DAYTON, A MANUFACTURING CITY
by Charles Sullivan
On March 22 1796 a group of people prepared to make a settlement at Dayton, going in three parties. One party under Samuel Thompson, to go by boat down the Ohio river to the mouth of the Miami river and up that river to St. Clair street, where they arrived on April 1st 1796. This was in March, and the weather is generally cold and windy and the river high and with quite a current. There were some children with them and they all must be fed. Another party, under Col George Newcom, taking live stock with them, going horseback or otherwise by way of Hamilton did not arrive until three days later. The third party under Wm Hamer in a two horse wagon going by way of Lebanon were still another day later. He settled on a piece of ground set aside for religious work known at Tate’s point and is now used by Focke’s slaughterhouse, for he was a Methodist preacher. After his family was settled, it is reported that in 1902, he built a grist mill, probably in the present Eastwood park and had the whole country coming to him to grind their meal.
In 1812 Henry Leatherman built a dam upon this location, carrying the water past Focke’s and along the present Gaddis Blvd to the north end of Harbine ave where he built and operated a saw mill. He used this mill until 1820 when Cooper’s mills burned down at Water & Foundry streets and he rebuilt them and used them, giving up the old location at Harbine ave.
In 1829, the Miami & Erie canal was built and in operation as far as Dayton, making it possible to use water power to run our factories beside giving transportation to people and freight. In 1844 Leat Berman sold this hydraulic property, to Horatio Phillips, Daniel Beckel, and F. D. Edgar under the name of the Dayton Hydraulic Co. and they extended the hydraulic along the edge of the hill to west of Beckel street where it made a T furnishing water power to all the factories along Front street and a few along east First street east of Front. This made a fine factory district furnishing power to them and wasting the water into the canal. Among these factories, was the Simon Gebhart and the Bruns flour mills the Chas Parrott and the J. Land Reed plow factories, the Gray flax mill, the Mead & Nixon Paper mill, afterwards moving to Chillicothe as the Meade Paper Co. These made quite an addition to the factories and they in turn, brought many men here to get work and the east end of the city was rapidly built up. Front street was quickly built up solid with all first class brick buildings.
This water going on down the canal, had quite a current, until just above Wayne ave, some water was diverted to the Seely ditch which was planned to be like Front Street, running by way of Madriver street, Burns ave, Apple street to the canal again. This was not a success and since it had Stagnant water, it was in trouble continually. Further down, passing the Dayton Last & Peg factory, the Cooper Hydraulic was built across Wyandot street and turning parallel to that street, ran to Third street giving power to all factories along Patterson Blvd from Third to Fifth streets. Among these were two linseed oil mills Reuzers planning mill, an agricultural implement factories and others. This power drew factories to the east side of Patterson blvd until it was filled solid.
The canal going straight ahead from this diversion and branching out ran the Durst mill, the Osceola, and the Kratochwill flour mills, a cotton factory and a saw mill. The water going on down the canal to the foot of Ludlow street was used by the Dayton Globe Iron works built in 1829. The clock Factory, a Durst Mill and other factories wasting the water into the river. This water going through the city gave power to three different levels. In 1829, Samuel Steele built a hydraulic from the Miami river opposite the Island park through Riverdale, then called McPherson town, emptying into the Miami againg at the end of Forest ave. This furnished power to the Stillwell Bierce Co, the Simons knife Factory, a flour mill later run by Palmer. Later when the city gave Dr. Lowes the contract to light the streets of Dayton with electricity, they located the power house here and as long as there was water, it was used. A steam plant was also placed there for used when the water was low.
About the close of the century, Stillwell & Bierce merged with the Smith Vaile Co and moved to North Dayton with them. The Simonds Co moved to Summit street and Wold creek, extending back to the Penna R. R. The flour mill burned down one evening, and the Electric Light moved to Fourth street east of Jefferson, remaining there about twenty five years then moving to the Miller’s Ford plant where they are at this time.
The basin having a dead end at First street, the water became stagnant and much complaint was made about it. To remedy this, Madriver was changed to its present channel from crossing Keowee at First and down Pond street to Webster and back to its junction with the Miami, throwing much land which had been on the north side of Madriver to the south side.
