Tag Archives: research

Murder & Mystery in a Small Town – “Based on a True Story”

Today’s “Based on a True Story” is one of intrigue, adventure, and the untimely demise of  a local celebrated Civil War hero. What we are presenting are images of county records regarding Captain William R. Hoel along with a short historical fiction story based on the events that led up to his death on May 23, 1879.

William Hoel had led an adventurous life prior to the inheritance of his father’s farm “Kildere”.  He began his career as a Steamboat Captain upon the Mississippi River and on October 19, 1861, William joined the Navy and was eventually promoted to Captain. Following the Civil War and his father’s death, Captain Hoel became a farmer in the quiet village of Waynesville Ohio. Here he fathered two children with his young and beautiful wife Elizabeth. This fairy tale of the celebrated war hero turned local socialite and doting husband and father was anything but. Captain Hoel put on a great face of enjoying his domestic and stationary life, but deep down he longed for the days where he was able to move about freely. This longing soon turned into anger and abuse towards his young wife. He blamed their supposed domestic bliss for his inability to live the life he truly dreamed of.

In the desperation to rid herself of her abusive husband, Elizabeth hashed out a plan with her close friend and confidant Dr. J.B. Hough. The local doctor was well known in the community and it wasn’t uncommon for him to visit the farm and attend to the hired help. Knowing Hoel’s rage and jealousy over his young and beautiful wife, she and the doctor planned a meeting and let slip to the hired help of their plans. Upon hearing this Captain Hoel hashed his own plan to interrupt their tryst with his pistol. What he didn’t know is that the intentions of Elizabeth and Doctor Hough were anything but romantic; they were prepared for his assault upon finding them together on that fateful day.

The story goes that Captain Hoel surprised the lovers and during a scuffle with the Doctor, Hoel was accidentally shot with his own pistol. There was a makeshift investigation where Elizabeth and Dr. Hough’s stories stayed consistent. No one truly knows what went down that fateful day, all that is known is Elizabeth spent her remaining days raising her two children on Kildere Farm in peace and quiet.

Be sure to tune in next week and find out what new “Based on a True Story” we come up with!

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Initial Verdict – Clerk of Courts – Coroner’s Inquests, Box 1 Folder 1 – In this record, the acting Coroner (Justice of the Peace, William Mannington) determines the cause of death was “a pistol ball fired from a pistol (in whose hands said pistol was I am unable to say)”

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Witness Testimony – Clerk of Courts – Coroner’s Inquests, Box 1 Folder 1 – In this testimony the witness claims to have seen Mrs. Hoel and Dr. Hough embracing and kissing, which led Captain Hoel to unlock the parlor door and storm in on the two

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Captain William Hoel’s Last Will & Testament – Volume 21 Page 221

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Captain William Hoel’s Last Will & Testament – Volume 21 Page 222


Historical Fiction: Based on a True Story

Historical Fiction has played a major roll in all modern cultures. People are fascinated with retelling stories that feature characters from history or recreating “the better times” by entering fictional characters into historically accurate events. The genres of entertainment that this topic covers includes movies, plays, books, music, and operas to name a few. We also like to refer to these as the “Based on a True Story” fictions. Examples of these in modern day would be series or movies such as The Crown, The Greatest Showman, and Braveheart to name a few.

What we would like to do is take some key characters and settings from the Warren County Records Center & Archives material and come up with our own historical fiction short stories. This series will debut on Monday and a new story will be featured each Monday in March of 2018. We encourage you to follow along with various characters, situations, and landscapes from our very own history!

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Who Wore It Better?

The legacy left by President Abraham Lincoln has inspired generations since his assassination on April 15, 1865. Today we are focusing on one in particular, his beard.


Image of Abraham Lincoln courtesy of Library of Congress, Image of Professor Alfred Holbrook, donated by Jeanne Longmuir

While visiting a group of first graders in December I shared some photographs donated to the Records Center from the National Normal University. We were discussing the changes over time of people’s needs vs. wants and how style has changed over time. These inquisitive young minds were quick to point out that Professor Alfred Holbrook (President of NNU from 1855-1897) resembled President Lincoln, and they are right.

