Blames Booze and Cigarettes: Harley Beard, Franklin Native, Murderer

While processing the index for our birth records, Tori Roberts ran across a note in pencil on Harley Beard that stated “Electrocuted at Ohio Penitentiary 1914”. Now this was such a strange occurrence because the record as I said was a birth record, not a death record. This clearly sparked interest, because whoever wrote this note must have been invested in the case in which Harley Beard was sentenced to death by the electric chair.

Warren County Birth Record, Volume 3

Initial research into Harley turned up his portrait, as it’s called, which seems more like what we would call a mugshot. The description on the entry for Harley on Ohio Memory is “Harley Beard, of Lawrence County, was electrocuted December 4, 1914, for the Murder of Bob-Mary-Nancy Massie. On May 13, 1914, Harley, a 18-year-old farm hand brutally killed Nancy (76) and her son and daughter Bob (44) and Mary (40) at their farm house in Lawrence County, Ohio. Nancy and Mary were found with their throats slit and Bob with his skull crushed the following day, and Beard was captured and confessed to the murders.”

OhioMemory.org, State Archives Series 1000 AV; Box 1, No. 44

While this explains the crime and subsequent sentence of electrocution at the State Penitentiary, it does not explain why there was a penciled in note on Harley’s birth record in Warren County. If the murders took place 150 miles away and 18 years after his birth, why would the Warren County employee find it necessary to include this in Harley’s birth record. Thankfully the Western Star shed some light on Harley’s history in Warren County. Born to Arthur Beard and Elizabeth Truss, Harley was one of at least 8 children. In March of 1901 there was an article printed in the Western Star titled “Could Not Support His Eight Children” where the article details that one of his daughters, Rebecca Helen Beard aged 14 years, “came into Squire Corwin’s office crying, and said that her half-brother took liberties with her and that she was afraid of him.” This article provided some background into the type of household that Harley was being raised in. Rebecca was sent to the Warren County Children’s Home following this incident. Unfortunately, even though the Warren County has these records, they are not open to the public. By age 16, Harley had landed himself in the paper by escaping from the Warren County Children’s Home.

Western Star, March 14, 1901
Western Star, July 11, 1912

The final tragic detail of Harley Beard’s short life was his letter where he “Blames Booze and Cigarettes” and “Warns Young Folks to Refrain from use of either.” While this may have been the reason Harley chose to focus on, it seems that further into his letter it becomes apparent that his wayward childhood and unstable home life led Harley to his untimely fate. “I never had a chance. I was motherless and fatherless, and if I would have had a chance I would never have been put in the penitentiary.”

Western Star, December 10, 1914

We have an update on Harley Beard’s unfortunate upbringing.

In our earlier blog post we mentioned that Harley had spent time at the Warren County Children’s Home. While thumbing through the records we found out that not only did Harley spend time in the home but so did his 5 siblings: Rebecca Ellen, Mary, Wilbert, James, and Ellsworth.

The youngest, Ellsworth, was only 5 when he was taken to the home. All of the children spent time in the home and were occasionally loaned out to various households within the county, most likely to provide an extra set of hands around the house or farm. Ellsworth ended his time at the Children’s Home by being taken to the “Reformatory at Mansfield by Probation Officer April 6, 1911 at the age of 12.


#DYK: Warren County Courthouse Condemned

Did you know that in February of 1879, the Silver Street Warren County Courthouse was what we would call “condemned” and being called to be demolished immediately???

Warren County Commissioners Journal, Volume 13 Page 413

Thankfully the county explored alternate plans for the building and thought it was important enough to fix. If you compare the images from the historic lithograph dated in 1875 to the updated photograph dated 1903, you can see the structural improvements that were made to the front of the building, ensuring it’s safety for future generations. In the 1903 image you can also see the addition to the rear of the building.

Warren County Courthouse Lithograph, Warren County Atlas, 1875
Warren County Courthouse photograph, Warren County Centennial Atlas, 1903

In the Commissioner’s Journal Entry it is said: “the Court House Building in Lebanon said County and find on excavating alongside of outside walls of building, the plank foundations on which stone walls are built has become extremely rotten and thoroughly decayed as to be useless for the purposes for which they were originally intended so much so as to endanger the safety of the building owing to the decay of said timer foundations the outside walls have settled outward to such an extent to crack the brick walls causing them to crack in some places also to strain and break the timbers supporting Copola over court room so as to make the same dangerous and unsafe and from the general condition of the building caused by a general decay of the foundations. I deem said Building unsafe for occupancy and should be taken down this in my Judgement is the best and most economical plan that can be adopted from the fact the entire outside foundations will have to be taken out and rebuilt on solid ground involving the shoring up of entire Building and the taking out of the entire west wall from foundation to roof.” -Henry Bevis, Architect


Good Riddance 2020…Hello 2021

2020 Top 5 Countdown

As we wind down 2020, the Records Center & Archives reflects on the year and their top moments. We would like to share our top 5 with you this week!

