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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Dec 30

Voter Fraud in Greene County?

Posted on December 30, 2016 at 2:47 PM by Elise Kelly

With the conclusion of the presidential election, there have been reports of voter fraud and voter suppression. Throughout America's history, sabotaging the local/state and national political systems have certainly occurred and have included stuffing the ballot box, intimidation, and disinformation.
Greene County Ballot Issues - 1950s.

In order to curtail these methods, one of the most important federal legislation of the 20th century was passed in 1965. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 helped protect the voting rights of racial minorities.

Here in Greene County, over one hundred and twenty years ago, it was argued by James Edwin Campbell that votes were illegally counted during the Ohio 7th Congressional District's election in 1882. Campbell, a former Butler County Prosecutor, was a Democrat running against another former Butler County Prosecutor, Henry Lee Morey. The Republican Morey had won the election; however, Campbell contested it on the grounds that several people in Greene, Warren, Butler, Hamilton and Clermont Counties unlawfully voted. In addition, he argued that some votes were not counted.
Index to the Miscellaneous Documents of the House of Representatives for the First Session of the 48th Congress 1883-1884.

Campbell believed that several "imbeciles" or "idiots" voted for Morey and that the tallies in certain poll books were counted incorrectly. In several U.S. states (including Ohio), "idiots" or those mentally insane, were and still are not permitted to vote.

Numerous Greene County election poll judges were interviewed on what happened the day of the election.
Owen Swadner, (our co-worker's Great-Great Grandfather), was one of the election judges. He was asked if anyone from the Greene County Infirmary was brought to the polls to vote that day and whether or not their voting right was challenged on the grounds of being mentally unsound.
  Page from the Greene County Infirmary Admission/Discharge Book 1861-1876

Swadner answered that three individuals were found to be mentally incompetent and their votes were rejected. However, Swadner informed the examining board that he left the polls twice during the day, to eat lunch and supper. The interrogator reasoned that it was possible that the individuals who were rejected, could have come back and voted while he was absent. Swadner agreed that it certainly was possible.

Campbell also believed that some votes were not counted. W.J. Briggs a farmer from Jefferson Township, had been living on and off in Indiana for a couple of years. He returned to Jefferson Township prior to the fall of 1882.

  1874 Greene County Atlas - Briggs' lived in the southeast corner of Jefferson Twp.

That October, Briggs voted for Campbell. Readers learn from the testimony in the Miscellaneous Documents of the House of Representatives, that the original reason Briggs had gone to Indiana, was to move his poverty-stricken parents to the Hoosier state. Campbell contested that his vote should have been counted.

Campbell also contested that David Shaffer's vote should have been counted. Shaffer, an Indiana transplant and rag peddler, had been living in Xenia on and off throughout 1882. He voted for Campbell but his term of residency was in question.

After much cross examination and deliberation, the court found that James E. Campbell had successfully contested the election results, and Campell was seated on June 21, 1884 as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio's 7th District, in place of Henry Lee Morey.

Who were Henry Lee Morey and James Edwin Campbell?
Henry Lee Morey via Wikimedia Commons
Henry Lee Morey was a radical abolitionist who welcomed runaway slaves into his home. He served along with his three brothers in the 75th Ohio Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. After the war, Morey went to law school and practiced law in Butler County. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives during the 1880s and early 1890s.

Morey's political opponent, James Edwin Campbell, also served in the Union Army as a member of the Mississippi River Squadron. Like Morey, Campbell practiced law in Butler County. Campbell was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives also during the 1880s and became the 38th Governor of Ohio in 1890.

He lost his re-election bid to the future U.S. President William McKinley in 1891. During Campbell's later years, he served as the president of the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society until his death in 1924.
James Edwin Campbell via Wikimedia Commons

The seat for Ohio's 7th Congressional District was hotly contested in 1882. As we have learned, election proceedings have always been contentious and at times bizarre. 

Until Next Time!

This Week's Trivia Question:
During Campbell's term as Governor, he called a special assembly to combat the corrupt government of what city?

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question: What is the oldest surviving example of Italianate architecture in the United States? - Answer: Blandwood Mansion & Gardens in Greensboro, NC.


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