The Covington Pike
by Charles F. Sullivan
I was the youngest of five boys and two girls, living with my parents, Mr. & Mrs. S. M. Sullivan at 435 W. Second Street and of course, that home was the center of my universe.
We had a horse and carriage and Mother did the driving and with its aid, we became well acquainted with the outskirts of Dayton for about five miles in every direction, and I want to tell you how this city has grown since I was a boy in the 1870’s.
There were two ways to reach the Covington pike, either to go to Main and then turn north or by the Tate’s Mill road, now called Forest Ave., so I will start from home.
We would go to the “Bridge street bridge” where the Dayton View bridge now stands and we crossed three steel spans built in 1868 then onto the covered wooden bridge. The first Bridge across the Miami was built at this location and in 1819 and this was a washed away in 1852. It was rebuilt soon after, and it was roofed and sided to keep it from rotting, making it as dark at night as a tunnel.
This was a two lane bridge and toward each end a light was placed between the two lanes which was a great improvement.
Immediately in front of this bridge on the west side, was a woods originally known as Steele’s woods and in 1856, the school year closed with a grand picnic and exhibition of the public schools.
The Journal gives a lengthy and enthusiastic description of the parade, saying that it was “the most beautiful and exhilarating scene witnessed in our streets for years.” The procession formed at the corner of Main & Third streets and reached to Steele’s Hill and was composed of the city council, the board of education, the high and district schools. Two brass bands enlivened the procession with music and each school carried a beautiful silk banner, the scholars wearing rosettes. The Journal says “the procession must have contained twenty five hundred persons, including teachers, pupils and others and reached from the Court house, very near to the grove where the exercises were held.” “The procession of 1856 was so good, it made such a favorable impression on the public that it was determined to repeat it in 1859.” This was done for I remember my Father telling about what a wonderful procession it was and he was 37 years of age at that time. The above quotation is from Steele’s history of Dayton. This woods was bought, I think, by I Van Austal and J. W. Stoddard and Van Austal built the first house upon it, a two story brick in front of the bridge, filling the yard with flowers and bushes making a beauty spot of it. He owned a store at 25 S. Main, where Woolworths’ store is now and the Journal office was when it was burned buy the copperheads May 5, 1863, and since there were no street cars then, it was just a good walk to and from the store. There were seven in the family, two dying in infancy and later he took his son in the store with him using the title of I & C Van Ausdal. One daughter is still living in Dayton, Miss Katherine, and the house was moved to 37 Grafton ave., where it is still in use as a dwelling.
Some time after, J. W. Stoddard built a fine house just east of this, where the Masonic Temple now stands. Mr. Stoddard has six children and while the house did not appear so fine on the outside, the inside was very fine and convenient. Mr. Stoddard owned a large factory at Third and Bainbridge making Agricultural implements and he extended his factory east along the tracks of the Pennsylvania railroad and was very successful.
The automobile came into use and he changed to making the “Stoddard Dayton Automobile,” and then he moved his shop to Leo street where the Air Temp Co. is now located.
The street now known as Belemonte Park was then laid out and east of it Mr. C. L. Hawes built a red pressed brick house made in Philadelphia and costing $.10 per brick, and an iron fence around the grounds and this was a fine location, for looking across the river the entire city could be seen. The Art Institute is now located there and I am sure you will agree about that location if you have ever been there. Mr. Hawes owned and operated a straw board works at the junction of Madriver and the Canal, at first getting power and shipping from the canal but later he abandoned both and used coal and the railroads. He had two sons, one dying as a young man and the other son was drowned while swimming. Mr. Hawes sold the factory to the American Straw Board Co. His widow lived there for the rest of her life.
Fred Reibold, running a shoe store south of the market house on Main Street, then built the stone house on Belemonte Park and lived there for many years. He had a son and daughter but they faded out and Canby bought the property for his residence.
Going on from there, the road forked, taking first, the right fork. On the corner was a large wooden flour mill, operated by Mr. Palmer using water power and he was very busy with it.
I do not know how old this mill was but think it quitre old, but it caught fire on Aug. 6, 1997 and burned to the ground and was never re-built. In the center of this fork Stillwell & Bierce built a two story shop making water wheels etc. and they as well as all in that neighborhood used water power from the Dayton View hydraulic, and were quite busy. On the north of the road, A. A. Simonds had a knife factory and he was running his place day and night continually. Across the road from this, the Dayton Electric Light Co. built a brick building to house the machinery to develop the power for the new contract they had, to light the streets of Dayton with the new kind of light. There is now a small log cabin standing almost upon the same ground. This company is now the D. P. & L. Co., so very well known at this time.
