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 04

Bellbrook's Bicentennial Celebration: The City's Three Founders

Posted on October 4, 2016 at 2:45 PM by Elise Kelly

This year, the city of Bellbrook is celebrating it's 200th birthday! Festivals, historical tours and memorial services have been scheduled for the coming months to commemorate the special anniversary.

If you are interested in attending these events, please refer to the Bellbrook Bicentennial Website for more information.

Now that you have had a chance to mark your calendars, we would like to  briefly discuss the history of Bellbrook's founders. During the summer of 1815, two former New Jerseyites (Stephen Bell and Henry Opdyke) and one former Virginian (James Clancey) joined together to have a town plat of 84 lots surveyed in Sugarcreek Township (See Town Plat Below)
                     1816 Town Plat, Sugarcreek Township - Deed Record Book 3

Clancey's Tavern
"Image on page 38 of Scrambles amongst the Alps" via Wikimedia Commons
At the time the plat was rendered, James Clancey owned a popular tavern in the proposed platted area. Several weary travelers found comfort at the tavern and shared travel tales and news stories. 

Even early township affairs (elections) and business transactions were conducted in the tavern. In 1812, the tavern served as a "headquarters" for several companies of soldiers during the War of 1812. Many of the soldiers were from Sugarcreek Township. With a warm beer in hand, they had a chance to catch up with friends and neighbors. 

When the plat was drawn, lot number 47 (Clancey's Tavern) was the only house in the proposed town. It sat at the southeast corner of Main and Walnut Streets (See Map Below).
                                            Greene County Atlas, 1855
Lot 47 is circled in red above. Clancey also owned a couple of lots in town. When this map was published in 1855, Clancey had already moved to Indiana (in 1820) and sold his tavern to an attorney named John McLean.

Let's examine a Google aerial photograph captured recently of this area. "X" marks the spot where the tavern was located.

Naming the Town

Henry Opdyke suggested  the new town's name be Bellbrook. The "Bell" in honor of Stephen Bell and "brook" is from the small creek that flows through the present Bellbrock Park." (Bellbrook Historical Society, 3).

Stephen Bell
Acquiring his knowledge in the millwright trade back east, Stephen Bell brought his skills to Ohio, where he built several grist and saw mills along the Little Miami River (See Map Below).

Close-up of the Little Miami River in Sugarcreek Township. Several mills are located along the river. "SM" stands for Saw Mill and "GM" stands for Grist Mill - 1855 Greene County Atlas.

Stephen Bell also served as Justice of the Peace, Greene County Commissioner (1822-1826) and State Representative (1818). After his children were grown and his wife passed away, Bell remarried and moved to Springfield, Ohio. He served as President of Springfield's City Council in 1845. After a long career of service, Bell hung up his hat and retired. He passed away in 1852 in Springfield.

Like Stephen Bell, Henry Opdyke migrated west from the Garden State. After helping plat the town of Bellbrook, Opdyke sold his interest to Stephen Bell. Opdyke operated a sawmill and gristmill in Sugarcreek Township.

Unfortunately, he was killed while digging a well on his farm in 1825. A heavy mattock fell and crushed Opdyke's head while he dug further in the ground. He was buried on the southwest corner of Thomas White's farm. This area was known as the Methodist Episcopal church yard. farm
 Thomas White's Farm  - Greene County Atlas, 1855

There is so much rich history that can be told about Bellbrook, Ohio. To celebrate the city's bicentennial, we are going to feature posts about Bellbrook and its residents throughout the year.

Until Next Time!

This Week's Trivia Question:
What street was the first public schoolhouse in Bellbrook located on?

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question: Name the architect who designed the Greene County Children's Home. - E.J. Mounstephen

Bellbrook 1816-1981. Ed. Bellbrook Historical Society. United Technics of Xenia, 1981.
Robinson, George F. History of Greene County, Ohio. Chicago: The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1902.


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