THE FOLKS ON HOLE'S CREEK AND WHY WE JOINED THEM
A Paper written for
The Saturday Club, Dayton, Ohio
by A. A. Thomas
DAYTON people have always been disinclined to move into the near-by country to live. This was so, although choice hilltops for residence lay near about Dayton, in sight and unoccupied. John W. VanCleave took the first and nearest for Woodland Cemetery; a butchering outfit took and holds the face of Mad River just to the east; the State Asylum for Insane holds another; the Miami Valley Hospital another; and the National Soldiers' Home, to the west, another. There is no finer view in the Miami Valley than when, on a clear morning, you face east at the Soldiers' Home, and see all that lies between the mouth of Stillwater, north, and Hole's Creek to the south. The Soldiers' Home hill would be just right now for choice residence, say two miles from the Miami River and from Dayton.
Of the dislike of Dayton people to live in the near-by country I have a distinct memory covering the last fifty years; or since my father moved his family to Dayton, when I was of district-school age, in 1858. Since then "my people" properly include, first, my father's family; then my sister's; then my own, and then my daughter's. They cover a continuing time up to 1915, and four generations. To live in a house made for another is like wearing another man's shoes. Any kind of a house has been good enough for us, if it were only among our friends and in the center of town.
My father's family lived first in Peter P. Lowe's house, on Main Street, next to the comer of Fourth, where the Reibold office building now stands; next on Wilkinson Street, near Fourth; next on Fourth Street, where the entrance to the Arcade now is; next in Dr. Job Haines' house, now torn down, where the front lawn of Mr. Albert Thresher is, corner of Second and Perry; next in the house on Monument Avenue, washed away, west of the Young Brothers' home; and in 1871 in the Dr. Jenning's house, on Perry Street, where my first grandchild was born in 1911. The next day, in the second story center bedroom of this house, they upbraided me for want of attention, till I cried out, pointing to the corner of the room, "It was there I saw my eleven-year-old brother Willie die, forty years ago."
The old homestead now known as Maysfield, in Oakwood, was built by Major Giddings, in Mexican War times, and then owned and lived in for years by Colonel Harrison, who had married an Allston of South Carolina. In 1866, Colonel Edwin A. Parrott married my sister Mary May; and next year bought the Harrison home, with its twenty acres, and moving out from town, lived there just forty years. He gave the place its present name.
From 1867 and on—those were my high-school teaching and law student days—and perhaps in the ten years following, I saw more of Oakwood life than any other man who did not live there. Colonel Parrott would take his family East for vacations, and leave me pro tem at home, where the cook was retained.
A friend asks: "A dozen years later, when you married and tried to make a home, did you want to go to Oakwood?"
Not on your life, and this is a good place to tell the reason why. Let me give the reasons fro and con. You remember the woman who said she "watched her husband move for an hour fro and con across that bridge"?
1—My sister told me Colonel Parrott once said, "May, we have lived here just twenty-five years, and this is the only land near Dayton that has not advanced in value in that time." The date of this complaint must have been, say, late in 1893.
2—In driving down the hill where the Cincinnati Pike passes "Captain Robert's" home, on past the old sawmill site, one drove through a current of air damp and raw, coming from wet and decayed vegetation of the Miami bottom to the west. My sister, after twenty-five years' observation, once said she would not dare to live on the river face of the Sugar Camp hill because of just this thing. It is all remedied now by the great and good work of changing the bed of the Miami to the west. The fact is, for fifty years the City of Dayton neglected all the lower Miami within its corporation lines, when spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the river bed and overflow of Mad River, above where it joins the Miami.
3—There was then no rural delivery of mail. Many an evening I have harnessed a horse and trotted to town merely to get the daily mail.
4—For a good home, for people who entertained or read much, the light at night was inadequate. I remember when the Runnymede and the Maysfield homes wasted time and money on troublesome and expensive gas machines, needed and bought, but, after repeated repair, always discarded.
5—Electric light and power did not exist in those days; you know what it is worth to "you 'ns on Hole's Creek," and at city prices.
