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The Newcom Tavern


by Charles F. Sullivan
            Upon the back of the photostatic copy of the United States constitution upon the pedestal in the east room of the Newcom Tavern, are the pictures of all the signers of the Constitution with the exception of two, of whom no pictures exist as far as is known. Among these signers pictures, we find the picture of the youngest signer, Jonathan Dayton, for whom the City of Dayton was named. He was a resident of New Jersey and served as a Captain in the army of the Revolution, Speaker of the United States of Representatives, then Senator from New Jersey.
            He became acquainted with Judge John Cleves Symmes, who had made a forest his home at North Bend, down the Ohio River from Fort Washington, now Cincinnati, and he had a contract with the United States Government for the purchase of much of the land between the Great and Little Miami Rivers and north of the Ohio.
            Jonathan Dayton, with his associates, contracted with Judge Symmes for the purchase of the site where Mad River joins the Great Miami. After the plat of the City was made by the surveyor, Israel Ludlow and Daniel Cooper in 1795, the title of the settlers and proprietors failed through default of Symmes. The price of the land was to be the same as paid by the Ohio Company at Marietta, $.66 per acre and no ceiling was made for its selling price.
            The settlement of Cincinnati was started in December, 1788, under the name of Losantiville, but two years later, Arthur St. Clair, governor of the North west Territory, visited the new city, and because he was a member of the order of Cincinatus, the name of the City was changed to Cincinnati.
            On June 13, 1789, a party contracted with Judge Symmes to buy a tract of land at the junction between the Miami and Mad River, and the City was to be called Venice, and Mad River to be called the Tiber. The business center was to be near the present intersection of Herman Avenue and Webster Street, but owing to Indian troubles, nothing was done with it.
            General Anthony Wayne, was sent here by the government, with an army to settle the Indian trouble and after a severe campaign, the Indians signed a treaty of Peace at Greenville, Ohio, in 1795.
            After this treaty, it was considered safe to settle in this part of the territory. March 23rd, 1796, there parties started from Cincinnati to make a settlement at the site of Dayton.
            The boat, in command of Benjamin Van Cleve, was the first to arrive, landing at the head of St. Clair Street, April 1st, 1796.
            The other parties coming over land, did not arrive until four days later. Can you imagine the suffering they endured upon that trip in March, with the river usually high at that time of the year, and the weather cold and rainy or snowy? How could they protect themselves (and there were children in the party) from the weather at night and cook three meals per day of game shot along the route?
            When they arrived here, they were no better off, for no shelter had been provided and here they were sixty miles from their friends, forced to make a new home and only themselves to do all the necessary work. First they had to live, build a shelter, find water, clear the lot, put in a crop and dozens of other things, to make their families comfortable and all pressing for immediate attention. Only 36 people came in the three parties and all had to work long hours to accomplish the most necessary things.
            Among the first settlers was Col. George Newcom and his wife and they chose the south west corner of Water and Main Streets for their home and soon after hired Robert Edgar to build a two story, hewed log house for his residence. He paid him $.75 per day for his work and boarded him while doing the work for one deer per week, which he would kill and dress ready for the kitchen, and he was allowed to keep the hide.
            Since the three streams, Mad River, Stillwater and Wolf Creek join the Miami at this point, it made a division point and settlers would want shelter, while they decided which road would suit their purpose best. Seeing the need of a hotel Col. Newcom added two more rooms to his residence in 1798, making it two rooms down stairs and two upstairs or rather up the ladder, and started his Tavern there. In 1803, Mr. McDougal, brought a stock of goods from Detroit and rented the up ladder east room to display them, where his customers would have to go to see them.
            Could a merchant do business in such a place at this time?
            In 1804, Court was held in this Cabin and the bell placed in the cupola upon the roof. Col. Newcom became Sheriff, confining his prisoners in a dry well or corn crib in the rear of his residence.
            Since there was no business for the court that first day, it was adjourned and it is reported that the Court, lawyers and visitors, all slept in the same room upstairs that night.
            Col. Newcom moved to a larger house about 1818 and Barbara Krick Rollman moved into the Cabin and ran the Tavern for almost twenty years, raising seven children during that time.
            Then J. S. Shaeffer started a general store down stairs and had a room upstairs, and operated it for sixty years. I think the stairway was built at this time, for a new tenant always asks for changes and the windows were probably placed at that time.
            The ladder was renewed in 1828, so the stair was a later consideration. When I was a boy, I went there several times for fish hooks. The store was very dark but Mr. Shaeffer knew just where every thing was placed, so did not need much light.
