This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on July 4, 1976
15 brave clans ‘laid claim’ to Dayton in 1796
An ebullient 9-year-ood, Mary Van Cleve, jumped
from family boat to shore – and a city was born
By Carl V. Roberts
The settlement of Dayton in the spring of 1796 was the key to the development of the huge, rich area of the Miami country stretching more than 100 miles up from the Ohio River.
Cincinnati, first named Losantiville, was already there of course, had been for almost 10 years. There was the string of forts, too, along the western edge of the state almost to the Canadian border. Traders, would-be land agents and their surveyors had dared the wilderness, too. But all of these were in-and-outers, not by choice, necessarily, but because of circumstances.
Circumstances turned the settlement hopes of Benjamin Stites in 1787 and Judge John Cleves Symmes in 1792 into false starts. Even after the Treaty of Greenville on Aug. 3, 1795 removed the Indians’ interference as a discouraging circumstance, the next settlement plan almost became a false start.
When Daniel C. Cooper brought a surveying party here two months after the treaty signing, he was acting for the four Army officers who contracted to buy the land from Symmes – Gens. Jonathan Dayton, Arthur St. Clair and James Wilkinson, and Col. Israel Ludlow.
Cooper’s party included Robert Edgar, Jerome Holt, and two other men whose names did not survive time. The party’s job was to lay out a road from Hamilton, up the east bank of the Miami River and do some preliminary clearing of brush. That road eventually became Ohio Route 4.
Another party started out at the same time – Sept. 21, 1795 – to survey the boundaries of the Dayton-St. Clair-Wilkinson-Ludlow purchase, which was all of the seventh and eighth ranges of townships laying between the two Miami rivers, a total of 60,000 acres of land. It was headed by John Dunlap, who had been up this way on a similar job in 1788. He had with him this time Benjamin Van Cleve, Holt’s brother-in-law; William Gahagen, David Lowry, Jonathan Mercer and Jonathan Donnell.
The two groups met briefly at the mouth of the Mad River on Sept. 27, after which Cooper’s party headed back to Cincinnati and Dunlap’s continued on its boundary survey. Cooper got back to Cincinnati about Oct. 1 and Dunlap on Oct. 6.
On Nov. 1, Ludlow came up to lay out the town, bringing Van Cleve and other members of the two survey groups. They drew for lots on Nov. 5, for themselves and others who had agreed to make the settlement. Each of the 46 heads of families who had signed up was to be given one 100 by 200 foot in-lot, in the town proper, and one 10-acre out-lot, laid off immediately adjacent to the east, and the privilege of buying 160 acres of the remaining land at $1.13 an acre.
The terms, which went back to Symmes’ own prospectus, provided that the settlers must clear and fence their in-lots and out-lots, the latter expected to provide gardens.
When the time came some four months later to make final preparations for the trip, only 15 of the original 46 were willing to leave the “big town” – Cincinnati by then had 100 cabins, 15 frame houses and 600 residents.
The emigrants left on Mar. 21 in three parties, two by land and one by way of the Miami River. There were something like 60 people in all, fewer than half of them adults.
It is probable that an ebullient nine-year-old, Mary Van Cleve, became the town’s first citizen by leaping from the prow of her stepfather’s pirogue when her big brother, Benjamin, nosed it into the river bank at the foot of St. Clair Street on Apr. 1, 1796.
Catherine Van Cleve’s husband, John, 42, was ambushed and killed by Indians in 1791, in the woods back of his cabin in Cincinnati. Some two years later, the widowed mother of five children married Samuel Thompson. The oldest daughter, Margaret, was already married to George Reeder of Cincinnati. Before the move to Dayton the next two were married. Ann to Jerome Holt and Amy to Isaac Shields of Preble County.
Thompson was in charge of the party in the boat, which was poled upriver by his stepson, Benjamin, then 23, and William Gahagen, who was 26. Others in the boat were the Thompsons’ two children, Sarah, 2, and Mathew, three months, and the widow McClure and her four children.
All of the adults had made the trek over the mountains from the East at one time or another, the Van Cleves just six years earlier, and the Dayton-bound boat passengers had camped in the woods along the river each of the six nights they were en route to another new home, so they were not greatly abashed by the wooded wilderness that was “downtown” Dayton in 1796.
Nevertheless, the men dismantled the big, shallow-draft pirogue immediately and, with limbs and brush to fill it out, built a shelter – the first residence in Dayton.
George Newcom led the second group to arrive. The travelers had made good time over the Army road from Cincinnati to Ft. Hamilton, but from there, “Ohio 4” was not only one-lane, but dotted with fallen trees and stumps here and there and – well, the brush had been cleared as ordered, and that was it. So, the biggest of the three parties pulled into town on Apr. 5.
In addition to his own family, his wife, Mary (they had no children at that time), his elderly father, George Newcom Sr., and his younger brother, William, Newcom brought Thomas Davis, William Chenoweth, John Dorough, Daniel Terrell and Solomon Goss – all with families, and four unmarried males, John Davis, Abraham Grassmire, James Morris and William Van Cleve. The younger of the Van Cleve brothers, then 19, drove the family’s cow on the long journey.
The last group arrived a day later. The leader William Hamer, had with him his wife, Mary, their six children and two brothers, Jonathan and Edward Mercer.
Only the Thompson party, which arrived on a Friday, had to go their first Sunday without church services. Hamer, a Methodist lay preacher, was available on Sunday, Apr. 10, but not for long.
Discussions among these pioneers went unrecorded, so all the reasons for the early “flight to the suburbs” are unknown. The desire for a larger tract of land than the plat provided probably was a major factor for most were farm-oriented.
In any event, only three families settled permanently in town – all on Monument Avenue, which was Water Street then. Newcom started out with a small, but substantial long cabin at the southwest corner of Main and Monument. Thompson’s was midway between Main and Jefferson. The men built one for Mrs. McClure at Monument Ave. and Mill St., now Patterson Blvd.
The Hamers located on a farm out on Springfield Pike, east of Findlay St. The Mercer brothers went to Greene County. Gahagen married of the Mercer girls and moved to Miami County. Some went south to what is now Kettering, others occupied farms north and west of town.
So, when some new citizens arrived around June 1, there were just the three cabins in the town plat – which had had none when the three new men had been here the previous winter.
The new arrivals were Holt and his wife, Ann, Robert Edger and Daniel C. Cooper, himself, the last two bachelors. Edgar married a little over two years later, but Cooper waited until 1803, when he was 30 years old.