In at #5 is our oral history program! While we haven’t been able to conduct oral histories, that hasn’t stopped us from sharing our experience with others. In 2020 we participated in two presentations where we shared our experiences in creating and conducting oral histories with other archivists. In addition, our employee Ted Hitchens worked diligently at transcribing our existing oral histories. We are so proud of the histories we have preserved and we are hopeful for the future of this program and preserving other Warren County residents histories.

In at #4 are our new exhibits! While it feels like a lifetime ago, we created 2 new exhibits in 2020:

– 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage, located at the Warren County Administration Building and a smaller duplicated version located at Warren County Board of Elections

– Exploding a Forgotten Town into a Booming Society: Kings Mills, located in the Records Center & Archives reading room

– Rightfully Hers, NARA Pop Up Exhibit, was located in the lobby of the Common Pleas Court Building

In at #3 is our Recorder’s Office Digitization Project! Over the past year our Microfilm Department has been working diligently at digitizing the bulk of our Recorder’s Office records so that they can be more accessible. This project has been a great example of how we work with other departments to help support our mission statement combined with their needs. We want to extend a huge shoutout to our Microfilm staff, Jana Wells (recently retired), Shayla Wheat, Donna Barnes, and Maria Hummel (summer intern) for digitizing over 50 oversized volumes. Thank you ladies for all of your hard work!

In at #2 is our ability to continue with our Education Outreach Program despite the social distancing of 2020! At the beginning of 2020, our school visits were off to a great start until March and quarantine quickly changed for everyone. Since being back in the office we were able to duplicate the presentation that is typically shared in person and upload it to the Warren County Records Center and Archives YouTube page!While this is no match for the impact of seeing our primary sources in person, it has given us the chance to keep the relationships we’ve built with the local school communities open. Be sure to head over to our YouTube page and check them out if you haven’t yet!

In at #1 is our indexing and digitization progress!

As part of our mission statement, we want to provide the highest level of accessibility to our historic records as we can. Although this year has been challenging, it has given us the chance to step up our indexing and digitizing and making it all accessible to you! Included, but not limited to, in this long list of projects we’ve completed are:

– Naturalization Index and Images
– Commissioners Indexes 4 & 5
– OCP Boxes 60-65
– Birth Record Index & Images Volumes 1 & 2
– Death Record Index & Images Volumes 1-3

If you haven’t had a chance to check out all of the records we have made available, we encourage you to head over to our website and take a look!


Cause of Death: Shipwreck

Friday’s #FascinatingFind in the archives comes from our Probate Death Records.

Archival Specialist, Tori Roberts, has spent a good part of 2020 indexing the historic Probate Death Records so we can make these available to the public with images on our website. While processing Book 3 she came across an entry dated 1898 with the cause of death being “shipwreck” and location being “Pacific Ocean”. Upon further research this entry had an interesting story behind it.

The deceased was a local man named Horace “Hob” Palmer, as he was called in the Western Star. It turns out Hob was an Engineer who was trying his hand at prospecting. The discovery of gold in the Yukon in 1896, led to a gold rush in the subsequent years and Warren County’s own Hob wanted to take part.

The Western Star provides news about his going away party, thrown by Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Waggoner where they played cards and served lunch and departed in the late hours, wishing him luck on his journey. On March 8, 1898 Hob then travelled south to Cincinnati and from there he travelled west to Seattle “where he will purchase supplies and an outfit to enter the Alaskan gold fields”. In a letter published on the front page of the Western Star by Hob on April 5, 1898, he details his trip across the country, the setup in Seattle, and his plans for prospecting. The trip was short lived for Hob, lasting just over two months total, where on May 22, 1898, the Schooner Jane Gray goes down about ninety miles west of Cape Flattery. Horace Palmer was one of the 34 people to go down with the vessel. One of the 27 survivors noted in an article printed in the San Francisco Call, that “They saw the schooner take her final plunge into the black waters and told us that though they were at her side not a cry came from any of those who perished.”