In the nineties there were several years that there was not enough water to run these factories, so the Lighting Co. bought and built on E. Fourth street above Jefferson and later moved to the present Miller’s Ford station. The Simonds moved to Wolf Creek and the Pennsylvania railroad, and Stillwell & Bierce merged under the name of Stillwell-Bierce-Smith-Vaile Co. and built in North Dayton, just across the Keowee and Webster street bridges, later becoming the Platt Iron Co. and later being cut up into several pieces.
Along this fork, Lehman or Riverview there were four brick residences built west of Main street and some are still standing.
Going back to the forks, the left fork was known as Tate’s Mill road and there were no buildings upon the east side and Stoddard’s woods extended to Forrest, on the west side. Herman Ritter ran a florist’s place on Grand Ave. west of Forest, but it was up a very steep grade and then down again to the greenhouse. In the nineties this hill was cut down to the present grade much to the advantage of Mr. Ritter. Opposite Shaw ave. a lane ran up to the home of Samuel Forrer, a two story brick, still standing. He was a well known civil engineer, having been employed by the state on making the pikes in this district, then on the canals over the state, and then on the railroads. He had six children and the descendants are still with the locality.
Opposite Neal ave. was a lane running up the hill to “Five Oaks” the residence of J. H. Pierce, a son-in-law of Samuel Forrer.
He had 8 children and was in the lumber industry at the corner of Wayne and State now a railroad yard.
Opposite Helena street a lane led up the hill to the E. E. Barney home, where the Julienne high school now stands, Mr. Barney was the first principal of Cooper Seminary for young ladies, located on First between Wilkinson and Perry where Westminster church is now located. He was a good teacher but having six children to provide for, he became a member of the Barney Parker Co. and started the Dayton Car shop, this changed to Barney & Smith Co. which was Dayton’s largest industry for over a half century. This industry extended east of Keowee and from the N.Y.C. switch tracks to the old canal and east to Findlay street.
All three of these houses were built upon the hill and could not be seen from the road and were considered very aristocratic.
Beyond this, the Tate’s Mill road joined Main street so we will go back to Main street bridge again.
Coming across the Main street bridge, which was four spans of steel called an inverted arch the only one like it I ever saw. The first one was a wooden covered bridge and was washed away in 1866 and the steel one erected soon after. This one was replaced by the present concrete bridge erected in 1893.
The first house across the bridge was occupied by Mr. Halteman right at the levee and close to it was a two room brick at the one corner of Emmet and they had a couple of cows, selling the milk where ever they could fine a customer. When I was a boy Emmet street had about a dozen houses upon it, E. McPherson was well built to Linwood, and Adrian was the same. Main was about half built as far as Herman and most of these houses were one story and frame. The county school house stood at the S. W. Corner of Linwood and McPherson built of brick, Adrian is now E. Babbitt.
East of Linwood was a cow pasture from the river on the south and east to the hydraulic now E. Miami Blvd. On Main next south or where the drug store is was a one story white brick building which was the original home of the Forest Ave. Presbyterian church, * (East side of Main south of Herman).
This had a shed kitchen, which was used for the infant school and the school had over 100 pupils in that building. Herman Ave. dead ended at the river and the hydraulic for there was no bridge at either end. West of Main there was just one building near Babbitt and Floral beside those mentioned on W. Riverview above. On Main north of Lawn a road house with a pump in front of it to water the horses. The drivers would go inside for their drinks but would have been much better off, had they drank the water instead of what they did get inside.
* used until old Riverdale Pres. church was built, N. E. corner of Main & Miami Blvd. Moved to present Forest Ave. site in 1901.
After crossing the hydraulic upon a short steel arch bridge, we come to Rung street now Neal Ave., so named because a Mr. Rung ran a grocery there, and it’s still run by his descendants, and the street was built pretty well as far as Geyer street, but the street was used at Forest. Heikes Nursery, used the ground from this grocery to Helena and over to Forest with the office on Main street. From here on, I will use the names of locations as they are now but it was all country then.
At Helena was a large brick upon a hill, still standing behind the present Kroger grocery. Then all was vacant until the Roney farm with the residence at Delaware upon a hill. Upon the opposite side at Ridge was the old Reuben Mumma home, still standing with its high columns running to the roof and porch across the front. Mr. Mumma had a greenhouse in the low land and a large barn immediately behind the house, where he packed the trees raised in the nursery. He owned all the land from here to the hydraulic and from the pike to the river. When the ground was platted, Mary ave., was named after his wife, and the next street was called Reubean but was changed to Burton and Mrs. Mumma’s maiden name was Drake so the next was after her, also, and Mumma was the next street carrying their last name.
Mr. Mumma always attended the market with a wagon load of flowers when there was no danger of frost. He was a small man but quick and active for a man of his age and sold many plants from his wagon at the west end of the market house. Other florists also brought flowers to sell at market and the display was very fine during the summer. Since there were a number of nursery men out in Riverdale and they used moss shipped here from France, to pack their trees, we have lots of snails in this neighborhood brought here in this moss.
