Header Graphic
Dayton, Ohio - An Intimate History
Chapter Fourteen





“Transportation,” said Senator D. Armond at a meeting of the Miami and Erie Super-Highway Association in 1928, “is a never-ending evolution. It is never finished.”

The truth of the assertion is plain when we look at the history of transportation as a local whole. The program of a hundred and thirty years would read something like this: (1) Flatboats on the river, ox-carts through the woods; (2) Conestoga wagons on the corduroy roads: (3) Stagecoaches on the turnpikes; (4) Freight and passenger boats on the canal; (5) Railroads; (6) Automobiles on the super-highways; (7) Interurban cars; (8) Gasoline bus connections; (9) Airplane.

So, if a historian were meticulous and exact he would begin the story of transportation in Dayton by describing the hewing and laying down of the huge logs across the middle of Main Street to prevent teams from sinking in the mire and dragging their wagons with them.

Then, and up to the present, transportation has been the perennial question before the people. In the first decades of the last century it was how to get in to the Ohio wilderness and now, in 1931, how to make a quick movement of our products out to the purchasing world. Ours is the easier task for we have learned one important lesson – that it is not travel which brings transportation but transportation which brings travel. Our pioneer ancestors were always waiting for enough people to go somewhere to begin to build a railroad there.

The Van Cleves, Newcoms, Thompsons and Harmars had no sooner settled down in their mud-surrounded cabins along the river bank than the question of transportation bobbed up. Unless they could make it possible for other settlers to get in, Dayton could not be a metropolis. The earlier roads were not the result of scientific survey but were the natural growths of necessity. The very first penetrators of the wilderness followed either the Indian trails or the buffalo trails. The first were not more than eighteen inches wide – the beaten path of lines of savages in single file; the second were wider and well-trodden and, what was of great importance, they invariably led to water. If one wandered off either of these trails he was likely to get mired in a swamp or buried in the undergrowth. In the case of the Cincinnati Pike, our earliest highway, it followed logically the windings of the Miami River. Main Street was its upper end in the Miami Valley. The first attempts to increase transportation facilities in and around Dayton were to drain the swampy places and lay down logs, making the corduroy roads so execrated by our ancestors; the next to fill up the holes with gravel of which, as we already know, there was an unending supply. The main difficulty in getting in Dayton was that the little settlement was embraced by an elbow of the river which had to be forded, a difficult thing during spring and fall freshets. Therefore ferries were a necessary adjunct to improved roads. They were rough hand-over-hand-on-a-rope affairs dragging a clumsy raft from shore to shore at the call of a whistle or a shout from passengers on the far bank. The first were at the head of Main Street, on Salem Avenue and First Street and at Fifth or Washington Street. (The present names misleading as at each place there was then nothing but dense woods.)

It was the War of 1812 which impressed upon this part of Ohio the necessity of military roads to supplant the rough highways of the pioneers. In 1809 Dayton was connected by improved (though we would not call them passable) roads with Cincinnati, Franklin and Hamilton on the south, Springfield, Urbana and Piqua on the North and Xenia on the east. This was the pioneer good-roads movement and it went on until by 1830 one could drive in fourteen different directions without having to be pried out of the mud. A familiar sign in our country drives, even as late as the ‘seventies, was the well-swept pole of a tollgate across the road, a sign to dive into one’s pocket for some small change before the pole would be lifted and allow the horse free passage. Highways like these, kept up by toll charges radiated in every direction from Dayton like the spokes of a wheel. When the term “toll-pikes” begins to be used it meant that the roads were kept up by levying a small amount on all passers-by, repairs being kept up by super-imposed layers of gravel, the work being done by farmers on off-seasons. The superiority of this part of Ohio in respect of roads is vouched for by one who has done much walking here and there in the Middle West. “At the close of the century I discovered that old and rich states like Pennsylvania and New York had very few made roads.”