Cooper was agent for the “proprietors” of the big tract of land. Their contract with Symmes called for a price of 83 cents an acre and specified “up to” 60,000 acres, which was the estimated area of the seventh and eight ranges. Symmes had cut his request from two million to one million, meanwhile, and as reported elsewhere, there was only a little more than half of that inside the boundaries he had laid out. His price from the government was 66 cents an acre.
Even with Cooper’s arrival, the town didn’t really boom. By Apr. 1, 1799, three years after Samuel Thompson’s first shelter had gone up, there were only nine occupied cabins in Dayton proper.
One of these was Cooper’s at the southeast corner of Monument and Jefferson, but he wasn’t living in it. He had built another the year before on 1,000 acres he had staked a claim to “south of town” and was living there and preparing to build a sawmill, corn cracker and distillery about where the NCR Corp. buildings stand.
Newcom’s fine two-story log tavern was in business. Edgar had built that for him in the summer of 1796 and had enlarged it during the winter of 1798-1799.
There had been more people here but many had moved away, according to historian John F. Edgar, Robert Edgar’s son. He blamed the uncertainties of ownership in his 1896 book.
There seems to be no doubt that the Symmes’ purchase was fouled up from the word go; delay in getting that word being part of the trouble.
It all started in July of 1787 when Congress, trying to raise money to cut the national debt and balance the budget, authorized sales of the western lands in one million-acre units.
It took more than seven years to get his boundaries finalized and for him to raise enough money and land warrants to make the down payment on the 311,682
Acres of the 543,950 acres that his two million, then one million acres finally shook down to.
Meanwhile, Symmes was selling land he didn’t yet own and, as it turned out, would never own, because he never raised the money to pay even the reduced acreage.
Benjamin Stites, who with John Dunlap had made the first survey in the fall of 1781, “bought” 30,000 acres, including Dayton and couldn’t pay for it or develop it, because of the Indian trouble.
Next came the Dayton-St. Clair-Wilkinson-Ludlow syndicate, which could have overcome Symmes’ shortcomings in the finance department the same way Cooper eventually did, by making annual payment to the U. S. Treasury Board – but didn’t.
The situation as to land ownership was so uncertain that panic set in, Edgar said, and many moved away, taking what they could get for their tenuous rights to their in-lots and out-lots. Some stayed in the Miami Valley, buying land direct from the government.
Finally, on Mar. 2, 1799, Congress passed legislation providing that anyone who had a contract with Symmes prior to Apr. 1, 1797, could buy the land at $2 an acre, also paying in three annual installments.
That left out Robert Edgar, who had cleared and fenced the lots he had drawn in the Nov. 5, 1775 lottery, the town lot at the southwest corner of First and Ludlow and a 10-acre out-lot in the 560-acre garden tract to the east and south.
His contract certified that he had “complied with the conditions of settlement in the town of Dayton and is entitled to receive a deed for the following lots as soon as Honorable John C. Symmes shall obtain a patent from Congress.”
It was dated Mar. 17, 1798, almost a year after the Congressional cutoff date.
When it appeared in the summer of 1798 that most of the settlers were going to lose their land, Edgar “squatted” on some land in North Dayton, built a cabin and, in September, walked to Cincinnati, where he married Margaret Kirkwood, a widow with an infant son. He bought a horse to transport the mother and child, he walking alongside on the trip back.
He built houses and ran Cooper’s downtown mills until about 1803 when he bought 160 acres on Wayne Ave., directly from the government, later adding another 160 acres.
Dayton and Montgomery County eventually did bloom, of course. All the early historians give Cooper the big share of credit.
He bought up the rights of many who fled, on the face of it something of a gamble at the time. The four-man syndicate apparently was in no better position to make good on their deal with Judge Symmes that he was to make good on his with the Treasury Board, or to do as Cooper did, contract directly with the board.
Congress bailed out some of those who had the faith or intestinal fortitude, even though it cost $2 an acre for the “free” lots and the same for any of the $1.13-per-acre land they wanted. Many lost out, however, because of the time deadline Congress attached to its action.
Cooper wound up with all of the town except six in-lots that Benjamin Van Cleve had bought from the government and three each in-lots and out-lots Jonathan Mercer got the same way. Cooper also was “proprietor” of that 1,000 acres south of Stewart Street, paying for it and the rest in annual installments.
In Dayton’s third plat plan, recorded in 1805, and in an 1809 revision, Cooper provided the wide downtown streets we now have, along with free land for public and church use.
Many things happened before that, however.
Dayton got its first school in the winter of 1799. The first teacher, Benjamin Van Cleve, taught in the blockhouse that had been built at Main St. and Monument Ave. a few months before during a false Indian scare. He was also the town’s first court clerk and postmaster and a member of the town’s first wedding, his to 18-year-old Mary Whiten on Aug. 8, 1800. The first library was in his home at First and Jefferson, too, but that was not until 1804.
A store was opened in Newcom tavern in 1800, the same year the first shipment of local products went down the Miami River on a flatboat. A flour mill was started around that time out in Mad River Twp. By the Rev. William Robinson and his brother, Henry.
Officers for Dayton Twp. were appointed by the circuit judges for the first five years, but the Territorial Legislature ordered an election set for Apr. 5, 1802 – for a township chairman, clerk, three or more trustees, two or more overseers of the poor, three fence viewers, two appraisers of houses, a lister of taxable property, one or more constables and a sufficient number of supervisors of roads, Dayton Twp. Was about three square miles in area.
Ohio became a state on Mar. 4, 1803 and 23 days later Montgomery County was sliced off Hamilton County. The county’s name is believed to have been suggested by Dr. John Hole, who was doctoring and running sawmills down on Silver Creek (now Hole’s Creek). He had been a surgeon on Gen. Richard Montgomery’s staff when the general was killed at the battle of Quebec on Dec. 31, 1775.
Montgomery county included at the outset all of the present Preble, Miami, Darke, Shelby, Mercer, Paulding, Van Wert and Defiance counties; nearly all of Allen, Putnam and Henry, and half of Lake.
On May 1, 1803 Dayton was designated the “seat of justice”. The first court was held seven weeks later with Judge Francis Dunlevy presiding. Benjamin Archer, Isaac Spining and John Ewing were associate judges.
For the first congressional election Oct. 11, 1803, 526 males over 21 were recorded as living in that huge area of Montgomery County and 317 of them went to the polls. They helped elect Jeremiah Morrow of Warren County as Ohio’s first representative to Congress – and we only had one then. He carried this county by 175 votes to 139 for William McMillen and three for Dr. William Goforth of Hamilton County.
