Posted on November 19, 2021 at 1:30 PM by Melissa Dalton
This week, we thought it would be interesting to highlight a woman who was well-known in Yellow Springs. Our feature was an Antioch graduate, and devoted her life to the education of children in Greene, Warren, and Clark counties. Today, we would like to introduce you to Cosmelia Hirst.
Cosmelia Hirst was born on April 13, 1834 to Eli Pierpoint and Hannah Janney Hirst of Loudon County, VA. Her ancestors were English and Welsh Quakers, and she was related to Thomas Janney, who came to America with William Penn (Fig 1).
Fig 1. Quakers of Goose Creek Monthly Meeting, VA, 1834 (Ancestry.com)
Cosmelia and her sister, Cornelia, came to Yellow Springs in 1854 to attend the newly founded Antioch College. Roughly a year later, her parents and two brothers, Thomas and John, also moved to Yellow Springs, and the boys enrolled at Antioch as well (Fig 2).
Fig 2. Antioch College Student List from 1869 (Ancestry.com)
Cosmelia is best known for her work in education. She was educated under Horace Mann, a man who argued that good public education was necessary for the populace. Miss Hirst embraced this philosophy, and was a staunch advocate and worked tirelessly to offer good public education for her community, especially since so many had little opportunity for quality education (Fig 3). This drive is witnessed even in the census records, which indicate that from 1870 through 1900, Cosmelia continued working as a teacher (Fig 4).
Fig 3. Notice in Xenia Daily Gazette of Hirst reappointed as primary educator in Yellow Springs Schools, date 1 Jun 1892 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
Fig 4. 1880 Census with Hirst family outlined (Ancestry.com)
Not only did Cosmelia have a passion for education, but she loved the beauty of life and the natural world. After retirement, she also found joy in genealogy research and local history. According to her obituary, she wrote two genealogies and many historical articles. One such example of her local history articles is from the Xenia Evening Gazette, dated June 1, 1923 (Fig 5). In this article, Miss Hirst wrote a history of “Little Antioch”.
Fig 5. Passing of Unique Greene County Landmark, “Little Antioch” Recalls Quaint History, Xenia Evening Gazette, 1 Jun 1923 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
Cosmelia had a close family. As she and her sister, Cornelia, never married, they lived together their entire lives. They actually resided in a double house, and their brother, Thomas, along with his family, lived in the other half. In 1916, Cornelia died after a short illness (noted as grippe, now known as influenza), which caused a stroke, resulting in her death (Fig 6).
Fig 6. Aged Woman Dies at Yellow Springs, Xenia Daily Gazette, 1 Feb 1916 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
Even into old age, Cosmelia remained active in the Yellow Springs community and with Antioch College. In 1921, she was invited to speak at Antioch College’s 125th birthday celebration of Horace Mann, the first president of the college and Hirst’s mentor (Fig 7). In 1927, at the age of 93, Miss Hirst also participated in a play “Horace Mann” which was part of the commencement ceremony at Antioch College.
Fig 7. Antioch College Will Celebrate Mann’s Birthday, Dayton Daily News, 3 May 1921 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
Cosmelia Hirst died on November 14, 1928 at the age of 94. At the time of her death, she was the oldest surviving graduate of Antioch College. Upon her death, she had four surviving heirs, three nieces and a nephew. In her will, she left her nephew $300 and her nieces were to get any household goods they would like (Fig 8).
Fig 8. Last Will and Testament of Cosmelia Hirst, Probate Court Will Record No. 2 (Greene County Archives)
Cosmelia lived a life full of love, compassion, and vigor, and her memory and legacy continue to live on in Greene County.
Until Next Time.
Greene County Archives
Posted on November 12, 2021 at 1:51 PM by Melissa Dalton
We really love looking at the old newspapers. Even the larger publications have more of a “hometown” newspaper feel, and you learn quite a bit about a community and the residences that call it home. While trolling the newspaper archives for a project, we sometimes run across a headline that catches the eye. Although it may be unrelated to our topic or project, one sometimes cannot help but get pulled in and want to learn more. That’s exactly what happened with this article (Fig 1).
Fig 1. Young Xenian Eats 17 Eggs on a Bet, Xenia Daily Gazette, 10 April 1917 (Newspapers.com)
Did the headline make you giggle, too? Did you ask why this was covered in the newspaper? So, of course, we had to look into the protagonist here and learn a little more about the teen who ate 17 eggs on a bet of $3 (that’s about $60 today), taking a dollar from each of the darers (or antagonists if you will) – Fred Turner, Guy Caplinger, and Dan Cummings.
So, what did we learn about John Simison, Jr? John Abner Simison, Jr. was born on March 23, 1900 to John Abner and Orpha May (Wright) Simison of Xenia, Ohio (Fig 2). John was the youngest of the children, being the sixth child born.
Fig 2. Registration of Births No.2 – 1942, Greene County Probate Court (Greene County Archives)
John Sr. was a foreman at the Xenia Shoe Manufacturing Co. and in 1915, John Jr. was working there as a machine hand (Fig 3).
Fig 3. 1915 Xenia City Directory (Ancestry.com)
It was at the age of 17 that John Jr. was dared by some friends to eat 16 eggs (he had to eat an additional one after half a fried egg fell to the ground). If you read the article, you likely got the war references as well. WWI had been raging in Europe for several years, and at the time of this article, the United States had just declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. Just a few months later, John Simison, Jr. registered for the draft (Fig 4). It doesn’t appear he was ever drafted into service though.
