns and villages across America, there tends to be that one house that is shrouded in mystery. Most often, these houses are old, grand and secluded.
 As children, our abounding curiosity drove us to peek through a kitchen window or climb a gated fence to see the  palatial grounds.

roberts villa
Roberts Villa, Xenia, Ohio

Roberts Villa

Another view of the Villa
 In Xenia, there once stood a magnificent mansion named the Roberts Villa. Built in 1877, it was located far back in the northeast corner of Church and Detroit Streets.

The two-story house had twenty-two rooms and included an attic and basement.

To read more about the villa's extraordinary interior, check out this Xenia Daily Gazette article.

The Roberts Family
In 1808, a farmer by the name of Silas Roberts, began purchasing ideal farmland in Xenia Township. By the mid-1800s, Roberts had acquired 550 acres of land. (See Below)

1896 of villa property
                                     1896 Greene County Atlas

Today this area encompasses: Shawnee Park; Shawnee Elementary; Central Middle School; Greene Memorial Hospital; Xenia High School and several neighborhoods.
                              Present day map
                                       Present-Day Greene County Map

When Silas passed away in 1864, his land was allocated to his children. Listed in the 1870 City of Xenia Census Record are Silas' sons, John and Micajah. Both were living on the large estate and their property value was tremendous for 1870! (See Below)

1870 census
                                      1870 City of Xenia Census Record

John Roberts real estate was valued at $148,580 and his personal estate was valued at $45,000. Micajah Roberts real estate was valued at $960 and his personal estate was valued at $30,000. Today, John's real estate value would be $2,741,078.

Although Micajah was listed in the 1870 Census Record as a farmer, I don't think he ever cultivated any of the land. In the 1880 Xenia City Census Record, Micajah is described in the "occupation field" as "wealthy, never did anything."
(See Below)

Micajah 1880.jpg
                                1880 City of Xenia Census Record

We do know one person who was responsible for cultivating part of the land. His name was Jacob Klein.

Klein was an immigrant from Bavaria, Germany. He was responsible for harvesting four acres near the villa. 

To the left is a drawing of the four acres.
 drawing of land cultivated
Washington Galloway Fieldbook 35, pg. 51.

picture of klein
Jacob Klein (image from Portrait & Biographical Album of Greene and Clark Counties, Ohio.
 Not only was Klein a farmer, he was also a successful baker. Furthermore, he is considered the most influential layman of St. Brigid's Catholic Church.

According to St. Brigid Parish: A History of the Roman Catholic Community in Xenia, Ohio, Klein was instrumental in arranging the celebration of Mass in Xenia as early as 1844.
Back to the Villa
Lets take a look at another Galloway survey drawing that showcases the villa and its surrounding buildings (See Below).

                        Washington Galloway Fieldbook 35. Pg. 52

In the classic small-town memoir, Ohio Town, Helen Hooven Santmyer describes how as a child, she would climb the tall fortified fence that encircled the villa. Sneaking through the tall grass, she and her friends tried to get a glimpse inside the dark windows. At this time, only two of the Roberts sisters were still living. Santmyer discloses that the women were old recluses who wore white kid gloves when visitors arrived.

When the sisters passed away in the early 1900s, the villa went to one of the sister's children. Eventually the house stood empty for quite a long time. It was not until 1925 that members of the Xenia Masonic Lodge purchased the house.

                       The Evening Gazette, August 24, 1925.

Unfortunately in 1974, the Xenia tornado completely destroyed the home. Although the villa is no longer part of Xenia's community, its history and memory continues to live on.

Until Next Time!

This Week's Trivia Question: How did the Roberts call for their servants?

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question: Many landfills have been converted to natural preserves. Mount Trashmore is a popular tourist attraction where? - Answer: Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Carroll, Charles R. A History of St. Brigid Parish 1849-1999. Dayton, Ohio: Marianist Press, 1998.
Santmyer, Helen Hooven. Our Town. New York: Berkley Book, 1985.


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