Change and Decay in All Around I See
by Charles F. Sullivan
Seventy years after the settlement of Dayton, I arrived here, living with my parents upon west Second street opposite St. Mary, for 28 years.
My parents having both passed away, I had induced Miss Bertha Allen formerly of Troy and teaching in the First district school, to be my life partner. We moved to Riverdale, and a year later, we built this house at 40 Glenwood, and are still living here. Among the books coming to me from my father’s estate, is a William’s directory of 1866-67 and I have enjoyed looking it over and seeing where the prominent business men lived and where the factories were located. At that time all factories used water power to run their machinery, and so were located upon the canal or hydraulics where it could be had. The census of 1870 gives is 30,500 people and had increased 10,000 in that decade.
Many inventions have come into common use, during my life time, such as the bicycle, telephone, pneumatic tire, wireless telegraph, radio, electric light and power, street cars, busses, trucks, and many others, and the one that I think has caused the greatest change is the internal combustion engine. This has revolutionized our whole transportation system, and has reduced time and distance to almost nothing, and banished the horse, which was the great means of transportation up to this time.
At first the internal combustion engine was considered just a toy and used gas as fuel, then with a little change it used gasoline and was still considered as a toy for years, but soon showed its dependability and today has monopolized all transportation. Later with another change we have the diesel engine, but gasoline is still the greatest motor fuel. With the going of the horse, there was no need of several trades such as blacksmiths, harness makers, horse shoers, livery stables, wheel factories, carriage and wagon factories, feed stores and others, and for other causes tanneries, stones quarries, and stone yards, natural ice and others. With the coming of the auto and truck, there is a filling station upon almost every prominent corner, and all seem to be doing a fair business.
New and used car sales rooms, garages, accessory stores, auto grave yards also give employment to many men, but not nearly as many in proportion as the horse and buggy used. Also today nearly all large farms use tractors and improved machinery, releasing many fields, formerly used to raise feed, and the work is done with much less human labor than formerly.
The labor thus released from the farm comes to the city for employment going back and forth every day. It is now possible for a farmer to go to the city and do much business and be back on the farm in a half of a day.
In this directory there are seven agricultural implements factories and four of them were very prominent in my childhood days – D. E. McSherry, making drills; B.C. Taylor, rakes; J. B. Pitts, threshers; and A. Pritz, implements, and by 1880 four more were in the business, John Dodds, Ohio Rake Co., Farmer’s friend Mfg. Co. and Stoddard, but all of these are out of business now. Stoddard began making the Stoddard auto, changing later to the Maxwell and then selling out to the Dodge people and both of his factories are now used by others. The Ohio Rake Co. built a fine large shop in Edgemont but that place is now used as a coal yard.
There were seven flour mills doing business in Dayton at that time and using water power and while Dayton has increased greatly in size, seven times, there is not today a single flour mill in Dayton, nor for quite a distance from here and Dayton consumes many times as much flour as they did at that time. The large mills in the northwest equipped with the best machinery, can make much more and better flour than these old mills could so they get the business and wheat raised here is shipped away.
There were seven banks at that time and now due to mergers, there are only three and only the Winters can be traced by name.
Two boiler factories were here and Brownell is the only one now doing business and of the seven foundries, Brownell and the Malleable are the only ones in business. The Malleable started business on east Third opposite Front street in 1866 as Loeb Stevenson & Co. and stayed there about 5 years when they moved to west Third street on the Penna R.R. where they have been expanding ever since. Now they parallel the Penna R.R. from Wolf Creek to Fourth street, about a block deep. Brownell started at First and Foundry but were burned out Sept. 29, 1889 and then moved to Findlay street where they still hold forth and these two are the only foundries that are running under the same old names.
The Dayton Gas Co. was organized in 1848, making gas out of grease but this was not a success and they soon changed to coal. Natural gas was piped into Dayton from Indiana in 1889, the two gas companies merged and then with the gas company forming the D.P. & L. Co.
There were four daily papers n 1866, one of them gave up and another took its place so there are now four newspapers.
Four paper mills, two quit business, one moved to Chillicothe and one new one is still operating. Two varnish factories, one is merged with a large paint corporation and is still in operation. One wagon shop is still in existence but little of its work comes from the horse and buggy.
With the coming of Portland cement (which gets its name from Portland England, because it looks much like the stone quarried there) nearly all use for stone, brick and lots of lumber has gone and out buildings are nearly all fire-proof.
Of 116 firms listed, employing men at that time, 109 of them are out of existence, leaving only seven still in operation and they have merged and changed their products until it is almost impossible to recognize them.