That historic highway, the old National Road, was extended into Ohio in 1825, reached Springfield in 1837, and although it did not pass through Dayton, it did pass through Brant, Tadmor and Vandalia and connected the northern section of the Miami Valley with the eastern states. Third Street, Dayton, was a loop of the National Road, as old excavated milestones prove, connecting Richmond, Springfield and Dayton. It was the first and only east and west artery for wagon travel and was considered such a boon that travelers would come as far as from Kentucky and Tennessee to reach its comfortable roadway before turning east or west. It was the first example of Federal funds for local construction. Family carriages carrying girls of the ‘thirties to school in the East always went by the National Road. Improved roads soon meant public stage transportation. It was in 1818 that the first stagecoach service was established between Dayton and Cincinnati. Up to that time Daytonians who wanted to go to Cincinnati were fortunate if they had a private carriage. Those who did not, walked or went on horseback. It was hard to convince the public that enough people would ever want to go so far away from home to make a weekly stage profitable. The expense was, indeed, great but in time it paid for itself, and the weekly service had to be doubled. By 1828 twenty coaches were making daily trips in both directions.

A trip to Cincinnati in the ‘twenties began at five in the morning from where the stages started, on the south side of the courthouse on Third Street. Not the old courthouse, which was not built until 1850, but the older courthouse on the same site, a frame building flush with the sidewalk. The journey ended at Cincinnati on the afternoon of the second day, the intervening night being spent at Hamilton. The fare charged was eight cents a mile and fourteen pounds of baggage were allowed each passenger. Twelve persons were accommodated in such a vehicle, three on the back seat, three on the front, three on smaller seats between and two up beside the driver. Four horses drew the stage and they were changed every half hour, sometimes more frequently if the roads were very bad. An important social item in the “Centinel” announced that “a certain gentleman” – (only anonymity was considered elegant in those days) – had just arrived in Dayton from Philadelphia by way of Cincinnati, making the trip by boat and stagecoach in only eight days. But this has carried us far in advance of our story. The first and real great highway into and out of Dayton was the river or rather the rivers, for Mad River was in its beginnings a navigable stream. “The mouth of Mad River” in earlier letters and chronicles means an important geographical and strategic point. It made a connecting link between the towns north of Dayton and the Ohio River. Indians came down it in their canoes to hunt; settlers went up it to take up land. Dayton was laid out at “the mouth of Mad River” because it seemed to its founders to promise metropolitan facilities of travel and transportation and to make possible the influx of settlers drawn by the prophetic enthusiasms of Van Cleve, Symmes, and Ludlow. With a thickly-forested land necessitating the hewing of trees every few rods, a swiftly-flowing stream presented the easiest progress. Therefore  the pirogues that we read about, the water party and the land party that first settled Dayton, the increased building of boats for the down-river trip when commerce became an actuality.

Settlers did come and cabins sprang up along the course of both rivers. Hunters had pelts to sell, the farmers had corn and (alas for their morals!) whiskey. When the big gristmills that used to line the banks of the Miami and Stillwater and Mad rivers, were in operation there was flour to be disposed of. New Orleans was the only available market and the rivers the only available means of transportation. We have already visioned the imposing fleets of boats floating on the broad current of the river and already noted the sad end that some of them came to when the precious cargoes came to grief on sand-bars or were wrecked on dams during a flood.

The founders of our Dayton were men of both vision and action. They meant that Dayton should excel commercially. The promise was here; it was theirs to actualize it. We have seen in a former chapter how the great project of the Miami Erie Canal was instigated and promoted. Since that small beginning it had abundantly justified itself. Freight averages reached  7,378 barrels of whiskey, the same of flour, 3429 of pork, 423 of oil. The Dayton branch at first only connected with Cincinnati and all freight from the north was wagon-hauled to the mouth of Mad River and there embarked on the huge freight boats for the south. Our section of the canal began near the mouth of Mad River, descended the Miami Valley, through the villages of Miamisburg, Franklin and Hamilton, then followed the course of Mill Creek to Cincinnati – length when completed sixty-seven miles. In 1837 it was extended as far as Piqua, later to Toledo. The section between Dayton and Cincinnati cost nearly a million dollars. The canal in Ohio, as in other sections of the United States, was the actual and visible means of freight transportation and much passenger traffic for a period of thirty years and more. Railroads were being spoken of, it is true, but casually and apologetically as of something that sounded well but would never materialize. The Miami Erie Canal was always prosperous, its peak year being 1851 when tolls amounted to $350,000. A canal boat carried eighty tons, just what one freight car does today. In the eighteen twenties and thirties, all the stock carried in the Dayton stores came from New York by the Erie Canal to Buffalo, by lake to Cleveland, thence by Ohio and Erie Canal to the Dayton Miami Canal and up to Dayton at a freight rate of $17.25 per ton, a distance of twelve hundred and forty miles. Later when our canal was linked up with the whole system freight came much more direct. After 1861 the railroads took an increasingly larger share of the traffic but the canal continued to function as an important part of our state-wide transportation systems until the ‘seventies, when the first talk of definite abandonment was heard.

