Memories of Growing Up in Yellow Springs

Many thanks to Mike Hughes, son of long-serving mayor of Yellow Springs Leo Hughes, for permitting the Historical Society to share his recollections.

The Forces at 132 North Walnut Street

One of my “most unforgettable characters” who influenced my childhood in Yellow Springs was born in 1862. She had a reputed checkered past which included entertaining wayward gentlemen, to becoming a derelict in her 80’s. On May 2, 1946, my father, Leo, rescued her from a certain demise. After six months of exhaustive rehabilitation, she again became a “respected” member of the community. This is her story seen through my eyes from my birth until I departed for college.

I knew but one home for my first 18 years. It was the place where I would learn to walk, to read, to drop bricks on my older brother John’s head and to play solitary 9-inning games of whiffle ball pitting the lineups of the Cincinnati Redlegs against their rival St. Louis Cardinals. Since I was a somewhat reclusive young lad, I spent more time at home with my imaginary friend, Chiefy Cocoa, than my kindergarten mates. When my brother left for Dartmouth College when I was 14, I became an “only child” even though I had already functioned as one for nearly a decade. However, thanks to a vivid imagination, our Federal-style brick house and small backyard which surrounded me, I was never lonely.

As I became interested in sports, in an effort to tag along with my older brother, I used all of the resources of our relatively diminutive backyard to hone my athletic skills as a solo participant. Our back yard became, during various sporting seasons: a high jump and long jump arena, a football field, a golf course with two closely mown greens and a pint-sized Crosley Field (Cincinnati’s famous baseball park). Most important of all was the basketball hoop mounted on our garage at the end of the driveway. From October to March, the incessant sound of a dribbled basketball could be heard up and down North Walnut Street.

Our front porch and foyer had quite a history as well. On nights long after I had climbed the stairs to my bedroom, there would be occasional visits from Chief of Police, Jimmy McKee. He would usually be accompanied by a citizen who had been involved in a domestic squabble or who had “disturbed the peace”. Rather than take the wayward parties to Court on Monday night, the Chief brought them to receive “counseling” from my father, the Mayor. From the top of the stairs, I listened to the low tones emanating from the porch or foyer which usually lasted about 30 minutes. Usually, I would find out the next morning at breakfast that another “case” had been settled without any need for sentencing or the payment of fines.

But it was the upstairs of the house that generated the most provocative stories. There were four upstairs corner bedrooms as is customary for a Federal architectural design. My bedroom was in the northwest corner. It had a view of the backyard and a clear view of the sky to the west. There were often Air Force planes from Wright Patterson AFB which were visible from my bedroom window. The recurring dream which always resulted in me awakening in a nervous sweat was probably inspired by Sunday night viewings of “The Twentieth Century” which was a weekly documentary of battle scenes from World War II, narrated by venerable Walter Cronkite. The footage that seemed to infiltrate my subconscious was the bombing of London and the retaliation of squadrons of Allied planes dropping bombs on German targets. My dream consisted of me looking out my window to see dozens of German bombers flying overhead about to drop bombs on Yellow Springs, a strategic target due to its proximity to Wright Patterson.

One of the mysteries which was part of the house’s lore were the numbers 1 thru 4 carved into each of the bedroom doors. My mother explained that the house had been used as a hotel when it was built during the Civil War. It was not until I was visiting our neighbor, Bobbi Marshall, after I was released from active U. S. Navy duty, that she showed me a recently published booklet about the storied houses of Yellow Springs which provided an alternate explanation for the rooms to be numbered. According to the story, the house had been a well-known brothel during the Civil War era and one of the mistreated women of ill-repute stayed on after her premature demise to torment male visitors with her ghostly presence. Apparently, my childhood innocence may have been dangerously close to sinister influences. I give thanks to my playmate Chiefy Cocoa’s strong Native American presence which may have been just the protective spirit I needed to keep me safe and sound at notorious 132 North Walnut Street.

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A Vanished Giant

Although these two newspaper clippings did not include the year the were published, a good guess can be made from the age of Samuel Cox in the first article, who would have been 90 in 1923.