At that time there were seven railroads operating out of Dayton and later three narrow gauge roads were built (one of which introduced Jackson coal to Dayton making a great change from water power to steam) these were made standard gauge and one of them has discontinued service and the balance of them have merged until now there are only four systems doing business here.
At that time the largest locomotives weighed about 50 tons, but now they weigh 200 or more tons, the capacity of freight cars was 10 to 12 tons while now they are 50 tons, 30 freight cars was considered a long train while now anything less than a 100 cars is a small train.
In this directory they advertise passenger time between Cincinnati and New York, 31 hours, while now it is about 18 hours.
Nine tractions were operating out of Dayton at the beginning of this century and were considered a great transportation agency for freight and passengers, but now all have quit business and busses and trucks have taken their places.
The first street car line did not begin work until 1870 upon Third street and used horses to move the cars, five or more lines were built later.
In 1888 an electric line was built proving its ability to give service and within five years all lines were equipped to operate by electric power. Now only two lines use street cars and they will probably go soon, one line is operating gasoline busses while the balance are using electric busses.
D. L. Rike began business in 1850 at what is now 17 East Third and later built a store at the corner of Fourth and Main S W corner and later at the present location at Second and Main and the name changed to Rike Kumler Co.
The Dayton Car works was started in 1849 by E. Thresher and E. E. Barney under the firm name of E. Thresher & Co. In 1854, Mr. Thresher sold out to Parker and the firm name changed to Barney Parker & Co.
In 1864 Mr. Parker sold out to Preserved Smith and the name changed to Barney Smith & Co. and in 1867, the company incorporated as the Barney & Smith Mfg. Co. At that time all cars were made of wood except the trucks but the railroads had many wrecks and many took fire and burned the freight and as the passenger cars were heated by stoves, they were a great fire hazard and about the beginning of this century they began using steel in the under parts of all cars and this prevented them from crushing like an egg shell.
In the winter of 1912-13, the Car Co. had an order for 15 fine dining cars for a western railroad and they were all complete but held awaiting some silverware that had not yet arrived. The 1913 flood came along and these cars were submerged in the water and by the time the water was gone it was found that the woodwork in them was ruined and it cost almost as much to repair them as to make them new. This together with the cost of re-habilitating the entire shop, put a terrible crimp in their finances from which they never recovered. From then on, the railroads were requiring more and more steel in all cars until they were all steel and to do this would have made it necessary to remodel the whole shop and put in all new machinery, but they could not see it that way so quit business. Now the old car works had been divided up until it is almost impossible to recognize it.
In 1888, the Davis Sewing Machine Co. moved here from Watertown, N.Y. and located upon Linden avenue along the Penna railroad and they began expanding until they became one of the largest shops in the city. During the World War, they remodeled to do war work for the government and after the war it would have cost them as much to remodel for peace, and during the war they had neglected their regular business so they had to begin all over again. This was up-hill business and they gradually gave up their work and space and now the plant is divided into several sections.
This directory does not contain the names of John Patterson or any of the family for they lived at the junction of Far Hills and Oakwood avenues which was fully a mile outside of the corporation. In 1884, John and Frank Patterson bought the controlling interest in the Standard Register Co. and changed the name to the National Cash Register with the factory renting space in the Callahan power building in the rear of the present location of the Third National Bank, using 13 men in its production. They increased it to 40 men and that was all the space available in that building. As they owned much ground south of town, they built the factory building, 240 feet on Stewart street and 50 feet wide, and two stories high. From then on they were continually building new, larger and better buildings, until now they have an immense plant of light and well ventilated and equipped buildings.
I have omitted telling that the first job Mr. J. H. Patterson had was for the state of Ohio as canal collector and from this he went into the retail coal business and while in this he learned that there was a fine seam of coal in Jackson County a hundred miles from here, but we had no way of transporting the coal to Dayton. J. H. as he was called was influential in promoting and building the Dayton & Southeastern railroad, a narrow gauge 3 feet wide and as soon as it was completed the Jackson county coal began to arrive here and that had much to do with the developing of Dayton into a manufacturing city for this was a good cheap coal to make steam and almost at once Dayton changed from water power to steam and the factories located along the railroads instead of along the canal as formerly.
J. H. died on May 7, 1922 and in his death Dayton suffered a great loss but the NCR co. has gone along since then much upon the plans he had started from the beginning and is still expanding formerly.
“Change and decay in all around I See”, yet in spite of it there had been a continued growth and betterment of living conditions in this city.
It seems almost impossible that Dayton has been built and made what it is since 1796 or 146 years of continued improvement.
February 3, 1942
Chas. F. Sullivan