Then the canal was changed from the aquaduct going straight down parallel to Water street through the present parking lot of the Frigidaire, then making a little turn to First street, thus giving fresh water to the basin, and the canal boats came this way always.
E. R. Barney and E Thresher bought some of this ground, now located in the city and started the car factory there in 1848. There was lots of timber around here and since they were located upon the canal, they shipped their cars to Cincinnati, Toledo and elsewhere by canal. In 1854 Mr. Thresher sold out to Parker and started the manufacture of varnish in the center of the car works and the name was changed to Barney Parker & Co. In 1864, Parker sold out to Preserved Smith and the name changed to Barney Smith & co., and in 1867, it was incorporated as the Barney & Smith Mfg Co. In the mean time several railroads began operating through Dayton making business for the Car Co very good. At first all cars were made of wood but later on account of fires and wrecks, the railroads demanded more and more steel in building cars until now they want them all steel.
In the winter of 1912-3, the company had an order for 15 fine dining cars for a western railroad, these were all complete but held awaiting some silverware that had not arrived. The 1913 flood came along and all these cars were submerged and by the time the water was gone it was found that the water had ruined the woodwork and that it would cost as much to repair them as to build them new. This with the cost of re-habilitating the shop, was a terrible blow, from which they were unable to recover.
The company did get some orders for part steel cars and were more or less busy for several years. It was evident to the officers, that this was the time to remodel the shop and make all steel cars, but the company refused to do so. So the company had to liquidate and was sold out piece by piece as best they could, until now it does not look like the car shop ever was there.
The Malleable Iron Works started business in 1866 under the name of Loeb Stevenson & Co on east Thirst street opposite Front street in a building later used by the Dayton Paper Novelt Co with the Penna R. R. right back of them, and stayed there 5 years. They moved to W Third street in 1871, where they have been expanding ever since. Now they parallel that railroad a block wide from Wolf creek to Fourth street. They were early incorporated as Malleable Iron Co. and when one retired another was elected to take his place and business went right along as before.
Brownell had a boiler shop at First and Foundry in a frame building. This burned down one evening and the shop was moved to Findlay street, where they are now.
Horace Pease was born in Suffolk Conn. in 1791 and settled in Carrollton in 1827. In 1839 he and his brother built a flour mill later operated by Joseph Gebhart & Son, at present it is used by a wholesale grocery and other business. In 1849 he built the Buckeye Iron & Brass Co and operated it until 1875 when he died. It was then taken over by his son Chas E Pease who incorporated it and became its president and it is still in operation. Pierce and Coleman had a planing mill on Wayne ave at the canal, run by water and this was the entrance to the Seely ditch. This was a dead end ditch and was considered a menace to health and was condemned and ordered close. It was changed to steam power and continued when I was a young man.
Wm Clark started making straw board and had several partners, C. L Hawes being the last who then bought him out. He was located in North Dayton using water power and the canal for transportation. He converted to steam until, the death of My Hawes when they closed down.
The Crawford McGregor & Canby, (the Last & Peg Co) built in Edgemont between the B & O and the N. Y. C. Lines and moved from the junction of Wyandot & Shawnee and began making golf sticks and are still in operation. The Ohio Rake Co built near the Last factory and was prosperous for a while but later the place was rented for a coal yard.
John Dodds located at Third & Bainbridge making agricultural tools moved to Second & Conover where he burned out and quit. John Stoddard followed him at Third & Bainbridge making agricultural tools but decided to convert to automobiles, building a large shop at Leo & the B & O, and later built the Maxwell. This shop is now used by the Air Temps Co and they seem to be on the up grade now.
The Farmers Friend located at the corner of State and Wayne were very busy making tools for a long time but finally ran out. J. O. Joyce had a small brick shop at the point of Shawnee and Wyandot making jacks mostly for railroads and had a nice little business. The daughter married and with the son took over the business after the Father died and made a go of it. They then moved to East first and now make a lift that raises autos at filling stations.
In the spring of 1916, Deeds, Schartz and others bought several farms between Route 25 and the river in the low land and soon as possible had it surveyed and started a large factory building supposed to be for the Wright Aeroplane. This was eventually used by the Frigidaire and they have been expanding continually ever since.
