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Great Days In Dayton
Love in the Wildnerness

“Great Days in Dayton”


Reproduced on these pages is the full script of a “Great Days in Dayton” broadcast. All music and sound effect “cues” are indicated just as they appear on the working scripts used by the cast. The sponsor hopes that you will find interesting these dramatized episodes from the life story of your city.


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Theme. Starts fortissimo, then fades behind . . .

ANNOUNCER: “Great Days in Dayton!”


ANNOUNCER: The Dayton Power and Light Company brings you the third program in a new radio show . . . thrilling dramas from Dayton’s history. Each Sunday at this hour, over Station WHIO, the outstanding characters in Dayton’s past re-enact for you those stirring events which have marked the progress of our city for nearly a century and a half. Drama, romance, crisis, triumph . . . these are the things from which our story is woven. Now let me present your master of ceremonies, Mr. Charles McLean, who will introduce you to today’s thrilling episodes of “Great Days in Dayton.”




NARRATOR: For those of you who have not heard an earlier broadcast of “Great Days in Dayton,” I want to express the purpose of The Dayton Power and Light Company in sponsoring these programs. It is their feeling that all of us here in Dayton will have a finer pride in our city, a stronger determination toward greater civic progress, if we have a real understanding of our past. The trials and struggles of our earliest civic ancestors, the courage with which they faced danger, hardship and privation, their unswerving devotion to civic progress . . . these must constitute a strong inspiration to every Daytonian living today. [Pause] Our first two programs dealt with the actual settling of Dayton and with the adventures of our civic forefathers during the first year of the city’s history. Sam and Kate Thompson, Ben and Mary Van Cleve, George and Mary Newcom . . . these and other characters known to many Daytonians relived their experiences. Today we present another drama in which these and other characters will speak to us across the span of departed years. Our opening scene is a public meeting held early in the year 1799 at Newcom’s tavern. Colonel George Newcom, chairman of the meeting, is speaking.



NEWCOM: . . . and I don’t like them any better than the rest of you do. But taxes are taxes and they gotta be paid, else how are we goin’ to run a town like Dayton? The tax figures you’re goin’ to hear are fair and square. They’ve been assessed by Dan Cooper, who’s settin’ right here beside me. You all know Dan.

COOPER: Friends and fellow citizens of Dayton. You all know that the county commissioners appointed me tax assessor for Dayton township and appointed George Newcom as collector. The commissioners set the rates of valuation and that’s what I’ve gone on. For instance, single men with no property are taxed one dollar. [Protests. “No,” “That’s too much,” etc.] I know it sounds high, but our community is growing and we need money to run it. Then there’s cleared land; that’s valued at twenty dollars an acre and taxed accordingly. Then there’s sixteen dollars for cattle, twenty dollars for cabins, and so on up to six hundred dollars for a grist mill. I’m going to have to pay on a couple of those valuations myself. [Laughter.] Now, just so everyone will know how much is being paid, I’m going to read to you the list with all your names on it. George Alexander, $1.12; George Adams, $1.33; Thomas Arnet, 62 cents; Benjamin Archer, $1.33; John Barnett, $1.25; Paul Butler, 80 cents; Loriam Belcher, $1.25. [Music.] John Welsh, $1.50, Joseph Layton, $1.00; Moses Young, 37 ½ cents; George Kirkendall, 56 cents. That’s the whole list . . . one hundred and thirty-eight names in all. And the total township taxes amount to $186.66½.

VOICE 1: [Whistle.] Do you mean to tell us, Dan Cooper, that the people of this township have got to pay $186 just for taxes?

COOPER: More than that. $186 and 66½ cents. [A little laughter.]

VOICE 2: What I want to know is, why did we fight the war with England? High taxes; that’s what we were yellin’ about. We were goin’ to get rid of ‘em by bein’ free. And here we are taxin’ ourselves as much or more.

VOICE 3: How much taxes did you say you was payin’, Dan? Or don’t the assessor pay no taxes?

COOPER: I’m paying $6.25.

NEWCOM: And what’s more, Dan Cooper’s payin’ the highest taxes of any of you.

VOICE 1: That’s all right, George Newcom. Maybe you can collect it from Dan Cooper, but how you going to collect $1.07 from me? That’s more cash than I’ve seen all year.