6—The telephone exchange service direct to your neighbors and to town, all on the Dayton exchange, is worth more in the country than in the city, and this because the distances are greater. I learned this on my farm out West. Ten years after Colonel Parrott went to Maysfield, Geo. L. Phillips, Robert C. Schenck, and I owned the District Telegraph in Dayton. We rented to the City some boxes for its use whereon you "type-wrote" at one end and the printed words went down at another and distant city office. George L. Phillips and I went to Chicago to buy these boxes from the electrician in the Court House-City Building there. I waited at the corner of Washington and State for him to buy them and join me. At last he came, looking as if his eyes were popping out. "We won't buy," he said; "the machines are useless. I have seen a new box which doesn't write, but talks."
7—The country schools were inadequate. The time, trouble, and expense the Parrott and Houk children had for twenty years in going into town to school was no small matter. Such schools need not be inadequate. Mr. Samuel C. Wilson, my chum in school and army, afterwards the best district-school principal Dayton ever had, first taught the school across the pike from Maysfield.
Green be the sod above thee,
Friend of my better days.
Mr. Chas. W. Parrott, of the Jefferson Street family, afterwards and long one of the best business men of Ohio, taught in the schoolhouse at the loop. Mr. Chas. B. Clegg, forty years ago, saw fun in a deed in my handwriting he found in the Recorder's office. The description ran, "thence 65 feet to a point, witness a burr oak ten inches in diameter, sixteen feet from the corner of the brick schoolhouse where Charley Parrott once taught school."
8—In times past. Van Buren Township landowners, like most farmers, had the habit of refusing, or rather failing, to co-operate to any common end. I saw the Parrott and Houk families try, in vain, for twenty years, to agree upon the location of a public road through their contiguous real estate, and leading to the Oakwood Street Railway terminus. Both needed and wanted the road as much as the public. What I complain about is probably not observable now; and mostly, I believe, because of the patient urging and example of Mr. John H. Patterson. I remember a meeting brought about by him at the Houk homestead maybe fifteen years ago, to discuss and promote "co-operation." Mr. Patterson spoke, recalling the fact that once, when Kramer's barn had burned in his early days of poverty, the neighbors had all rallied, cut and hauled the logs, and then rebuilt it. "Yes," cried out an old man; "that was thirty years ago. Folks in Van Buren do co-operate: that is, they do once every thirty years."
For betterments affecting their premises, impossible without joint action, the owners of the land between Stroop Road and the Catholic cemetery entrance, have co-operated more in the last three years than their predecessors had since John Cleves Symmes died.
9—The strongest inducement to live at Maysfield was the pureness and tonic quality of its air. This gave sound sleep, and all other good things followed. All Oakwood people know this, and the air is no better than on all the hills around Dayton. The thing wanted is altitude, and this is easy to measure.
CHARLTON D. PUTNAM
CIVIL AND LANDSCAPE ENGINEER
ENQINEKRINO FOR LANDSCAPE AND 601-602 SCHWIND BLDG.
REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT A SPECIALTY DAYTON, OHIO
September 15, 1915.
In accordance with your request of the 9th inst., I am giving you the following sea level elevations for the use of Mr. A. A. Thomas.
Northeast curb at Third and Main Streets, 741.5; point of curb south of log cabin at Oakwood Loop. 827.3; Porch at Maysfield, 861.5: field on south side at mouth of Hole's Creek, 722; floor level of E. A. Deeds' residence, 843.7; floor level of Moraine Station on Stroop Road, 832.8; floor level of C. P. Kettering's residence, 935.0.
Yours very truly.
*CHARLTON D. PUTNAM.
*Note.— Mr. Putnam seems to have had two years' training and valuable experience at Providence, R. I., in doing the work of Olmsted Brothers, Landscape Architects, in Boston. And in the adjoining office, 601-602 Schwind Building, Dayton. Ohio, is John E. Freudenberger, who, under Gov. Thomas, for seven years had charge of the landscape and green-house work at the Soldiers' Home here. and in the last ten years in doing the work which carried out the Olmsted plans South of Dayton.
Dayton is on the first Miami bottom; so is the mouth of Hole's Creek, and the land between that and the canal. Early Daytonians were strangely indifferent on this subject. When Mr. Thomas Parrott, Colonel Parrott's father, built his first home in Dayton, he was well-to-do, and had the choice of all locations. He chose and built on a lot in "Texas," or North Dayton on the New Troy Pike, now standing, and owned, I think, by the Gypsies.