George Newcom was elected Montgomery county sheriff and James Miller was elected coroner at the same time.
The first county commissioners were not elected until Apr. 2 the next year, the three winners drawing lots for length of term – William Browne, three years; Edmund Munger, two; John Dover, 1.
They held their first meeting on June 11 at Newcom tavern and found tax receipts for the year were $373.96. Individual tax bills ranging from 15 cents to $71.80, most being at the low end.
With money in the till, the commissioners put up a notice asking for bids on a two-room jail to be built of round longs on Third St. just west of main. David Squier bid $299 on Sept. 28. Done in December, it replaced Newcom’s dry cistern “jail.”
In 1802, Cooper had married Sophia Greene Burnett, whose father Charles Greene, had been a member of the Ohio Co., the first land development company in the West, and whose first husband, G. W. Burnett, member of a wealthy Cincinnati family, had died soon after they were married in 1801.
Cooper built for his bride “an elegant mansion of hewn logs, lined with cherry planking,” on Robert Edgar’s former lot at the southwest corner of First and Ludlow. They moved in 1804.
That year brought an influx of new settlers whose names would be long remembered – Luther Bruen Henry Brown, Philip Gunckel, Jonathan Harshman, John Rench, David McConnaughey, Hugh Andrews and Joseph Crane, later a noted judge here.
It also brought Col. Robert Patterson, a veteran Indian fighter. His arrival, which eventually would tie to Dayton’s industrial history, underscored all that had been said and written about the site’s attractiveness.
Patterson, already carrying tomahawk wounds at the age of 22, had established Lexington, Ky. in 1775. he had a hand in the founding of Cincinnati, first named Losantiville, 12 years later. But despite ownership of hundreds of acres of land around Lexington, much of it paid for with soldiers’ land warrants, he decided to move to the “rich, well-timbered” Dayton.
Perhaps it was memories of the place. He had been through here more than 20 years earlier on punitive expeditions against the Indians.
So, he bought 322 acres of Cooper’s land “south of town” and built a cabin on a high spot at what is now Oakwood and Far Hills Aves. And brought his family here from Lexington. His holdings would eventually total 2,417 acres and the buildings that are now the NCR Corp. would occupy the northern part of the original tract.
Dayton still had a year to go to its 10thbirthday when it got its first brick house, Hugh McCullum’s two-story tavern at the southwest corner of second and Main Sts.
The town also got two ferries in 1805 at the foot of First St. and Fourth St., and a third one south of town to provide a river crossing for the pike that led to rapidly-growing Germantown.
On Feb. 12, 1805, Dayton got its first charter as an incorporated town and a few weeks later its first flood. Water filled the streets as the rivers overflowed. It flooded the buildings to a depth of several feet – eight, according to one historian. Others indicated it was less than that.
It was serious enough, however to shake the town’s heretofore imperturbable proprietor. Daniel C. Cooper proposed starting over, laying out a new town on higher ground out around Wayne Ave. and Hickory St. Everyone would get a lot comparable to the one in the original plan, Cooper said.
Cooper may have been somewhat shaken again at the reaction. Apparently love for the location transcended fear of what future spring rains might cause for the citizens said, “no way.”
The year turned out to be a good one after all as new mills were built in all directions from town, but the year of the 10thbirthday seemed to have been signaled as a big one.
Henry Brown had built the first building specifically for a business in 1804, a log cabin on Main St. between First and Monument, where he started a general store.
Then, suddenly, in 1806, there were three more. H. G. Phillips built a fine, two-story log store building at First and Jefferson Sts. in the summer of 1806. James Steele followed with one the same size but of brick at the southwest corner of First and Main. Cooper, now over his doubts, went into business with John Compton in a like building diagonally across the intersection.
A newspaper was started but lasted only a few issues. The publisher, Noah Crane of Lebanon, come down with ague and fever and quit.
The county commissioners let a contract on Feb. 3, 1806 for a brick courthouse at Third and Main, but it was not all business, industry and government that 10thyear.
The First Presbyterian Church organized a congregation in 1799 and a meeting house was built the next year near the northeast corner of Third and Main – 18 by 20 feet, seven logs high, with two feet of air space under the floor.
It was served by visiting ministers until 1804 when the Rev. James Welsh, who was also a doctor and one-time college professor, came here to serve for a dozen years.
That was the year, too, that the congregation loaned the county commissioners $403.23 to help build that brick courthouse, with the provision that the congregation could hold its meetings there. The log cabin church was sold in 1806 for $22, although that meant meeting at Newcom tavern or somewhere else until the courthouse was finished the next summer.
Dayton had two other congregations by 1806, although they didn’t have meeting houses.
Lay preacher Hamer had given the Methodists an edge, of course, with his arrival at the head of a party on Apr. 6, 1796. Although he moved to the suburbs early, he undoubtedly was available from time to time. This is born out in the diary of the Rev. John Kobler, a presiding elder in Kentucky, who spent eight months in this area in 1798 and 1799.
“Lord’s Day, Aug. 12, 1798 – Preached in Dayton, a little village by that name on the bank of the Big Miami River, and just below its junction with the Mad River. Here are a few log houses and eight or 10 families residing. Here I saw some tokens for good; the people seem to receive the Word with all readiness of mind; indeed, several in the little company were much affected”
“In the neighborhood, there are six or eight Methodists, and among them is a local preacher by the name of Hamer. Last year he raised a class of the few scattered Methodists here, and for awhile met them as leader.”
Mr. Kobler went on to say that he has “examined into the state of their souls, and found some of them filled with prejudice.”
Early historians felt that this referred to the fact that Hamer ran a still house, as well as a corn cracker, on his farm, even as Daniel Cooper.
Mr. Kobler wrote that he held a second public meeting, read the rules – which did not preclude making whiskey – and “pointed out the necessity of Christian unity.”
He concluded his account of that first visit with: “So we organized a regular class of eight members, of whom Brother Hamer was appointed leader.”
He preached here the last time on Apr. 2, 1799. Over seven years later, on Dec. 3, 1806, the Methodists petitioned the country commissioners for a lot to build a church. They got the lot, near that same southeast corner of Third and Main, but it was 1814 before they got their 30 by 40-foot red frame church.
It was 1806, too, that the “Baptist Union Congregation of Dayton” asked the county for a lot on which to build a church. They also got a lot on Main St. near Third, but it was another 21 years before the Baptists put up a church building.
That same year, 1817, the Presbyterians finally built their new church. It was at Second and Wilkinson Sts. The congregation had decided to sell its valuable Main St. land, as did the Methodists and Baptists eventually.