            He kept some of his goods outside upon the walk, especially goods that were not perishable, where all passers by could see what he had for sale. Mr. Shaeffer sitting at the front door upon the sidewalk, can be seen in the picture on display, taken shortly before the Cabin was moved to Van Cleve Park.
            In 1895, the property was sold and Mr. Cotterill offered the Cabin to the Dayton Historical Society if we would move it away and Mr. John H. Patterson saw to it that it was promptly removed to its present location. It was weatherboarded and the ceilings upon the first floor were plastered at that time, but these were removed before changing the location, for we wanted it to appear like the old log Cabin that it originally was.
            In 1896, there was a great celebration and many old things were donated to the Cabin (which was to be used as a historical museum) and have been on display ever since. Every person visiting the Cabin has been asked to register his name and address for all these years and we have many books filled with these names.
            In the flood of 1913, the water rose almost to the ceiling rafters and many of our exhibits were ruined or washed away, and many of our records were lost at that time, so we do not have the history of them. The exhibits would be even more interesting if we knew their history.
            When the Cabin was removed, it was placed upon the ground and the lower timbers began to rot. A good friend of the Cabin, left a sum of money in his will to be used in the re-building of the Cabin. This brought up the question as to whether it should stay where it was or be moved and if so where? After Monument Avenue was repaved, it was decided to let it stay where it is, and work was started upon it.
            A basement was placed under it with concrete walls and floors, toilets for ladies and men, City water and steam heat and electric light so in that way it is very modern. Other work was done upon it and we think it will last for many years, thanks to Mr. Fred Beaver formerly in the soap business here and left the money to the job. The Monsanto Chemical Company furnished the liquid applied to the logs for their preservation.
            The building is full of interesting exhibits, and we will describe some of them, starting in the east room down stairs.
            In a frame upon the east wall are two ballots used in the election of Lincoln and Johnson in 1864 and these are interesting on account of their age, 79 years in this year 1943.
            Next is a picture of the Cabin (mentioned above) upon its first location at the south west corner of Water and Main streets.
            This picture was taken shortly before it was moved to Van Cleve park and the picture is just as I saw it when I was a boy.
            Mr. Shaeffer is shown sitting at the front door with barrels of salt and other merchandise stacked out on the walk against the building as was the custom in those days.
            Here is an old safe made in Philadelphia, and brought here by the railroads, about 1860, soon after they got into operation.
            It is quite heavy and rests upon iron wheels and is well riveted together. Originally it had a combination upon it, but that is long since gone, for the opening where it formerly fitted, is badly rusted. Upon the large door is a small sliding door, which when drawn to the right, shows a key hole, and when drawn to the left, no key hole is shown. This reminds me of the man who came home in the wee small hours of the morning and thought some one had stolen the key hole to his front door.
            Above the safe is a picture of Col. Robert Patterson, who was born in Pennsylvania and went to Kentucky at the age of 23 years.
            Bought quite a large piece of land from the government and sold it in small pieces to people who wanted to build and live there. He built himself a one room log cabin there, and started back to Pittsburg with several other men to get supplies and on the road, they had a very serious encounter with the Indians. Some were killed and others injured and Col. Patterson so seriously that he suffered from it, the balance of his life. He was in the hospital for several months and as soon as he was better, he went back home, wooed and wed a neighbor lady of Pennsylvania.
            His wedding journey was by horse and boat back to live in the one room log cabin. He founded Lexington, Kentucky, naming it after the battle of Lexington in Massachusetts, for it took lots of time for news to filter through the mountains of Kentucky in those early times.
            Col. Patterson found it necessary to fight the Indians near his home, and in that way he became acquainted with Daniel Boone, a very noted Indian fighter.  While away from home, he left his brother in charge of the business and land, while he traveled all over Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, fighting the Indians. Finally in 1795, General Wayne, after a very severe campaign in northern Ohio, forced the Indians to sign a treaty of peace at Greenville, Ohio, and this released Col. Patterson who went back to Lexington again. Soon he became interested in the settlement of Cincinnati, but this kept him away from home so much that he sold his interest there.
            He then bought a mill and some land from Daniel C. Cooper, a proprietor of Dayton, Ohio, and just south of that city, where the N.C.R. now stands and moved his family to Dayton in 1804.
            This has had a great influence upon Dayton for he was quite active in business while he lived here. His children also were quite active. His Grandson John H. Patterson, was a citizen and co-founder and head of the N.C.R for 38 years and made it the large factory that it is today. Also he did much to bring Dayton back after the flood of 1913, raising a fund of two million dollars to survey the entire valley and then organized the Miami Conservancy District which has made Dayton safe from floods for all times to come.