The story behind his beard was that 11 year old Grace Bedell wrote to the Presidential candidate encouraging him to grow a beard because it would help fill out his very thin face. The history behind men’s facial hair is as long as it is fascinating and this story just adds to the interest of how one mans choice can influence a generation. The image of Holbrook dates long after President Lincolns death and it must be noted that the students at the National Normal University do not share this facial hair style with their elder counterpart. So although the trend had moved on, those who lived during Lincoln’s Presidency kept this trend alive.

For further reading check out the following links:

Library of Congress

Lincoln: A Beard Is Born

The Elusive House History

As the keeper of the historic Warren County Records, we get a lot of requests for the history on houses, properties, and previous property owners. Through our time spent with these records over the years we have found that this is no easy feat. We find ourselves wishing there was a database that existed where we could just type in the address and receive the information. Unfortunately this is not the case so we thought we would give you a glimpse into our best process in which to narrow down a date for your old house at a county archives.

The best first step is to check with any existing online databases within your county. It’s a far reach that if your house was built in the 19th century that the information will exist, but it’s worth a shot. In addition you can always google your address and see what pops up.

There are two best second steps to determine who owned the property before you. Sometimes if your county has old maps and you can narrow down where your property is on those maps, you can see who owned the property in that year. Many times these maps will also indicate whether there was a structure on the property. If this effort is fruitless you can contact whichever county department that keeps the historic deeds. For example in Warren County the historic deeds are kept in our Recorder’s Office. Have as much information ready when starting your search, such as: parcel id, your date of purchase, current property owner, and address.

Once you have determined who previously owned the property, the third step can be to research through the historic tax duplicates. In the case of Warren County, these are available through the Records Center and Archives. Our tax duplicates are organized by year, township, and property owner. By researching previously paid taxes, you can narrow the information down to when the property owner paid taxes on land and when taxes increased indicating a structure being built on the property.

Included below is a link from The National Trust for Historic Preservation titled “10 Ways to Research you Home’s History.” This list is a great way to aid your search outside of official county records.

10 Ways to Research Your Home’s History – National Trust for Historic Preservation

1-19-18 The Centennial Atlas, 1903 - 16

Image The Centennial Atlas, 1903

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Image The Centennial Atlas, 1903

1-19-18 The Centennial Atlas, 1903 - Map 5

Image The Centennial Atlas, 1903

Wait, Landen Lake hasn’t always been there?

This is one of our favorite local histories to teach during our Education Outreach program at J.F. Burns Elementary School. In our blog post last week “Teaching With Township Maps” we pointed out how we can help kids to tell their local history through comparing these County Maps.
We like to take them back to 1903, 1944, and finally to a current map. I will point out where their school is located and then ask them to tell me what is currently across the street, Landen Lake. Then I ask them to tell me what is across the street on the earlier township maps. It is so much fun to see their eyes light up when they realize that Landen Lake has not always been there! It was once known as Simpson’s Creek, which we then proceed to ask them to tell us how they think it became a lake. Their answers are always interesting and full of imagination!
This is one amazing example of how the historic maps can be utilized within our community. These records are open and available to the public and our staff would love to help you research properties within the area!

Edited 1903 Deerfield Township Map


Edited 1944 Deerfield Township Map


Edited 2017 Deerfield Township Map

Teaching With Township Maps

Recently we pointed out a large map cabinet that is located in our reading room. (If you haven’t seen it, be sure to go over and check it out on our Facebook page using this link: Warren County Records Center and Archives FB ) The outside is unassuming and seemingly just another piece of office storage. Contained inside though is a vast collection of the history of Warren County. One of our greatest reference tools for helping patrons and genealogists are the maps contained within our Records Center and Archives reading room.

One of our favorite uses of these township maps is to teach young students how to trace their local history by utilizing the information contained within the maps. We have been able to help these students create a real connection between where their schools and neighborhoods are to what was once there. What they have found are vast changes in the types of jobs that Warren County residents may have had, whether they lived in neighborhoods like we do today, changes in transportation within the county, and how the landscape has changed drastically in just a few short decades.

Creating this connection for patrons and students is always a joy to watch because it provides an understanding of how Warren County became what it is today. These maps also provide a quick reference point for old land records. We have helped people who were looking for old family plots of land or performing house histories to determine where and who owned the land! The maps included in our map cabinet date back to the early 1900’s and include township maps, Ohio railroad maps, cemetery maps, and even some county blue prints.


