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On The Road: Xenia, Ohio

Updated on July 20, 2013
"But in looking back at the
 places I've been
 The changes that I've left
 behind
 I look at myself to find
 I've learned the hard way
 every time."
        ~Jim Croce~ 

Hospitality

We moved to Xenia (pronounced Zeen-yuh) at the end of 2007. A city of 27,000, it is the county seat of Greene County and being only twenty miles east of Dayton it is also part of the Dayton Metropolitan Statistical Area. A tidbit of trivia: Xenia is the only city in the US starting with the letter X with a population over 5000.

From the beginning our sojourn here has been a big adventure. We soon discovered that the residents represented well its unique and almost exotic sounding name; it comes from the Greek word ξενία, which means hospitality.

In 1803, the year Ohio attained statehood, a village was founded on the forks of the Shawnee Creeks. Its name was the result of grassroots democracy in action. A committee had several possibilities under consideration when it scheduled a public meeting to make a decision.

The clergyman Robert Armstrong had received a warm welcome in the friendly community and he put forward the idea of using the Greek word. In the voting that followed, Xenia required a tie-breaker but it ultimately triumphed.

Can a place take on the character or meaning of its name? Not sure if there is any scientific method to measure or determine that, but experientially speaking, in this case the answer is yes. Also, in an interesting manifestation of hospitality, Xenia was a crucial hub of the Underground Railroad during the years it was in operation.

This 1848 dipiction of Tecumseh by Benson Lossing is based on a sketch done in 1808.  Lossing mistakenly put him in a British uniform topcoat.
This 1848 dipiction of Tecumseh by Benson Lossing is based on a sketch done in 1808. Lossing mistakenly put him in a British uniform topcoat.

Tecumseh

The first session of the Ohio General Assembly carved Greene County out of the Northwest Territory, which was the Shawnee homeland. A main tribal gathering place, situated just north of Xenia at what is now known as Oldtown, is where Tecumseh (March 1768 - October 5, 1813) was born.

Growing up during the Revolutionary War and westward expansion of the new nation, he was constantly exposed to warfare. Tecumseh, whose name meant shooting star, became a brilliant and influential leader of his people. He cobbled together a large confederacy of Native Americans who opposed the United States.

During the War of 1812, Tecumseh rallied the confederacy to ally with the British in Canada, joining forces with Major-General Sir Isaac Brock to assist in the capture of Fort Detroit. The strategic win was reversed slightly more than a year later when an American naval victory on Lake Erie choked off the British supply lines. The public buildings in Detroit were burned by the retreating Redcoats while Tecumseh and his warriors waged a rear-guard action to slow the US advance.

The American counter-attack, led by William Henry Harrison, was a successful invasion of Upper Canada. On October 5, 1813 American forces launched a decisive assault and were victorious at the Battle of the Thames. Tecumseh was killed on the battlefield near Moraviantown in present-day Ontario. Shortly after his death the tribal leaders of Tecumseh’s grand alliance surrendered to Harrison at Fort Detroit.

On April 3, 1974 300 miles per hour crazy winds flattened downtown Xenia.
On April 3, 1974 300 miles per hour crazy winds flattened downtown Xenia.

Crazy Winds

Xenia has a rather lengthy history of severe storm activity. Prominent local legend says that depending on the translation, the Shawnees referred to the area as the place of the devil wind or the land of the crazy winds. Records reveal that there have been twenty tornadoes in Greene County since 1884.

On April 3, 1974 the crazy winds were nearly apocalyptic. A tornado that measured F5 on the Fujita scale struck with an obliterating intensity. It was a devil wind day in April; at least one hundred forty-eight tornadoes occurred in a twenty-four hour period across the South and Midwest. Known as the Super Outbreak, it was the worse series of tornadoes recorded in the twentieth century.