Other denominations came along in later years, of course, giving the community the broad religious spectrum it has today.
By the time of its 10thbirthday, the Dayton area had men to treat illnesses of the body as well as the soul, four of them, as a matter of fact.
Dr. John Hole came early, in 1797; Dr. John Elliott came in 1802, Dr. William Murphey in 1805 and Dr. Welsh, who treated both body and soul as a doctor and a Presbyterian preacher, came in 1804.
The matter of sustenance was taken care of in large measure, of course, in the gardens – corn, potatoes, beans, anything that could be canned and stored for the winter and on into the next planting season.
The land still “abounded,” too, “with turkeys, deer and elk,” as Christopher Gist had reported in 1751. With the squirrels, rabbits and other small game, meat on the table wasn’t a big problem for the men, and boys, as well, seemed to have been born with the ability to use a gun.
And, for variety, there were the fish in the community’s numerous rivers and creeks.
Daytonians, beginning the settlement’s second decade, could not have predicted that enough would have transpired by 1896 to spend three days celebrating their own Centennial, but things had kept zinging along since the 1805 flood.
That lone, 1800 flatboat had been followed by others and now, when the Miami River was navigable there were many of them carrying locally produced merchandise – flower, whiskey, grain, pork, tanned hides. Some of it was going upriver, too. Paul Butler and Henry Disbrow started a two-boat freight to Lake Erie in 1809, which involved a portage between the mouth of Stony Creek and the St. Mary’s River.
By 1810, every useful mill site on the streams had been taken and on July 4 that year, the Declaration of Independence barely nosed out Dayton’s export business during the drinking of toasts.
And why not? Dayton’s population was only 383, but the town was the hub of a county which then stretched to within 20 miles of the Michigan border and which had a population of 7,722 and a tax income of $3,414.30 for the year of 1810.
Dayton’s tax receipts came to only $865.78 ½ for the same period, but that was a lot better than in 1805, 1806 and 1807, when the citizens willed that they would be zero, voting thus under the provisions of their brand new state-conferred town charter.
As indicated by the population figures, the rural area had been growing by leaps and bounds.
Growth was starting, however, in what were then the suburbs – Cabintown, south of Third St.; Rattlesnake Ravine, between Wilkinson St. And the river; Buck Pasture, east of St. Clair St.; “where Cooper’s oxen roamed,” and Specksburg, which was almost “downtown.”
This last was a one-business business section, where Bernhard Speck ran a bakery and sold gingerbread cookies for 2 ½ cents a dozen.”
Speck and other businessmen and industrialists had something going for them, however, in 1811. The Town Council had done a bit of pump-priming by exempting all buildings except dwellings from real estate taxes that year.
The War of 1812 showed growth and there was another flood in 1814, although nothing like as bad as the one in 1805.
Daniel Cooper’s worst fears were realized long afterward by Daytonians in 1913, of course. But it becomes more than ordinary significance in analyzing what happened to take into account the fact that there were 10 floods before it and that the citizens bounced back every time. The others were in 1828, 1832, 1847, 1866, 1883, 1884, 1897 and 1898.
Typically, then, Dayton got its first bank in the flood year of 1814, and Robert Strain opened his big, new, two-story Travelers Inn less than a year later, way down at the northeast corner of Fourth and Main.
In 1816, with the real estate boom really booming, the Rev. Dr. Welsh added another line of work. He platted a new town across the river, which he called North Dayton. Although he provided a ferry between Salem Ave. and the foot of First St., citizens apparently didn’t want to move that far out except to farm and to produce the side products like flour, meal, and whiskey. Although the project was abandoned in 1821, it had enough prospects at the outset to lure businessman Joseph Peirce to plat Peircetown in 1819, farther out, where Central Ave. is now. He gave up about 1821, too.
Both may have been affected by the germs of one of the frequent downturns which was on the way.
The county had gotten a new stone jail in 1813, a two-story brick office building in 1816 and still another new jail, this one brick, in 1819.
The county built a bridge across the Mad River from Taylor St. to the Staunton Rd. (Troy Pike) in 1817 and a company built a toll bridge in 1819 across Wolf Creek at Bridge St. A stage line was opened to Cincinnati in May 1818, a second started the next month and a third came along in 1820. Each ran once a week, took about 18 hours for the trip and charged eight cents a mile or about $4 for those who were going all the way.
In spite all this, 1820 brought a downturn that didn’t give in fully to prosperity for seven years. At times, flour was bringing no more than $2.50 a barrel, beef three cents a pound – as low as a penny some days, hams in the same range, chickens 50 cents a dozen, pork one cent a pound, butter five cents a pound, wheat 25 cents a bushel, corn 12 ½ cents a bushel and whiskey 15 to 20 cents a gallon. These prices were about half of what the products had brought in 1810.
As with the floods, the depression of the 1820s wouldn’t be the last or the worst. Others in 1837, 1857 and 1893 were labeled “panics.” And, as with the floods, Dayton and the other Miami Valley communities bounced back each time.
Despite the preoccupation with business and industry, Daytonians were busy at other things in the years before the nation’s Centennial and the town’s own 20 years later.
It wasn’t until 1831 that Dayton got its first public school, but education was not ignored. There were classes a part of every year, taught somewhere by someone from the time Benjamin Van Cleve held his in the blockhouse in the winter of 1799 until the Dayton Academy was opened in 1808.
It was the direct result of a report made two years earlier by a public committee, made up of Van Cleve, Cooper and Dr. Welsh, setting standards and procedures. Cooper had donated two lots in the Third and Main area and a log schoolhouse had been built.
These brought $825 when sold in 1808. To this was added the $340 paid by 68 shareholders, $5 each, and in November 1810 the two-story brick academy building was opened on another Cooper-donated lot at Third and St. Clair Sts. The school, as such, had been in operation for two years, however, in a rented house.
Schools usually ran two three-month terms, fall and winter, and tuition was anywhere from $1.50 to $4.00 a term, depending on a number of things including course of study.
Between the academy’s formation and 1831, when the first one-room public school was opened there were a number of other private schools operated here.
The academy, which had gotten a larger home at the southwest corner of Fourth and Wilkinson in 1833, continued in operation until the fall of 1850. At that time, the trustees agreed public schools had progressed to the point where their private school was no longer needed. They closed it and gave the building to the Board of Education.
By that time, the board was operating district elementary schools, one night school and one high school. That was moved from the former central district school building near First and Madison Sts. that it had occupied since April to the more commodious academy building. Public school enrollment was about 2,000 at that time.