The social-recreational side of canal travel is told in many personal narratives of the last century. Old Dayton letters mention visits made to friends in Cincinnati, how parties of church people engaged a boat and spent the Fourth of July picnicking in the woods either south or north of town.

That this was not the only aspect of canal travel is witnessed by some of the tourists who came among us; Harriet Martineau, Harriet Beecher Stowe, President John Quincy Adams, William Dean Howells. The latter probably was the only one who came through Dayton, the others went from New York to Cleveland by the Erie Canal where the accommodations were approximately the same as between here and Cincinnati. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote in “Godeys Ladies’ Book” in 1841 that passing a night in a cabin of a canal boat, whose dimensions were ten by six and six feet high in the company of thirty ladies and children, was a horror. We suspect her figures were somewhat less than accurate but we accept her conclusions. The Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (what were dukes doing in the middle west then?) complained of the insects. Fanny Kemble did, too. The “Travelers Guide” – that early Baedeker, advertised that a certain boat had accommodation for a hundred and fifty people, in which case the thin husk mattresses with which the passengers were provided were laid closely side by side on the cabin floor, those under the tables being considered the most fortunate since they at least could not be trodden on. It is worth while re-reading Dickens’ “American Notes” for his racy description of canal travel in 1842. How when night came he found suspended on either side of the cabin three long tiers of hanging book-shelves designed apparently for volumes of small octavo size. “Wondering to find such literary preparations in such a place I discovered on each shelf a sort of microscopic sheet and blanket; then I began dimly to comprehend that these were our sleeping accommodations for the night.”

In the ‘seventies and ‘eighties the canal had deteriorated. Boats still wound their worm-like way around the bluffs and up toward Dayton. The horses were no longer be-ribboned, and they were not horses, but mules. From the stable accommodations at the end of the boat the extra mules gazed pensively out of a window on the passing landscape which we presume they liked better than going along the towpath with the towing-rope dragging at their flanks. A stovepipe sticking up though the deck and the odors of fried onions spoke the domestic joys of the mariner in charge and his frowsy family.

Thus are the mighty fallen! It was John H. Patterson in his tiny office as toll-collector for the canal on Third Street first spoke his mind on the gradually lessening receipts of this mode of transportation and its inevitable disappearance. The tolls had shrunk from $350,000 to $24,000. His business acumen told him of the impossibility of the canal competing with the railroads and for years he worked for its abandonment.

The  first spadeful of earth for the building of our Dayton Canal was dug at Middletown with appropriate ceremonies, in July, 1825. The first boat arrived on our shores in May, 1827. The curtain drops. One hundred years are supposed to elapse, and do. Another ceremony at Middletown; this time (1927) they dedicate a monument to the men who built the canal and celebrate its final abandonment. But this story belongs to a later narrative. The next act of the transportation drama belongs to the railroads.

The canal is now but a memory in the minds of older people. The younger ones can only understand its situation in regard to the city by tracing the course of the Patterson Boulevard which is constructed on its former bed. Charles Smythe of Brown Street, in recalling the changes in that part of Dayton, writes in the “News”:


All of these things are today changed and buried under the march of more modern things. The canal with its mud and slime, its turtles and frogs, its snakes and bullheads, its sluggish waters, its swill and unspeakable filth, is filled in, covered up and forgotten. The leather-faced, leather-lunged, hard-drinking mule-driver with his cruel bull-whip, the three-span mule teams, the creaking, straining two-rope, the stub-nosed canal-boat with its crew and its captain with the walrus mustache, are all today hardly a memory. Somewhere they are each and all reduced to unrecognizable dust.


