Looking back at 1908


By Joan Baxter



The Xenia Gazette is celebrating 150 years of printing the news in Xenia. Here are a few things which were happening in the city 110 years ago.

That year, the newspaper had some competition. The Gazette was printed each day at a subscription rate of 10 cents per week. The Xenia Republican was delivered each Tuesday and the Xenia Herald and Democrat each Thursday, each with a subscription rate of one dollar per year.

Teddy Roosevelt was President of the United States. The Mayor of Xenia was William Brennan, Ed Smith was Chief of Police, and William Buckles was the Fire Chief. That year there were five firemen serving at two stations in Xenia? J.F. Orr served as Postmaster for the city and a portion of the county.

Greene County boasted that there were 32,000 residents, 10,000 horses, 15,000 cattle, 18,000 sheep and 32,000 hogs. Land was valued at $1.63 per acre and the principal crops were corn, wheat, oats, potatoes, tomatoes, rye, barley, clover hay, alfalfa, tobacco, eggs and maple syrup.

Manufactures such as the Xenia Shoe Company, Dodd’s Granite Company, Hooven and Allison Rope Walk and the Xenia Handle Factory were thriving and were a major source of employment…

Downtown businesses included five drug stores, four millinery shops, four tailors, four jewelers and four clothing stores. Generally ladies wore hats which were made at the shop to their satisfaction and gentlemen purchased their hand-made suits from the local tailor.

Jobe’s Store, Hutchison and Gibney and the Famous Cheap Store were open for business. Usually, customers had a favorite clerk in each of these stores. Ladies always wore a hat and gloves anytime they left the house, and business men could be found in business suits and ties. Collars were not attached to men’s shirts at that time.

Some folks may remember when all purchases were made with cash. The items would be selected and the clerk would put the items into a bag. The cash would be handed to the clerk who In turn put the bill and the money into a cylinder which was placed in a pneumatic tube sent to the bookkeeper, usually on a balcony or another floor. The bookkeeper would dispense the change and send it back in the same cylinder. There were few cash registers.

Automobiles were rather rare, the first having traversed the Xenia streets in 1901, but livery stables were available where one could rent a horse and buggy as desired. Visiting salesman would stay at the local hotels and rent a horse and buggy to visit their customers.

New York was only 15 hours away by rail. An interurban trip to Springfield or Dayton was readily available and the “Dinky” was the local rail transportation

Professor E. B. Cox presided as superintendent of the Xenia Schools. The district was composed of Central High, McKinley, Spring Hill, Orient East Main and East Market. Payroll for all the teachers combined was $30,000. Professor Cox had his office in McKinley. There was no loud speaker system, so he would simply go into the hall and yell his message.

The Opera House was bustling with activity. Traveling artists would appear on the stage with musicals and dramas to delight the public. High school graduations and various high school plays were also given in the Opera House. The facility also included the city offices, police and fire departments. The Opera House was razed to make way for the City Building, now the home of the Police Department.

If a prisoner was incarcerated in the jail, food would be provided by the wife of the Police Chief. Who owned a local bakery. Elwood Smith, many years later the proprietor of Smith’s Bakery, would help by transporting the food in his little wagon for his father to distribute.

Movies were becoming popular. Of course, they were rather grainy, black and white and usually had the lines of the actors printed on the bottom of the screen since there were silent movies. George Day owned the Star Theater and got around that by hiring a nephew who could read lips. The boy would stand near the front of the theater and in a variety of voices related what the actors were saying. The fee to see a movie was 5 cents and Mr. Day advertised that he had movies with sound!

At that time the city had five banks, four restaurants and three ice cream shops in addition to five funeral directors, 23 attorneys and 19 Justices of the Peace. Two electric companies and two telephone companies served the city.

Eavey Wholesale Grocery was busy along with 25 groceries, five meat markets, one fruit market and three bakeries. Residents usually ate at home.

A traffic survey was commissioned during the second week of January. Whether the surveyor stood outside or in is not determined but the Monday report was as follows: 697 horse drawn vehicles, one auto, 17 baby carriages, 33 bicycles, 73 horsemen, 48 street cars, f15 trains, 1,450 pedestrians. The corner of Main and Detroit was certainly a busy place that January day.

When the entire week’s total was reported, the figures were: 4,642 horse drawn vehicles, 16 autos, 84 baby carriages, 290 bicycles, 78 horsemen, 275 street cars and 95 trains. The number of pedestrians for the week was10, 887. That was a very busy corner, 110 years ago.

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By Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is a county resident and long-time historical columnist.

Joan Baxter is a county resident and long-time historical columnist.