During the flood of March 25, 1913, my wife, son Felix, and I were marooned on the second floor of our home at the comer of Second and Perry. With us was our cook only, a country girl of high type from Mercer County, and a devout Catholic. She stood it till dark; then she took a good cry; then she came to me when others were not near, and said, "Mr. Thomas, won't you please tell me where in the Bible are those words, "and there shall be no more flood.' "
I explained to her why, because my father would not let me go to Sunday School in my boyhood, I did not know. At midnight, when the flood boiled over the upper landing on our stairway, threatening our second floor, her courage failed again. Waiting till others could not hear, she came up in the dark close, and said, "Mr. Thomas, won't you tell me all you can about the second coming of Christ?"
I could have told her the tradition, for Huxley tells that. He says for over a hundred years after Jesus was crucified, His followers, on meeting on the highway, would give each other, not the common salutation of that or this day, but one would say only, "He is coming." The other would reply, "Yes, He is coming."
No, there will be no more floods in our Miami Valley. No Dayton home will be vacated now, or in the future, because of a fear of a repetition of what did happen. That public meeting that night at the N. C. R. factory, when John H. Patterson raised the two-million-dollar "Flood Prevention Fund," followed by the march of triumph uptown, was one of the most remarkable experiences thus far ever had in this western country. Its fame, and what he did in the flood, is a story you can hear in the Straits Settlements in Asia, and where the boats land at Sitka- Mr. John H. Patterson is fond of doing curious things. He tried once to stop the night Pan Handle train east till he was ready to take it two hours later. This was before the flood. A month after that affair, he tried the same thing out West, with the night express north. They took him to the office of the General Manager of the railroad, where he stood. "Are you flood Patterson?" he was asked. "I guess I am." The railroad official 'phoned for a bunch of his sub-ordinates. They were introduced and stood. Then the General Manager said, "Yes, I'll hold that train for you, and when you get home, say you are the only man in the United States who could get such a favor."
What John H. Patterson did in the Dayton flood and since, will, when he dies, build him a monument that you can see from any hill named in this paper. My sons and other men's sons born in Dayton will help to do this,
Far on in summers we shall never see.
I can write its inscription now: Name; date of birth and death; date of flood; then these words:
The waters shall no more become a flood.—Gen. IX. 15.
John H. Patterson's flood work is done. The best thing he did was to put Edward A. Deeds to follow him. Deeds' work has just commenced. Time will probably give Deeds a monument also. But we are going to have that out on Hole's Creek; perhaps on Delcodell hill.
When you take the trouble to go to the country to live, you want a location or spot which gives a view. This does not cost more money, generally, but it gives to a home a charm and value which is real and durable, and which does not stale with use or time. The late Mr. Henry C. Lowe, with all his taste (and no Dayton man of his generation had more), forgot this when he located his bungalow on the Forrer Road, in or facing Hills and Dales. A good house view was thereabouts easy to get, perhaps on the rear of his own lot or of his neighbor's. To get such a view, then, you need more than elevation; the Lowe bungalow has high elevation and no view.
The view from Maysfield-Oakwood is fine, best in winter, and always best to the west where the Miami River lies with its sycamores and near and distant charm. This view used to be monopolized by Colonel Parrott's residence and Kramer's —now the Country Club; in the near future it will be shared by a hundred suburban homes, none of which will obscure or take anything from each other.
All that has been said makes no reason to justify removal from Dayton into the country, were it not for a good trolley line touch, good roads, and an automobile of today and of the future. From the Moraine Station on the Stroop Road to the Phillips Hotel at Main and Third in Dayton, are, and will continue, electric cars every twenty minutes, and a five-cent fare. When the trolley south on Main Street to Miamisburg was located by Judge Dwyer, Britt Brown and Al Mays, it left the turnpike drive road where Rubicon water crosses Main Street, and doesn't get on it again till south of Hole's Creek, five miles out. The Maysfield-Oakwood people lamented the loss of this trolley service; but the advantage is great to all beyond, for all future time. If you lived at the intersection of the Stroop Road and the Cincinnati bricked pike, how much would you take to permit trolley double tracks in the main high-way you drive on? All the same, the bricked part of the Oak-wood extension on the Lebanon Pike is such good driving that my people prefer to drive their car south by that route, to re-turn by the Cincinnati Pike.