NEWCOM: I’ll collect it, all right, first time you come here to the tavern to trade bear-skin, corn, salt pork or the like. [Laughter.] Well, is there anyone else who ain’t satisfied with his taxes? [A babble of questions and complaints. “My land ain’t all cleared,” “You’ve got my cabin valued too high.” “How about the cattle I sold?” etc.] [Music.]



NARRATOR: perhaps we can assume that while the older citizens argued over taxes at least two of the younger ones had other things to talk about. We know it was about that time that Dayton’s first romance saw its beginning. Ben Van Cleve was twenty-six years old. A veteran of the early survey parties, a member of Sam Thompson’s band of settlers, Ben had known Dayton since it was no more than a few blazed trees in the wilderness. And now Ben had a new interest – pretty Mary Whitten. The Whittens had a farm not far from Dayton, and we may guess that Mary had come with her parents to the tax meeting at Newcom’s tavern that night. Perhaps she and Ben sat side by side at the back of the room while the meeting was going on. [Music.]


DAVIS:  [Voices of meeting off – Ben’s and Mary’s soft and on.] . . . and I’m tellin’ you, George Newcom, 87½ cents is too much taxes for me to pay. That black-and-white cow of mine is . . .

NEWCOM: I know all about your cow, Will Davis. You listen to me.

BEN: Mary, let’s get out of here.

MARY: S-h-h, Ben. This is important. It’s about taxes. Besides, it’s cold outside.

DAVIS: I’m not sayin’ she ain’t a good cow; she is. But what I do say it . . .

BEN: Please, Mary. Davis will talk about that cow of his all night. Come on, we’ll just walk over and see the moonlight over the river.

MARY: Ben, we musn’t. What would people think?

DAVIS : But I tell you that cow ain’t been fresh since I don’t know when. So why’s she assessed at sixteen dollars?
NEWCOM: She’s a cow, ain’t she? The commissioners don’t care whether she’s fresh or not.

BEN: Mary, please!
MARY: Ben, stop holding my hand. Everyone will see.

BEN: Then come out with me, where no one can see.

MARY: Oh, Ben!

DAVIS: But I tell you, George, I don’t get nothin’ out of that cow. Look at your cows, and Sam Thompson’s cows. They’re . . .

NEWCOM: It don’t make no difference what you get out o’ that cow, Will. Your taxes are still 87½ cents.

BEN: Please, Mary. We can slip out without anyone seeing us. Just for a minute, Mary. Please!

MARY: Ben, I don’t know whatever I’ll do with you. [Heavy door opens.]

BEN: That’s it, Mary. Come on.

DAVIS: But I got a right to complain about my taxes. This is a free country now, and . . . [Heavy door closes.]

BEN: Mary, your eyes are as bright as the moonlight. Mary!

MARY: [Laughing.] Come on, Ben. I’ll race you to the river bank. [Swift, light footsteps.]

BEN: Mary! Mary! [Laughs.] Wait ‘til I catch you! [Heavy footsteps.]

MARY: [Off.] You can’t, Ben.

BEN: [On.] You’ll see. [Running footsteps.]

MARY: [On, squeals in mock fright.] Oh, Ben!

BEN: [On, panting.] Told you I’d catch you. Now ! (PAUSE.)

MARY: B-e-n V-a-n C-l-e-v-e! You kissed me!

BEN: Sure did. And here’s another! (PAUSE.)

MARY: [Softly.] Oh, Ben! [Sudden restraint.] No, no, you mustn’t!

BEN: Why not? I love you, Mary. I have ever since I first saw you.

MARY: But, Ben . . .

BEN: Mary, listen to me! I want to marry you. Mary, you’ve got to. I can’t live without you.

MARY: I . . . don’t . . . know . . . Ben. I don’t now I feel about . . . about marriage. It scares me, almost. A woman’s all alone, and . . .

BEN: You won’t be, Mary. I’ll be with you.

MARY: It’s not that, Ben. I . . .

BEN: Mary, please. I love you so!

MARY: I know, Ben, but . . . but, you see, until I’m sure how I feel . . . Ben, please, let’s go back now . . . no, you musn’t kiss me again. We must go back! (PAUSE. Footsteps.) It is a beautiful night, isn’t it, Ben? The wilderness can be beautiful, even if it is cruel.