Xmas Eve 1963 – Jim Sheets’ Memory of The Silver Street Jail

I had been working as a volunteer “special deputy” sheriff since turning 21
in March. I was a student at Ohio Wesleyan and worked as a dispatcher
and jailor. I would also ride along with the road deputies, mostly at night,
as a backup and help keep them awake. You get to know a person fairly
well wandering the roads, hills and “hollers” with a cop, after midnight, in a
patrol car. I too was a cop with a gun and a badge but didn’t really
consider myself a “real” cop. I was just 21 and a college kid.

Jim Sheets, 1963


It was Xmas eve in 1963 and I had volunteered to do both the midnight
and morning shift as dispatcher and jailor so the guys with kids and
families could go about their holiday. I’m sure there was at least one road
deputy on call…we were hoping for a slow night and it was. I had a
couple of radios to monitor, telephones to answer and one prisoner in the
jail and not much of a prisoner at that.

Silver Street Jail, The Warren County Centennial Atlas, 1903


Archie Quinton Knight was the only “guest” that night. I say guest
because I don’t think he was an actual prisoner. More of a hobo from
either Kentucky or Tennessee. This was, I think, his third Xmas in the
Warren Co. Jail. His first two years were earned as he would get drunk
somewhere or break a window somewhere to get noticed. It always got
him “three hots and a cot” in the cold Ohio winter. Finally the Sheriff and
Judge somehow decided the justice would be best served if Archie would
simply show up at the jail for a stay without passing through a court and
without getting drunk and breaking windows. This is what today we call
“win-win”.

Silver Street Jail, 2017


By that time Archie had become a “trusty” and would do chores around
the building, run some errands and make coffee. His cell wasn’t locked. If
we locked him out he would just start getting drunk and breaking windows
so as to get himself locked back “in”. A persistent little cuss.
It was about 0400 and all through the jail the radios were hissing and the
telephones weren’t ringing. Altogether an excellent Xmas morning in the
Warren Co. Jail. I heard Xmas carols with a guitar accompanying. I went
back to the cells and invited Archie to join me for Xmas morning coffee.
That turned into a regular thing and that is how I learned to play the guitar.
Jim Sheets

Cell inside Silver Street Jail, 2015


Gruesome Twosome: Another Horrible Murder

On December 15th of 1881, Warren County citizens indulged in a newspaper article titled “Another Horrible Murder.” The headline indicates that this county was no stranger to horrible murders and this news story should come as no shock. The article plays out the scene of the crime and continues in such a way as a thrilling daytime soap opera, except this was no soap opera.

The key actors in this gruesome story are as follows:

  • John Ganyon and his wife Elizabeth, murderers
  • Christopher Duffee, victim
  • Mrs. Duffee, Charley and Lena Romohr, bystanders

While the details of what led to this most atrocious act of violence vary from actor to actor, the fact is that a man was beaten this night by John and Elizabeth Ganyon. Christopher Duffee walked away from the beating but fell dead some days later.

Western Star, December 15, 1881
https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/p16007coll84/id/12042/rec/1
Western Star, December 15, 1881
https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/p16007coll84/id/12042/rec/1
Western Star, December 15, 1881
https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/p16007coll84/id/12042/rec/1
Western Star, December 15, 1881
https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/p16007coll84/id/12042/rec/1

Mr. and Mrs. Duffee were from Clinton County and he died in said county, so the Warren County Records Center and Archives does not have the Coroner’s Report with the exceptionally gruesome details. What we do have is the court case, The State of Ohio vs. John Gonyon and Elizabeth Gonyon. Within the case, the Indictment includes the most important of details regarding what actually transcribed that fatal night.

State of Ohio vs. John Gonyon and Elizabeth Gonyon

“…did unlawfully, purposely and maliciously make an assault, and with a certain piece of iron which they, the said John Gonyon and Elizabeth Gonyon then and there had and held…then and there unlawfully purposely and maliciously giving to the said Christopher Duffee, in the fore part of the head of him, the said Christopher Duffee one mortal wound, of the length of three inches, of the width of one fourth of an inch, and of the deapth of one sixth of an inch, of which said mortal wound he, the said Christopher Duffee, on and from…did languish, and languishing did live, on which said ninth day of December…of the mortal wound aforesaid, died…”

State of Ohio vs. John Gonyon and Elizabeth Gonyon

In the end, the jury found John Gonyon guilty and sentenced him to four and a half years at the state penitentiary and Elizabeth was let off of any charges.