The one that sliced through the middle of Xenia hit three hundred miles per hour, creating a path of death and destruction. Thirty-three people were killed and one thousand one hundred fifty injured. The downtown section was flattened beyond recognition. More than one thousand homes and businesses were destroyed. Ten thousand people were homeless.

The city's nightmare received coverage on the national news, and President Richard Nixon, who was embroiled in a fight to rescue his presidency, took time away from Washington's Watergate intrigues to visit ground zero.

After the initial shock and mourning, the citizens of Xenia rolled up their sleeves and went to work. Incredibly, by the first anniversary of the devastation, eighty percent of the homes and forty percent of the businesses had been rebuilt.

On September 20, 2000 Xenia was hit by a F4 category tornado. One person was killed and one hundred were injured. What was eerie in the extreme was that the crazy winds followed a path roughly parallel to the 1974 tornado.

Xenia Station is mile post 0.0 of the Little Miami Scenic Trail.
Xenia Station is mile post 0.0 of the Little Miami Scenic Trail.

Railroads & Trails

Xenia was incorporated in 1817 and became a city in 1834. Railroads were crucial to its development; the Little Miami Railroad, running along the Little Miami River, pushed northward from Cincinnati and reached Xenia in 1845. It brought an influx of commerce and became the catalyst for industrial growth.

Progress pressed on and Xenia kept pace with all the transitions and changes. The twentieth century came and went, leaving massive transformations in its wake. In 1960, Xenia was served and dependent on three freight railroads, but today there are none. The last sections of track were abandoned and torn up in 1989.

A practical resourcefulness and vision took hold; the former Little Miami Railroad was developed into the Little Miami Scenic Trail. A rails-to-trails system stretches out in four directions from Xenia on over one hundred forty miles of paved trails that are car-free corridors. With such a web of bike trails, is it any wonder that the sign on the water tower refers to Xenia as the Bicycle Capital of the Midwest. There is always a place to ride and explore in Greene County.

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    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      Very interesting. I grew up in northern Ohio and it is such a beautiful state. I didn't know the history of that ares of the state. Thanks for a good hub.

    • RevLady profile image

      RevLady 7 years ago from Lantana, Florida

      I enjoyed reading about life in Xenia, Ohio. its history, joys and challenges. Thank you for the education Ken.

      It is sad how you can live right next door and know absolutely nothing about your neighboring state.

      Well, though my education is belated, I appreciate the information and the selected pictures.

      Forever His,

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I have never gotten to Ohio, although it seems I might have grown up there if my father did what he wanted. I am told he went there for a job back in the 1930's. However, my mother refused to go there so we went to Minnesota where my parents both originated from

    • Vladimir Uhri profile image

      Vladimir Uhri 7 years ago from HubPages, FB

      Great information, thanks.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      pamela99 - Thank you. I have a lot of friends in northern Ohio, around Ashland.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      RevLady - Thank you. And you're welcome. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      dahoglund - I have found Ohio to be a pretty & friendly place. Though I have only been to Minnesota a few times I'd say the same thing about it.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Vladimir Uhri - You're welcome. Thank you for stopping in & giving it a read.

    • profile image

      Sarah Pierson 7 years ago

      Good article! I hope you get to connect with my son & his wife sometime that live in Xenia, OH. as well=:D Take Care! Hi to your wife for me!!!

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Thanks, Sarah. We are buried in snow this morning. Looks more like southern Ontario than southern Ohio. :>)

    • Hannah Ministries profile image

      Hannah Ministries 7 years ago

      Thank you so much for this HUB. I never knew this. And to be honest I need some hospitability right know, so your HUB spoke to my heart! I'm in the proces of moving this end of week to San Antonio Tx for my husband to finsih college to become a minister of the word. Thanks for your HUB.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Hannah Ministries - You're welcome. Thank you for reading & commenting. I have been through San Antonio once on a train. I want to go back & spend some time seeing all that history up close. Best wishes & encouragement to you & your husband on your journey.

    • godpreacher profile image

      godpreacher 7 years ago from Atlanta,Ga.