Most men won't underwrite all that Governor Cox did, or tried to do, when Governor of the State; he might rightly say, that much of it I do not understand. Yet Ohio has had a hundred years of history, and short two-year gubernatorial terms; but she never had a Governor who did as much for good roads in this State as he did. In that, he did so much good we won't stop now to discuss other things.
Permit me to revert and become an Englishman for one paragraph, and say,—"Gentlemen, will you drop your pre-occupations, and rise, then join with me in drinking to the health of Governor James M. Cox, for what he did for good roads in Ohio, in his short two-year term."
If you go further south (or in any direction) to live, what lies between you and town is worth considering.
No one who lives south and drives out Main Street today, would want the County Pair-grounds platted and sold. Mr. J. H. Patterson says it should be a public park; it is and will be when the men who control it stop closing its south entrance.
The Cash Register factory and grounds are pleasanter to drive by today than any other like place, probably, in the United States. The Patterson Homestead grounds have made its worst spot its best residence place under the skillful enterprise of someone who must have married into the family. The Dr. J. E. Lowes plat, now known as a part of "Rubicon," has no home with slum conditions about it; no one can attend the meetings of its night club without a feeling of respect, good will, and pride. The Brothers' School has been a pleasant neighborhood for seventy-five years. A school which graduates men like Hugh E. Wall and Judge Ferneding, and has pupils like the sons of Hon. Timothy S. Hogan and of E. A. Deeds, is a credit anywhere. The beauty of the Schantz plat makes one always drive a visitor through it, if one can. The beauty of Far Hills is too well and widely known to dwell on. I recall the happy day when the owner's wife first learned she could have it for a home. She made her husband take this photo, which she posed herself.
You notice the nose of the Pierce-Arrow car she drove that day.
No plat around Dayton has improved its neighborhood more in so short a time, than that lying next south, across the Weade or Patterson Road.
The Houk homestead and Dayton Country Club grounds will be best appreciated if, summer or winter, you take a stranger there and let him see a sunset.
The Camnonte grounds were once badly occupied: they are not now.
An English groom (who hurried home when war impended), riding with me here, said, "Mr. Thomas, they have no notion of this region at home; they think it is all flat!"
If there is anything south of Dayton which need not now be discussed, it is Hills and Dales. I shall say but one thing about the place. Mr. Patterson will not bind himself by contract, but has always avowed his hope and purpose to leave it by will to the public to be kept and perpetually used for park purposes; meanwhile fitting it for such with his own skill, and the guidance of Olmsted Brothers, landscape architects. Taking the chance, or assuming that this will be done, I ask if there is any place in Southern Ohio more tempting to border country residence upon. We may assume this applies only to Hills and Dales proper; which is bounded on the south by Dorothy Lane. Next south are the farms of Frederick B. and of Miss Dorothy, Mr. Patterson's children, already put in park condition.
The same thing may be said of Mr. Patterson's "Locust Farm" (has it one hundred and sixty acres?) lying next west, and abutting from the south on Dorothy Lane. Will this make choice residence sites?* Sheep like it now, if men don't.
*Note.—"The covert of this eminence is altogether beech, the most lovely of all forest trees, whether we consider its smooth rind or bark, its glossy foliage, or graceful pendulous boughs."—The Natural History of Selborne. By Gilbert White, Letter I.
The farm next south of Mr. Patterson's Locust Farm and down the valley, having its hills right and left, belongs to Mr. Kettering, who is developing it, with Mr. Deeds at his elbow. It faces south on the Stroop Road, having near its center the Moraine Station or trolley terminus. The trolley branch and its hundred-foot boulevard * drive across the Kettering Farm, have a right of way stipulated for (but not located) through the Locust Farm and the Country Club grounds of Mr. Patterson; and stipulated for and located through the grounds of Carrmonte, to a terminus or trolley connection at the Catholic cemetery gate on the Cincinnati Pike.