Dayton citizens were proud of what had been accomplished in little more than a half century, but they might have been surprised at the school situation in the nation’s Centennial year.
By 1876, there still was only one high school but it was in a fine, big brick building, built especially for that use on the site of the old academy building.
But there were nine public elementary schools, plus four Catholic and one Lutheran parochial elementary school.
There was what amounted to a Catholic high school for boys, called St. Mary’s Institute. The Miami Commercial College had been turning out graduates for 16 years and out on Summit St. was the United Brethren denomination’s only Biblical seminary. Dayton had been selected in 1869 at a meeting in Pennsylvania as the site for the Union Biblical Seminary, later known as Bonebrake and now the United Theological Seminary.
Schools were responsible for the first public library, but it took awhile. Benjamin Van Cleve, the first school teacher, was also the first librarian. But it cost money to read books voluntarily, just as it did to have to read them in the tuition-type schools of those days.
The Social Library Society was formed in 1805, a year after Van Cleve was appointed the first postmaster, as well, and was located, along with the post office in his cabin at First and St. Clair Sts. It cost $3 a year to belong to the society which lasted for three decades. The number of books available was not recorded.
Several other library societies were formed after the first one died in 1835, but it wasn’t until 1847 that another major one was formed. The Dayton Library Association opened its doors in January on the second floor of the Steele building, on Main St. near Third – with 1,000 books on its shelves. Memberships were $5 for a year, $30 for life and $50 for “in perpetuity.” Which presumably included descendants forever.
The association ceased operations in 1860, but members’ descendants were, indeed, provided for forever.
The Board of Education had set up a free library in 1855, under a law providing public funds. Its 1,250 books were shelved in the United Brethren building at Fourth and Main.
When the library association closed in 1860, its books were given to the school library, which was moved to the association’s rooms, by then in the Phillips building at Second and Main. The combined book stocks gave the school library a total of 25,421 volumes.
The first three plats of Dayton had made the four corners at Third and Main Sts. a public square. This was still a long way from the center of town in 1809, so Cooper’s revised plat put lots on those corners. The corners, then, were deeded to the county, all but the northwest for the uses of churches. As time passed and the land became more valuable for business, the churches wisely sold and located elsewhere in downtown
But in 1836, Dayton got another public square. It came, not surprisingly, from David Ziegler Cooper, Daniel’s only living son and heir. The entire block bounded by Second, Third, St. Clair and Patterson became Cooper park and, in 1888, the library site.
A Young Men’s Christian Association was formed July 8, 1858, but met irregularly and apparently disbanded about 1861.
A new effort early in 1870 had enough vigor to acquire rented space, a superintendent and the national convention for 1874.
A young Canadian at the convention impressed the local board so much that they hired him to head the Dayton YMCA. David A. Sinclair came here two months later, in August of 1874. Within a year the YMCA owned its own building at 32 E. Fourth St. When Sinclair died 28 years later, he left many facilities and programs for future generations to remember him by.
The Women’s Christian Association for the Support of Widows and Destitute Women was formed in 1870 – the last two thirds of the name making it eligible to take over unneeded state buildings.
In 1872, the association was given the vacant orphans home on Magnolia St.
While the seed for a final resting place was recognized at the very beginning, the extent of the need and extent of Dayton’s future growth were not.
The first “graveyard” was at the northeast corner of Third and Main Sts., dedicated as part of the First Presbyterian church.
Before 10 years had passed, Cooper saw that the two lots, totaling a little less than one acre, were too close to the center of the growing town and might not be enough land.
He donated four acres in 1805 to the Presbyterians and Methodists combined. He made sure this time that the location would be too far out to ever be encroached on by the town – on the south side of Fifth St., between Ludlow and Perry.
But encroach it did, in 1841, preparations were made for the inevitable. The Woodland Cemetery Association was formed and bought 40 acres of land on Stewart St., at $40 an acre. The cemetery opened two years later and all those buried on Fifth St. were reinterred in Woodland. No additional land was needed for more than 60 years. By 1908, however, it occupied land on both sides of Stewart St. with acreage more than three times the original area.
St. Henry’s Catholic Cemetery was started in 1844 on five acres northwest of First and Wilkinson Sts. It had doubled in size before Calvary Cemetery succeeded the downtown burying ground in 1872, starting with 90 acres.
A Jewish cemetery was started in 1849 on S. Brown St. Before 1896, two others replaced it, one north and one south.
Dayton had something of almost everything before it had facilities for the sick.
There was a temporary hospital at Third and Main during the war of 1812. It was ordered set up by Gen. William Hull as he headed up to Detroit for what became a bloody defeat at the hands of the Indians and British. Forty-eight of the wounded were brought back here on a 10-day march. They overflowed the hospital, which was being run by Dr. John Steele, many being taken care of in homes.
Dayton was too far away from the action to need hospitals for the other wars, but temporary ones were set up again during the cholera epidemics of 1833 and 1849 and the small pox outbreak in 1836.
One of these was on five acres of land across from the fairgrounds bought by the city during the 1836 epidemic. It was used as a hospital, but basically a “pesthouse” where people with feared, transmittable diseases were confined. It was sold in 1843 after years of citizen complaints.
With no facility available when cholera hit again in 1849, Mary Hess opened her house on Brown, hear the street named for her later.
The city finally went back into the field in 1866 when land was bought on Wyoming St., between Brown and Alberta, for another place to confine those with pestilential diseases, which also served as a hospital.
Returning to early history – and the world of commerce and industry, the “panic” that started in 1820 appeared to be over after a long seven years.
“Productions of the country are much greater than can be consumed,” wrote a local resident to a former Daytonian in 1827.
Elsewhere in America, apparently, it wasn’t like that.
One jobber shipped 80,000 pounds of pork to New Orleans that year, the letter went on, and the price had gone from 1820’s one-cent a pound retail to 1 ½ cents wholesale.
Another shipper sent out 32,600 pounds of butter in 1827. No price was mentioned, but it was likely up from 1820’s five cents.
The Dayton Journal reported on Jan. 26, 1829 that:
“During the year 1828, 36 brick buildings and 34 of wood have been put up. The whole number of brick buildings in Dayton on Jan. 1, 1829 is 125, of stone 6, of wood 239. The dwelling houses alone amount to 235.
“In sight of the town are a gristmill, a fulling mill, a carding house, a cotton factory, a double sawmill, a single sawmill, a shingle and lath factory, a cornmill and an iron foundry.”