Dutch elm disease wiped out most of the elms in the 1950s, and Yellow Springs is fortunate to have the Yellow Springs Tree Committee to advise on tree selection and care and assistance with planting tribute trees.


YELLOW SPRINGS, O., Nov. 17.—An elm tree declared by one botanist to be the largest known tree of the species in the world stands in Walnut st., Yellow Springs. Although the tree was there long before the town, the tree still retains its vigor, and today is a healthy, growing specimen.

Samuel Cox, 90, Yellow Springs’s oldest living citizen, who has lived here all his life, said the tree was old when he first remembered seeing it.

“That big elm tree,” said Mr. Cox, “was here long before Yellow Springs. There was nothing here much except the postoffice in 1846, when the railroad was built. The big tree was part of a timber line which marked the boundary of the old Yellow Springs Hotel place. This house, a summer resort, was owned by Elisha Mills, father of Judge William Mills, whose gift of twenty acres of land determined the location of Antioch college. Dr. Elihu Thorn bought the plot on which the tree stands and built the house in which John Birch now lives, in 1849. About ’53, while the college was being built, Walnut st. was opened up, and since then the big elm has been cared for by the town.”

Mr. Cox also said that although the tree was still in an excellent state of preservation and had never required much attention, the village council has had it trimmed several times and had cut away several other trees to enhance its prominence.

The council, however, did not know that it was the largest tree of its kind in the world. This fact was learned by accident. Elmer E. McCaslin, a former resident, who now lives in St. Louis, learned this when one of his children read it in a botany text book in use in one of the St. Louis high schools. It is believed that the measurements on which this statement is based were made by Prof. Crum, once connected with the department of botany at Antioch. The tree is about eighty feet in height and eleven feet in circumference.


YELLOW SPRINGS, O., Nov. 6.—Yellow Springs boasts the largest elm tree in the world.

Elmer E. McCaslin of St. Louis is authority for the statement. Mr. McCaslin, who is a brother-in-law of Dr. L. L. Taylor, local physician, says that one of his children, while studying botany in a St. Louis public school ran across the statement in a textbook that the largest specimen of the elm tree in the world was in Walnut st., in Yellow Springs, O. The McCaslins formerly lived here and knew the tree well. It stands in the parkway in Walnut st., adjacent to the house now occupied by Mrs. John Birch.

Some of the oldest citizens of the village say that the tree has been the same size as long as they can remember, and accordingly estimate its age as several hundred years.

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Know Your Town — Directory (Final)

The directory section put together by the League of Women Voters in the early 1960s is a good starting point of comparison for the local economy (and in the days before the Yellow Springs News‘ “Red Book”) was a handy tool.

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Deaton’s Hardware History

Taken from a large ad in the 1956 special Centennial edition of the Yellow Springs News:

The History of the DEATON Hardware Company

Yellow Springs was just entering its 70th year of official birth when an ambitious clerk at Tuttle Bros. Hardware, located in Springfield, Ohio, felt that progress in his present job was somewhat limited. Something should be done—not overnight—but some better means of providing for a wife and child should be found. Almost every man dreams of owning a well-stocked hardware store with all the various fascinating tools and Glenn Deaton was no exception. Two factors lead Glenn Deaton to Yellow Springs and opportunity: (1) the interest and help given by Mr. P. M. Stewart (father of Russell B. Stewart) and (2) the prodding of a close acquaintance and true friend for the rest of his life—Ernest Shaw, who was then the Springfield ticket agent for the Springfield-Xenia Traction Line. Mr. Stewart, knowing that the Anderson Hardware Store on Dayton Street was for sale, interested Mr. Deaton who investigated and later purchased the business that was operated by Mr. Clarence Anderson. The building at that time was owned by William and Edward Downey; today, it is occupied by the A-C- Service Company.

