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Greene County Room Digital Collections


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Gem City Bellbrook Club

Simon Sparks (April 24, 1832 -January 1906) was born in Bellbrook, Ohio to Ephraim and Mary (Elwell) Sparks. At the age of nineteen, he went to Springfield, Ohio to study as a machinist and spent the next few decades working in Richmond, Indiana, before finally settling in Dayton, Ohio, where he founded Dayton Engine Works. Though he had left, Sparks maintained his love for his hometown of Bellbrook.

In 1896, Simon Sparks founded the Gem City Bellbrook Club, an organization for former Bellbrook, Ohio residents who had moved to Dayton, Ohio. The Gem City Bellbrook Club held its first meeting at the home of Frank G. Hale on September 3, 1896. The club’s purpose was to “refreshen the minds with old acquaintances of the past.” At its inaugural meeting, members elected Simon Sparks president, Charles C. Austin vice-president, Grant Grimes secretary, and William H. Harmon treasurer. Honorary membership was awarded to those who had resided in Bellbrook prior to 1846.

The group held meetings twice per month at members’ homes where the members sang, played music, recited poetry and told stories, all dedicated to their hometown of Bellbrook. Once a year, the group made the two and a half hour journey from Dayton to Bellbrook for their annual picnic at Berryhill Grove, except for when they attended the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. The club remained active until Spark’s death, holding its last known meeting in September 1906.

The Scrapbooks

Starting in 1893 until his death, Simon Sparks saved clippings of articles on Bellbrook’s pioneer history from the Bellbrook Moon newspaper. He organized these articles into four scrapbooks. After his death, Sparks left the scrapbooks to his close friend and fellow Gem City Bellbrook Club member, William H. Harmon. Then James R. Hale came into possession of the scrapbooks after Harmon’s death in 1907. Years later, Hale donated the scrapbooks to the Winters Library in Bellbrook, Ohio.

Bellbrook Moon Newspaper

In 1883, the Magnetic Springs Company founded the Bellbrook Magnet newspaper. After only two years, the paper was sold to Morgan Fudge, who renamed it the Bellbrook Moon. Fudge owned and edited the paper until he sold it to John H. Racer in 1891. During Racer’s tenure as owner/editor of the Moon, he began publishing articles on Bellbrook’s pioneer history and the families who settled it. In 1901, John Franklin Newland bought the Moon and operated the paper until he sold it to W. J. Galvin in 1905. Galvin owned the paper for only a year before he sold it to Win C. Tufts in 1906, who combined the paper with the Spring Valley Blade to form the Twin City Vidette, thus ending the Bellbrook Moon.
The known dates for editors/publishers of the Bellbrook Moon are E.L. Tiffany and John L. Elcook (1883-1885, as the Bellbrook Magnet), Morgan Fudge (1885-1891), John H. Racer (1891-1901), Val Sims (1891-1892, editor only), Emma Racer (1901, editor only), John Franklin Newland (1901-1905), W.J. Galvin (1905-1906).

The Scrapbooks Rediscovered

In the years following their donation to the Winters Library in Bellbrook, Ohio, the scrapbooks were forgotten about until Mary Sherman, Head Librarian from 1966-1973, rediscovered the scrapbooks in the library’s attic. Spurred on by her new discovery, Sherman began giving presentations on the scrapbooks and Bellbrook’s history to local communities and school groups.

With the help of the Jaycee Wives, the Lions Club, and other community groups, Sherman’s successor Barbara Blair, Head Librarian from 1973-1986, undertook the task of preserving the scrapbooks by having them encapsulated and microfilmed in 1982 at Wright State University. For decades, the scrapbooks were available for use at the Winters Library until the original scrapbooks were moved in 2011 to the Greene County Room – Local History and Genealogy department at the Xenia Community Library in Xenia, Ohio.

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