BEN: It would be a lot more beautiful, if I had you to share it with me. Oh, Mary!

MARY: No, Ben, we can’t stop another minute. Here we are. Open the door, Ben, please! [Heavy door opens.]

DAVIS: There ain’t any man in Dayton knows more about cows than I do, George Newcom, and when I tell you that cow hadn’t ought to be assessed at sixteen dollars . . .

NEWCOM: But she’s been assessed, Will.

DAVIS: Well, all I got to say is, things is coming to a pretty pass in this town when a man’s got to pay taxes on a cow like that.

NEWCOM: You can pay ‘em, Will, just like the rest of us. And now we’re not goin’ to have any more argument. Meetin’s over. [A loud buzz of conversation.]

BEN: Tomorrow, Mary? Will I see you tomorrow?

MARY: [Softly.] Maybe, Ben. [Music.]


NARRATOR: During that winter there were rumors of new Indian uprisings. In Dayton a block-house was built at the intersection of Main and Water Streets, where our soldiers’ monument now stands. Here the families of the settlers were to be assembled for defense in case of an Indian raid. But it speaks well for the growing strength of the white man’s civilization that Dayton’s fort found other uses. [Music.]


Ben: [A hum of whispering.] Quiet, children, quiet! You can’t learn your history if you don’t listen to me. [Whispering stops.]  And so, after General Washington’s victory at Yorktown, the colonies became free and independent states. But they found that they still had to fight to win lasting peace. As the pioneers spread westward from the ocean, across the mountains, they fought new wars with the Indians in the wilderness. And it was during these wars that . . .

GIRL: O-o-o, stop it! Mr. Van Cleve, John Chapman’s pinchin’ me! [Giggles.]

BEN: Stop it, John, or I’ll take the birth to you. Now, quiet, all of you. (PAUSE.) It wasn’t until after these wars, until after General Anthony Wayne made the treat of Fort Greenville, that there could be peace in the Northwest Territory. And even after that there was still danger of Indian raids. That’s why we have this block-house here in Dayton.

BOY : Gee, I wish they’d use the old block-house for fightin’ Indians, ‘stead of making us boys and girls go to school in it all the time. I’d rather fight Indians than go to school, any old day.

BEN: No, you wouldn’t Henry.

BOY: Did you ever fight any Indians, Mr. Van Cleve?

BEN: No.

BOY: Bet you did, bet you did! Tell us about it, Mr. Van Cleve.

CHORUS: Yes. Tell us, tell us!

BEN: No. No Indian stories today. But tomorrow I’m going to tell you how the thirteen colonies became the United States. Are there any questions about today’s lesson? (PAUSE.) All right. Now, remember. You’re all to get your chores done at home early, so you can be here on time. That’s all for today. School’s out. [Sudden excited chatter and scramble of footsteps.] [Music.]

BEN: [Bird sounds.] Let’s walk down along the river, Mary. It’s quiet there.

MARY: You’re tired, aren’t you, Ben?

BEN: Yes. I didn’t know teaching was such hard work. Those kids don’t seem to want to learn . . . except about Indian fighting.

MARY :[Laughing.] I suppose not. But you mustn’t be discouraged.

BEN: I’m not, Mary, . . . not about teaching. But I am about you . . . about you and me, I mean.

MARY: Now, Ben, please.

BEN: Why shouldn’t I be? I came here to Dayton three years ago, when there wasn’t any Dayton really, and all the days and years that lay ahead of me seemed bright and full of promise. I thought of all the things I was going to do to make a place for myself, to count for something as a citizen, to help make Dayton a fine town. Then I met you and fell in love with you. And because you can’t love me, too, all the rest of it doesn’t mean anything.

MARY: Ben, you mustn’t feel that way.

BEN: But I do. I can’t help it. Mary, why can’t you love me?
MARY: It isn’t that, Ben. Sometimes I think I do love you. But I can’t be sure and . . . and marriage is so . . . so . . . oh, Ben, I don’t know. Really, I don’t. Please, let’s not talk about it any more . . . not now. [Music.]


BEN: But, Mother, I can’t understand Mary. We went down along the river, this afternoon after school. I told her I love her . . . I’ve told her a hundred times these last few months . . . and I tried to find out why she doesn’t love me and why she won’t marry me. Why is it, Mother?