In studying the history of the railroad transportation that has affected Dayton in the past hundred years we find ourselves in a maze. When the railroad fever really came in it must have taken investors by storm. They went at it passionately. It was assumed that any place connected with any other place by railroad was sure to become a metropolis. We infer this because the records reveal road after road legislated about, contracted for, constructed, lapsed into bankruptcy through of lack of capital or patronage, brought in by some more prosperous road, amalgamated and absorbed. Some of these abortive concerns were the Dayton and Western; Dayton and Union; Dayton, Columbus and Xenia; Dayton, Greenville and Miami; Dayton and Southwestern; Dayton, Cleveland and Toledo; Dayton and Ironton; Dayton, Fort Wayne and Chicago. The vast trunk lines now stretching from coast to coast were undreamed of in 1850. What roads there were came from local enterprise, connecting short distances and detached from each other. Few roads ran north and south, so the unfortunate traveler who wanted to travel up or down the State was forced to change two or three times between here and Cleveland. “making connections” was a terror, especially at night. The expression “through train without change” was a welcome announcement when it did appear.

Take the evolution of the Big Four. It began in 1832 when the Ohio Legislature passed an act incorporating the Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad Company to run from Dayton to Springfield, Urbana, Bellefontaine, Tiffin and Sandusky. The contract for construction was let in 1848 and that part of the road completed between Dayton and Springfield in 1857. Later the upper part of the road was abandoned in favor of another route that had been laid out by the Sandusky City and Indiana Railway Company who were willing to lease the road to the Mad River and Lake Erie for ninety-nine years. In  1854 another lease and a change of name to the Sandusky, Dayton and Cincinnati Railroad Company. In 1865 it went into the hands of a receiver, and was reorganized as the Sandusky and Cincinnati Railroad. After more leases and more changes of name it eventually was absorbed into Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Indianapolis, the C. C. C. and I., or as we now know it – the Big Four, a part of the New York Central System.

The railroad seeming to be most largely a Dayton concern was that chartered in 1846 and known as the Cincinnati and Dayton – later as the C. H. and D. The Dayton end was contracted for in 1850 and the first excursion train ran on September 13, 1851. Since when  its trains have taken us down to Cincinnati for much more than half a century. The former Dayton and Michigan road has been incorporated with it making better north and south continuous passage.

When the Erie Road reached Dayton it was not yet the Erie but the Atlantic and Great Western, otherwise the “Broad-guage.” An expression never heard now but ordinary enough in the ‘seventies and ‘eighties was “I am taking the Broad-guage east tomorrow” and everybody understood that he was going to New York on what was to become the Erie. It was a road that had nothing to do with Dayton except that it ran through it on its way from the East to Cincinnati. In those days there were three gauges for track construction – broad, narrow and standard. The Atlantic and Great Western was a broad-guage road, six feet – the usual English width – the C. H. and D. standard. From Cincinnati to Dayton the eastern road had only the C. H. and D. Right of way to use. Dayton the eastern road had only the C. H. and D. right of way to use. It could do this only by straddling the standard tracks by its own broad-guage tracks. This made four rails to a railroad track instead of two. When these double rails crossed in switches or crossings the resulting “frog” extended many feet and the cars running over them made a regular devil’s tattoo of clatter. Although the whole length of the Erie road was over eight hundred miles it was only on this sixty-mile stretch that this peculiar phase developed. Because of the “straddling” the trains on this stretch were mixed – that is, some of the cars traveled on the outer set of rails and some on the inner and in this heterogeneous way the train finally reached its destination at Cincinnati. This state of things lasted for thirty-three years after the Erie road was built.

In time this double trackage was abandoned. How then could the Broad-gauge get to Cincinnati?

This way. A hoist was established at the extreme end of East First Street, Dayton, and there the body of each car from the Erie was raised, its bogie trucks replaced by those of standard width and then lowered – the whole performance occupying only a few moments. Of course the inconvenience of an odd guage grew as transportation demands grew and about the year 1878 it was decided to change to standard guage. After all preparations were made the whole eight hundred and thirty miles of Erie trackage from New York to Dayton were changed in width during one night, trains running as usual the next day. So passed the last  broad-guage from the railroads of this continent. It was not until 1895 that the system was called the “Erie.” Its whole career is tied up with the financial history of this country and the railroad wars which were a part of it, recalling such names as Gould, Fiske, Vanderbilt and Daniel Drew. All that lies beyond the scope of our present history. Our interest in it concerns only the fact that for so many years it was the only one of the great traffic lines to the east and our only way of getting directly to New York. The “Americana” vouches for the fact that the Erie was the first railroad to run trains by telegraph, the first to use printed time tables, the first to run Sunday trains (thereby it is supposed the Dayton Union Depot from Saturday night until Morning), the first to make special service for the city milk supply and the Sunday papers. It was the first to run excursion trains, the first to install parlor cars and, before dining-cars were dreamed of, to establish eating-rooms along its route. The signal cord now running through the cars for the use of the conductor was an innovation of the Erie road; so was the building of spur tracks to foster local industries.