Across the street from Mumma, Mr. Wolf lived in a brick house, which was later moved back on the corner of Fountain and the first alley from Main, and is still in use. A new brick residence was built to take its place and is still there. Next north of it was another brick house which was removed to made room for a filling station. Fountain ave. was platted about he first of the century and in very short time it was all built up mostly to individuals.
On the north corner, the Stoner family used a brick house and later is taws removed for a filling station.
Next north of them Alex Spatz had a grocery and being well out in the country had a good business. On the east side of Main was the Toll gate where all had to stop and pay toll and this was in use in my very early days. The gate was kept by Mr. Ford for a long time and when we moved in the neighborhood he would do farming wherever he could get a piece of ground to use.
Another Wolf had a lane leading from Main about Victor and to a little brick house near the corner of Wheatley and Niagara, the farm reaching clear back to Wabash, and when this farm was platted, the house was removed. This Wolf had a large family, mostly daughters and they attended market regularly, the daughters doing the work while he was away.
Another Mumma family built near Norman pretty well back from the street and this brick house was moved close to the street and is now in use as a double duplex.
A brick house was located on Parkland and Mr. Knecht and his lane lead out to E. Fairview and then to Main, this has been removed.
There was a creek coming down past a large farm house owned by still another Wolf north of Parkwood and west of Main about 300 feet and it was a beautiful spot. The water was clear unless after a rain and showed the rock formation under it, the water falling from ledge to ledge on its road to Stillwater. The part of this field toward Main was fields and the upper part was well wooded making a beautiful park. The Peoples Railway (called the White line) was built in 1888 and turned on a Y at Forest Ave. and Main at their beginning. Later they bought this farm, turning it into an amusement Park and extending their line out there and making a loop there. 1896 the base ball park was located at the corner of Main and Fairview and a theatre built along their line brought lots of people to the park especially upon Sundays and holidays and the street cars were filled to capacity.
Upon big days, they placed a trailer behind the power car and both cars were filled and standing upon the running board along the entire length of the cars. This was a money maker for them but after several years, the Ball Park moved away and the theatre burned to the ground and it was not so popular, so the car company sold the park and extended the line to Maplewood turning upon a loop.
The park is now all built up and it is hard to believe that it could ever have been an amusement park. The boundary of this park was Fairview to Cherry drive, to Beechwood and Main.
Across from the entrance was a building owned by Mr. Rost and he made it into a restaurant for the benefit of those attending the park.
Mr. Nickle and his two boys lived in the N.W. corner of Hillcrest and the boys got into the gravel business and now the corner is almost completely built back to Maplewood.
At Cliff Street a lane led back to a house used by Mr. Kurtz, and some of his descendants live nearby and the street ran back to a stone quarry which has not been used for many years.
At Bruce street there is an old frame house used by J. J. Fromm, as a garden plot and his descendants live there but the lot is all built up now. Almost across the street, Mr. Shawhan, father of the doctor lived and had several acres, which was sold to the county to build the Children’s Home. It is a very nice place and is used for a very good cause, taking care of the children whose parents have passed on and had to leave their children to others to teach and train them to be good citizens.
Knecht is so named because it lead to a brick home owned by Mr. Knecht whose house was located near Kathleen and Bruce but it was removed many years ago.
Upon the east side of the roads some distance from the Children’s Home was the Ensley Home and it is now Frankie’s Forest Park at the end of the street car line.
On the opposite side of the road, Mr. Greenwald owned a farm and lived there. Now the most of this is built upon, only reserving enough for his green house business which keeps him busy.
Not far from there * is the Shoup’s mill road running toward the river and we visited that woods many times for flowers in the spring and nuts and pawpaws in the fall. We gathered Blood Root, Anemones, Twin Leaf, Hepatica, Trilliums, Solomon’s seal, Jack in the Pulpit and many others in abundance from that woods.
This Woods is now Sinclair Park and operated by the Y. M. C.A. as a recreation place for their members.
Crossing the Stillwater upon an old covered wooden bridge there was an old mill run by water power developed from a dam just above the bridge. This mill has been gone many years and now a residence takes its place and the curves in the road make it a very pretty place to live, in the cool quiet with the woods across the river and the fields between the hills and river, changing the scenery every day in the year.
* just beyond the old Lindsley farm house.
Being dependent upon a horse for transportation, this was as far as we could go and return the same day. This wooden bridge has been replaced by a fine steel one and Riverside Drive has been built since I was a boy, and this is a short way back.
When you drive out Main street can you think it ever was in the condition I tell you about, but I doubt if I have missed a house along the route.
Chas. F. Sullivan
114 E. Idaho St Apt. C
Sept. 15, 1943