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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Apr 17

Lest We Forget

Posted on April 17, 2015 at 6:16 PM by Elise Kelly

John T. Harris
Eminent Citizen of Xenia • Veteran of the Civil War 
  Ordained Deacon

Now that our country is wrapping up the 150th Commemoration of the Civil War, the Greene County Archives wanted to honor a local Civil War Veteran. John T. Harris, a resident of Xenia for fifty-four years, was a Private in the United States Colored Troops (USCT), Company A, the 16th Regiment during the Civil War.
    Soldier 1
Photo courtesy of Jen Goelinitz via Flickr
Born in North Carolina, Harris crossed the Mason-Dixon Line and settled in Ohio just before the canons roared at Fort Sumter. Two years into the war, African American freemen and slaves were commissioned by the U.S. Government to support the war effort. Joining Company A, the 16th Regiment, Harris and his comrades in arms enlisted and were under the command of a white officer which was common during this time. You can draw some comparisons of Harris' military experiences to the 1989 film Glory. A wonderfully powerful motion picture that captures one of the first all-black units that fought for the Union.

black troops
African American soldiers faced discrimination throughout their time of service. They were initially paid $10 per month with a $3 deduction for clothing. This resulted in a net pay of $7. White soldiers received $13 a month with no clothing allowance withheld from their paycheck. Furthermore, African American soldiers were limited in advancing to higher ranks. 

It is not known whether Harris participated in any battles while serving in the 16th Regiment, however, another United States Colored Troop - the 5th Regiment out of Fort Delaware, Ohio, participated in the capture of City Point, Virginia and fought other subsequent battles in 1864. Almost 5,100 African American men  from Ohio served in the Union Army. Surviving the bloodiest war in American history, Harris became a member of the fraternal organization – The Grand Army of the Republic. This organization assisted veterans in lobbying the United States Congress to establish regular veterans' pensions.

Below is Harris’ 1890 Pension Claim
Like many Civil War Veterans, Harris suffered from chronic diarrhea, piles (hemorrhoids) and lung disease in the years following the end of the Civil War. He received money from the Soldier’s Relief Commission (now the Veteran Services Commission) but only sporadically. The Commission assisted veterans with small amounts of monetary aid.
                          Below is a letter from the Soldier's Relief
                                 Commission Office in Dayton


Life After the War
For fifty-four years, Harris lived in and around Xenia and served as a deacon for Xenia’s Zion Baptist Church. He also was one of the organizers of the First Baptist Church in Yellow Springs.

Harris was married twice. He and his first wife had thirteen children - all the children preceded their father in death except three. His second wife, Sarah Johnson, was appointed to be his guardian during the later years of his life because of his infirmities. They were married for 27 years. 

   First Baptist Church in Yellow Springs (now a private residence)
I wanted to pay my respects to this veteran and outstanding resident of Greene County, so I made a trip out to Cherry Grove Cemetery in Xenia. John T. Harris, you are not forgotten!

 cherry grove
Cherry Grove Cemetery in Xenia 
John T. Harris' Grave

                                         Until Next Time!

Trivia Answer From Last Week: Lord Dunmore's War
This Week's Trivia Question: Name the historical figure that Matthew Broderick played in the 1989 movie Glory. 


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