Celebrating the birth of Greene County

By Joan Baxter

May 1, 1803 is the official date to celebrate the birthday of Greene County. Ohio became a state on March 1 and by the direction of the General Assembly, four new counties were proclaimed. Warren, Butler, Montgomery and Greene were established on March 24, but it was not until May 1 that the act creating the new counties took effect.

This portion of the state had been only sparsely settled at that time. No cities were established, and there were no courts to rule over the inhabitants.

At that time, the Eastern and Western boundaries were similar to today, but the Northern boundary of Greene County extended to the Northern boundary of Ohio. Our neighbor, Montgomery County, also extended to that northern boundary.

Each of the four new counties was named in honor of a well-known general; General Joseph Warren, General Richard Butler, General Richard Montgomery and of course General Nathaniel Greene.

Moses Collier, one of the leading surveyors of his time was commissioned by the Greene County Commissioners to meet with the surveyor of Clark County to establish the boundaries between the two. Apparently they agreed on the proper line, but Benjamin Whiteman who was a successful businessman in Greene County and one of the first judges in this county realized that the new boundary line would place his property in Clark County.

Being a man of considerable influence both in Greene County and with the State Legislature, he was able to have a bill passed on Jan. 24, 1819 which forever changed the boundary line near his home in Clifton to ensure that his property would remain a part of Greene County.

The State Legislature had strict rules about the manner of establishing law and order in a new county. Each county was to have appointed three commissioners, at that time referred to as judges, who were responsible to determine the place for the future county seat.

These men were required to be residents of the state for at least a year, be over the age of 25 and own property within the boundaries of the county in which they were to serve.

Land owners were anxious to have their particular site selected as the county seat. One of the sites suggested was about four miles southeast of present Xenia. A town called Caesarsville which had been laid out in 1800. Being sure this site would be selected, a court house was built and a public well dug. Several log houses sprung up in the vicinity.

Another proposed site was Pinkney, not far from Trebeins. However, John Paul carried the most influence with the judges, and it was his property which was selected for the county seat. He was a property owner in Beavercreek Township and so considered this property to be an ideal location.

Lewis Davis who was a large landowner and one of the early citizens convinced John that his property might not be the best location. The mandate was that the county seat should be as close to the center of the county as possible. Lewis convinced him that the forks of Shawnee Run would be more suitable. Paul purchased 2,000 acres of land from the Virginia residents who held the title. In June 1803, he paid the sum of 1,050 pounds current money of Virginia.”

It did not hurt when perhaps as an added inducement Paul donated one and one-half acres of land in the center of the property to be used for public buildings. Then on Aug. 3, 1803 Joseph C. Vance was appointed director of the county to survey the county seat and lay off the town.

As so many of those early pioneers, Mr. Paul moved on to Indiana selling his property here. The site of present Xenia (257 3/4 acres) was sold to Joseph Vance for $257.

Although there were several small villages in the county, often named for the proprietor who originally owned the land, the new county seat did not have a name.

Residents were requested to meet at the “crossroads” in the town, what is now Main and Detroit Streets. Suggestions flew about and tempers began to fly as well when a suitable name could not be agreed upon. Rev. Robert Armstrong had been listening to the discussion and then came forth, “Gentlemen, allow me to suggest a name for your county town. 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.”

The suggestion was accepted and folks cast their ballots. After several ballots, there was a tie between the name Xenia and another forgotten name. At that time, women did not have the privilege of voting, so it was quite an honor when Mrs. Owen Davis was allowed to cast the deciding vote. Mr. Davis was a land owner and very successful and well-known businessman, so the honor was extended to his wife on his behalf. And so, with one vote, Xenia became the county seat.

William Beatty owned a tavern across from the site donated for a court house, and it was here that the business of the county was conducted until a court house was constructed in 1809. This building was replaced with the 1843 court house with the majestic columns which now grace the entrance to Woodland Cemetery. The cornerstone for the present Court House was laid in 1901.


By Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.

Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.