The Greene County Commission declared this “Greene County History Week.” With that in mind, let’s briefly explore some of the history of this wonderful county.
The earliest settlers were known as the Mound Builders. They constructed their mounds for burial purposes as well as a system of signaling other members of the tribe. Greene County is somewhat hilly, but in order to signal a distance, a tall structure would be required, thus several mounds are still in existence. Spring Valley and Cedarville have the larger, better-known mounds, but there is one in Yellow Springs, known as the Orator’s mound, and several in the Old Town area as well.
These early settlers disappeared; then the Shawnee Indians came into the area. This was a highly prized location since there was river transportation and ample water for drinking. The land was fertile to grow crops, and game in the form of buffalo, deer and fish were readily available.
The principal village for the Shawnee was located at what is now Old Town. The village, known as Old Chillicothe, was located on a well-used Indian trail which led from the Ohio River northward.
Considerable trading was done among the tribes, especially since this area was rich in flint which was used for arrow heads and spear points.
The Shawnee were still here when the frontiersmen came into the area. Simon Kenton was captured and brought to Old Chillicothe where he was forced to run the first of several gauntlets — a long aisle of people armed with sticks and stones. He was forced to run down the aisle, and if he could get to the Council House, he would be freed. He broke through the aisle more than once, and was forced to begin the run all over again.
Gradually, the area became available for settlers. Those intrepid souls came with their wagons and a few possessions to settle in the new territory. In order to encourage the move west, Revolutionary War soldiers were offered tracts of land in the new territory. Many took advantage of this free land and came here to make this their homes. Land was offered at low prices to encourage more settlement.
March 1, 1803 was the day Ohio officially became a state. This was closely followed by the establishment of Greene County, on March 15, named for the Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene. At the time it was formed, Greene County’s northern border extended to the northern border of Ohio. Eastern and Western borders were as they remain today. Four townships were established by order of the associate judges, known now as county commissioners.
In time, the northern boundary would stop at the Clark County line, and 13 townships would be established. If you look at a county map, you will see twelve, but the City of Xenia is also known as Tecumseh Township with the city limits being the limits of the township.
After the settlers came, better means of transportation were desired so the railroad came into the area.
Some communities welcomed the new means of transporting goods and people from one area to another. Some were not so interested. The village of Fairfield wanted nothing to do with the smelly, smoky train, but Osborn, located a little over a mile away, was eager. In fact the town was named for Mr. Osborn who was the railroad superintendent. Eventually, Fairfield and Osborn merged (1950) to become the city of Fairborn.
The village of Transylvania would have welcomed the train, but it was located across the road, so the folks in village moved to what became known as Spring Valley.
The next transportation was the interurban, a small train which traveled from city to city. The advantage was it was slow enough that anyone could stand beside the tracks and flag the train to get a ride into the next town. This was a major means of transportation for short distances.
When automobiles were becoming popular, the Xenia Cycle Car and the Baldner auto were both manufactured in Xenia.
We can’t forget those brothers who invented the airplane, learned controlled flight, and even opened the first school for pilots here in Greene County.
The Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Orphans’ Home was established to care for the children of those who had given their lives in the Civil War. In later years, a child of a veteran from any war would be accepted. The children lived, worked and played at the home.
The earliest industries were mills, located near a river for the power the water could provide, corn and wheat were ground into flour, wool was woven into fabric and linseed oil was made.
I urge you to look around, visit some of the historic sites in the county, and talk with your older friends and neighbors to learn more about the wonderful history that is present in our county. This is only a very brief overview.