KATE: Marriage isn’t just all love, Ben . . . not for a frontier wife. I know. When I married your father, back in New Jersey, all our life ahead of us seemed safe and pleasant. Then your father decided to come out to the Ohio lands. And so we came, and you and little Mary Van Cleve with us. We came down the Ohio into a wilderness that frightened me every minute of the day and night, made my heart stand still with fear for all of us.

BEN: Yes, Mother, I remember coming down the Ohio and landing at Cincinnati.

KATE: Everyone thought it was safe there, though I was still afraid. Your father took an out-lot on the edge of the settlement, cleared it for farming and worked very hard, so that all of us could have a good home and the other things we wanted. (PAUSE.)

BEN: Yes, Mother?

KATE: But the Indians came, Ben. They came when your father was all alone . . . no one to help him, no one to hear him. And that night he didn’t come back to our cabin. (PAUSE.) After that I was alone with you and little Mary.

BEN: Mother, don’t, please.

KATE: No, son, I want to tell you. (PAUSE.) After a few years I met Sam Thompson. He was brave and kind and gentle, and we needed each other. I’m glad, glad I married him. It meant breaking up our home again, moving on once more, finding a new home still deeper in the wilderness. But I’d do the same thing again . . . the same thing.

BEN: Well, then, Mother, why won’t Mary . . . ?

KATE: Marry you? I think it’s because she knows, too, what it means to be a frontier wife. Mary’s young and fresh and soft and pretty. But she’s seen what frontier life does to women. All their youth and freshness gone in the first year or so of marriage. Doing men’s work because the men haven’t time for all of it. Helping to clear the land and build a cabin. Carrying water and splitting wood. Tending a vegetable garden for most of what her family eats. Bending for hours over an open fire to do the cooking. And then, at night, when the others’ work is done, cutting and stitching and sewing clothes for the whole family.

BEN: I know, Mother. I’ve seen how you’ve worked.

KATE: But there’s something you don’t know, son. Children come to a woman in the wilderness, just as they do in a town where there are people to help.  But on a frontier a woman’s all alone with her fear; there’s no one she can turn to. Maybe she lives through the fear and pain. But there’s no time and ease to regain her strength . . . too much work to be done. And so her strength is sapped and the love of life is gone from her. When the best of her life should be before her, she’s broken and weak and old in body and spirit. That’s why frontier wives die when they’re so young in years. That’s why the headstones in the burying grounds say, “To the memory of my beloved wife, Sarah, who died her twenty-eighth year. God rest her soul!”

BEN: I didn’t know, Mother. I never thought about it that way. It always seemed natural to me that women should work hard, that they should have children despite all the work. And you’re right; they do . . . they do die young.

KATE: But even that, even all that, Ben, is worthwhile if they love the man they marry. It’s facing that, knowing what’s ahead of them, that makes them hesitate to give up their youth and all it means to them.

BEN: And it’s because of all this that Mary won’t marry me?

KATE: She won’t unless you make her love you enough to face all those hardships. She’d have to be sure that you’re going to be kind and gentle to her, not make her life too hard.

BEN: I’d do all that. If only I could make her see it . . . [Music.]


NARRATOR: With its first love affair, its first school days, its first community problems, Dayton was turning from a settlement into a town. And it was beginning to increase its contacts with the outside world. In the spring of 1800 the first cargo boat stopped at Dayton on its way downstream to Cincinnati, and thence by the Ohio and Mississippi to New Orleans. A large crowd was present when the boat tied up at the head of Wilkinson Street. [Music.]



LOWRY: [Crowd sounds.][Off.] Pole her in a little closer. That’s right. [Closer.] Now, get those lines out and tie her up to those two big trees. (PAUSE.) [On.] Folks, I’m Daniel Lowry, from up the Mad River. My boat here is bound for New Orleans and I’m lookin’ to fill out my cargo. She’ll carry three, four tons more than I got in her now. All those that want to ship out grains, hides, port, venison, tobacco, whiskey and the like . . . why, here’s your chance. I’ll trade and sell for cash at New Orleans, go to Philadelphia by sailin’ ship and buy more there. Then I’ll come back by pack train and boat down the Ohio. I’ll be back in Dayton, with what you want from the outside, in about three months. Who wants to ship their stuff with me?