There was abundant room for all these improvements. The sanitary arrangements of the early railroad cars can only be expressed by a large round cipher. People ate lunches and threw the paper on the floor. There were no toilets. At intervals the brakemen went through the train with an ice-water can (old travelers will remember it), painted a grained yellow, held in a metal frame as were also the six tin cups intended to assuage the thirst of a whole train load of passengers in hot weather. The soot from the engine was unspeakable. Not only on the Erie but on all railroads, the construction was flimsy. In place of the hundred pound steel rails of the present day, oak stringers were used covered with five-eighths of an inch strap iron. The first engines weighed only ten tons including fuel and water, as against the modern locomotive of two hundred and eighty tons with tank capacity for seven thousand gallons of water and ten tons of coal. The early passenger coaches were a sort of amplification of the stagecoach which seemed to be their only conception of a carrying vehicle. The average speed of a train like this was ten miles an hour and even this was considered by the ultra-pious as flying in the face of a Providence who never meant that people should travel faster than a horse could go.

Following the Panic of 1873 came a period of narrow-guage building and much capital was invested in the belief that the lower cost of construction and equipment would make such roads formidable rivals of the older roads. Such an enterprise was the Dayton and Ironton Road, locally known as the “Narrow-guage.” The future of Dayton and Xenia were to be saved by direct connection with the coal fields of Ohio. For economy’s sake it was built as a narrow-guage and as it was supposed to be for everybody’s benefit everybody was to help pay for it. Nearly everybody did, by buying stock, but it never was a success. Into the hands of manipulators who held up construction and limited its completion in every way (perhaps in the hope of being bought out at a good figure as so many roads had been), the Dayton and Ironton remained for years nothing but “a streak of rust on the landscape.” After all these disastrous experiments both extra wide tracks have been abandoned and their remains only the standard guage.

Another example of imbecile enterprises was the Dayton, Xenia and Belpre road (later the Little Miami). There was a time when it was thought that railroads ought to run in a straight line to their destinations no matter what grades they might have to encounter. If the reader begins at Xenia with a pencil runs a line directly east on the map, he will hit Belpre – a little obscure village on the Ohio River opposite Parkersburg. This was supposed to be the future metropolis which the Dayton, Xenia and Belpre road was to bring into existence. This queer, unscientific, hind-side-before construction of railroads was the way all the big trunk lines came into existence. The traveler had to use any number of small sections of track before the consolidation took place which resulted in the through routes. For years everybody who wanted to go east on Sunday on the Pennsylvania had to drive to Xenia on the pike in a buggy, arrange for the buggy to be driven back to Dayton and take the train for New York. Then, for more years we had, when coming west on the Pennsylvania to change at Xenia and take a small dirty local the remaining fourteen miles back to Dayton.

Now what changes! What improvements! Dayton lies on four big trunk lines, the
“Big Four,” the “Erie,” the “Baltimore and Ohio” and the “Pennsylvania.” On these several lines fifteen trains leave Dayton for the East every twenty-four hours and as many arrive. Every reader knows what those trains are – the last word in equipment and convenience for passenger service. The traveler eats his filet mignon steak with mushrooms, his ice cream and tropical fruits as casually while crossing the mountains of Pennsylvania as he does in his own home. Starting from the Union Station at Dayton he emerges in the Grand Central of the Pennsylvania at New York after a not at all fatiguing trip of sixteen hours.

As far as freight facilities go Dayton is in a strategic position for shipping to all parts of the United States. Few points within a hundred miles offer equal advantages. All these four major roads carry heavy shipments of through freight. The city is well equipped with industrial sidings – many of the larger industries have their own. There is universal reciprocity in switching arrangements. Package car service is varied  and prompt and is available to many points with good connections at important transfer cities.