*Note.—Someone has questioned whether this avenue, as laid out, is 100 feet wide. Its proposed name, I think, is "Southern Boulevard." It has a 32-foot electric line right of way in its center; a south drive, 24 feet; a north drive, 36 feet, and planting space on each side; a walk, north side drive, and a walk, south side drive. Altogether, I think these make more than 100 feet.
On the south end of Kettering's farm we reach the first water of Hole's Creek. I call that region the land (and none other) whence the surface waters flow into Hole's Creek be-fore they enter the Miami River. The stream across my place does this; so does the lake on the Stroop Road at the foot of Delcodell hill. If you put a cork (or a German submarine) in there to go with the overflow, it would go where stated.
I now want to speak briefly about the history, promise, and physical character of the valley of Hole's Creek and some of the worn-out farms on its hills.*
(A history about Dr. John Hole and Zacharian Hole, which was noted here by the author, has been moved to the end of the book, due to its long length. – Dayton History Books Online Editor)
John Fiske has written, "No one can understand the history of the United States unless he understands the disposal of its public domain."
Coming first of these disposals at the close of the Revolutionary War, was the sale by Congress to John Cleves Symmes of a million acres lying between the two Miami rivers. The land was unsurveyed. Symmes made the mistake of selling location rights to purchasers, who located themselves. This state of things brought to the West the ablest men it ever had—young surveyors like Schenck, the father of Gen. Robert C.; like Thurman, the father of Senator Thurman; like Daniel C. Cooper, and Israel Ludlow of Cincinnati. who had more to do with the making of the original plat of Dayton than Cooper had.
The confusion which followed paralyzed the Miami settlers, till Congress recognized Symmes' contracts as location rights; and patented the land, on payment to it of two dollars per acre.
The opportunity then offered brought Cooper and Ludlow to Dayton; and Robert Patterson also, in 1804, from Lexington, Kentucky; and it settled around Hole's Creek the highest type of Revolutionary officers from New Jersey. You have in part, in rough outline, in the note below, who the men were, where they settled, how they lived and when they died. Dr. John Hole is buried in the old graveyard in Centerville. near by. We will all (it his heirs consent) go over there some day and leave a monument to his honored memory. We want, also, to get his portrait and his wife's; not to keep the originals, but to make copies. We have it that it was probably Dr. John Hole's influence which named this county, as he named the township after the man whom he saw take command of the American armies, under the Cambridge elm.
Remember, too, Washington township at first included all of Van Buren and of Miami townships, which were afterwards set off.
Those factories on Hole's Creek at Woodburn have no importance, except as showing the quality of Hole's Creek pioneers. The building of the Miami Canal, and, later on, the railroad near by, doomed them all and moved the factories away.
To a man reared and living in Dayton, Holly drinking water, abundant, pure, and cheap, is a matter of course. If it fails or is impaired, we call a meeting of our Improvement Association, and denounce the city officials. But in the country, they say, you can't do this, and if you move to Van Buren Township, especially to Hole's Creek, you had better look a little out.
At Maysfield. My sister used to praise her fine well; when she saw me smile, she explained that at certain times the neighbors would come there for drinking water. More light came later on, when Mr. Wolfe bought the site of Mr. Pierce Schenck's home, but after ten years abandoned his intention to build a house there because he could get no water. The present Oakwood Local Water Supply and Company has been the best blessing south of Dayton. But when you get beyond its radius things are different.
My good tenant man in Minnesota joined his neighbors in a month's trip and exploration through the rich wheat country of Manitoba. Getting home, he asked, "Would you buy a farm with no water except what rain could be saved in cisterns?" "No," I said, and say yet. A home or a farm without water except what you get in cisterns is nothing. "Well," said he, "I have seen hundreds of square miles of rich wheat farm lands that were just that."
I called to see a neighbor on Hole's Creek. He kindly took time to point out the attractions of his hilltop home, which were many. When he began to boast of his two cisterns, I smiled and said nothing; for it meant his home and farm had no other water.
In 1865, Russia sent an agent to the United States to study the principles and working of our government. The possibility of efficient township organization, run by untrained local men, seemed impossible to him, and he wanted to see it. Coming to Ohio, he went to Columbus, and was sent thence to Dayton; and going into the Court House, he asked where he should go to learn. The County officials answered, "Oh, go to Washington Township, of course." They gave him a letter of introduction to the Washington Township Treasurer; and he spent no little time examining the township books. The full title of this interesting Russian was J. Kapnist, at-tache a la II Section de la chancellerie particuliere de S. M. 1'Empereur de Russie.*
*Note.—Hist’y of Mont. Co. Beers & Co., Chicago. P. 14.