Opened Jan. 24, 1927

So it was that on January 24, 1927, the name of the store was changed to Deaton Hardware Company, single proprietorship, starting inventory of $2,697.00, approximately $1,500.00 in debt, but topped with a lot of optimism, hope, courage and best wishes from his many friends. First day says were about like the weather at that time—mighty poor. The cash register didn’t exactly hum with the first day’s receipts of $3.92 but with mouse traps at 3c each, pocket watches at 1.00 each, lunch boxes at 85c each, and cakes of shaving soap at 7c each, it took quite a few sales to add up. As all things go, business got worse before it became better. Three days after opening, according to the record, more snow fell and so did sales. Sales on January 27, 1927 dropped to $1.67! The next ten years showed quite a bit of improvement. Newer and fresher merchandise was added, ideas from helpful jobbers were welcomed, and full advantage was taken of the facilities of the Ohio Hardware association. Mostly the struggle and burden was carried alone by Glenn Deaton during the first 10 years of existence; however, some help was obtained from a faithful, unpaid and unofficial employee, John Confer who now at the age of about 90 resides at the IOOF home in Springfield, Ohio. His assistance took the form of opening shipping boxes, sweeping a little, and serving as unofficial and sometimes disputed moderator of political and economic confabs between the loafers. It was often assumed that John was an employee because of his many years of regular attendance. It was with sadness that his failure to report was noted not long after the removal of the pot bellied stove.

The Pot-Bellied Stove

The stove, the Saturday might loafers, the checker games, the predominant smell of binder twine and rope plus many other modes of the old time store seemed to disappear with the trend of modern merchandising. Due to expanded lines, additional selling space was mandatory. So, in 1936, the building at our present location was purchased from Mrs. Lillian Adams, Xenia, Ohio. Since it had not previously been utilized for retail selling, much work was necessary to remodel the premises then occupied by Axel Bahnsen, photographer. A new store front was added, the floor was lowered four feet, and a 25 foot extension was built to the west. As always before, when earnings were made, they were plowed back into the growing business so that the people of Yellow Springs could have a well stocked hardware store. In addition to the regular builders hardware, tools and paints, other items were added such as small electrical appliances, kitchen ware, sporting goods, gifts and home laundry equipment.

Tragedy Struck

Yellow Springs had seven more years to wait for its centennial when tragedy struck on Xenia Ave. directly in front of Deaton’s Hardware. Called from his home on a Saturday evening, March 5, 1949, to open the store for some badly needed merchandise, Glenn Deaton was struck and killed by an automobile operated by an intoxicated driver. Friends of his—even unknown to the surviviors—came to pay their respects. In the words of the Yellow Springs News (March 10, 1949), “. . . needless to say the community will miss him . . . his interest in all public enterprises was a valuable contribution to the community during the more than two decades in which he was in business here. We will not attempt a full list of the commendable things Mr. Deaton stood for, for those who have known him longer would immediately appear to point out something that we had missed . . .”

It was a mighty big pair of boots to fill. Since that fateful day, with the forward inertia already given and with the help of faithful customers, friends and employees, Deaton Hardware Company has continued to grow. Since that time, still more lines have been added together with newer modern fixtures a basement sales room was built, and store hours changed to keep abreast of modern shopping trends.

Those Who Have Worked Here

This period of almost 30 years of growth could not be done withouthelp and after searching out all sources, we have found that in addition to the help given by Mrs. Glenn Deaton over a score of men and women at one time or another helped either in the capacity of sales clerk, bookkeeper or stock clerk. Each contributed his share to what we are today so tribute is paid to each in the approximate order of their employment: Mrs. Erma Dennison Harley, Charles Spillan, William Beatty, Lyle Goode, N. Pugh, David Jenkins, George Stockrath, Miss Jean Taylor, Anton Holm, Mrs. Grace Onderdonk, William Nickoson, Raymond Hasser, James Jordan, Keith Carpenter, Donald Hutslar, Robert Phillips, Leonard See, Mrs. Leroy Loe, Kenneth Coffman, John Dawson, Warren O”Neil, Lynn Augsburger, and James Amundson. The long time employment record is continually being lengthened by David Jenkins who officially went on the payroll in January 1939. Present emloyees also include Robert Phillips, Kenneth Coffman and James Amundson.