      Ken,

      Now I feel like I've actually been there. Great hub, filled with history, and great pics.

    • JetterV7 profile image

      JetterV7 7 years ago from Angola, IN

      Nice job Ken. We lived just outside of Cincinnati back then and I remember going to Xenia with my parents to see the damage. It was unbelieveable. Thanks for the history and look forward to more hubs!

    • Cari Jean profile image

      Cari Jean 7 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      Never been to Ohio but Xenia sounds like a very interesting place.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      godpreacher - Thanks for reading & sharing comments. Very much appreciated.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      JetterV7 - Thank you for your encouraging words. I look at the pictures now & I cannot imagine the devastation.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Cari Jean - Always happy to see you. Thanks for stopping in. Peace & blessings to you.

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 7 years ago from Arizona

      Ah, the small towns of America and their histories are a pleasure of mine. Thanks for sharing. Having been a stones throw from there several times If I ever get back I'll have to visit the town.Thanks!

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      50 Caliber - You're welcome. And if you ever stop into Xenia for a visit & I'm still here, you'd better give me a shout so we can hash over & solve some of the world's problems face to face. Peace & blessings to you.

    • profile image

      Linda Myshrall 7 years ago

      Ken, excellent work on this. It appears that we might share a few interests... history, a healthy respect for the powers of nature, and hospitable locations. I live in Savannah, GA, known as the "The Hostess City of the South." I guess y'all have the north covered! I will most definitely find my way to Xenia when next I am up that way. Thumbs up on this one.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Thank you, Linda. A good friend lived in Savannah for several years. We visited in the summer of 2000 & found the city & sites to be wonderful. I'd certainly enjoy a return visit.

    • susansisk profile image

      susansisk 7 years ago from Georgia, USA

      Enjoyed reading this. Hope you are not in the tornado path.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Susan - I am glad you enjoyed it. No, not in the path it took in '74, but the winds really are crazy around here. Peace & blessings to you.

    • prettydarkhorse profile image

      prettydarkhorse 7 years ago from US

      Oh I want to go to Ohio, never been there, Thanks ken for this one, I love the way you featured everything and the way you write, will read some more, Maita

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      You're welcome, Malta. Thank you for your kind words. Hope to see you here for coffee some time. :>)

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

      I haven't been to Xenia. I enjoyed your fine, descriptive Hub about this city. Thanks for the journey.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Thanks, James. Glad to see you & pray that you are doing well & still kicking.

    • Daniel Townsend profile image

      Daniel Townsend 7 years ago

      Very interesting hub. My father grew up in Springboro, Ohio, near Xenia, and I have heard the story of the Xenia tornado of '74 many times growing up.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Thank you, Daniel. Glad you stopped in.

    • AnythingArtzy profile image

      AnythingArtzy 7 years ago from OHIO

      Hi from a fellow Ohioan Hubber also living in a historic town, Marietta.

      I remember when those tornadoes hit Zenia. It was devastating. Great Hub.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Greetings. Thanks for stopping in & sharing. Very much appreciated. Blessings to you.

    • Kay Creates profile image

      Kay Creates 7 years ago from Ohio

      I've enjoyed learning more about Xenia.I've only passed by. Perhaps someday I'll have a chance to stop and explore. I remember watching the news coverage of the horrible tornado in 74 and praying for the people of Xenia.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Kay Creates - Thanks for stopping in & sharing. I'm glad you enjoyed the visit.

    • profile image

      emeraldkell 6 years ago

      Very nice hub. Growing up in Northern Ohio I too have never known much about that part of the state. My anscetors came to Ohio in 1800 from Bourbon County, Kentyucky where our pioneer was born in 1763. I've always been interested in the history of Ohio. I've been to Xenia a couple of times but never really explored the area.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
      Author

      Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      emeraldkell - Thank you. Hope you get a chance to explore the area some time. It's rich in history.

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