An anniversary: Sharing local history for 20 years

By Joan Baxter

Twenty years ago on Oct. 8, 1998, the first column I wrote for the Xenia Daily Gazette was published. The years have flown by because there is so much interesting history to share.

It all came about when I was th executive director of the Greene County Historical Society. Fred Gibson, then editor-publisher of the Gazette came to the office to inquire if someone at the Historical Society would like to write a weekly column about the history of the area.

I jumped at the chance because I knew there were hundreds of wonderful stories to share. I retired a little over 10 years ago, but I continue to enjoy sharing stories about the county.

When the Fairborn Daily Herald and the Beavercreek News joined the Gazette that meant even more people could learn about the county’s rich history.

Sometimes an editor has asked me to research and write about a particular topic, but the majority of the time, the subject matter has been my choice.

In 2003, the editor at that time suggested I write a short history of individuals who had lived in Greene County. It was to be called “100 Words on…” When asked if I could come up with that many interesting people I assured her that if I could not, I was in the wrong county. This continued daily for five years. Now it is my pleasure to recall even more wonderful residents each week with “Remembering.”

This anniversary is not an ending, it is a beginning. Starting a new decade is always a challenge and I look forward to finding more information to share in years to come. History can be fun, exciting and sometimes even amusing. Greene County provides a wonderful source of interesting tales.

Long before the first frontiersmen arrived, the area was inhabited by the Mound Builders, also known as pre-historic Indians; followed by the historic Shawnee Indians who had one of their largest settlements in Greene County. Then the early settlers came, bringing industry and farming until today amazing technology is taking place. Each day history is being made and recorded in this county.

This is an excerpt from that first column:

“Welcome to the Greene County Historical Society. In the coming weeks, we will be sharing stories of the history of Greene County from planes, trains and automobiles to people, places and events which make our county unique.

Greene County was established by action of the first General Assembly of the State of Ohio on March 1, 1803, one of only eight counties in the state at that time. The Eastern and Western borders of the county are today the same as they were in 1803. The original Northern border included all land northward to Lake Erie. This configuration lasted for the next three years when Champaign County was formed, but Greene County was still quite large for the next fourteen years when Clark County was established in December 1817. General Benjamin Whiteman, an associate judge in Greene County, owned property in Clifton. When the northern boundary was established, he discovered some of his property would be in Clark County. He was quite influential and so petitioned the state legislature to change the northern boundary so that all of his property would be in Greene County. His petition was granted.

Four Townships were originally established and now the number of townships is thirteen. Those townships are Bath, Beavercreek, Caesarscreek, Cedarville, Miami, New Jasper, Jefferson Ross, Silvercreek, Spring Valley, Sugarcreek and Xenia. It does not show on a county map but Tecumseh was created a few years ago to encompass only the city of Xenia. With the exception of Tecumseh, each township has its own governing body.

Xenia is the county seat. Its location near the center of the county was certainly a factor in that selection. Other towns were proposed, but the associate judges decided that the fork of the Shawnee Creek would be the best location. In later years, the associate judges became known as County Commissioners. John Paul, who was a resident of Beavercreek, bought several acres and apparently had some influence in having the county seat in this location. To further enhance his choice, he donated one and one-half acres of land for public buildings. That property is where the present Court House stands.

The story of how the name “Xenia” came about for the new county seat has been told many times. A scholarly looking gentleman (The Reverend Robert Armstrong, first pastor in the county) suggested a name for the community. Several suggestions had been made “Greenville”, etc., but most of those names have been forgotten over the years. Reverend Armstrong made this statement: “In view of the kind and hospitable manner with which I have been treated whilst a stranger to most of you, allow me to suggest the name of Xenia, taken from the Greek and signifying ‘hospitality’. Several ballots were taken which included the other proposed names along with Xenia. Finally only two names remained and another ballot was to be taken.

However, out of consideration for Owen Davis, a miller who had established his business in Clifton, Mrs. Davis was invited to make the final decision. Her choice was obviously “Xenia”. What a joy for the residents; Greene County’s new county seat had a name. The City of Xenia continues to be known as the City of Hospitality.”

The remainder of the column invited the public to visit the Greene County Historical Society. That invitation still stands. Catherine Wilson, Executive Director, would be pleased to have you visit. Just call the office 937-372-4606 for available hours or to make an appointment.

By Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.

Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.