 The past was plotted—the future can be projected. We have grown with the community from a small one-room building to a large modern business establishment. We believe that our past methods will contribute to our future growth so we hereby rededicate ourselves and pledge for the following 100 years—

We depend on quality merchandise for your repeat business. We mut and will satisfy our customers’ demands for high-grade merchandise.

Because of our location in Yellow Springs, we are not saddled with high overhead. Consequentl.y, you can be sure that you p0ay only fair prices for quality goods.

We do not endeavor to specialize in “best sellers” alone. We make every effort to keep a complete stock that will serve our community in the best way.

Many repair or household problems are brought to us daily; we endeavor by constant study and work to keep abreast of the new products being introduced daily so that we can save our customers possibly hours of unnecessary work and worry.

Being a friendly neighbor in Yellow Springs is quite easy and enjoyable but your hardware dealer as well as all employees are also engaged in community enterprises. We all feel that the people here in Yellow Springs are responsible for our livelihood; we are concious of the fact that a better community is a more desirable place to live and to conduct a business.

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From the Antioch Bookplate Archives — 1980s part 8

Another teddy bear design, and a different version of Whisper the Winged Unicorn, as well as a new Garfield design repeat favorite themes.

Robotman (a character from a children’s animated TV series, not the DC Comics Universe superhero) and Ghostbusters pick up on a few science fiction media projects claiming public attention in the mid 1980s.

B-216 is a variation of a perennial favorite for institutional use.

B-230 and B-232 were examples of inspirational poems of anonymous source favored by the Christian bookstore market, but there was always the possibility that someone would claim authorship of a particular poem, and the product containing the poem would have to be withdrawn.


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Miami Township in 1874

The Yellow Springs Historical Society was recently given a map print of Miami Township drawn by A. C.  Chesler,  on the reverse of which are four drawings of buildings in Xenia.

Since Xenia is not in Miami Township, this is somewhat curious, but the explanation is that the print is taken from the 1874 Greene County Atlas.

These early atlas maps are useful because they show the property owner names, and the drawings are full of details of gardening, transportation, fashion, etc.

Thanks to John Kelly of Winter Springs, Florida, for the donation of the map.

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A Summer Kingdom in 1981 (the rest of the court)

(Don’t forget about the Historical Society’s program on gunpowder manufacturing south of Yellow Springs Sunday afternoon…)

See the first part of this photo retrospective of the 1981 Antioch College Shakespeare Festival revival here.


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A Summer Kingdom in 1981 (part 1)

Recently the Historical Society received a donation from Sue Parker of an album of photos taken by Bob Parker of the summer Shakespeare Festival of 1981 when Arthur Lithgow returned to Antioch College to direct a sequence of history plays, the three parts of Henry VI and Richard III, on a special stage constructed behind Birch Hall.

Although there were no captions, some of the participants will be familiar to Yellow Springs residents.

Thanks to Sue for sharing the memories of this event.

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From the Beginning: Wires, Water and Waste

With 90 degree temperatures in the offing we are asked to conserve what we usually take for granted, so it seems appropriate to take a look at how we got here with our village utilities, as laid out in an article from the 1956 Centennial edition of the Yellow Springs News. Bear in mind that Gaunt Park was the site of the village dump at that time.

Town Pump First Utility; Now Have 1.5-Million System

From a single town pump, financed by the infant village in the 1860’s, to a system of service facilities valued at more than $1,350,000 is the history of utilities in Yellow Springs during the first century of its incorporation.

The first municipality owned and operated utilities were the muscle powered water pumps and coal oil (kerosene) or gasoline street lights. Today the village owns electric, water and sewage systems and operates a garbage collection and disposal service.

Many Town Pumps

Residents of the pre-waterworks day eventually could fill their buckets at a number of pumps throughout the village, including Walnut and Cliff Sts., Walnut and Dayton Sts., Davis and Stafford Sts., Xenia Avenue where Deaton’s Hardware is now, Dayton St. and Xenia Ave., Xenia Ave. and Woodrow St. and Marshall and Livermore Sts.