NEWCOM: I’m George Newcom, Mr. Lowry. That’s my tavern over there. You’ll do a lot of business here in Dayton, if I’m any judge. I’ve been tellin’ folks river traffic’s the comin’ thing, and you’ll find plenty o’ products of all kinds to fill out your cargo.  Sayin’ you was to come over to the tavern where we can all set down and do business comfortable.

LOWRY: Suits me fine. Suppose I can get loaded and away tomorrow?

NEWCOM: You sure can. Come on, all you Dayton folks that’s got stuff to ship. [Music.]



NARRATOR: For most of that day the settlers made their trading deals with Lowry, listing all the products they wanted to ship, giving him orders for things badly needed from the outside world. [Music.]



MEN’S AND WOMEN’S VOICES: Fifteen sacks of corn, eight of rye and five of wheat . . . eleven bear skins, six buck, eight doe and close to a hundred muskrat . . . my pork and venison is all salted and smoked just right; it’s sure to travel safe . . . Seed corn’s what I want . . . bring me some calico, a set of stoneware dishes and a good tablecloth . . . I want some curtains for my windows, nice cloth with flowers in it, something pretty . . . [Music.]



NARRATOR: That night, after he had made the last of his deals, Lowry had a late visitor, who spoke to him alone at a table in the tavern.



BEN: Mr. Lowry, I’m Ben Van Cleve. I’d like to ship with you to New Orleans. I can handle a boat. I helped pole the first one up here from Cincinnati.

LOWRY: You did, eh? Well, to tell the truth, I been figurin’ on takin’ a hand on to help with the sweeps once we get down on the Ohio. It’ll be a long trip, though . . . all the way around to Philadelphia. You’d be away from your folks for quite a spell.

BEN: I know. Maybe I wouldn’t come back at all.

LOWRY: Ain’t in trouble, are you?

BEN: No, it’s not that.

LOWRY: H-m-m. Well, I’ll think it over. See me tomorrow.

BEN: All right. And good night to you.

LOWRY: Good night. [Chair scrapes. Footsteps. Heavy door opens and closes. ] Colonel Newcom!

NEWCOM: [Off.] Yes.

LOWRY: Who’s this young Ben Van Cleve was just talkin’ to me?

NEWCOM: He’s Sam Thompson’s step-son.

LOWRY: Wants to go down river with me. Says he may not come back. Ain’t done nothin’ wrong, has he?

NEWCOM: No-o-o ! Straight as he can be. Wants to go away, does he? Now, I wonder . . . Say, Lowry, glad you told me about this. Ben Van Cleve’s not leavin’ Dayton if I can help it! [Music.]



LOWRY: [Loading sounds.] All right, men, there ain’t much more of it. Another hour and we’ll have her loaded. Morning, Colonel Newcom. You lookin’ for someone special?

NEWCOM: Sort of. Like to see John Whitten and his wife . . . and their daughter Mary.

LOWRY: Whitten? Sure. I just loaded his corn and rye a little while ago. Ain’t that them over there on the bank?

NEWCOM: Seems like. Guess I’ll go over and talk to ‘em. (PAUSE.) [Footsteps.] Mornin’, folks.

WHITTEN: Good morning, Colonel.

MRS. WHITTEN: Good morning.

NEWCOM: And how are you, Miss Mary?

MARY: Fine, thank you, Colonel.

NEWCOM: You folks seen young Ben Van Cleve around?

WHITTEN: No, don’t seem like I have.

NEWCOM: You, Miss Mary?

MARY: No. No, I haven’t.

NEWCOM: Funny. He ought to be here. He’s goin’ along with Lowry to New Orleans and Philadelphia. Says he may not come back at all.

WHITTEN: Ben Van Cleve’s leavin’ Dayton? Wonder why he hasn’t told his folks. Didn’t say a word when he was over at the farm the other night.

MARY: You say Ben’s going away, Colonel? He’s going away for good?

NEWCOM: That’s the way I hear it. Guess he must be home gettin’ his things together.

MARY: Yes. Yes, I guess he must be.

NEWCOM: John, Lowry tells me you’re shippin’ out quite a bit o’ corn and rye.