There came a time in Dayton, as it does to all cities, when travel by steam was too inelastic for ordinary conditions, when the need arose for hourly communication between the cities of the Miami Valley. It was about 1895 when arose the beginning of the development of the inter-urban electric railroad which promised to revolutionize not only the passenger but the freight and express transportation as well. As the name indicated it proposed to furnish transit between cities by means of high speed electric cars operating directly into the business centers of the cities through which it passed.

Right here we meet the same story as that of the railroads – syndicates, passionate promoters, stock-sellers with gilt-edged promises, over-capitalization, receiverships, forced sales, consolidations. More money was lost than made. It was found that none of the existing laws which had been drawn for steam railroads and street railways covered this new character of public enterprise, so its development proceeded without much, if any, public control. One would think that the builders of the interurban would have learned something from the experience of the steam railroads in the varying gauges of tracks. But no. The guage of street-car tracks in Cincinnati was six inches broader than “standard” so the interurbans of standard guage could not use the tracks for terminal purposes but were compelled to discharge their passengers outside of the city limits and that situation still exists in the connections between Dayton and Cincinnati.

The first road in the southern part of the valley was the Cincinnati and Hamilton, lengthened to the C. H. and D. So that  now those familiar letters mean not the old steam railway, but the new interurban. It acquired an interurban property that had been in the hands of a receiver (the old story) – for ten years. Seventy-two miles of trackage on a grass grown, rickety, right of way; cars from fifteen to thirty years old, uncomfortable and costly to maintain; power and supply inadequate, shops small and crude. Now, after the expenditure of nearly a million and a half, the road boasts new tracks, ten de-luxe cars, old ones burnt up, large steel and concrete shop buildings with necessary machinery, track improved, new electric switches, service equipment purchased and another hundred and eighty thousand dollars expenditure contemplated. There is a double track connection with the enormous new Delco-Frigidaire Plant of General Motors at Moraine City at a cost of $37,000. Both freight and passenger service on the improved road show gratifying increase.

The Dayton and Xenia Traction Line was organized in 1900. There is a branch to Spring Valley. Dayton and Troy are connected by interurban which goes through to Lima, Toledo and Fort Wayne.

The Ohio Electric operates under five districts – Southern, Western, Central, Eastern and Northern. And so it has come about that on almost any corner of the street at any hour of the day – or the half hour – a car will come along taking  passengers to towns east, north, south or west, picking up freight at small villages off the main railroad and offering a daily and hourly convenience to people who want to go somewhere in a hurry.

But the interurbans, convenient as they are, are having their own particular Waterloo which, as may easily be guessed is the ubiquitous ever-present automobile. If stockholders need a reason why they do not get the dividends that were promised them they have only to drive out in either direction from Dayton, and these cogent “reasons” will pass them at the rate of about one every two minutes. How can the interurban survive when it is out-classed, out-run, out-grown by the privately owned Ford car? It can only proceed from place to place on its own tracks; the automobiles can run up its owner’s private lane. Farmers take their products to market on their own wheels and by their own power – simpler, easier, quicker and in the long run more economical. The electric train makes its plea for freight, and lo! “Ship by truck” becomes the slogan and families can move from the house in one city directly to the new home in another with no crating or hauling of goods. How long the interurban will last is on the knees of the gods. Transportation is, indeed, a “Never-ending evolution.

And if the automobile and  the motor-driven truck make their own particular competition, how about the motor buses? These long, gay, rapid vehicles are seen more and more on the roads in this State and every other, carrying thousands of passengers from town to town and even connecting up the two coasts of the United States. They are eating into the profits of both steam and interurban roads. In Dayton, within the last few years the following bus lines have come into operation; Dayton and Xenia; Lebanon, Cincinnati and Germantown; Dayton-Farmersville; Dayton-Lewisburg; Greyhound Lines (New York – Pittsburgh – St. Louis; Coast to Coast; Detroit-Cincinnati; Gulf to Lakes); Dayton-Osborne-Fairfield; Miami Valley Transit (Belmont-Beavertown; Troy-Piqua-Sidney); King Bros. (Lebanon-Cincinnati-Germantown); Dayton-Columbus-Springfield; Greenville-Dayton; Dayton-Northern; Inter-Cities (Troy-Piqua-Sidney); Marvelous! That from the corner of Fourth and Wilkinson, where so many of used to go to the old Central High School, one may take a bus to Los Angeles!

