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Pioneer Life in Dayton and Vicinity
Chapter Three - Part 1





Dayton Township, Hamilton County, with other townships, was formed in Hamilton County in 1796-97. It included a part of the counties of Greene, Champaign, Clark, Logan, Shelby, Miami, and Montgomery, and was bounded as follows:

"Beginning at a point on the east bank of the Big Miami, where it was intersected by the north line of the fifth range of townships; thence up that river in all its meanderings to the Indian boundary line, at a point where said river crossed the Indian boundary line in Section 18, Township 2, in the fourteenth range of townships, between the Miamis; thence along said line to Ludlow's line, and down that line to the southeast corner of Section 5, Township 6, in the eighth range of townships, between the Miamis, where was a branch of the Little Miami River; thence down the river to the north line of the fifth range of townships; thence west with said line to the place of beginning."

On June 10, 1797, the commissioners of Hamilton County appointed James Brady assessor, Calvin Morrell collector, and Cyrus Osborn constable of this township. It was the duty of the constable to make returns of persons and property to the assessors, who made the assessments and then placed them in the hands of the county commissioners and assessors as a court of appeals to hear complaints against over-assessments. After this they were placed in the hands of the collector. The following orders show the fees allowed these officers: "To Stephen Wood, Treasurer of the County of Hamilton.

“SIR : You will pay James Brady five dollars and twenty cents out of the first monies that come into your hands, the same being his perquisites in full as assessor for the Town-ship of Dayton for the year 1797, and this shall be your warrant for so doing.


“Nov. 24, 1797.                      Commissioners."

"To Stephen Wood, Treasurer of Hamilton County.

"SIR: You will pay Cyrus Osborn, constable of Dayton Township, one dollar and ninety cents, which by law he is entitled to for his trouble and attention in executing and returning the commissioners' warrant for ascertaining the taxable property for the present year, and also fifty cents for one quire of paper used in the aforesaid business.


"November 24, 1797.      Cincinnati Commissioners."

Stationery for the year 1797 cost the township fourteen dollars and thirty-four cents, and the commissioners' fees were seven dollars and fifty cents each.

In 1798 James Thompson was appointed constable, D. C. Cooper assessor, and George Newcom collector. The commissioners and appraisers fixed the following rates for taxation:

"Single men, with no property, $1; cleared land, per acre, $20; cattle, per head, $16 ; horses, $75; cabins, $20; houses, $600; grist- and sawmills, each, $600; boats, $600; ferries, $1,000; stud-horses, $1,000.

"There were 156 persons listed; total amount collected, $186.66.  

  “D. C. COOPER, Assessor of Dayton Township."

The average for each taxpayer was one dollar and nine-teen and two-thirds cents, the highest being D. C. Cooper and Valentine Oyer, his miller, six dollars and twenty-five cents, and the lowest, a number being the same, thirty-seven and a half cents. Mr. Cooper's fee was seven dollars and twenty-one cents,

Andrew Lock, who entered six hundred and forty acres of land in Sections 5 and 11, north of the mouth of Mad River and east of the Miami,—what is now known as the Phillips farm,— was taxed in 1798 one dollar and thirty-seven and one-half cents. The ford over the Miami, where the bridge now is, just this side of Idylwild, was long known as Lock's Ford.

In 1799, the Indians appearing unsettled and unfriendly, a blockhouse was built at the head of Main Street, about where the Soldiers' Monument now stands. It was a large house, built of round logs, with a projecting upper story, to enable the occupants to overlook and protect the entrances.

The Indians, seeing the preparations for defense, and remembering General Wayne's victory at Maumee, concluded to be peaceable; and in this instance the ounce of prevention was worth more than the pound of cure. It was never necessary, fortunately, to use this blockhouse for a fort, but it was not built for naught, as that winter it was used as a school-house. Mr. Benjamin Van Cleve says in his journal: "On the 1st of September I commenced teaching a small school. I had reserved time to gather my corn, and kept school until the last of October."

After securing his corn Mr. Van Cleve went to Cincinnati to assist the clerk of the First Territorial Legislature, and on the adjournment of the Legislature returned and reopened his school for about three months.

In 1799 Samuel Thompson was appointed constable, John McGrew assessor, John Ewing collector, and D. C. Cooper justice of the peace.

The Big Miami River being a navigable stream, the first settlers located in its vicinity, as they supposed property would be more valuable near the landing.