The first streetlights were erected here in 1878. A variety of fuels were used, ranging from kerosene to gasoline to coal oil. Regardless of the fuel, the method of operation was the same. The village hired a man—the fabled lamp-lighter—to refuel and light the lamps each night.

This got to be a bit of a chore for the man with his cart, for by 1896 there were over 100 streetlights in operation.

Electricity in 1910

Although there were bond issues (unsuccessful) and demands for a waterworks thirty years or so before a pumping plant was installed here, the electric utility was the first of the modern-day utilities established.

The first electric power used here was turned on April 28, 1910, snapping electricity into 60 carbon-filament streetlights and the newly-wired Opera House. The power arrangement was paid for through a $6,000 bond issue.

The post office and a number of downtown business houses were the next in line to receive electric power.

At that time, the village was receiving electricity from a small Cedarville power plant. In 1915, the Cedarville plant sold out to the Dayton Power and Light Co., which fed the power to the distributing system here.

In 1930 the contract with the DP&L expired and the village bought electricity from the power plant at Antioch College, which had been supplying some of its own power and added more generators to service the village.

By 1937, the load was increasing to the point that the college bought a 300 horsepower diesel engine to double the plant capacity.

But in 1948, the power needs of the village grew too large for the college plant and a contract was again signed with the Dayton power company.

1165 Electricity Users

Today there are 1165 homes and businesses in the village supplied with electricity.

The electric distribution utility here is not taxed. But the assessment for government purposes recently estimated the value of the utility at $775,000.

In the early days streetlights burned only until midnight, when the power was turned off and the few late-living residents dropped into darkness. Later, power was turned on Monday mornings as well as at sundown, so that housewives with new electric washing machines might do the week’s wash.

Eventually, electrical gadgetry became so advanced that a clock was rigged to turn the streetlights on and off, the lights burned all night and electricity was supplied to homes 24 hours a day.

Long before the first switch was thrown in the Yellow Springs electric system, there were movements for a waterworks here to supply pure water and adequate fire protection. But it was not until 1927 that a $52,000 bond issue for building a water works and mains was approved by voters.

Wells “Filthy” in 1881

Way back in February of 1891 local doctors, professors and students cried “filth” after investigation of public wells. A letter to the REVIEW editor demanded a “pure water supply system.” The doctor maintained that only “cast iron stomachs” had saved the town from ruination and epidemic. That fall, the village council discussed the costs of a standpipe and pump. The REVIEW editor commented then “talk is cheap—but there will very likely be more than talk in the future.”

In 1895, following several block-gutting fires, the village citizens considered a waterworks in special elections. It was repeatedly turned down. One election—on Oct. 4, 1895—saw the waterworks proponents lose their battle by one vote. With 171 votes for a $23,000 waterworks operation and 87 against, the waterworks proponents were one vote shy of the necessary two thirds majority.

Passage was not secrued until the 1920’s.

Waterworks in 1928

In 1927 work was started on the first part of the village waterworks, with a pumphouse at Whitehall Farm. On Sept. 28, 1928, the first tap was made at Whitehall.

The village water utility is now valued at an estimated $300,000. There are now two well fields, the original station north of the village and the other built in 1953 to the southeast on the Faye Funderburg farm. The latest wellfield cost about $18,000 for boring operations and pumping machinery.

There is one 100,000 gallon storage tank (on High St.), as well as machinery to pump, filter and chlorinate the water. Daily water consumption generally runs between 300,000 and 500,000 gallons. The two pumping stations can reach a capacity of about 800,000 gallons a day.

Sanitary Sewers in 1938

The sewage system is a recent development, turned over to the village board of Public Affairs only July 1, 1938, after completion. But outdoor privies had already been outlawed in the village in the 1860’s although the law was not observed.

The total cost of the system came to about $130,000, with a direct village appropriation of $32,000. Most of the work was done as a New Deal Works Project. Administration project. With $96,000 in WPA attributed.

The site for the disposal plant was donated by Hugh Taylor Birch after Glen Helen was proposed as possible sites. Birch also donated $8,200 to cover the extra cost involved in putting the disposal site at its present site rather than in the glen.