            Benjamin Van Cleve, arrived here with the first party by boat, April 1st, 1796. Among them was his mother, remarried to Samuel Thompson, after the killing of his father by the Indians, in the heart of what is now Cincinnati. He was appointed postmaster of Dayton in 1804, so made a cabinet for that work and he used it until his death in 1821. Here it is in the east room of the Newcom Tavern. It is a fine piece of work made out of black walnut wood which was very common then but very expensive at this time. How he was able to build such a fine cabinet as this, eight years after Dayton was settled, is more than I can tell you, for there were very few tools to use at that time.
            At first, he only received mail once in two weeks, but soon it was increased to once per week. Could we get along with mail coming once a week?
            In 1828, the Tavern was re-modeled, a new ladder was made, the down stairs ceilings were plastered, possibility the windows were placed in the building and the outside weather boarded. This was a big improvement and was mentioned in the weekly newspaper.
            There are two pictures of Robert Chambers, one as a young man and the other as an old man. He had a line of canal boats to run between Dayton and Cincinnati, when the canal was first built in 1829, and he would advertise that he could take you to Cincinnati, 56 miles in 24 hours. This was a good time then but now it is much faster and this was the start of the sleeping car.
            The first Union depot was built in 1856, upon the same ground now used for that purpose and served the public until 1896 when it was removed to make space for the new one. The railroads interested in this project were the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton and the Dayton & Union, both now the B & O, the Dayton & Western and the Dayton, Xenia & Belpre, now the Pennsylvania R R.
            They began operating trains in 1852 & 1853 and how they could have the vision to build such a large depot for this city of 150,000 people is a wonder. These pictures in the east room were taken when the depot was old and are just as I remember it.
            I think the small engine shown in the lower picture, was a narrow gauge running north to Delphos.
            J. S. Shaeffer’s old sign is over the door and shows how the weather wears the back ground while the black paint protects the wood under it. This took the weather for sixty years.
            An old Indian Club made out of the stump of wild cherry wood, and a pipe of peace were donated by Ezra Bimm, an old grocery man and the only dealer in natural ice to do business in Dayton.
            Charles S. Stratton, better known as Tom Thumb, a famous dwarf came to Dayton with Barnums circus about 1860 and while here was invited to supper with the Gerkins family, and he sat in the high chair at supper. They were greatly pleased with him and after he had gone, they made a doll to represent him and later donated both doll and high chair to the Cabin for exhibition.
            He was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, married another midget, who travelled with him and he died in 1883, aged 45 years.
            In the west room is an old Cash Register. John H. Patterson and his brother Frank, bought the Standard Register Company in 1884 with eleven employees and immediately changed the name to the National Cash Register and before long had increased the number of employees to fifty. They could not get more space in the down town building but had lots of ground in the southern part of the city on Stewart street. There they erected a shop building and moved into it and have increased their output continually ever since.
            This register was made in 1889. It has a fine wooden case and is in good working condition, using a roll of lined paper to make the record. It is practically one of their first machines and it is very ingenious, but the present register is a wonderful improvement on it. The sign on top, is just as it is now “This registers the amount of your purchase”, the keys and figures showing the amount of your purchase and the general form are just like the latest model. The new machines add and subtract without a mistake, which is better than a human can do. Instead of eleven employees it is thought they are employing eleven thousand people. Their factory covers much ground and all of their property is kept in fine condition. John H. Patterson is still going strong under the management of E. A. Deeds, General Manager, working on defense work. We miss Mr. Patterson’s good influence upon our city government and his generosity to the City.
            The large fire place is made out of granite boulders brought here by the glaciers, ages ago, and are commonly called “nigger heads”.
            There is a crane fitted in it making it easy to load or unload the kettles hanging upon it. Upon the mantel and close by are the many cooking utensils that were very useful in a large fire place like this one. There are several grease lamps which were very fine in those days but now it seems ridiculous to think of lighting a home with them.
            From 1830 to 1860 candles were the finest kind of light for a home. Then came artificial gas made of grease. This was unsatisfactory and the grease too expensive, so the Dayton Gas Company remodeled their plant to make coal gas. This was the best light for a home until after the beginning of this century.
            In 1884 this city made a contract with the Dayton Electric Light Company to light the streets with arc lights and after about ten years, the incandescent lamp globe came in, with their steady mellow light. Now almost every building is lighted by electricity.