At this time Samuel Thompson was living on Water Street, Mrs. McClure at the corner of Mill and Water streets, George Newcom on lot 13, Water Street, Paul Butler on Water Street, General Brown at the corner of Water and Jefferson streets, Thomas Arnett at the northwest corner of First and Ludlow streets, John Welsh at the southeast corner of Fifth and Main streets, John Williams on the southeast corner of Water and Wilkinson streets, the last four being at the extreme limits of the town. Robert Edgar was living on the prairie north of Mad River, now Bimm's ice park, D. C. Cooper on the Patterson farm, Jerome Holt north of town about four miles, and William Hamer east of town, on what is now called Tate's Point.

General Brown kept bachelor's hall in a two-story house, the first story of stone, the second of logs. He distinguished himself for bravery in the War of 1812, and was granted a vote of thanks and a gold medal by Congress for his conduct in the battles in the vicinity of Niagara Falls and the siege of Fort Erie, and was afterwards made Commander-in-Chief of the United States Army, which position he held until his death, February 24, 1828.

The original topography of the town site was rough and broken. Commencing on the east side of Mill Street the water almost constantly flowed through the low ground now occupied by the canal basin. All the land from First and Perry streets west to the river and south as far as the Fair-ground hill, was prairie. There was a prairie extending from Mad River, through which a bayou of the river ran most of the time, south to about Sixth Street, and east from St. Clair to near. Madison Street.  There was a gully commencing at the head of Jefferson Street, running east through lot 42, now owned by Ex-Sheriff A. C. Nixon, entering the low ground where the basin is now. At the corner of Main and Second, streets there was a deep washout, and another at the corner of Main and Main Cross streets (Main and Third), which had its outlet in the prairie near Fifth Street. Then there was a quick-sand swamp where Messrs. S. N. Brown & Company now have their shops.

It will probably be interesting to know what constituted the house furniture of our pioneer ancestors. First, the cooking-utensils, simple and few in number, consisted principally of an iron pot,—holding six or eight gallons, with iron lid, ears for a bail, and four iron feet,—called a "Dutch oven," used for rendering lard and tallow, boiling water, etc.; a smaller iron pot of the same shape, for boiling the meats and vegetables; a skillet, also of iron, about four inches deep, the sides square up from the bottom, iron lid, legs, and long handle, used for frying meat, baking pone, wheat-bread, etc. In order to cook in these various utensils before cranes came into use, a bed of live coals was arranged at one side of the hearth, on which they were placed, and then coals piled on top of the lid and around the sides. When cooking in this way the long-handled shovel and tongs were indispensable accessories. The fire was made first with a large log three or four feet long, ten to fifteen inches in diameter,—usually of Buckeye, as that wood does not burn out rapidly,—rolled into the fireplace, with stones in front and near each end to hold up the front wood. Johnny-fake was made by mixing cornmeal and water just stiff enough not to run. The dough was flattened out about an inch thick on a smooth board, and the board placed before the fire at an angle of forty-five degrees. Among the cooking utensils was a long, smooth stick, one end sharpened, upon which the cook, or one of the children, would impale a strip of lean meat and hold it before the fire to toast. Nothing sweeter than this meat and the Johnny-cake was ever eaten. A wedge of wood, about six inches long, was driven between the stones of the chimney, above the arch, to which was tied a stout piece of string, and to roast, a turkey, spare-ribs, or saddle of venison would be tied to this string, the string given a tight twist, and the meat left to twirl in front of a hot fire. The twisting kept the roast constantly in motion, so that it required little attention. For tables, for the first two or three years, until the sawmills were started, rude benches, with legs fastened in holes in each corner, were used, and the tableware consisted of a few pewter plates, dishes, arid spoons, and iron knives and forks. These all had to be carried from the East, as nothing of the kind was made west of the mountains. Gourds were used for carrying water until "nuggins" were made. A nuggin was made like our wooden buckets, with one stave, double length, for a handle. They did not have bails. The first few years, when salt was scarce, the meat was cut in long strips, run on rods, and hung where it would dry. This was called jerk. The supper meal usually consisted of mush and milk. After a few years the crane and andirons came into use, and aided in a measure in the difficulties of cooking for many years, as cookstoves were not brought to Dayton for a long time.

One of the old customs that have naturally long since passed away, was the coming around from town to town, and house to house, each year, of the—well, we would not call him a tinsmith, for tin was unknown; a blacksmith? I don't know. At any rate he had iron molds, and would melt the old pewter dishes and spoons and remold them, and the housewife would have an entirely new set of table-ware. Then there was the shoemaker, who would bring his kit and fit out the entire family with shoes for the year; and the tailor, looking, after the comforts of the men.