The college contributed its system to the village utility, retaining a $6,000 outstanding debt on its system and contributing another $1,388 for obtaining right of way and title to the land used for the disposal plant.l

The sewage system, including the disposal plant, is currently valued for tax purposes at $275,000.

Present plans call for moving the plan down the hill into Glen Helen, as soon as finances permit. The move would eliminate the need of a pumping station to pump the sewage uphill.

Garbage Collection Begun

The subject of municipal garbage collection was first brought up in village council here in 1929, six years after the village dump was opened. It was not until Feb. 29, 1954, that the first official garbage collection was made with a spanking-new garbage packer truck.

The village had pretty well filled its dump by 1954 and according to a statement made by Kahoe at that time, “we now have to do otherwise than in the past.”

Since 1954 garbage collections have been hauled to the Xenia land-fill. The village council has now budgeted for a new disposal site and lawyers are now working on condemning and buying the property.

Funds have also been budgeted for purchase of a new, larger packer truck. The budget call for purchase next year.

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Know Your Town — Organizations/Churches

A few of the organizations active in the 1960s are so still, but many have disbanded or morphed into something else,  and many of the organizations still functioning have faced dwindling memberships and community involvement.

Many local organizations welcome interested new members.

YELLOW SPRINGS COMMUNITY COUNCIL, established in 1942, is a coordinating agency composed of representatives from civic organizations and governmental bodies in the community. Council works through its committees: Arts Council, Community Chest, Recreation, Bloodmobile, United Nations, and Welfare. Monthly meetings are open to the public.

ARTS COUNCIL sponsors classes for children and adults in painjting, modeling, modern dance, ceramics, and other arts. The council also arranges displays and sponsors an annual demonstration of arts and crafts.

BOYS (Business Organizations of Yellow Springs): local businessmen cooperating to increase community awareness of merchandise and services available locally, and collectively supporting activities and programs that benefit the whole community.

CIVIC ASSOCIATION: citizens’ community action group interested primarily in local political activity.

COMMITTEE FOR A COUNTRY COMMON; organizations and landowners cooperating to preserve open space east of Yellow Springs.

FRIENDLY GARDENERS CLUB: performs some civic work, writes a gardening column for the newspaper, and sponsors annual flower shows.

GLEN HELEN ASSOCIATION: organization for the protection of Antioch’s Glen Helen and for the encouragement of the community’s natural areas.

GREENE COUNTY COUNCIL FOR RETARDED CHILDREN: association of parents and other interested people which administers a School for Retarded Children.

LIBRARY ASSOCIATION: promotes the work of the public library and maintains its building and grounds.

MIAMI TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE FOR FAIR PRACTICES: information and action group supporting fair practices in this area.

SENIOR CITIZENS COMMITTEE: provides a social center for those over fifty-five.

VOLUNTEER COMMUNITY SERVICES, established in 1961 and sponsored by Antioch College, is a student-organized and administered organization through which students offer their services, free of charge, to numerous village organizations, upon request. The project is jointly financed by the college and the Yellow Springs Community Chest.

YELLOW SPRINGS ARCHERY CLUB: group of archery enthusiasts of all ages who meet throughout the year and sponsor an archery fete every April.

YELLOW SPRINGS YOUTH CLUB: informal organization for young people and their families, whose activities include recreation, education, and special projects.

National groups which have local representation include:

American Association of University Women; American Home Economics Association; American Legion and Auxiliary; Boy Scouts and Cubs,; Campfire Girls; Continental Association of Funeral and Memorial Societies; Explorers; Girl Scout and Brownies; Girls’ and Boys’ 4-H Clubs; Grange; Free Associated Masons and Order of the Eastern Star; Home Demonstration Club; Independent Order of Odd Fellows and its Lodge, the Rebekahs; Junior Chamber of Commerce; League of Women Voters; Lions and Lioness Clubs; Mental Health Association; National Congress of Parents and Teachers; National Federation of Republican Women; Red Cross; and Women’s Strike for Peace.

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