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

Feb 19

What Goes Around Comes Around: The Evil of Ardent Spirits

Posted on February 19, 2016 at 9:56 AM by Elise Kelly

"Trial of the Century"
From November 1994 to January 1995, millions of Americans tuned in to watch the O.J. Simpson trial. With a powerful defense team, dozens of "expert witnesses" and the defendant's celebrity status, the trial brimmed with drama and suspense.

Before television was introduced, scores of townsfolk attended local and county public hearing trials. Washington Galloway (Greene County Surveyor 1850s-1880s), often sat in on trials being held at Xenia's Courthouse. (See Below).

                           Washington Galloway 1874 Diary, Pg. 11
"At the office nearly all day wrote a deed for John White to Henry Conklin was in the courtroom some, one Bloom being tried for selling Wm [William] Willson whiskey 5 days spent on this trial, found guilty & C" [etc.]

He also served as a witness for numerous court cases. (See Below).

                             Washington Galloway 1874 Diary, Pg. 4
"1874 Lewis Bales. Feb 26th Survey for & C [etc.] about 25 A [acres]. Did not survey for Bales having to attend Court a [as] a witness in the Murphey Will case, this is a beautifull [beautiful] day ="

Galloway does not give much detail on what happened during these trials in his diary. Often times he simply notes the duration of the trial and the verdict. Interestingly, two weeks ago, we found notes concerning a murder trial that were written on the back of a voucher. (See Below).

                        Voucher from Mary E. Stoops Guardianship File
1st that J. Jonson did not intentionally kill him and that was not in the commission of an unlawfull [unlawful] act.
2 [2nd] I contend that he had a right to hit that he was drunk and he use more force than was necessary.

The voucher was part of Mary E. Stoops Guardianship File. Nowhere on the voucher or in her file is the name Jonson [Johnson] mentioned. Who was this drunken Jonson [Johnson] who violently beat a man? Furthermore, why was the defendant's testimony written on the back of a voucher?

State of Ohio vs. John Johnson

Found in the Common Pleas State Record Book was the case of the State of Ohio vs. John  Johnson.

Johnson, an intoxicated  twenty-four year old Clinton County man, unleashed an onslaught of punches to John Lewis Stephens' [Stevens] mouth and breast in Paintersville (Caesarscreek Twp). He also might have struck Stephens with a "certain leaden sling shot" that he held tightly in his hands.
 record book
He then grabbed Stephens and heaved him to the ground to continue his brutal assault. (See Below).

                                       State Record, Vol. 3, Pg. 549.
..."with the right hand of him, the said John Johnson and by the striking beating and kicking of him, the said John Lewis Stephens upon the right side of the belly of him the said John Lewis Stephens and upon the mouth of him..."

Unfortunately, Stephens died about a month later, after suffering from mortal wounds to his stomach, mouth and chest. Upon Stephens death, Johnson was arrested and entered an additional recognizance for his appearance at court in the sum of $800, making his bail bond of $1,300.

It was reported in the Xenia Torchlight that when Johnson was arrested and brought back to town, he "felt very bad over the occurrence and was driven to knock the man down but had no intention of killing or permanently injuring him."

His trial was continually suspended and by 1863, Johnson had volunteered to fight for the Union Army. (See his Surviving Soldiers Record Below).

Authorities were aware that he had enlisted.(See Below).

                                     State Record, Vol. 3 Pg. 553
"in this case and it being shown that to the Court that the said defendant is in the service of the United States as a volunteer it is ordered that the respite of the said recognizance herein before entered in this case be and the same hereby is extended until the next term of this Court to which then this case is [continued.]"

 civil war
"Battle of Antietam, 1862, Burial Crew of Union Soldiers" via Wikimedia Commons
Johnson was assigned to the 11th (not the 12th) Regiment of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry and was stationed at Camp Dennison in Ohio.

He would have fought in the Battle Of Antietam in Maryland and in the Battle of Chickamauga in Georgia.

Three years into the war, Johnson was discharged on a Surgeon's certificate of disability. We are not sure how he was injured but after being discharged, his trial began in 1864.

 By  December of 1865, the jury found John A. Johnson not guilty of murder in the 2nd degree but guilty of manslaughter. Fortunately for Johnson, he was granted a second trial and his sentence was further reduced.

He was convicted of assault and battery in the first count and was fined $150.00.
 not guilty
"Not Guilty" by Abraham Solomon, 1854 via Wikimedia Commons

Surprisingly, Johnson left the courtroom as a free man and regrettably John Lewis Stephens lost his life in a drunken brawl.

Life After The Trial & KARMA
According to the 1870 Liberty Twp. (Clinton County) Census Record, Johnson was working as a butcher and living with his wife and their seven children.

The Wilmington Journal, May, 9, 1872, Pg. 3
Misfortune found Johnson again in 1872. During the morning hours of May 6, 1872, Johnson was involved in a card game at Sam. Richards saloon in Wilmington, OH.

Around  one o'clock in the afternoon, Johnson and a man by the name of Grantham drunkenly stumbled into John & Deck's Livery Stable. 

Both men were looking to get a horse and buggy to go home (they were neighbors). According to one witness testimony, (that was printed in The Wilmington Journal) both of the men were too drunk to ride back. The stable owner refused to hitch up a buggy for them. Johnson began to say things under his breath about Grantham. Grantham reacted by asking... (See Below).

                 The Wilmington Journal, May, 9, 1872, Pg. 3

Johnson ignored Grantham until Grantham kept shouting, "Damn you, come on!" Johnson eventually stood up and cried "You have said enough now!" The two men walked towards each other and suddenly Grantham pulled a knife and lunged it into Johnson's abdomen.

Grantham fled up the alley near the stable. Johnson's young son witnessed his father's stabbing and chased Grantham in the alley, throwing stones at him. Johnson died later that day . Let's take a look at the Coroner's Report (See Below).

                     The Wilmington Journal, May, 9, 1872, Pg. 3

Grantham was arrested that night and was tried in Clinton County. However, we believe he was not found guilty. It is considerably ironic that John A. Johnson ended up killing a man after a night of drinking and then twelve years later, he was fatefully killed under the same circumstances.

It still remains a mystery as to why Johnson's sentencing was written on the back of a voucher. Perhaps the lawyer handling Johnson's case was also assigned to Mary Stoops' guardianship? Or maybe the person who had this voucher sat in on Johnson's court case? We may never know, but it is fascinating that this entry led us to this confounding story.

Until Next Time!

This Week's Trivia Question: Where was Camp Dennison located?

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question: How many projects have been funded through the Ohio History Fund? - Answer: 33 organizations in a quarter of the state’s 88 counties.


You must log in before leaving your comment