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The House's Tale: a History of the People Connected to the House at 321 Xenia Ave in Yellow Springs by Judy Parker
(revised Sept. 2012)


I. Beginnings

It is somewhat of a mystery who built the house at 321 Xenia Ave commonly referred to as the Barr property. The house is of the Georgian Colonial style and it was an early home built in the fledgling village of Yellow Springs. The county lists the house as built in 1840 but this is no doubt an approximate date. The first definite deed record is a transfer from William Mills to Dr. William H. Grimes in October 1848 which included the house. How William Mills became the owner of the property before October 1848 is unclear. Dills' History of Greene County states that Dr. Issac Thorn was the original owner of this lot which is now owned by Albert Kellogg (confirmed owner in 1881). Depending on how Dills' statement is interpreted the property may have been previously owned by Robert Cheney(and before him John Hammond. Dills' book was published in 1881, only some 35 years after the house was built and memories should have been fresh. However it is possible that Dills 

mistakenly reported Dr. Issac Thorn as the owner when it was actually Dr. Grimes they meant even though he wasn't the original owner. Yet Cosmelia Hirst's 1920 newspaper column also states that it was Dr. Issac Thorn who built the house at 321 Xenia Ave. But these two reports may actually be related so it is still unconfirmed that Dr. Issac Thorn built the house.
One record seems to indicate that William Mills purchased the 321 Xenia Ave property from Robert Cheney. There is a deed transfer of Aug. 1848 in which Robert Cheney sold a property to William Mills that appears to be 321 Xenia Ave although the description is not perfectly precise. This deed describes a house, ('upon which is a frame house erected by said Cheney') and the transfer was received at the recorder's office one week before the deed transferring 321 Xenia from William Mills to Dr. Grimes was received. It may be only coincidence that the two deed transfers arrived at the recorder's office a week apart (both months after the dates of the actual transfers), yet it often seems that missing paperwork is made ready just in time for the next sale. But what about Dills assertion that Dr. Issac Thorn was the first owner? Dr. Issac Thorn was
one of the original developers of the watercure in Yellow Springs (later owned by Dr. A. Chaney), paid tax on a Yellow Springs property in 1847, and Edwin his son was born in Yellow Springs in 1847. However, Dr. I. Thorn also owned a house in Clifton. Cheney, Thorn and Mills all knew each other and were engaged in financial endeavors in Yellow Springs. Mills himself was buying and selling property in Yellow Springs in high volume as he worked to develop the village. This fact makes it difficult to track purchases by Mills in county records. According to Dills, Dr. Issac Thorn died in Springfield of cholera in 1849. It is possible there were property exchanges between these men that were not recorded as times were different then, however we are limited to the records that do exist.
If it was the 321 Xenia Ave property Cheney sold to Mills for $350 in 1848, then Mills greatly profitted when he sold it 2 months later to Dr. Grimes for $3000. Indeed Mills ultimately received $3418 from Dr. Grimes for the property (as a second deed received one week after the first shows). Instead of this really good deal could it be that William Mills owned the property long before 1848? Tax records of the time shown WIlliam Mills paying tax on
many properties in Yellow Springs. Descriptions are both minimal and similar in these records making it hard to be certain which property is concerned. Probably the builder of the house was one of these Ohio-born men: WIlliam Mills, son of early Yellow Springs settler Elisha Mills; Dr. Issac Thorn, son of early settler WIlliam Thorn of Clifton/Selma; or Robert Cheney(Chaney), a lime merchant and early settler of Yellow Springs. The house's style is one that was frequent in the 13 colonies and generally phased out by the 1830s. Robert Cheney's wife Margaret was born in Massachusetts and perhaps it was her idea to build this style. Of course any of the three men born in Ohio could have seen houses of this style on travels or even in the area. In contrast, buildings built by the Mills family usually had large porches and there are no porches on the original house at 321 Xenia Ave. Someone built a uniquechimney on the property, made of local rocks carefully shaped to make orderly rows. Well built and mortared with 'cement' it still stands but whether it was from a log cabin or a outdoor kitchen is unknown. Rock quarries and lime kilns (to prepare cement ingredients) were close by the property at 321 Xenia Ave and
 
  Robert Cheney listed himself as a lime merchant in 1860 while living elsewhere in Yellow Springs. I personally believe that Robert and Margaret Cheney built this house based on the deed from Cheney to Mills in 1848 and the circumstantial evidence. Robin Heise of www.ysheritage.org concludes that William Mills built the house. Perhaps one day it will be clear who built the house.      