During the four years of the War of Secession—1861-5— nothing cheered Dayton people more than the Wood Procession, which seemed to fill all the streets of the city. It was organ-ized and led by Dr. J. W. Dietrich; and was a donation of fire-wood and a demonstration by Montgomery County farmers for the benefit of the families of soldiers who had gone to the war. The officials in charge, later on, learned but did not announce that most of the great donation had come from Washington Township.
In the years following the removal of the factories, the Hole's Creek region prospered well enough on through the years of the War of Secession and, say, until the Financial Panic and distress times of 1873. I have studied and told about hard times for farming and land values in my previous three printed pamphlets read before you.*
*Note.—(1) "The Memory of J. McLain Smith." A paper read at the Saturday Club, March, 1906. (2) "The Northwest." A paper read at the Saturday Club, February, 1910. (3) "Financial Crises and Depressions." A paper read at the Saturday Club, written and read December, 1907; printed, October, 1911.
The time came when choice Montgomery County farm land was selling for fifty dollars per acre and less. In 1883, Robert G. Corwin, Esq.,* procured for us the right of way for our Lebanon Branch railroad. He had retired to Lebanon with his family, to close his advanced years. He would drive, and dine every pleasant day at the farm homes he had known in his early life, lying between Centerville and Lebanon. At last, in a tone of some serious concern he said to me, "Thomas, I find because of the worn-out soil and low prices, the farms I knew as a boy produce in grain and in money, one-third to one-half less than they did; and the farmers' families show the difference in their clothes and their education."
*Note.—Father of Colonel D. B. C. and other good people in Dayton.
When, last October, I bought my sixteen acres, facing south on the Stroop Road, the weeds were so thick the women of my family and my friends could not walk through them; the surface soil, too, seemed to have washed down hill. In some discouragement, I painted a sign to fasten on my front-road letter box, which my folks forbid me to put up:
A. A. THOMAS
Views and Perapective for Sale
Some relief has come if Mr. E. A. Deeds has found out the worn-out hilltops are valuable as residence sites, provided—.
I have spoken of the Kettering Farm, through which the trolley road and Southern Boulevard runs, terminating south at the Moraine Station, on the Stroop Road; and with the hills facing this valley, both to the west and the east. Asking about this, Mr. Deeds sent me to his engineers' office. There I found the expert representative of Olmstead Brothers, who showed me the proposed plat of the ground. As this plat was only a suggestion, I will drop the subject; but it was a surprise and comfort to see what beauty and added value plain farm hilltops may have, not only now, but in the distant future, when platted for residences by such expert landscape engineers.
Everyone who knows this region knows Delcodell hill at the Moraine Station. "They say" Mr. Deeds has bought the contiguous hilltops of the land extending south and then east, for over two miles, to the Hole's Creek bridge; and will ex-tend the one-hundred-foot boulevard along their base, and south across the Stroop Road. If so, he will have a series of choice new country house sites that will protect and support each other by their own neighborhood; and which will each have the essentials of such a country home spot described in this paper. I will repeat what they are, then I close:
The choicest paved roadway for daily drive to and from Dayton; daily rural mail delivery; electric light and power, the same as in the city; telephone exchange service direct to your neighbors and to town; tonic quality of air that goes with altitude; view; near-by touch to good street or trolley-car service; good near-by—and not remote—neighbors; and, last but not least, good drinking water. This last is not there now; and what is wanted is a duplicate of Oakwood's water supply and plant.
Can Deeds and Kettering, with the expert helpers they must call in and pay, plan and build such water-supply service? And can they finance it? That is the only risk an incoming home-builder must take. We know Deeds and Kettering can, jointly or severally, plan and build automobile-starters and tunnels and connecting switch service to factories and N. C. R. additions and biscuit factories and lakes and Delcodell hilltops and Delco plants and factory buildings: they can study flood causes and prevention and build dams,—but can they plan and build waterworks for our Hole's Creek settlement ? If we had what politicians call "an abiding faith" on that subject, the tension of our anxiety would be loosened.