WHITTEN: Pretty good lot of it, considerin’ the size of my farm.

MRS. WHITTEN: Mary, see, they’re almost loaded now. Mary. Mary! Why, where’s that child got to. She was here just a moment ago. [Music.]



MARY: [Knock. Pause. Knock.] Ben! [Knock.] Ben, please! [Door opens.]

BEN: Hello, Mary!

MARY: Ben, it isn’t true. You’re not going away.

BEN: Yes. With Lowry. In an hour or two.

MARY: You can’t.

BEN: Why can’t I? What is there here for me? Everything I’ve wanted to be, and do, and have . . . it’s all turned to nothing. I don’t want to stay here.

MARY: Ben!

BEN: There’s no use talking about it, Mary. We’ve done that. We talked for hours the other night, and it was the same as it’s always been. You won’t marry me, because . . . because you don’t love me enough. And I can’t stay here if you don’t marry me. That’s all there is to it.

MARY: Ben, will you listen to me?

BEN: I’ve already heard it . . . too often.

MARY: Ben, you can’t leave. I won’t let you.

BEN: How are you going to stop me?
MARY: Like this. (PAUSE.) See, my arms are around you. I won’t let you go. Don’t you see, Ben, I do love you. I’ve loved you all the time. But I’ve been afraid, afraid of marriage and . . . and everything. Now I’m not any more. When Colonel Newcom said you were going away I knew I couldn’t live without you. I’ll marry you tomorrow, today if you want me to. Ben, darling, why don’t you kiss me? (PAUSE.) Again! [Music.] Ben, tell me you love me!

BEN: I love you, Mary. [Music.]



NARRATOR: On August 28, 1800, every citizen of Dayton was excited over the first marriage in the community. The wedding took place at the Whitten farm, where the Thompsons, Newcoms, Coopers, Ferrells, Davises and all the other truly first families of Dayton were present as guests. [Music.]


VOICE: I now pronounce you man and wife. [Excited chatter.]

MRS. WHITTEN: Colonel Newcom, we want everyone to stay for dinner. Will you tell them?

NEWCOM: Sure will, Mrs. Whitten. Folks, folks! [Chatter lessens.] Mrs. Whitten wants me to pass along the invitation that every last one o’ you is to stay for dinner. And now, I ain’t goin’ to make a speech like I usually do when I got a chance, because I aim to be the first one to kiss the bride. [Laughter and chatter. ]

KATE: Phoebe, I’m so happy for our children . . . your Mary and my Ben. And I know they’ll be happy, too.

MRS. WHITTEN: I’m sure of it, too, Katie. With Ben’s farm coming on this year, and his work for the township, they’ll be sure to get along all right.

KATE: You and John were so generous. Think of it! Pots and pans and kettles and a bed and a spinning wheel, and cows and sheep and pigs. Why, they’ll be rich from the very start. [Music.]

MRS. WHITTEN: They love each other, Kate. That’s what counts. [Music.]


NARRATOR: And so ends the third chapter of “Great Days in Dayton.” Once again we have revisited the Dayton of the early years and shared the experiences of those first settlers who laid the foundations of the city we know and love today. (PAUSE.) Next Sunday, at this same hour, we shall present the drama of Dayton’s first great crisis . . . the fateful days in which the very existence of the struggling community was gravely threatened. It is a drama which will throw into strong relief the heroism, wisdom and generosity of Dayton’s first first citizen . . . Daniel C. Cooper. Don’t miss this next presentation of the thrilling history of your city, Dayton. [Music.]


ANNOUNCER: “Great Days in Dayton” is brought to you each Sunday by The Dayton Power and Light Company. For many years the homes, businesses and industries of Dayton have been served with gas, electric light and power, and city-stream service . . . all produced by the sponsors of this program. The growth and development of the city, the spirit of its people, the steady march of civic progress . . . these have made possible the progress of The Dayton Power and Light Company. And it is in appreciation of these things that this program is presented to the people of Dayton. (PAUSE.) These programs originate in the auditorium of the Dayton Art Institute. All dramatic parts are played by the Dayton Civic Theatre professional company. Broadcasts are at five each Sunday afternoon, over Station WHIO. Make a note of it now. Don’t miss next week’s program of “Great Days in Dayton!”


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