We are not forgetting that the subject of our chapter would include transportation not only outside of but within the limits of Dayton, meaning of course street railways. It is interesting to note that there was a small idea in the minds of any of the first promotors, of  making money out of street-cars. The idea was rather to open up for the real-estate market large farms lying within a mile or so of Dayton – which have now been completely swallowed up in the city streets. The first enterprise of this kind was called the Dayton Street Railway, chartered in 1869 on $75,000 capital stock, and was to run from east to west on Third Street. The location of the Soldiers’ Home beyond the western corporation line was a hopeful feeder for transportation. The promoters of this venture were influential men of financial standing: William P. Huffman (president); Harbart S. Williams, George W. Rogers, Charles B. Clegg, John W. Stoddard, E. J. Barney, W. H. Simms, and C. J. Ferneding. In 1884 the capital stock was increased to $300,000.

As soon as it became understood that a way of reaching the Soldiers’ Home was assured, excursions became the great source of revenue for the street cars. Hardly a day in the year but train loads of people arrived at the Union Depot, poured up Wilkinson Street to Third and embarked on the cars. Encouraged by the success of the Third Street railway and hoping to do something for the outlying districts to the north and south of the city, a company was organized to establish the Dayton View line. Its first directors were J. A. Jordan, J. W. Stoddard, William M. Mills, J. O. Arnold, George W. Lion, and William A. Barnett. It was capitalized at $35,000. Charles B. Clegg was president of this line for many years. The route ran first from Union Depot along Main and Monument across the river, out of Salem Avenue to the corporation line which was then at the schoolhouse (Plymouth Avenue). Later by absorption and reorganization with S. B. Smith, president; E. E. Barney, secretary and G. B. Harmon, treasurer, it became the Oakwood Street Railway and now extends from below the southern corporation limits to Catalpa Drive in Upper Dayton View. Both Oakwood and Dayton View were virtually created and maintained by this transportation service.

The next street railway was the Wayne and Fifth, chartered in 1871, capitalized at $100,000, administered by S. S. Edgar (president); M. Ohmer (vice-president). Since then the men concerned in its maintenance have been Ezra Bimm, S. N. Brown, J. J. Bradford, Joseph Kratochwell, Eugene Wuichet and H. H. Bimm. Its route first connected Alaska Street in North Dayton with the Dayton State Hospital at the head of the Wayne Street hill. It has been extended to near the corporation line on the Shakertown Pike.

The White Line, know known as the People’s Railway, was the first to install electric motors. It was built to connect the Soldiers’ Home with the North Main Street in Riverdale, opening up Germantown Street and giving access to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital on the south side of the city. Its incorporators (1887) were J. A. McMahon, M. A. Nipgen, J. E. Lowes, C. D. Iddings, and W. B. Iddings. Capital  stock, $200,000.

As the northern, southern, eastern and western parts of the city answered to the stimulus of convenient transportation, its effect was soon felt in the localities between the points of the compass, and the outlying districts northeast, northwest, southeast and southwest began to call for easy access to the business center. Then we have the Dayton Street Line touching the Xenia Pike at one end and Catalpa Drive at the other, making a diagonal stretch through the city and the Leo Street doing the same from the southwestern limits of Cincinnati Street to the northeastern at Leo Street in North Dayton.

And so the needs grow and the supply follows. One by one the outstanding portions of the city are brought by car or bus lines to contact with the sources of supply – the markets and the department stores.

Is the transportation story finished? Not as long as the thousand factories of Dayton bring their operatives here, who must have homes and cannot pay city taxes. Every year street by street reaches out, is lined by little dwellings, whose families must go to work or to school or to the shops. Soon the car service follows and one can hardly tell whether the demand or the supply comes first. It is the beneficent circle that is building Dayton into a metropolis.

But again we ask, is the transportation story finished with the steam cars, the interurbans, the buses and the street cars?

Hark! The answer comes from the sky above our heads. There, like a speck in the blue, soars a droning craft the like of which our fathers never dreamed in their wildest flights of imagination. It connects the east coast with the west; it carries passengers and mail, it may before long carry freight. In spite of storms and cold or heat, its pilots keep at their heavy task that the world may have more rapid transit.

THE  AIRPLANE!  Is it the last word in transportation?

Back to "Dayton, Ohio - An Intimate History" Home Page