            We have made wonderful progress in lighting in the last hundred years, for power and light can be had almost any place in the entire United States.
            Above the mantel is a flint lock gun made at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia before the Revolutionary War, so it was probably used in that war.
            We received it from Gorton Arnold and his son J. O. Arnold both formerly influential residents of Dayton.
            The earliest way of grinding corn is shown with a log about three feet long standing upon end, with the upper end bored out about eight inches deep, surrounded by a wall of wood about two inches thick and re-enforced by a band of iron around the outside.
            The corn would be shelled by hand into this hollow and then pounded with a hickory stick about two inches in diameter, with an iron wedge in the base of it, making it quite heavy and the wedge makes a very good grinding surface. Originally a rock served instead of the wedge, no doubt. The visitors to the cabin are not wanting a job of grinding corn by this process.
            Upstairs is an old “ordinary” bicycle, but now we think it is extraordinary, for the large wheel is 54 inches in diameter and is followed by a much smaller wheel. The first one I ever saw was when I was a boy, a young man came to our house to see his mother who was visiting us. He said that he had ridden down from Troy, Ohio, 22 miles in two hours, and to me that seemed to be impossible. It is easy to balance your self upon this kind of a bicycle, but the danger was in being thrown over the handle bars, and many young men received broken arms from this kind of an accident. This wheel was used by Frederick Gebhart, a very young prominent attorney of this city, who lived on Fourth Street west of Ludlow. This model of bicycles came into use about 1885 and lasted about seven years, when the “safety” bicycle came into use and the old ones went out almost over night.
            In the new case upstairs, is a leather bucket formerly used to fight fires by the volunteer fire department. Every man was supposed to have two of these at his home with his name upon them and at an alarm of fire he was supposed to grab them and get to the fire as quickly as possible. After the burning of Daniel Cooper’s mills in 1820, the village council passed an ordinance that a few extra buckets be kept in a handy place, so that any stray person could be put to work if necessary.
            There is also a fireman’s hat and belt, used by G. W. Finke in the volunteer service, in this same case.
            The surveyor chains and pins used by Samuel Forrer, and a surveyor’s instrument used by L. G. Perry, both of them very prominent men a hundred years or more ago, are also here.
            C. L. Vallandigham was a lawyer, living in a brick house on West First Street, where the west end of the Loretta guild is now standing. He was much in favor of states rights, and when he was elected from this district to Congress, 1861 to 63, he opposed the Federal government, by voting against any appropriations of money or supplies to the army or navy.
            In 1863 we recalled him and sent General Robert C. Schenck to take his place in Congress. After leaving Congress, Mr. Vallandigham became worse and was speaking against the war all over the states at every opportunity. General Burnsides in charge of the forces at Cincinnati, sent a squad of soldiers up here to arrest him.
            He was at his home when they arrived. After waking him by ringing his front door bell, which is on display at the Cabin, they demanded his surrender. He refused and the soldier’s tried to force the front doors, but they were too strong.
            They went to the rear of the house, got in and went upstairs and took him prisoner to Cincinnati. The next night, a mob stormed the Journal office and burned it to the ground, thinking that the Journal was responsible for his arrest. He was found guilty by a court marshall and sent through the lines in Tennessee to stay during the war. When this dwelling was torn down, these front doors were also given to the Dayton Historical Society by Mrs. Julia Shaw Carnell and are now on exhibition there, in the basement of the Cabin.
            In the room upstairs are several old beds. One bed is made of black walnut lumber and has a fine canopy over it and that always takes the eye of the ladies. Then there are two made of wild cherry and all very beautiful and old.
            The quilts are also very old. Then there is a trundle bed made of wild cherry lumber, which fits under the large bed during the day but at night is used for the children, for they were easy of access in this bed  pulled out at the foot of the large bed.
            All four beds are without springs, but to serve in the place, heavy cord is used, by running it back and forth each way and serves very well. However if a cord would break during the night, nothing could be done about it until daylight.
            There are three cradles, home made of course, in which the pioneers rocked their babies, and one a fine wooden hood to protect the baby from sun or rain.        
Then we have the remnants of an old program telling of our big celebration in 1896 and that reminds us that we should be getting ready for a much bigger and better celebration on April 1, 1946. We now have about two years to prepare for it so we should begin our plans at once and keep at it continually so that every thing will be ready when the time rolls around.
                                                                                    Chas. F. Sullivan Nov. 26, 1943
                                                                                    114 E. Idaho St. Apt. C
                                                                                    Boise, Idaho