Former Ohio governor’s local, historic home a living monument

BUTLER COUNTY — If there are any ghosts lingering around the historic Cox Farm estate in rural Butler County, they’re well-tended to thanks to long-time caretaker Tim Sheley.

The expansive family home of former Ohio Governor James M. Cox — one of America’s most dynamic political leaders of the early 20th Century — is kept in pristine condition by Sheley.

The long-time Cox employee only flashes a knowing smile and wink — followed by a polite “no comment” — when asked about any friendly spirits on the farm in the rural village of Jacksonburg.

The 19th Century home, guest houses and barn are beautifully frozen in a time portal of sorts thanks to Sheley, who was a former electrical/maintenance worker at the former Dayton Daily News, Journal-News and Springfield News-Sun printing facility in Franklin.

“It’s a special place and it really put this small town on the map,” he said the tiny community, which was once the smallest village in Ohio.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The Jacksonburg native — whose Sheley family farm line stretches back locally well into the 19th Century as nearby neighbors to the Cox clan — is the only estate caretaker and works daily to maintain the three houses and lavish grounds with meticulous and loving care.

Born in 1870, Cox’s impact on not only Ohio — he served three terms as governor — but also nationally as the Democrat Party’s presidential candidate in America’s 1920 election, makes the newspaper publisher and politician’s former farm estate worthy of such attention.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Not available for public access, the highly secured and police-monitored 108-acre estate — in its early days the farm covered 892 acres — has for decades been a family keepsake passed down through generations of the Cox descendants.

The Atlanta, Georgia-based, international Cox Enterprises, founded in 1898 in its earliest embryonic newspaper form in Dayton by Cox, has since seen generations of Cox family members return and periodically stay at their ancestral home nestled in the rolling fields of rural Butler County.

Some of whom — such as Cox great grandson and now Cox Enterprises Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alex Taylor — try to stop by whenever able while visiting Cox’s three area newspapers, said Sheley.

And the property’s remaining barn has been converted into meeting facility that can accommodate dozens for quarterly company meetings and other Cox company events.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

“It’s been here for more than 150 years inside the family and the family value part is what is so special to me because it comes from the heart. The Cox family will keep it going for many years to come,” he said.

“They have just as much passion for it as I do. Time has not stood still for anything here and we just keep going.”

Cox Enterprises celebrates 125 years

Aug. 22 is the 125th anniversary of Cox Enterprises, which owns the Journal-News. Find more coverage of the history and future of the company online at and

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