The first four or five years of the settlement of Dayton were not idle ones for our forefathers. Sometime between 1800 and 1803 William Robinson, who was also a minister, and his brother Henry built a flour-mill in this township on Mad River, now Harries' Station. I remember, when quite young, accompanying my father when he would go to Robinson’s Mill with grist to be ground while he waited for it.

In the spring of 1800 sufficient produce had been raised to warrant the building of a flatboat by David Lowry, to transport it by way of the Miami River to the Ohio, and on down to New Orleans. The first trip was a very successful one, as Mr. Lowry sold his boat, as well as his cargo, consisting of grain, saddles of venison, deerskins, etc., to good advantage, and returned to Dayton on foot, after an absence of two months. Mr. Lowry had one son, Archibald, who lived in Springfield, Ohio, and was the father of Mrs. Eaker. From the time this first boat was built and loaded until the canal was opened, in 1829, this line of navigation was an important one. It was customary for the men making this trip to sell their boats and make their way home as best they could, often walking a great part of the way.

The first accidental death that occurred during the first four years of the settlement of Dayton was that of Thomas Davis, killed at Mr. Cooper's mill. The population during these four years was increased by a number of births, among them Dayton Hamer, George Edgar, Jane Newcom, Jane Edgar, Mary Bradford, and Jane King, who died an infant and was buried on the Presbyterian church lot. There were also some other additions to the town. Mr. McDougal brought a stock of goods from Detroit and opened a general store in the second story of Newcom's Tavern, where he did a flourishing business. Ebenezer Wead came here from Lexington, Kentucky, in 1799. The year before he had entered fractional Section 24, in Van Buren Township, where he settled. He had two sons—John, who married Sarah Schoffe, and Robert, a tailor by trade, who worked in Dayton, going from house to house. In 1805 he bought eighty acres of land where the Insane Asylum now stands, and by hard work gradually purchased more land, until he had three hundred and twenty acres. He first married Jane Gibson, by whom he had two. children, and after her death married her sister, Mary Gibson. They had six children, all of whom are dead.

John Stewart Wead inherited the farm southwest of the Asylum, on which he lived for over fifty years, and died on August 21, 1893, in his eighty-seventh year. His widow, Mrs. Sarah Wead, is still living on the farm. They were early members of the United Presbyterian church south of Beavertown, and later united with the First Presbyterian Church in Dayton.

John Miller came here in 1799. He was born in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, December 30, 1766, and when a young man emigrated to Kentucky, where he married. In the spring of 1799 he entered a hundred and twenty acres of land (now the Mumma place, on North Main Street), and settled there, but after some years moved to a farm about three miles north of Dayton, where he resided until his death on October 17, 1825. Mr. Miller was one of the first trustees of the First Presbyterian Church, and his name appears as elder on the first recorded list of elders of that church. After Mr. Miller's death, his family, with the exception of one daughter, Sarah, who married Obadiah Conover, moved to Indiana and Illinois.

George Adams was born in Virginia October 26, 1767, served as drummer boy in the War of the Revolution, and in 1790 came to Fort Washington with dispatches to General Harmer. General Harmer had just set out on an Indian expedition, and Adams, on horseback, provided with rifle and ammunition, parched corn, and a little flour, started to find him. He overtook the army at the old Indian town of Chillicothe on the fourth day, where he delivered the dispatches. He then joined the army, and on October 22, in hand-to-hand fights with the Indians, was wounded five times. The surgeons dressed his wounds, but said he could not live until morning, and ordered his grave dug. The next day, as he was still living, although unconscious, he was carried on a litter between two horses.

When the halt for the night was made, a second grave was dug, and in this way from. day to day he was carried back-to Fort Washington, where he finally recovered entirely, becoming a strong and robust man. On January 26, 1792, he married Elizabeth Ellis, who was born March 31, 1773, in Virginia. Mr. Adams was constantly in the service, scouting through the Indian country, and was made captain of scouts in Wayne's army. On one of his trips a comrade pointed out his two graves, neither of them occupied. For services as drummer boy in the Revolutionary War Captain Adams received a warrant from the Government for one hundred acres of land, and for services in the Indian wars he received warrants for four hundred acres, which he located below Hole's Creek, near Alexandersville, built his cabin, and moved his family in 1797. In 1799, there being an Indian alarm, Captain Adams organized the neighbors for defense, and built the block-house on Zechariah Hole's land, but the little settlement was not molested. After Montgomery County was erected, Captain Adams was commissioned major of the regiments organized, and held that position at the beginning of the War of 1812. He was in constant service through that war, and was in command of Fort Greenville when peace was declared, but was not released from duty until the Indians were quieted.