The Wright brothers had a little shop on N Broadway but it was too small so they built a fair sized shop along the old narrow gauge railroad, but they were getting along in years and did not use it much. Finally they sold it to the general Motors and they placed the Inland Mfg Co there. Soon they took in a small foundry and built a large factory between the two railroad tracks. They make mostly rubber goods for automobiles and are quite busy all the time. Having the railroad on both sides they can ship or receive goods on either track. During the war, they were making tanks for the army. In 1924, the McCall Co started a printing plant here on Eaton Ave (now McCall ave) and since then they have been taking on many other magazines and much new building. This printing all goes out by mail and the Postoffice sends men out there to get this ready to be loaded upon the mail trains, with further handling. The postage upon this mail increases the postage, making Dayton a much more important Post office than before.
In 1888, the Davis Sewing Machine Co moved here from Watertown N. Y. and were given the corner of Linden and the Penna R. r. and started off with a big rush. When the war came along they went after war work and expanded greatly. After the war they could not reconverted to civilian business and their shop was divided up into many small factories.
James McCallum & Co started a fertilizer factory between Third and Fifth streets along the west levee. This was not satisfactory so they built a large factory on the Erie railroad at the north end of Irving street. Later McCallum sold out to the Wuichet Fertilizer Co.
The Patterson Brothers organized the Patterson Coal Co and worked up a big business, retail with their main office at Third and the Canal where the C & L. E. bus depot is now. They learned of a fine grade of coal in Jackson county, 100 miles from here but there was no way to get the coal to Dayton. They promoted a narrow gauge railroad to run from here through Washington C. H., Chillicothe to Wellston. This was completed in 1880 and immediately coal from this new district began coming to Dayton and since it was a find grade it was used for steam in boilers instead of water power. John & Frank operated two mines in the district for some time when they sold out and bought the Standard Register co and changed the name to the National Cash Register Co and moved to the Callahan Power building but that room got too small for them, and since they had lots of land out near Stewart street, they built a large factory building there. In a short time another building was needed and then another until now it is a very large plant and still needs more room.
A narrow gauge railroad came into Dayton not far from the N. C. R. and it was taken over by the Penna R. R. and made Standard gauge and brought in past the N. C. R. thus giving them railroad connection with one of the largest railroads in this country. The register they bought has been improved constantly until now it is a wonderful machine adding and subtracting as wanted and never making a mistake, can you do that?
Then two of the main men of the company, E. A. Deeds and Chas Kettering, started a new company calling it the Dayton Engineering Laboratory Co on east First street and made a success of it. This name was a little unhandy so they took the first letters of the name D. E. L. Co and called it the Delebater as they were making parts for several automobiles, they merged them into one company under the name of the General Motors Co and today we have several of their companies here in Dayton, the Inland, Delco, Frigidaire and others.
It cost the State much money to build the canal from Cincinnati to Toledo and it became a busy transporter of people and freight both ways but soon the railroads came in and took the business from them and it never was able to pay back the State the initial cost, but the way it developed the state was well worth all it cost, for it brought many men and their families here to work in the factories, and gave them power to run them.
When Dayton was first settled there were 36 people came here to live, and then we had a panic because of Judge Symmes failure to pay for the land he had bought from the government so was unable to give a clear deed for the lots sold and several families moved away. In 1810 there were 383 people living here. The canal was started in 1825 and we are told there were in 1825, 1168 population, then with the building of it, in 1830 we doubled the population making it 2954. Then with the canal built and in operation from Cincinnati to Dayton, in 1840 it was 6067. Now we probably have more than 300,000 inhabitants and we have a house shortage which if it were filled we would go away up there especially since the city is adding more territory all around, north east south and west.
Had we not built the canal when we did this side of the State would not have developed as it did.
In those early days we would brag that the Dayton Car Shop employed a thousand men in their shop and paid them $1.00 per day and we thought they were getting big wages. Could a man keep his family upon that wage? Would we be content to board a canal boat and spend 24 hours to go to Cincinnati? How about getting mail once per week and carried by horse back. Then think that all we have in streets, transportation, lighting, schools, newspaper, churches and everything else that we have has been brought here in 150 years since 1796. Can this be so or is it just a dream? What is the next thing that will be brought out, that will revolutionize all of our present wonderful machines, and take labor away from the men.
Chas. F. Sullivan
112 Wyoming Street
Dayton 9 Ohio