Anyone who was living in any part of Greene County on April 3, 1974 has a story to share. Today, I will tell you about the events at the Greene County Historical Society.
The Greene County Historical Society had been very fortunate to have four buildings in the complex. The Moorehead home, the carriage house, which had been named the Snediker building in honor of a benefactor from Fairborn, the Galloway log house (having been moved for the second time from its original location) and lastly, the Harner house, renamed the Glossinger Center in honor of another benefactor, John Glossinger.
All four buildings faced Church Street, with the Moorehead house at the corner of North Detroit and West Church Street.
It was business as usual that week. A new display had been put in place in the Moorehead house, meetings had been held as necessary, Peggy Shoals and her faithful dog, Puccini, were getting ready to go upstairs to her apartment in the Glossinger house for a quick nap before going out for evening activities,
Jim Putterbaugh, the maintenance man, had just finished a painting project and was cleaning the brushes when the storm came. Shoals was sitting at her desk in the Glossinger house. She grabbed the dog, and the two huddled together in an interior room as the roof was torn apart and windows shattered all around.
When they got outside after the storm had passed, they could see, as many residents could, that a terrible storm had struck the community. I was at home that day with my children. Most of us in the neighborhood were outside having seen a small version of the tornado, when the neighbor next door said he had heard on the radio that nearly one-half of Xenia had been destroyed!
The Historical Society Board of Trustees acted quickly. Mike DeWine was a member of the board. He put out a call on the radio that anyone who could come to help at the complex would be welcome. A day and time were selected, and many volunteers showed up on the lawn. DeWine proceeded to say there were boxes for packing items.
Dozens of volunteers worked tirelessly, day after day to pack every artifact. A group of men had been packing items displayed in the Snediker Building (Carriage House). They began at one end of the building, and continued toward the other placing artifacts into the trucks for storage.
The log house received a temporary plywood roof, and whatever logs had not blown completely away were kept for future reconstruction. The other three building were razed quickly.
Not having a “home” made the challenges even greater. The Greene County Library owned a house next door to the Carnegie Library. A room was offered for office space, and gratefully accepted. The only expense the Historical Society had was to pay a portion of the utility bills.
Putterbaugh had been on loan from the county. He was a county employee, but worked at the Historical Society. He continued to work for the county in another location. Shoals got an apartment for a short while in Dayton, commuting to Xenia each day to work in limited office space and unusual conditions. The meetings were held in various parts of the county, sometimes in churches, sometimes in other public buildings.
A site selection committee was formed to determine if the society should relocate to another part of the county. Several options were considered, but finally, it was determined that locating back on the original property would be most desirable.
A grant was received to reconstruct the log house. The members and the community took a great deal of interest, watching it go back up, log by log until at last the final cedar shingle was nailed in place. This was certainly a cause for celebration.
I started working for the Historical Society on November 1, 1974, sharing that little office in the house next to the library with Shoals.
The corner lot at Detroit and Church Streets was sold to the City of Xenia. In return, a house which was scheduled to be removed or demolished was donated to the Historical Society. What had been the Flynn home, located at the opposite corner of Detroit and Church was put on steel girders and moved to the corner of Church and King Streets.
It was placed over a hole left from the previous structure, and a new basement constructed along with a new foundation for the 2 ½ story structure. With the two buildings in place, much of the furniture and artifacts which had been stored were able to be brought back and put to good use. The storage space in Yellow Springs was no longer available, so a barn was secured for remaining property for a while.
In later years, additional property was acquired, and more buildings put in place. Historians and weather specialists will recall April 3, 1974 for many generations yet to come.
Joan Baxter is a Greene County resident and regular historical columnist for Greene County Newspapers.