“There are in Dayton 5 taverns, 16 dry goods stores, 4 drug stores, 30 groceries, 12 carpenters, 8 masons, 3 millwrights, 3 tanyards, 2 breweries, 2 sickle factories, 4 hat factories, 5 saddler shops, 9 shoemaker shops, 5 cabinet makers, 4 chair makers, 3 painters, 3 coopers, 4 wagon makers, 1 coach maker, 5 blacksmith shops, 4 watch makers, 1 tinner, 1 coppersmith, 10 tailor shops, 1 rope factory, 2 tobacco factories, 2 stone cutters, 1 gunsmith, 7 doctors, 13 lawyers, 2 printing offices, with many other items too tedious to mention.”
Among those tedious items must have been several distilleries “in sight of town,” for whiskey was still being shipped on flatboats down the Miami River. But not for long – not down the river.
Canal talk started here ass early as 1821 and a citizens committee was appointed. New York Gov. DeWitt Clinton, author of that state’s canal system, visited Dayton July 9, 1825, during a trip to several Ohio cities. The General assembly responded with enabling legislation for a Dayton-Cincinnati canal and contracts were let that same year.
The first through boat from the South via Cincinnati arrived here on Jan. 25, 1929. The route downtown was generally along Patterson Blvd.
That same year a steam locomotive made its appearance in England. That was enough of a novelty to spark displays of miniature railroad layouts and one made an appearance here in 1830.
The first railroad charter involving Dayton was granted in January 1832 to the Mad River & Lake Erie Railroad Co., for a line from Dayton, through Springfield and Urbana, to Sandusky.
Railroads were not the threat to our canal that they were to some canals, however. It took 19 years, until January of 1851, for Dayton and Springfield to be linked, although Springfield and Xenia had been on a rail line between Cincinnati and Sandusky for several years.
Although the canal wasn’t completed to Piqua until 1837 and to Lake Erie until 1845, the $567,000 cost of the Dayton-Cincinnati waterway was not wasted. We still had those customers in the south.
In 1829, the first year of operation, canal boats carried from Dayton 27,121 barrels of flour, 7,378 barrels of whiskey and 3,429 barrels of pork. The next year flour hit 56,364 barrels and other produces shipped increased substantially, as well.
One horse could move 25 tons about 25 miles a day on the still waters of the canal, cutting the river flatboat time downstream by three to five days and upstream, of course, by more than that. More horses meant more speed and trips taking less than 24 hours were recorded between Dayton and Cincinnati.
The county’s population in 1830 was 24,374, a gain of 8,313 in 10 years, and Dayton’s was 2,954, up 1,200.
All of that increase was not in the less than two years of canal operation, but things were booming. As a matter of fact, before the canal was one year old, real estate prices had shot up, but nowhere like they had in proximity to the waterway. An acre of ground at the head of the canal basin worth $2 in 1799 from the federal government, had an $8,760 price tag in 1829.
Canal use increased after the linkup of the Ohio River and Lake Erie in 1845, but started downhill after the peak year of 1851, the year of the railroad, when tolls and other receipts reached $351,897. The state cleared about $1 million during the first 50 years. Although maintenance costs went up while traffic and tolls were going down, when canal usage was abolished in 1913, after several previous attempts had met with overwhelming opposition. Income over the 84 years since the Dayton-Cincinnati stretch was opened had just about matched the $8 million construction, maintenance and operating cost.
In 1835 some 15 years before Dayton was impressed by the Cincinnati-to-Sandusky railroad, the town had been bypassed when the national road was laid out, despite years of effort in the Ohio legislature and Congress.
Businessmen jumped into the breach. Turnpike companies were formed to build toll roads and before 1840 arrived five had been built – Dayton-Centerville-Lebanon, Dayton-Covington, Dayton-Springfield, Dayton-Eaton-Richmond and Dayton-Miamisburg-Franklin-Cincinnati.
These were followed by roads which still carry the names attached then – Xenia, Troy, Valley, Germantown, Wilmington, Salem and Brandt Pikes. and Mad River Rd.
Similarly, after the long wait for the first rail line, others came quickly – Dayton-Hamilton-Cincinnati late in 1851, Dayton-Greeneville-Union City in 1852, Dayton-Richmond and Dayton-Troy in 1853 and Dayton-Xenia in 1854.
The lines were extended, of course, to Toledo, Cleveland, New York, Indianapolis and other points – and “other” is a true plural, for those were the days of speculative railroad building. One historian wrote that no railroad was ever built through Dayton. Each one either started from Dayton or ended here, a total of 12 at one time before the town was 100 years old.
The union depot was built at Sixth and Ludlow Sts. in 1856 and was considered a handsome structure for the day. Its replacement in 1901 was so striking architecturally that citizens realized the first one was nothing more than a train shed and waiting room.
So, as early as 1829 you had modern water transportation to Cincinnati – and there were happy holiday excursion on the canal.
By 1840 you could go by horse and carriage to any of the big towns around. The stage coach trip was more comfortable than it had been when it started in 1818 over a rutted wagon track to Cincinnati.
By 1854 you could go almost as many places in the luxury of a steam railroad car.
But what of urban and suburban transportation? Despite our Venetian setting, access to the suburbs was not impossible. A Taylor St. bridge spanned the Mad River as early as 1817. A Dayton View bridge followed in 1819. Main St. got a bridge in 1836 and Third St. in 1839. Canal bridges had already eliminated access problems to the south and east.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t until 1869, after the Civil war, that the town got its first streetcar. That year Dayton Street Railway Co. inaugurated horse car service between the eastern and western corporation lines on Third Street.
Then, boom! Just like the steam railroads, everyone got into the streetcar business, setting up eventual bankruptcies and consolidations. By July 4, 1876, you could downtown for the Centennial celebration from the northwest city limits via the Dayton View Street Railway Co., started in 1871, from the southeast on the cars of the Wayne & Fifth Street Railway Co., started the same year, and from the south by way of the Oakwood Street Railway Co., started in 1875.
Other things had been happening, too, between the panics and floods – street lights, for example.
Crutchett’s Solar Gas, made from grease, started lighting downtown streets in 1849. Two years later, coal gas, which gave brighter light and was more plentiful, was adopted.
Dayton got a telegraph office in 1847 and by 1856 had four, as that field got competitive.
The first telephone exchange was installed in 1878 with 10 subscribers.
That was six years before completion of the new, new courthouse that had taken 27 years to get, but you couldn’t say that county government had done a lot of marking time.
Way back in 1804 the courts had been moved from Newcom’s tavern to Hugh McCullum’s big, new brick tavern. The same year a log jail was built. Prisoners had been kept in Newcom’s dry cistern until that time.
