Development of Oakwood Slow - Until Dayton's 1913 Flood

 

This article appeared in the Kettering-Oakwood Times July 5, 1970

Development of Oakwood slow – until Dayton’s 1913 flood
By Joan Thomas


            Every hour old Dave Weeks prodded his mules to pull the car up the hill into Oakwood.
            When it reached the turntable, passengers were dismissed, and Dave would loudly blast his horn. Then he would relax a few minutes, allowing the team to rest, while Oakwood people heeded his signal and hurried out to the car for a trip into town.
            The cars (later pulled by horses) followed a set of tracks that had been laid in 1871. An early community developer, G. B. Harman, had been responsible for the transportation system serving Oakwood.
            Mr. Harman, who came to Dayton in 1843 and after the Civil War moved into Oakwood, formed a real estate partnership with Patterson Mitchell, Isaac Haas and William Dixon.
            They bought all the land between Far Hills and Harman Aves. and most of the land between Harman and Oakwood Aves.
            Then in 1871, in order to encourage development, they and other property owners paid for the laying of the tracks from Rubicon Creek to the corner of Oakwood and Park Aves.
            Development was steady, but sluggish, until, ironically, a Dayton disaster – the 1913 flood – made Oakwood a boom town.
            Oakwood was not physically touched by the flood, but her citizens promptly assumed roles of leadership and directed the rescue operations of the hundreds of stranded Daytonians.
            John H. Patterson became the hero of Dayton when he mobilized the National Cash Register Co. and, with determination and organization, set out to save lives, feed, clothe and house 2,500 people.
            Other Oakwoodites played major roles in helping citizens retrieve their belongings and recover from the effects of the high waters.
            Col. John Patterson, Col. Frank T. Huffman, and Adam Schantz headed the Citizens’ Relief Committee; R. H. Grant distributed supplies to 22,000 homeless persons. Nelson Talbott and Frederick Patterson manned canoes that rescued 162 persons.
            H. E. Talbott took charge of reconstruction work. Two Oakwood doctors, Dr. H. H. Herman and Dr. H. B. Harris, provided night and day aid to the suffering victims.
            And so, after living through such a traumatic experience, Daytonians sought residence in the “high little, dry little village” of Oakwood.
            Following the flood, enterprising developers published pamphlets exalting the safety and serenity of the beautiful building lots available in the village.
            A booklet, extolling the virtues of a section called Park Hill, was filled with attractive photographs of the pastoral-like scenery in Oakwood.
            Descriptions of the land included such incentive information as, “Park Hill is 275 feet higher than the intersection at 3rd and Main.” Improvements were listed with the boast that if the sidewalks, curbs and gutters were placed end to end, they would stretch four miles.
            “The air, at Park Hill,” the praising account points out, “is, on account of its elevation and superb location, always pure and fresh and free from dust ….”
            The booklet also testifies to the availability and efficiency of the transportation system, which at that time had evolved from the horse and mule-drawn cars to a more sophisticated railway system.
            Every four minutes, the 26-page booklet details, a railway car left Oakwood for the center of Dayton.
            A second major residential area was planned by Adam Schantz and his son Adam Schantz II, and a leaflet similar to Park Hill’s was distributed to potential buyers.
            By 1915, 59 houses had been constructed in the area east of Far Hills which had been the Schantz estate.
            In the new Schantz Park, zoning stipulated that houses to be constructed must have a minimum value of $3,000. Other restrictions noted in the booklet were that no fences were to be erected on front lawns and that stables and garages be located on alley lines.
            On Schantz Ave., houses could not be built for less than $10,000; on Volusia from Oakwood to Springhouse, they had to be at least $5,5000, but from Spring Grove to Sorrento, the minimum was dropped to $5,000, still a substantial sum at the beginning of the century.