Maria Hummel’s Internship during COVID-19

Hello, my name is Maria Hummel and I had the fortunate opportunity to intern at Warren County’s Archive and Records Center this past summer. I am a graduate student in Kent State University’s online MLIS program, where I am studying to become an archivist. At first, I was uncertain if I would have this opportunity because of COVID-19. Back in March, when quarantine was implemented, I was told that the internship was canceled for the summer. However, by the end of May, the quarantine was over for Ohio and I was informed that the internship was back on for the summer. I was so happy when I found out the internship was still happening. Even with all the precautions, the Records Center’s staff had to take to ensure the health and safety of everyone, I had an enjoyable learning experience. The working atmosphere was wonderful, and I felt so welcomed by everyone. Everyone was very helpful and always willing to answer my numerous questions.

I learned how to digitize books, by scanning them on a book scanner. Also, I learned how to process and perform quality control of the images I scanned. I spent most of my summer working on digitizing Range and Township books from the Records Office. I ended up scanning a total of 12 books! I also got to process part of the Estates collection housed in the Archive. When I was not doing either of these two tasks, I would perform quality control on microfilm or work on the Kings Mills exhibit for the display case in the Archive. One of my favorite things I did this summer was working on the Kings Mills exhibit. I helped come up with the topic, do research for it, design panels, and install the exhibit. If you are interested in seeing the exhibit, just call the Archive to schedule an appointment to come in. I am very grateful for this internship because it helped me experience the daily work life of an archivist and gain invaluable archival skills. Thank you to Jen, Jenifer, Tori, Ted, Shayla, Jana, and Donna for everything this summer!


Fun Fact Friday – Mt. Holly

Researching small towns in Warren County proves typically reveals fun facts that we never knew and most people have forgotten. Although we did not choose Mt. Holly to feature in our newest exhibit, we would still like to highlight some of the fun facts we uncovered!

Warren County Wall Map, 1867

#1 – Mt. Holly was founded by Jacob Pearson, July 1833

#2 – There was a Distillery ran by E. H. Spence in the early 1800’s

Warren County Atlas, 1875

#3 – Joseph Chenoweth established a Saw Mill in 1815

#4 – The town had a connection to the well known Satterthwaite family, John Satterthwaite established a Grist Mill in 1818

#5 – There were three local Revolutionary War Soldiers buried in Mt. Holly – Stephen Kenney (Kinney), John Sanders, and Daniel Stump

Warren County Centennial Atlas, 1903

Armco Summer Camp: 1980 Edition

As Ohio summer camps open this week, following the social distancing guidelines as the result of COVID-19, we would like to showcase one of our favorite collections. The Records Center and Archives received this small collection from the Warren County Parks District. Their current office is located at Warren County Armco Park, formerly a privately owned company park called Armco Park. Butler County Historical Society has a wonderful write up of the history of this beautiful park. The most exciting part of this collection were multiple years of Summer Camp scrapbooks.

As with most scrapbooks, they posed a challenge for us when processing. Mainly because it is a mixture of photographs, non-archival paper, and lots and lots of adhesive. We went back and forth about how best to preserve this collection so that we maintained the integrity of the materials and also the story our collection is telling. Ultimately we decided it was best to take the pages out of the binding and store the scrapbooks in sleeves within an archival box. This way the materials can be maintained while we are also able to enjoy the stories that the park employees wanted to tell.

We hope you enjoy this collection as much as we have enjoyed processing it!


National Women’s History Month – First Women of Warren County

As we wrap up #NationalWomensHistoryMonth we would like to highlight the many first women who help to run this wonderful county. Including these women is important because they have blazed the path for future women in these roles within Warren County. We hope you have enjoyed the list of first women of Warren County as much as we have enjoyed this project!

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Tiffany Zindel, LinkedIn

First County Administrator – Tiffany Zindel, 2016-Current

  • Tiffany is the first woman to be appointed as County Administrator. She began working for the county in 1986, working in the Office of Management and Budget, moving up to Director of OMB, Assistant County Administrator and then being promoted to County Administrator in 2016.  

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Gray, Schwartz, Miranda, South, Unknown – 2003

First Records Manager/Archivist – Pamela Spetter Schwartz, 1998 – 2008

  • Orchestrated the organization of the Records Center and Archives in the Administration Building

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Melissa Bour, LinkedIn

First Female Director of Warren County Emergency Services – Melissa Bour, 2017-Current

  • Melissa has worked for Warren County for almost 20 years, starting as Emergency Communications Officer in 2000 and was promoted to Director in 2017

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First Female Common Pleas Court Administrator – Jennifer Burnside, 2012-Current

  • First Female Common Pleas Court Administrator, appointed to the position in 2012 that she still currently holds