Clearcreek Township Map, Created in 1942 and approved in 1944


Hamilton Township Map, Created in 1942 and approved in 1944

“I Consent.” Invaluable Historical Records

The Warren County Records Center and archives receives a number of research requests each year. One of our favorites to handle are the marriage consents. These consents accompany our marriage record and marriage license issued records and date back to 1803.

Generally the requests that we receive regarding these relatively unknown records come from genealogists or people conducting their own family history. Early in the 1800’s the information included in a typical marriage record was: Groom’s name, Bride’s name, Date of marriage, County Clerk who issued paperwork, and sometimes the officiant name. For those people who are trying to trace their lineage back through earlier generations it is extremely inconvenient when there are no birthdays or parent’s names included in the paperwork. The reason the consents are so valuable and cool is because if someone were underage at the time of their marriage, their parent or parents would have to sign over their consent for the marriage to take place. With this additional information, researchers have been able to find family information that might forever be lost otherwise.


Marriage Consent, August 25, 1803


Marriage Consent, August 25, 1803


Marriage Consent, October 22, 1816


Marriage Consent, October 22, 1816

Vote Counting Controversy…

As we have seen in the past, the election results are not always as cut and dry as they seem. This Court of Common Pleas case “Conrod Snyder vs. John Hopkins,” following the election of Sheriff in 1823 is the perfect example!

The declared winner for Warren County Sheriff was John Hopkins, which would be the 4th year in a row in which he served as Sheriff. Prior to Mr. Hopkins, Conrod Snyder had held the position from 1817-1820. These two men, along with Allen Wright, were on the ballot of 1823.

Following the election, Mr. Snyder claimed that he was the rightful winner and accused the Clerk of Common Pleas Court along with two Associate Judges of counting the votes without waiting for the required amount of days to pass. The Clerk along with the Judges counted the votes four days after the election as opposed to the required six days. As a result they had failed to receive the poll books for Franklin Township.

As we can see from the images below, Mr. Snyder was the clear winner over Mr. Hopkins. Following the controversy, Mr. Hopkins submitted his resignation as Sheriff of Warren County. Conrod Snyder would serve just this one additional year, John Hopkins was elected to the post of Sheriff the following election season.


Conrod Snyder vs. John Hopkins


Conrod Snyder vs. John Hopkins

Death Records and their Usefulness as a Research Tool

The idea of being able to use death records for research can be a morbid thought. The fact of the matter is that there is an abundance of useful information that exists within these records. First off there are numerous types of death records. For Warren County we have three types available to the general public for research: Statement & Report of Deaths by township 1885-1908, Death Records 1867-1908, and Coroners Inquests 1873-1908.

Death records can be a great place to start researching family history because they can be one of the most comprehensive record of information about the person when they passed. The death record index and Statement & Report of Deaths typically includes the following information: name, date of death, condition (married, single, widowed), age, place of death, place of birth, occupation, father & mother’s names, race, cause of death, place of residence, and who reported the death. Having all of this information in one place can easily direct researchers to their next destination of records. For instance if you know your great grandmother passed away in Warren County but are unsure of her place of birth these records can provide that information. Another useful type of family research that can be obtained from these records is family medical history.  You can track such genetic health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, cancer, etc.

Tracking the causes of death within a county is fascinating, especially if you survey this information chronologically. The causes of death become more detailed and complex as medical knowledge advanced throughout the decades. In one year you could have the cause of death listed as “kidney disease” and a few years later it is listed as “Bright’s Disease” which shows the isolation of a  type of kidney disease. You can also track the transition of what certain illnesses were reported, i.e. when influenza was previously listed as La Grippe. This also varied according to the physician or individual who reported the death. The introduction of new technology also introduced new causes of death such as “killed by cars” or “killed on railroad”.

The images below represent examples of how these records can be used. The first images include a township that kept useful comprehensive records with all of the requested information. In the next 2 images these show the first recorded death by “flux” also known as “dysentery” in the year 1868. Following this initial case there were 28 sub sequential deaths caused by the spread of dysentery throughout the county.


Salem Township Statement of Deaths, 1887


Salem Township Statement of Deaths, 1887


Salem Township Statement of Deaths, 1887


Warren County Death Record, 1867-1881


Warren County Death Record, 1867-1888