Then, in 1805, a contract was let for the county’s own court building at Third and Main Sts. Finished in 1807, it would appear to have been worth the $4,766 cost. It was brick, 42 by 38 feet and two stories high. Shortage of money delayed the planned cupola until 1815 and the bell until 1816.
Then, as now it was difficult to project long term government building needs and the area’s speedy growth made one plan after another out of date.
The year the bell arrived for the first county-owned court building a contract was let for an annex on the next lot north. It was to be a one-story brick building, 46 by 20, at a cost of $1,249. Already showing the wisdom of space experience, the county commissioners specified that a second floor could be added for a cost of the walls.
That course appeared desirable for it was completed at two stories, costing something over $2,000. The second floor was rented out until needed by the county, which wasn’t long.
A building commission was named in 1844 to make plans for a new courthouse. A $63,000 contract was let to John W. Cary in October 1845.
To make room for the kind of building planned, the 1818 jail, an 1833 fire engine house, the Dayton Artillery Unit’s cannon house and a privately-owned building, all to the west, were town down, along with the 1807 courthouse. County officials jammed operations into the two-story annex and the jail addition behind it.
Pride welled over when our classical “old” courthouse was finally completed in 1850, but the pride was not strong enough to swallow cost overruns amounting to almost as much as the original contract. They resisted.
Apparently a number of things were involved – erroneous estimates by the contractor, unanticipated cost increases during the more than three years of construction and some changes in the county’s plans. After unsuccessful arbitration and lengthy lawsuits, the contractor was awarded “in excess of $100,000.”
It would be difficult today to find anyone who would trade the building for that amount, even in 1850 dollars, or who would not be happy about one of the county commissioners’ economy moves during construction. They eliminated a cupola that was supposed to set atop their version of the Greek’s Theseum.
So, now Dayton and Montgomery County not only a courthouse to be proud of but one big enough for the growing community. Right? Well, not all of that.
In March 1857 the county commissioners called for a vote on a tax levy for another building. Perhaps the fact that only seven years had passed had something to do with public reaction, but the proposition was defeated in May.
Ten years later the Ohio Legislature passed an act authorizing the commissioners to build another building. Plans were drawn in 1869, but the project bogged down and the county started renting space in other buildings.
Dayton wasn’t totally preoccupied with business and industry and while the town wasn’t into the building thing early, it wasn’t standing still in the matter of government.
As an outgrowth of the establishment of the Northwest Territorial Legislature, Dayton Twp. was authorized in 1802 to have an election on Monday, Apr. 5, thus ending the system of appointment by territorial judges.
Historians have found no record of the results, but since there were only a half dozen families in town and 15 jobs to be filled, every adult male should have been elected to something. It is reasonably certain that Daniel Cooper, Benjamin Van Cleve and George Newcom were elected to at least one post apiece.
Another major change came three years later. The legislature of the new state of Ohio passed a law on Feb. 22, 1805 making Dayton an incorporated town, as befitted its status as county seat, since May 1, 1803, of vast Montgomery County.
The law prescribed the boundaries, or adopted Cooper’s plat boundaries – from what is now Stewart St. to a line about one-half mile north of the Mad River, a distance of about 2 miles, and from line just east of what became Woodland Cemetery to the east bank of the Miami River, a distance of one and one-half miles.
The law also directed that an election of town officers be the first Monday in May and that the trustees then elected call a town meeting to decide on taxes for the year.
Elected to the Town Council were Cooper, Maxfield Ludlow, William Miller, John Folkerth, David Reid and two doctors, John Elliott and the Rev. James Welsh. Reid was elected president of the council and Ludlow was recorder. In January, Benjamin Van Cleve was appointed to succeed Miller, who had moved out of town.
Hugh McCullum’s recently-built brick tavern at the southwest corner of Second and Main Sts. was now the “seat of justice” and the council dutifully posted a notice on the door announcing that, “all inhabitants are summoned to a town meeting on Aug. 10, 1805, to vote on the taxes for the coming year.”
The notice gave the time of the meeting, which came and went with no one on hand but the councilmen.
Another meeting was called for Aug. 28 with the same result.
Another meeting call, on Jan 2, 1806 the council announced that taxes totaling $85 had been proposed and approved. There seemed to be no record of attendance or vote – at least, when some citizen questioned the legality of the action, council nullified the tax.
That must have aroused the inhabitants for when another meeting, this being the fourth, was called for Jan. 11, to vote on a reduced tax package of $72 for the year, 28 showed up. They voted the
proposition down 17 to 11.
It is not certain that all officials voted for the tax. There were a minimum of 12, counting the town assessors, collector, supervisor, fire marshal, treasurer, one or more constables and the seven councilmen. Thus, only three of the county officials – three commissioners, sheriff, coroner, road supervisors and fence viewers of some number – would have had to live within the town limits and have been present to give officialdom a majority of the 28 present.
Of course, the Dayton citizens may have felt that they were being taxed to death. A little over a year before the county commissioners had levied property taxes of $373.96, most of which must have come from inside Dayton.
And early in 1905 they had slapped a $3 license fee on doctors and lawyers, $9 on Dayton taverns, $6 on taverns on the Dayton-Franklin road and $5 on all others. This last had caused Council Reid to forego serving liquor when he opened his tavern that year.
On top of that, if you had to do any traveling to and from the north or west, you had to cross a river – and pay ferry tolls of 75 cents for a team and loaded wagon, 50 cents when the wagon was empty, 37 ½ cents for a horse and two-wheel carriage, 12 ¼ cents for a man on horseback and 6 ¼ cents for anyone on foot. Part of those fees went into the county treasury.
Since the town’s citizens had no say in those days about the high cost of ale, whiskey and beer which had resulted from the county-imposed fees, it probably is not surprising that they rebelled when they had a chance to vote on the matter of taxes.
As a matter of fact, when the Town Council announced on Feb. 24, 1807 that a tax of $300 a year had been approved, opponents contended it was illegal. They must have had some grounds for the protest again for the council nullified the tax that time, too, and called another levy election for May 5, on the same $300 proposition. The vote was 24 to 19 against it.
By the time another year had passed, however, business and industry had burgeoned, as we have seen. The inhabitants were so busy growing, manufacturing and selling things that although Dayton population must been up to around 200 (it was 383 in 1810), only 35 voters showed up at the polls on May 2, 1808 to approve a $400 tax expenditure for the year.
How had the officials been running the town without tax money? There probably was some income from fines, costs and a share of county fees, but the big source was the lowly swine.