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II. Middle Years

The property Dr. Grimes purchased was slightly over 4 acres and he owned the property from 1848 until 1858. In 1858 the property was sold by the Greene County Sheriff to pay a judgement from a court case against Dr. Grimes. It is known that Dr. Grimes moved to Kansas in or around 1858. According to the judgement Dr. Grimes owed Chauncey Barden mortgage payment that was not received, a frequent issue at the time when loans were unregulated and the country unstable just prior to the Civil War. The sherriff sold the property to James F. Dane and Charles C. Warren of New Hampshire for $3601. The census lists Mr. Dane and Mr. Warren as manufacturers and Cosmelia Hirst says Mr. Dane was associated with the foundry in Yellow Springs. The 1860 census lists 12 people on the property: James and Susan Dane, their 9 year old daughter, Susan's sister, Mr. and Mrs. Warren, their 2 year old son, a 14 year old servant, and a nurseryman (Ezra Bull) with his wife and two children. All
 
could have been living in the main house, however there was also Dr. Grimes office building on the property and perhaps some lived there. The connection between the Warrens and the Danes isn't known although the two families bought the property together and both came to Yellow Springs from New Hampshire. The young servant and the nurseryman's (Ezra Bull) family all list New Hampshire as place of birth but it unknown if they came together with the Warrens and Dane. According to Cosmelia Hirst, the foundry burned around 1862, the Xenia Ave property was sold, and Mr. Dane went off to Lagonda,Ohio (the future site of International Harvester).
It was a Frank Alexander that paid Dane and Warren $3000 for 4+ acres in the 1862 sale. However Alexander sold the 4+ acre property again in the same year for $2000. Alexander lost money with the second sale, however times were very unsettled just prior to the outbreak of the Civil War and he must have faced pressure to sell. The next owner was Albert Kellogg, born in Massachusetts and then farming in Ashtabula Co., Ohio, before coming to Yellow Springs. Albert and Maria Kellogg had two children already when they moved to Yellow Springs and they came for
the education of their children as Albert was a follower of Horace Mann (first president of Antioch College). They were here in Yellow Springs farming at or before 1857 when Charlotte Kellogg attended Antioch Preparatory (high) School. Charlotte attended the school from 1857-1860 but was not listed as a graduate. Charlotte's younger brother Edward also attended Antioch Preparatory School and was 15 while in school in 1860. The Civil War began in 1861 and soon Edward became a private in the 5th Ohio Vol. Cavalry. George Hill, an 1860 graduate of Antioch College must have made a favorable impression upon Charlotte. They may have even married right after his graduation since George was moving to Chicago and a child was born to the couple in 1863 in Illinois. While Charlotte was beginning her life as an adult, Edward died of disease at 16 in the Battle of Shiloh in summer of 1862. However, Albert and Maria Kellogg were not alone even though their daughter was established in Chicago and their son dead. A black woman from Pennsylvania, Dorcus Auxbury?, lived with the Kelloggs appearing in both the 1860 and 1870 censuses. Dorcus was some ten years older than Albert and would have been around 81 years old in 1880. It isn't clear whether Dorcus died or moved away, however a live-in servant from Ireland replaces her in the 1880 census. Also the Kellogg's had a nephew, William B. Kellogg, living with them in 1860 and records don't say when William returned to his own home. It was just about 6 months after Edward died that Albert bought the property at 321 Xenia Ave from Alexander (December of 1862) and retired from farming. There Albert and Maria stayed until their deaths. Charlotte and her family came often to Yellow Springs to assist her parents. The 1880 census lists Charlotte, Charles and the two children in Yellow Springs but living in a residence not the same as Albert and Maria. Maria died before her husband of consumption (tuberculosis) and Albert lived on in the house until he died in 1887 at the age of 78.

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III. As the 20th Century Arrives

Charlotte inherited the property but did not sell for some 7 years. During much of this time she and the children were in Yellow Springs and the children went to school here while Charles was busy making his way in Colorado. In 1893 after some 30 years of Kellogg ownership the property at 321 Xenia Ave (now just over 2 acres) was sold to Rebecca Thompson. The Thompsons were from Buffalo, NY and were prosperous soap manufacturers. Rebecca and Hugh were both immigrants from Ireland having arrived in the US at 3 and 7 years old respectively (before the great potato famine). Rebecca's sister, Maria G. Bell lived in the Yellow Springs area for many years. Census records of 1860 show Maria, age 22, married to the very wealthy farmer Samuel Bell from Kentucky and living on Hyde Road next to the Eatons and Hydes. By 1874 Maria herself owned the 325 acre property (which straddled the railroad tracks and extended to the Little Miami River) as a widow - perhaps her husband died in the Civil War. Maria stayed on the farm listing

