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 21

Conflicting Accounts of a Bellbrook Tragedy

Posted on October 21, 2016 at 5:55 AM by Elise Kelly

About a week ago, the Xenia Daily Gazette featured a"Blast from the Past" article about the village of Bellbrook. One particular news item caught our eye.

In 1887, a man named Jacob Reel [Real] hanged himself in his parlor because he was distraught over the arrest of his eldest son who was believed to have committed murder (See Image Below).
                                    Xenia Daily Gazette, October 6, 2016

The 1887 story was first featured in a Michigan newspaper named The Crawford Avalanche. My co-worker, Joan, wanted to learn more about the wealthy Bellbrook farmer and his tragic family tale.

Listed in Volume 2 of Greene County's Death Records is the name Jacob Real, of Sugarcreek Township. At the time of his death he was 59 years old; the records indicate that the cause of death was suicide. In addition, the Greene County Coroner's Inquest Record Book has Real's cause of death as a suicide.

                                        Coroner Inquests 1882-1949

Two of Real's sons, Robert and Wilson, discovered their father hanging by a strap that was fixed over the bedroom door of the family's home. As two sworn witnesses, they gave their testimony to the County Coroner, C.M. Galloway.

Robert recounted that he and his brother Wilson entered the home about eight o'clock in the evening. Entering the dimly lit room, the two sons took their father's body down. Robert ran out of the house to inform the neighbors that their father was dead.

The sons were interviewed by the coroner. They relayed to him that their father had not been in his right mind for a while. Apparently, a man named Eli Hower, had struck their father Jacob over the head with a stick of wood about two years prior (See Below).

"States that Eli Hower struck his father about 2 yrs ago with a stick of wood on the head & he has been complaining of his head ever since. Last spring he & Hower [compromized] compromised  their troubles & he claimed he had lost $300 in the transaction  & ever since that he had not been in his right mind."
Robert Real's Testimony - part of Jacob Real's Coroner Report

Following this altercation, Hower filed an injunction [or restraining order - preventing Jacob from doing something] against Jacob Real. The case was dismissed but Real had to pay three hundred dollars to Hower. Real was upset that he was forced to make this payment. In addition, Real was also extremely distressed that his son Perry was sent to the asylum. This was conveyed in Robert's testimony (See Below).

"That the deceased had been worse since his son Perry had been sent to the asylum last August, Second worry about Hower hitting him on the head, about his loss of money with Hower, & about Perry going to the asylum. His age was about 58 yrs States  his father has often said he would hang himself, recently said he would kill himself." - Robert Real's Testimony - part of Jacob Real's Coroner Report

The compounding problems took a toll on Jacob Real. According to his sons, their father often talked about wanting to take his own life.

We began to wonder, was Jacob Real upset because his eldest son, William was arrested for murder? Or was he upset because his other son, Perry was being sent to the asylum. If you recall, it was reported in The Crawford Avalanche newspaper, that Jacob Real was upset because of the arrest of his eldest son for murder. Examining census records, we found that William Real was the oldest son (See Below).

1850 Beavercreek Census Record. The family later moved to Sugarcreek Township.

We could not find any Greene County court record for William C. Real being charged with murder. It seems that The Crawford Avalanche newspaper was mistaken about the facts concerning Jacob Real’s suicide. There were several reasons for Jacob’s despondency, one being his son, Perry, being sent to the asylum, but not because a son was arrested for homicide.

After Jacob Real died, Perry was appointed a guardian. According to his guardianship records, Perry was deemed an "imbecile." (This is the terminology that was used during the time period.) Perhaps Perry was sent to the Dayton Asylum for the Insane (now known as 10 Wilmington Place).
                                       Perry Real's Guardianship File

It is very unfortunate that Jacob Real felt so helpless that he took his own life. He left several grieving children behind.

Stored and preserved at the Greene County Archive are numerous county records that help shed light on many family triumphs and tragedies.

Until Next Time!

This Week's Trivia Question: According to the 1850 Census Record showcased above, who was Jacob Real and his family living with?

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question: The former archivist, Gillian Hill was asked to help the county commissioners prepare a ceremony to commemorate the centennial of laying of the Greene County Courthouse cornerstone. What did they discover in the cornerstone in 2001? Answer: The 1901 Greene County Time Capsule.


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