The council had passed an ordinance early in 1806 barring hogs from running loose in the streets. History indicates that enough hogs turned up their snouts at the law to provide a fat municipal income. They were taken into custody, slaughtered and sold. Enforcement was a sometime thing, early historians say, depending probably on the ebb and flow of public opinion and the balance in the municipal treasury.
Speaking of things monetary, when Dayton did build its first “building” it was business-oriented. It was 100 feet long and stood in the middle of Second St. between Main and Jefferson. What it was, was the first markethouse, built in 1815. It consisted of two rows of stalls, sheltered by a slanting roof, with horse racks nearby.
In 1829 voters picked Cabintown, of all places, for a new markethouse. Situated in the alley between Third and Fourth Sts. which connected Main and Jefferson, the new place was 200 feet long and opened in 1830. A council house, built at the same time on the Main St. end of the land, opened at the same time.
A new, two-story council building and markethouse were erected in 1845 on the same land. That was the last for a long time.
Law enforcement can be traced back to 1796 when Cyrus Osborne became constable of Dayton Twp., then still a part of Hamilton County. Samuel Thompson, stepfather to the Van Cleves, got the job in 1799 after Daniel Cooper became the first justice of the peace and Jerome Holt, husband of Ann Van Cleve, took over in 1800.
George Newcom was the first sheriff after Montgomery County was formed in 1803. Hold became sheriff in 1809.
The 1805 town designation gave Dayton the right to have a marshal. James Miller was appointed at an annual salary in the range of $12. Certainly it was no more than $25 until 1833 when it went to $125 and he got one walking watchman paid by merchants, to help him.
In 1841, with a new charter and 6,000 inhabitants, two constables were authorized, in addition to the marshal, since the town of Dayton was also Dayton Twp. In 1858 six police officers were placed under the marshal’s jurisdiction and in 1866 another patrolman and a deputy marshal were added.
By 1868 the police force consisted of a captain, two lieutenants and 20 patrolmen. In 1873, the General Assembly provided for organizing a metropolitan force under a police commission with a maximum of 45 officers. Thomas L. Stewart became the first “acting superintendent,” a title used until 1901 when J. C. Whitaker became the first chief of police.
By Dayton’s Centennial in 1896 there were 85 members of the department, including one detective sergeant and a matron.
It took a lot longer, and a big blaze, to get a fire department.
Cooper’s downtown mills were destroyed by fire on the night of June 20, 1820, destroying 4,000 pounds of wheat and 2,000 pounds of wool. Cooper had been dead for almost two years and his executors, H. G. Phillips and James Steele, rebuilt the mills, but the fire got the town worrying.
Council passed an ordinance requiring every householder to have two leather buckets with their names stenciled in white. They were to be kept handy and so were the ladders the council bought and hung on the side of the markethouse.
After fire destroyed two downtown stores on Nov. 11, 1824, the council ordained a $10 fine for borrowing the ladders, which someone had done that night.
The council also had Phillips heading east on his annual buying trip for his store, act for them in the purchase of a fire engine at a cost of $226. The engine, purchased in Philadelphia, arrived in the fall of 1825. Pressure was developed by turning a hand crank. It had a short length of hose and the box-like tank had to be filled by volunteers carrying buckets of water.
The seriousness with which the citizens approached firefighting can be gleaned by some of the names of members of the volunteer engine and hook and ladder companies. They included Dr. Job Haines, John W. Van Cleve, James Steele and Abram Darst, Alexander Grimes and other business and professional men in the first one and banker Valentine Winters and insurance executive and store owner James Perrine in a later one.
Council spent $112.50 on 88 new leather buckets in 1827. In 1833 a new, more powerful engine was bought. It had 500 feet of suction hose and cisterns were dug at every other Main St intersection and other key spots in town.
Other improved engines were bought at intervals until 1852 when Dayton, now a city of 11,000 population got four of the latest models all at one time.
The number of volunteer fire companies increased, too, and the speed to and property rights to quenching a blaze became a competitive thing. Sometimes the spirit, and spirits, got out of hand. Brawling sometimes took precedence over firefighting.
This and Dayton’s most sensational Civil War-related occurrence led to formation of a paid fire department in 1863.
Clement L. Vallandigham, ex-congressman and outspoken critic of the war with the South, lived on E. First St. At 3 a.m. on May 6, 1863, a company of U. S. soldiers broke into his home, arrested him and sped away to Cincinnati – bound for a treason court martial.
Crowd of his sympathizers, finding out about it after the fact, attacked what they considered the source of the trouble, the Dayton Journal, housed in a building on E. Fourth St., set fire to it and left it a charred ruin.
Three years before the Turner Opera House at First and Main had been destroyed by what was described for many years as the biggest blaze the town had ever seen.
The competition among the volunteers had caused a death during a fire in 1856.
The combination of events was too much. Council voted in January 1864 to disband the five volunteer companies and appropriate $300 to pay firemen and feed the fire horses. A steam fire engine had already been ordered.
Pay for steam engineers was set at $50 a month and for others $36.
In 1880, when the department was reorganized under a new Ohio law, there still were only 19 firemen, 12 horses, three engines, 8,000 feet of hose and a $20,000 budget for a city of almost 37,000 population.
But when Daniel C. Larkin took over in 1880 as the first chief under the new law, he had one big advantage – plentiful water. Dayton’s water works had been established in 1870.
There even had been some changes in form of government, but not many. Except for changing some county titles, the only changes were the addition of an auditor in 1821 and a surveyor, county engineer, in 1832.
As for municipal government, the Legislature modified Dayton’s Charter in 1828 to divide the town into wards and to provide for direct election of the mayor – instead of selection by council members, of whom he had been one.
In 1841, five years before the town was 50 years old, the Legislature made Dayton a city because the population had passed 5,000 in the 1840 federal census. This involved a new state-promulgated charter, which had to be approved by Dayton voters. It was – by four votes, 382-378.
The margin was substantially larger 127 years later when Daytonians voted on a similar proposition.
In 1913, Dayton became the nation’s first major city to adopt the commission-manager form of government. The home rule charter, which went into effect Jan. 1, 1914, returned the selection of mayor back to the commissioners, from among their number.
When direct election of the mayor was presented to the citizens again in 1968, they voted – 27,898 to 22,810 – to so amend the city charter.
John Folkerth, a veteran member of the Town Council, became Dayton’s first elected mayor in 1829.
Dave Hall, mayor as a member of the City Commission, became in 1969 the first directly elected mayor under the amended charter.