Women who put Xenia on the map


By Joan Baxter



Did you ever wonder how Xenia got its name?

After Greene County was officially recognized as a county (1803) there was a need for a county seat. John Paul donated an acre of land near the center of the new county to be used as a place of government. Once the commissioners accepted the deed, a name had to be selected for the new town. As a result a meeting was called for the purpose of selecting a name. That day found several people gathered at the site of the new home of the county government.

Several names were proposed, most of which have been forgotten. The Rev. Robert Armstrong, the first minister in the county suggested the name Xenia, a Greek word meaning “hospitality.” He stated that the folks were so hospitable and that he had been so well received here, he felt that would be appropriate.

There was much discussion and when the vote was taken there was a tie. Of course, only the men present were able to cast a vote, but then the unprecedented happened. In order to break the tie, the wife of one of the officials was invited to cast the deciding vote. Therefore Letitia Davis is credited with selecting the name for the city. There is only one other city in the U.S. with that name. That city is in Illinois.

Mary Elam was descended from one the earliest settlers in the county. Her great-grandfather Josiah Elam was a part of General Anthony Wayne’s army which camped near Caesars Creek during the latter part of the 18th century. He was so favorably impressed with the area, in 1801 he purchased land in what became Spring Valley, built a house and brought his family from Kentucky to make this their home.

Mary was born in Spring Valley and wanted to become a nurse. Nurse training was a little different at that time. She trained at the McClellan Hospital in Xenia and in time became a registered nurse. She enjoyed further training in 1912 when she took a post graduate course at Boston Fleming Hospital where she specialized in the care of infants and children.

She enlisted as an Army nurse during World War I and was stationed at Camp Sherman in Chillicothe. She was on duty during the 1918 flu epidemic, working 12 hours a day, seven days a week almost non-stop for a period of 12 weeks. She stated that she often had to walk around the deceased soldiers in order to get to those who needed her help. She contracted the flu but fortunately survived the ordeal.

When the World’s Fair was held in San Francisco in 1910 she was determined to go even against her father’s wishes. She saved her pennies and was able to pay for a train trip, along with other tourists, to see the fair. She said that she and the tour director were the only people on the trip who got up in the middle of the night to watch “Old Faithful” erupt. She said it was worth the effort.

Always up for adventure, at the age of 106, she was able to take her first plane ride from Dayton to Atlanta. She had never flown before and the novelty of a woman of her age on her first flight drew national and international attention.

Mary enjoyed young people and after she learned to drive would transport kids to and from Sunday school and 4-H meetings. The children adored her as well.

At the time of her death, she was the oldest living American veteran.

Henrietta Evers taught students in Xenia schools for a period of 40 years. She had a unique career in that she taught all elementary grades from first to sixth and also taught in every school building in Xenia with the exception of Central High School.

In addition to teaching the three “R’s” she was supervisor of penmanship in the city’s grade schools including Lincoln School. She also served as general supervisor of all subjects in the grade schools.

She began her career at Confer School, a one-room school near Yellow Springs. She did leave the county for a few years when she served as director of city and county schools in Bucyrus and later at Lake County Normal School. She even taught a year in Cleveland, but she returned to the Xenia school system, saying it was the “finest I have found.”

She served a year as principal of Orient Hill School in Xenia and had the pleasure of teaching English to a class of Greek people in night school.

She held a degree from Miami University and then enjoyed additional training at Columbia University, Antioch College, Chicago University, The Ohio State University and Ohio University.

She took a course in bookkeeping and stenography and put that training to use as an employee of the Xenia Water Company for a short time. As Chairman of the Greene County Junior Red Cross she was proud of the 100 percent enrollment of all children. During the flu epidemic during World War I, the schools were closed for a few weeks, so she spent her time serving as a nurse.

Marjorie “Marge” Menapace was perhaps better known as being the wife of Herman Menapace, one time Greene Memorial Hospital Director. Her energy was seemingly untiring and it was not unusual for her and Herman to visit the staff at the hospital on Christmas day with cookies and other treats for those who had to work. However, Marge was a busy woman in her own right. She always had a big smile and was one of those women who would always be remembered as being “a lady” at all times.

She was at one time employed at the Dayton VA Medical Center where she used her degree in occupational therapy. She was always active in community affairs and served for many years as the president of the Xenia Woman’s Club entertaining the ladies at her home. She enjoyed entertaining her friends and was regarded as an excellent bridge player. She died at the age of 94 in 2018.

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By Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is a Greene County historian and guest columnist.

Joan Baxter is a Greene County historian and guest columnist.