While located at this fort he entered land on Greenville Creek, where he built a cabin and moved his family, and later built a corn-cracker and sawmill. In 1829 and 1830 he was appointed associate judge by the Ohio Legislature, which office he held until his death, November 29, 1832.

Adams Township, Darke County, was named in his honor. Mrs. Adams died February 22, 1847. They had eight children, four sons and four daughters,—George, Thomas, William, Caleb, Elizabeth, Cynthia, Martha, and Nancy.

One of the most interesting characters to settle in this vicinity in the early days was Dr. John Hole. He was born in Virginia in 1754, and on August 4, 1778, married Miss Massie Ludlow, of New Jersey. In 1796 he moved west in a covered wagon, and located in Cincinnati, but after prospecting up the Miami Valley, in 1797 he moved his family to Silver Creek, where he located one thousand four hundred and forty acres, paying for the land in military land bounty warrants, which he had earned as an officer in the Revolutionary War. He had studied medicine under Dr. Fullerton, was commissioned assistant surgeon in the Continental Army, was engaged in the battle of Bunker Hill, and was present when the army was reorganized under Washington as Commander-in-Chief. He was on the medical staff of Brigadier-General Montgomery (after whom Montgomery County was named) when he fell at Quebec. In speaking of this battle he has said, "I dressed the wounds of the soldiers beneath the walls of the fort by the flash of the cannon."

Dr. Hole was the first physician in this vicinity, and although his practice extended over miles of territory he found time to build and run two sawmills, south of Dayton. Dr. Hole and his family were Baptists, and the Doctor was the first person baptized in Silver Creek. Here he built his cabin, reared his family of six children, and died July 6, 1815. His wife died July 24, 1842. Owing to his prominence as a doctor, and also to the fact that he was one of the largest land owners in the county, the creek on which he located was soon called Hole's Creek, and retains the name to this day.

About a year after Dr. Hole entered his land, his father,— Zechariah Hole,—his wife, and three sons bought land on the east bank of the Miami River, opposite the mouth of Bear Creek. It was on this land that the blockhouse was built By Major Adams in 1799. The blockhouse and stockade, known as Hole's Station, became a favorite halting-place for newcomers, while prospecting around the valley, and was the beginning of Miamisburg, which was platted in 1818.

On July 18, 1800, Jerome Holt was appointed Constable for this township, and was ordered to list the free male inhabitants of twenty-one years and over, for which he received nineteen dollars and fifty cents. The rates were: for young or single men, each, 50 cents; bond-servants, each, $2; stud-horses, the rate they stand at the season; horses, 40 cents; cattle, 10 cents; on each $100, 40 cents.

In that year the census of the Northwest Territory showed that there were forty-two thousand inhabitants in that part included within the boundaries of Ohio. Application was at once made for admission as a State into the Union. On the 30th of April of the same year the enabling act of Congress, forming the State of Ohio, was approved by John Adams, then President of the United States. Under this act, on the 1st of November, 1802, the first constitutional convention assembled at Chillicothe, and on the 29th of the same month the constitution was adopted and signed and the convention adjourned. The act of Congress " to provide for the due execution of the laws of the United States within the State of Ohio" was approved by the President on February 19, 1803, by which act Ohio was admitted into the Union. Salmon P. Chase, in his statistics of Ohio, says in reference to its system of laws, "It may be doubted whether any colony at so early a period after its first establishment ever had one so good." And in reference to the settlement of Ohio, he says, " Before the end of the year 1798 the Northwestern Territory contained a population of five thousand free male inhabitants, of full age, and eight organized counties."

William King was born in York County, Pennsylvania, January 3, 1764. Nancy (Agnes) Waugh was born in Adams County, Pennsylvania, in 1762. They were married April 2, 1787, and soon after removed to Kentucky and settled near Lexington, where he worked at his trade. They had three sons: Victor, born March 11, 1790; John, born October 16, 1791; Samuel, born November 11, 1793, and a daughter, Susan, born October 15, 1796. Being conscientiously opposed to slavery, he decided to move to Ohio, and in 1799, having procured a good team, he crossed the Ohio River. Hearing of the new settlement then starting at Dayton, up the Great Miami River, he journeyed in his wagon to that place. On his arrival he found but a few log houses in the surrounding forests, and he had but one dollar left in his pocket. Leaving his family camping in the wagon at the new settlement, he concluded to cross the Miami and reconnoiter the west side.

