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

Jul 01

The Pennsylvania Railroad Accident

Posted on July 1, 2016 at 9:54 AM by Elise Kelly

Greene County Archives Intern: Kenneth Brate
My name is Kenneth Brate I am a senior History Major at the University of Dayton interning at the Greene County Archives. I came across this tragic loss of life while looking through the Greene County Probate Records.

So often we tend to forget that each thin sheet of paper represents a living breathing human who just like each and every one of us was trying to make their way in this hectic world.
 Kenneth Brate.jpg
Kenneth Brate pictured in the middle.

With this blog post I would like to share the story of just one of these many papers I have examined.

The loss of a loved one is something in which we all hope we never have to experience. When we do lose a loved one, it can be truly devastating. If the loss of one family member is a life altering experience, then words cannot describe the kinds of emotions that someone whom lost four members simultaneously must have felt. This is what occurred to Mrs. Charlotte Davis of Cedarville, Ohio on a fateful day in March.

March 3, 1950

On the third day of March in the year 1950, Mrs. Charlotte Davis would lose not only her husband, but three of her children as well.

dgdg  This Friday evening was much like any other Friday evening in the Davis household, as Harry Davis, a 50 year old World War I veteran, former assistant plumber for a WPA project and a current civilian employee of the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, was helping his 12 year old daughter Ruth Mae Davis deliver her daily papers for a Columbus Newspaper company.
Right Image: Harry Davis' World War I Registration Card.

It was during the trip along Ruth’s usual paper route that Harry’s car struck a Pennsylvania railroad freight train in a downgrade headed eight miles to the west for the city of Xenia. According to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, a railroad crossing was not installed at this location until 1996, leaving the decision of when to cross solely up to the driver.

Mr. Davis, Ruth Mae Davis, and her two younger brothers Billy Davis and Edward Wayne Davis were killed instantly from the impact. In the blink of an eye Mrs. Charlotte Davis had lost 3 of her children and her husband.

                               The Findlay Republican Courier, March 4, 1950

This stands as a testament to the fragility of life. In a matter of minutes Mrs. Davis went from being a wife and mother of five children to being a widow and a mother of two children. There are no words to begin to explain the emotional toll that comes from a loss of family as substantial as this one.

Greene County Probate records indicate that Mrs. Davis tried suing the Pennsylvania Railroad Company for the wrongful death of her husband as well as her three children. Eventually, she decided to settle out of court for the sum of $300 per deceased relative. One hundred dollars of that went to her attorneys Miller and Finn.

Although she was awarded compensation for the death of her family, there is no amount of money in the world that can make up for the deaths of a husband and three children. Much of the money in which Mrs. Davis received after attorney fees went to the burial of her loved ones.

                                         Ruth Mae Davis' Estate Record

The four members of the Davis family are buried in the Grape Grove Cemetery located in Jamestown, Ohio in Greene County. We honor their memory.
      Grape Grove Cemetery image courtesy of Roger Roop via Find A Grave

Until Next Time!
This Week's Trivia Question:
What were the two city stops on the first Pennsylvania Railroad Line?
Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question: Answer:
Who did Doris Duke appoint as the executor of her will? Answer: Her butler, Bernard Lafferty


You must log in before leaving your comment