herself as both the head of the household and a farmer by occupation in 1880. A young nephew and a black woman named Anna Jackson (born in Kentucky) also lived with her in 1880 and of course she may have hired other workers that did not live with her. In 1883 Maria married John C. Allen owner of the property now called Whitehall Farm. John died in 1890 at 75 years of age just after his only surviving son had also died. Rebecca came to Yellow Springs to care for her sister who was ill from 1891-92. Maria was struggling after the loss of her second husband and her own illness and Hugh Thompson was appointed her guardian in Jan. 1893 because she was declared insane. It is possible that Maria was suffering from depression which was not understood at the time as she was not without some faculties. Early in February of 1893 Maria committed suicide, leaving a will in which Rebecca inherited a minimum of $5000. In November 1893 Rebecca purchased the property at 321 Xenia Ave. as the sole owner. It is likely that it was her inheritance that allowed Rebecca to pay the $3000 cost of the property.
Hugh and Rebecca had three children survive to adulthood (out of five). It seems clear that their daughters were with them in Yellow Springs. In 1895 daughter Clara married Charles Murray in Greene County and in 1897 daughter Louisa

 

 

 

married James Whiting in Greene County. Louise 's daughter Marion Whiting was born in 1901 in Yellow Springs however the birth is not recorded in Greene County. In the 1900 census only Hugh and Rebecca were living in the house so Louise seems to have been elsewhere, presumably with her husband and perhaps Marion was born in another county. Rebecca lived on in Yellow Springs until 1908 when she died at the age of 78, her husband Hugh having already died (date unknown). By the 1910 census Louise and Marion were living on the property and it is probable that they lived there with Rebecca part of the time from 1901 to 1910. In 1910 Clara Murray and her two children were also living in the house with Louise but it can't be determined how long Clara had been there. In the 1910 census there is no mention of either James Whiting or Charles Murray although both women were still listed as married. Clara seems to have had a difficult life with regard to children. Her son born in Illinois, Harold T., was already 12 when in 1910 Clara had a 13 month old son with her. This baby, Coursen, had been born in Pennsylvania but it isn't known whether this was because Clara resided in Pennsylvania at the time of his birth or if she went to an eastern city (Philadelphia?) to get expert care. Another child born to Clara had died at a young age but no records of the details can be found. Sadly Coursen died too in 1911 at the age of 2. Clara herself died in Illinois a few years later (1914) from a diabetic coma when she was 41. There were lots of reasons that children died at a young age around the turn of the century even in addition to infectious disease. Rh factor incompatibility was not understood and caused much trouble for second and third children at the time. Also gestational diabetes was a serious complication of pregnancy that often led to continueing diabetes in the mother after the birth and to illness in the newborn. Louise also had one of her children die. It can be imagined that Clara and Louise were close and comforted one another in their difficulties.
In 1920 Louise received the property in full from Rebecca's other heirs and it is likely that she had been caring for the property continuosly after Rebecca died. This same year nineteen year old Marion was enrolled as a freshman in Antioch College however she did not continue to attend. Her future husband Ira Barr was a 1921 graduate of Antioch College and the two likely met at Antioch as they married in 1927. Yet, before the marriage Marion completed her college education elsewhere and she listed her occupation as librarian at the time of the marriage. In the 1930 census Louise listed herself as a widow. Her husband, James Whiting, is an enigma in the records. It is possible that he died in World War I which might explain his absence and the lack of records. Although Louise died in 1948
she transferred the property to Marion in 1933 and it is likely that Louise shared the house for a time with Marion and Ira and their children. Later after Louise was gone, Marion and Ira Barr shared the house with their son William H. Barr, their daughter Evelyn C. Bell and their granddaughter Abigail Corbet. Ownership of the property was passed to William Barr and then to Evelyn Bell. Upon the death of her mother, Evelyn, Abigail Corbet inherited the property in 2004 and sold the property to the Morgan Family Foundation in 2005. The Morgan Family Foundation gave the property to Friends Health Care Association in 2007.
 
  Acknowledgements:
The assistance of Robin Heise of www.ysheritage.org with the deed and tax records is gratefully acknowledged. In addition the staff at the Greene County Archives also provided needed help in accessing old records.
Sources:
US Federal Census
www.familysearch.org
Heritage Online Census Search
The History of Greene County 1881 R.S. Dills
William Mills: The Yellow Springs Man, Jane Baker 2007
Greene County Recorder's Office
www.ysheritage.org
Historic Home put on the Market Helen Berrington, Dayton Daily News July 14, 2004
Cosmelia Hirst's Scrapbook (her columns from the Yellow Springs newspaper) 1920 Antiochiana Collection

Note: People alive today with the same or similar names are not necessarily related to the historical persons mentioned in this text. This text, while striving to be accurate, is for entertainment only.
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