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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Sep 26

Costly Fire at Trebein

Posted on September 26, 2019 at 10:14 AM by Elise Kelly

Two weeks ago we wrote about the history of a few successful distilleries in Greene County. Today, we are going to examine the 1904 destructive fire that crippled the Colonial Distillery Company at Trebeins Village (also known asTrebeins Station) in Beavercreek Twp. sdfs
Advertisement in the Xenia Daily Gazette, 1904

General View of "The Pike" 1904 World's Fair via Wikimedia Commons
While some Beavercreek residents had traveled to St. Louis for the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, others were awoken during the night of August 8, 1904, by a combustive inferno that was soaring out of the Colonial Company's dry house chimney.

The fiery flames lit up the county. The blaze could be seen in the next township over (Xenia Twp). Onlookers gathered along Lucas Hill, which was located along Old US 35 toward Trebein. The fire spread from the two-story dry house to the three-story brick "still-house" (the main building of the plant).

Yellow = Beavercreek Twp./Xenia Twp. border; Red = Old US 35; Green= Lucas Hill area - 1896 Greene County Atlas

The plant had a water works system but once the flames reached the water system's engines, the pumps completely shut off. While carrying a hose to extinguish the fire, Colonial's bookkeeper broke his ankle.

Firemen from Xenia and Dayton helped to extinguish the flames in the distillery's three large warehouses and grain elevator. However, the dry house, the still house and the fermenting house were all damaged beyond repair.

The distillery's secretary estimated that the loss would amount to over $200,000 (today's equivalent of over five million dollars). Expensive machinery and copper equipment were destroyed. In the still house alone, $40,000 worth of "spirits" were destroyed.

The Colonial Distillery was located along the Little Miami River (See Map Below).

  1874 Greene County Atlas - The distillery was formerly owned by F.C. Trebein.

It was reported that the "spirits" leaked into the the river and was intoxicating the fish. Local men wading through the river's waters and tossed the intoxicated fish out onto the banks. "It was described as the first case on record of fish being 'fried' before they ever hit the frying pan."

The Colonial Distillery had been in operation for a couple of years before the accident occured. The Company's President, M.S. Greenbaum, was a wealthy whiskey merchant from Kentucky. Prior to Greenbaum's ownership, several local businessmen produced alcohol at the distillery.
Water flowing into the Little Miami River - From the Greene County Parks & Trails 1999 Scrapbook.

The original distillery had been built in 1841 by Jonathan Snyder. Later, F.C. Trebein owned and managed the distillery operation.

By the 1930s, the Miami Fertilizer Company acquired the property and buildings of the former distillery.
                              Advertisement in the Xenia Daily Gazette, 1930

It was reported that a couple of the workers at the fertilizer company remembered people stopping by and inquiring about the spectacular fire that broke out at the former distillery. Below is a 1998 ortho photograph of a few standing buildings of the former distillery. We have also included a 2012 photograph of one of the distillery's brick buildings.
                                            1998 Ortho Map

                                    2012 Greene County GIS Map

There are two important things to remember about this story. A spectacular fire erupted at Trebein Village that lit Greene County and a river of fish swam through the Little Miami River "lit" on spirits.

Until Next Time!

This Week's Trivia Question:
During the 1880s, Trebeins Station had a different name. What was it?

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question:
How long did Thomas Scroggy serve as the Greene County Judge? - Answer: 1899-1905.

Sources: Beavercreek Historical Society. Beavercreek Chronicles Vol. I-II, 1987.
Higgins Ray. Cracker Barrel, Vol. II. Xenia, OH: Greene County Historical Society, 1984.


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