Postmaster and General Chairman for the 1908 Homecoming J.R. Orr received a booklet in the mail in June 1908. He was flattered when he received “De Luxe Copy No. 1.” The booklet was entitled “Seeing Xenia 40 cents.” No author’s name appeared.
After a while, it was determined that Russ Greiner who had proposed the Home Coming was the author. Greiner admitted that he had written the publication. Later it was discovered that there were several copies of the booklet, all of which stamped “Deluxe Copy No. 1,” sent to local individuals who enjoyed the joke after it was revealed.
The publication was of such interest that it was published in the Xenia Gazette.
It was a spoof telling about a distinguished visitor who came for the Homecoming. It described the route which would be taken after the visitor was met by a brass band and presented the key to the city by the Mayor. A horse-drawn carriage, driven by Ank Fifer, escorted the visitor all around the town, pointing out interesting structures.
Not to be outdone, the Reception Committee decided to turn the tables on their good friend.
The committee discovered which train would be bringing the celebrated author to Xenia. Police Chief Ed Smith and his assistant agreed to the fun and so they boarded the incoming train between Dayton and Xenia. Greiner had enjoyed the company of several people in the train car during the ride and was rather dismayed when Chief Smith announced that Greiner was under arrest. His new friends were rather shocked that their fellow passenger, who seemed to nice, was under arrest by the local authorities but Chief Smith gave him no opportunity to explain that it was a magnificent joke.
When he descended from the train, accompanied by the chief of police, he found several hundred people gathered there along with the Sons of Veterans Band which struck up a grand song.
He was conducted to an old fashioned Landau wagon (ca 1830) which was hitched to a mule. A sign on the side of the Landau read “Russ Greiner Seeing Xenia, 40 cents.”
Several notable citizens were already positioned on the Landau, Marshall Wolf, H.E. Schmidt, the Superintendent of the OSSO Home, Xenia Mayor Brennan and of course J.F. Orr.
Ank Fifer who had been the leading liveryman for many years came out of retirement to drive the mule and enjoy the fun. In his booklet the author sketched the welcoming as it really happened, but also in the book, he illustrated how it probably would be with no one at the station to greet the home comer.
The mini parade proceeded North on Detroit Street with the Sons of Veterans’ Band leading the way. The procession continued down Main to West and then to Market arriving at the home of Capt. and Mrs. William Wilson (Mrs. Wilson was the sister of Russ Greiner) and it was in that home that he and his wife would enjoy the rest of the celebration.
Monday the Masonic Lodge sponsored a program as did the IOOF lodge. The Xenia Elks Lodge planned an open house the Xenia High School Alumni met at the high school.
Tuesday was Military Day with the Civil War soldiers donning their uniforms to march in the parade. This brought many more people into town for the day. The paper reported: “It was mighty impressive – that Military parade. The day reminded them of a soldiers’ reunion. There were many of them here, but they marched a great deal differently than they did nearly fifty years ago. But there were people in that throng along the line of march who were justly proud of the men with the halting step and stooping form. Their small company told a story.”
The committee spent about $500 for fireworks, some were set off in the afternoon, but most on Tuesday evening. One of the more impressive displays was a picture in fire-works of General Nathanael Greene, for whom the county is named.
A “camp fire” was held in the big tent in the evening at which time some of the veterans of the Civil War were on hand to tell about their exploits during the battles. They related stories of their trials at Andersonville and Chattanooga. This part of the program was well received, since many people wanted to know more about the Civil War.
The final day arrived with about 25,000 people in attendance. Picnic lunches were eaten on the Court House lawn and confetti was everywhere, purchased for a nickel a bag.
The big parade, led by the Ohio National Guard began at 11 a.m. Wednesday with about 25 motor vehicles along with many decorated floats and the police force. The parade took about 45 minutes to pass by. Of course Russ Greiner rode in the Landau once again with the mule driven by Ank Fifer.
The evening ended with “Auld Lang Sine” being sung by residents and visitors.
Russ Greiner returned to his Kansas City Home and in time J.R. Orr also moved to that city.
Mr. Orr reported that $3,300 had been raised to support the event, but only $3,000 was spent. A proposal was made to use the remaining funds to purchase lamp posts for the court house lawn. The $300 was adequate to purchase the posts, but would not provide maintenance. The County Commission readily agreed to accept the donation of the lights, and agreed to maintain them.
And so the 1908 Homecoming Celebration became a happy memory.
Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.