Fig 4. WWI Draft Registration for John Abner Simison, Jr., September 1918 (Ancestry.com)
John Jr. went to work for the Pennsylvania Railroad, and worked as a conductor and brakeman. We actually came across another article indicating he was injured while riding the side of the car he was switching. According to the article, he was sideswiped by another track on an adjacent track, but did not sustain serious injuries (Fig 5). People working in these positions were prone to injuries as they had to stand on the outside of the engine to couple/uncouple rail cars.
Fig 5. Trainman Hurt in Pennsy Accident, Xenia Daily Gazette, 24 November 1926 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
John married Gertrude Harner on May 25, 1920 in Newport, Kentucky (Fig 6). The couple settled in Xenia and started a family. They had two children, Richard and Jack (John).
Fig 6. Marriage Record of John A. Simison, Jr. and Gertrude Harner, 25 May 1920 (Ancestry.com)
Around 1930, the Simison family began making trips to Pasadena, California to visit with family. In 1936, John and Gertrude moved the family to California, eventually making Pasadena their home (Fig 7).
Fig 7. 1940 Voter Registration for Los Angeles, CA (Ancestry.com)
Although we do not have access to many census records after they moved, city directories provided insight into were living and occupations. John worked mostly as an auto mechanic, but we also found him doing sales and listed as an aircraft worker. Gertrude worked in decorating, flower arrangement, and sales for in a hardware store and a gift shop.
John and Gertrude remained in California the rest of their lives. Gertrude died on August 30, 1974 at the age of 72 (Fig 8). She was buried in Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, California. John died eight years later on November 20, 1982 at the age of 82. He was buried next to his wife in Rose Hills Memorial Park.
Fig 8. Obituary of Gertrude Simison, Xenia Daily Gazette, 9 September 1974 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
We hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about this former Xenian! And remember, sometimes just one newspaper article can lead you to an interesting story!
Until Next Time!
Posted on November 5, 2021 at 2:55 PM by Melissa Dalton
The Grand Reopening of the Collier Chapel was held today, which is part of the original Ohio Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Orphans Home (OS&SO), later known as the Ohio Veterans Children’s Home (OVCH). With the knowledge that we would be attending this event, I wanted to look back on previous blog posts to see what we have written regarding the OS&SO Home… surprisingly, I found very little! So, this week our blog covers a brief history of the facility, and its contributions to our region.
In his second inaugural address, President Lincoln called on each state to care for the widows and children of fallen Union soldiers. After the end of the Civil War, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was established to support veterans of the War. It was the GAR that lobbied for the government to provide services and support for the families and children of the soldiers. In 1869, the organization opened the Ohio Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Orphans Home in Xenia, Ohio, and in 1870, the State assumed control of the Home. At that time, the OS&SO Home was relocated to a 240-acre farm on Home Avenue (Fig 1). The OS&SO Home was self-sufficient operation, with a farm, dairy barn, hospital, power/heat plant, gymnasium, school, banquet hall, chapel, and residence halls (Fig 2).
Fig 1. Map of the OS&SO Grounds, 1900 (Greene County Archives)
Fig 2. The Hospital on the OS&SO Home Campus in 1901 (Greene County Archives)
The residents were well-educated (Fig 3), and provided an opportunity to learn various trades, such as wood carving, knitting, dress making, blacksmithing, farming, butchering/slaughtering, etc. They also were able to participate in extra-curriculars such as choir, orchestra, band, and athletics. The students started their own paper in 1876 called the Home Weekly. At the age of eighteen, the resident was released from the Home.
Fig 3. OS&SO Home Graduates, Class of 1900 (Greene County Archives)
The site is now known as the home to Athletes in Action and Legacy Christian Academy (as well as some other ministries). The administration building, also the main building for the Home, was built in 1870 (Fig 4). The building is now the home of the Athletes in Action headquarters. Athletes in Action also operates the former Roosevelt Cottage, which was a dormitory. It was been renovated and is now named Brown Family Retreat Center.
Fig 4. OS&SO Home Administration Building, 1900 (Greene County Archives)
Collier Chapel was built in 1873, and was named Chaplain George W. Collier, who is also credited with proposing the idea of the Home to the GAR. The Collier Chapel was renovated in 1994, but had fallen into disrepair. A $1.2 million renovation project was just completed on the Collier Chapel and cemetery, and today, the current owners hosted the grand reopening (Fig 5).
Fig 5. Collier Chapel, 2013 (Wikimedia Commons)
The Lincoln Building was built in 1944 and was formerly the Woodrow Wilson High School. It now is the home of the Legacy Christian Academy (LCA). LCA also utilizes the Barnett Building (c. 1931), which was used for the trades. Today it is still used for classroom space and offices. The Gymnasium (c. 1924) was the home of the OS&SO Home Cadets sports teams, but now houses the LCA Knights sports teams.
The site witnessed changes throughout its 126 years in operation, and was home to roughly 14,000 children. Buildings and property were added as the resident population grew. The State also expanded the effort of the Home, and accepted children of veterans from any military conflict. In 1978, the OS&SO Home was renamed to the Ohio Veterans Children’s Home. The OVCH remained in operation until 1995, when the Home's doors were shuttered.
This really just provides some highlights of the OSSO/OVCH site and operations. If you are interested in learning more, we have a copy of The History of the Ohio Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphans’ Home at Xenia, Ohio, 1868-1963, by Edward Wakefield Hughes and William Clyde McCracken (edited by McKinley Warth in 1914, with further edits by Lloyd Brewster in 1924). We also have a copy of the 1900 Annual Report from the Home, which was included in the 1901 Greene County Courthouse Time Capsule (which is where we got most of the images for this blog post). It has been digitized and is available on Flickr. I also recommend that you check out our Facebook page for photographs from the Collier Chapel Grand Reopening!