Note.—With the mail which brings these proofs from the printer, comes The Dayton Daily News. Its local says: "E. A. Deeds has purchased the Simon Emrick farm, located in the Miami Valley in the moraine formation section south of the city. It includes the valley west and brow of the hills Known as the moraine group, which run from Hills and Dales throueh the
Deeds estate and south to Hole's Creek. Located in this tract of land is one of the most remarkable springs in the state. In fact, there is a perfect network of springs that burst out of the side hill, and the volume of water, undiminished by drouth, is sufficient at all times to make a good-sized creek."
I read the final proof sheets of the foregoing to a friend of sound judgment, who said, "All very well; but it's hardly fair to persons and things to omit mention of William Stroop, who was pioneer out there, and still stays in one of the choicest farm homes in Southwestern Ohio."
So you will let me briefly tell who he is and what he has done.
William Stroop, now long time dealer in leaf tobacco in Dayton, was born in Springboro, Warren County, in 1861; grew up on the home farm there, attending the country school till eighteen; so he must have come under the influence of "Farmers College," which Dr. A. Wright built and kept going there in the early seventies; with such good teachers as E. Webster Whipple of Dartmouth 67, and George Goodhue, Dartmouth graduate, now physician in Dayton. Next Mr. Stroop was several years at the F. C. Trebien Station in Green County; then several years in the leaf tobacco business at Miamisburg, till he moved to Dayton in 1891.
As one of the creators of what is now The Dayton Power & Light Company, of which he is yet Vice-president, he won no small profit and business reputation. Meanwhile, in 1904, he bought the farm I have spoken of, which has since been his home, managed and developed by his promising son. It was the old Fenstermayer farm, on which was a large brick house then about seventy-five years old. He remodeled this building, adding considerable to its length, putting in modern plumbing, electric lighting new decorations and handsome furnishings, but leaving intact the old fireplaces and much of the old-fashioned beauty of the house. I give here a photo of the place as it appears today.
Located as it is on the side of a hill, it commands a splendid view of the valley in all directions, and is itself a conspicuous object as seen from the Cincinnati Pike.
This house was originally built by one Pencer, one of whose daughters Fenstermayer married. Pencer was a cabinet maker, and made all his own furniture, and his little cabinet shop, which has now been remodeled was noted for some distance in the surrounding country. He sold many pieces of furniture, and made quite a few coffins also.
The bottom lands below the Stroop home were at one time heavily wooded, and Mr. Stroop often enjoyed the tales of some of the neighbors-old settlers, who had helped to cut the logs and fire the bricks which went into the building of the house.
John Cleves Symmes, with all his retinue, made but one expedition in flatboats, starting from Cincinnati and poled up the Great Miami. Some historians say he went to the mouth of Mad River: no, he described the spot and all his contemporaries said that was the mouth of Hole's Creek. He was charmed with the spot because of its virgin beauty and those great sycamores. "The glory of forests is more than the glory of mountains"— so Edward Everett Hale says.
In my ten years' life in Chicago, I learned that business men there who owned nearby farms which raised crops, fed these crops to carloads of cattle bought at the Stock Yards to fatten, and clean up the land, and then go back to the Stock Yards in better condition. Mr. Stroop has done this, how profitably to his soil anyone can see who looks at it.
In this famous tobacco-raising region, he has attracted some attention of those near and remote by his introduction of "shade grown" tobacco, where the entire crop is grown under canvas as one may see it in Cuba or Connecticut.
The range of hills you see behind Mr. Stroop's house, run north and south on his land and have a fine face both east and west. They will make choice residence sites in the future, although a quarter west from Mr. Deeds' ridge, which ends at Delcodell and the Moraine Station.
In my rides with Mr. John H. Patterson through the Hills and Dales region, he told me five years ago that Mr. Stroop was determined to have choice surface roads, and trolley, too, from his home neighborhood direct to the city. I could not see how he could bring this about, but can now, that the thing is done.
My father used to say, "My son, there is nothing so valuable as foresight; and nothing so common as hindsight."
Return to "The Folks on Hole's Creek" Home Page