There was no settlement or house on the west side, and he had to cut his way through unbroken forests. Looking for a site to suit him, he found a beautiful knoll about two miles west, and setting down his stakes, said, "Here is where I want my farm." The next thing was to arrange for buying the land. He found he could not buy simply the tract he wanted for his home, as the Government would only sell land commencing at the river, but he also found he could buy land upon payments. So, in order to secure the spot he had selected and set his heart upon as his future home, he purchased the fractional Section 33, about five hundred and twenty acres, beginning at the Miami River, and the whole Section 32, six hundred and forty acres immediately west. As fast as payments became due, he sold a portion of land, and did this so successfully that by 1807 he had his purchase from the Government fully paid, and received his patents.

While his family camped in the wagon at Dayton, he took one man and rations for a week at a time, went out to the selected spot, hewed the timber, and built a cabin.

While thus engaged an incident of pioneer life happened which it may not be amiss to mention here. They had raised the cabin, sawed out the logs for a door, and hung up their provisions inside. While they had gone off a short distance to split clapboards to cover the cabin, a bear entered it and ate up all their provisions, and they were left hungry.

Having finished the cabin, he moved his family out to it, and commenced clearing in 1799. He remained at the spot until his death in 1863. A second daughter, Jane, was born to them in 1800. About 1813 the two oldest sons, Victor and John, moved to Madison, Indiana. In 1817 his daughter Susan died.  The third son, Samuel M., remained with his parents, and in 1822 was married to Mary G. "Williams, daughter of John H. "Williams, and oldest sister of Lockhard and Herbert S. "Williams, who all owned and lived on parts of the sections named. On July 1, 1839, his wife Nancy (Agnes) died. For several years previous to her death the duties of housekeeping had been turned over to Samuel and Mary, and William King lived with them.  His daughter Jane married David Osborn about 1824, and died in 1829, leaving three children—William K., David S., and Jane, now Mrs. Steven-son. David and Jane are still living.

The third son, Samuel M. King, died in October, 1849, leaving eight children living, his son Victor having died in infancy. "William B. King owns and lives now on the same knoll originally selected by his grandfather, which has ever since remained in possession of the family. He married Louisa, a granddaughter of Isaac Spining, and daughter of Charles H. Spining, who came to Dayton about 1801 and settled about five miles east of Dayton on a farm that remained in that family until the death of Charles H. Spining in 1879. John "W. King, the second son, owns and lives on a knoll a short distance west of the original home now owned by "William B. King.  Samuel D. King, the fourth son, died in the United States Army in 1864. The daughters, Nancy J. King and Mrs. Harriet A. Scott, own and live on a portion of the original tract immediately adjoining the old homestead site. Susan married James S. Alexander, and their home is at Monongahela, Pennsylvania. Eliza married Edward Breneman, and they have always lived in Dayton. Lucy W. married Rev. William Greenough, D.D., who is, and has been for more than twenty years, pastor of Cohocksink Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The beloved mother, Mrs. Mary C. King, died in 1886.

William King, Sr., was an elder in the First Presbyterian Church of Dayton before 1817 and continued in office until retired by the infirmities of age. Samuel M. King was an elder in the same church from 1840 until his death. All the persons mentioned in this sketch of the King family are or have been influential members of the Presbyterian Church.

Among the old papers belonging to William King are found a few items relating to early days that may be of interest. As there were no bridges over the Miami, William King in 1811 took out a license to run a ferry. It is as follows:


"To all who shall see these presents be it known, that license is hereby given to William King to keep a ferry below the town of Dayton for one year from the date here-of according to the statutes made and provided.

“By the Court. In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand, and affixed the seal of our Court of Common Pleas at Dayton, Jan. 2, 1811. B. VAN CLEVE, Clerk, M. C. P."

"Rates of Ferriage. Foot person, 6 cents; man and Horse, 12 cents; loaded wagon and team, 75 cents; any other four-wheeled carriage, 50 cents; loaded cart and team, 50 cents; empty cart and team, 37 cents; sleigh or sled and team, 37 cents; horse, mule, ass, or head of neat cattle, 6 cents; sheep or hog, 3 cents. Price of license, $3.00. B. VAN CLEVE, Clerk, M. C. P."

This ferry, below the town of Dayton, as stated, was located at the foot of Fourth Street.  The license for 1812 is worded the same, except that "north of mouth of Wolf Creek" is added.

Some of his old tax receipts are interesting: For 1800, $1.36.9, direct tax due United States; 1802, $1.22; 1803, $1.58; 1804, $2.64; 1807, $6.53; 1808, $7.10; 1816, $19.56; 1817, $15.15; 1818, $14.30.5; 1827, $15.62.7 ; 1828, $20.31.6.

As he received his patents in 1807 from Thomas Jefferson, President, after that date, as the town grew, the taxes increased.

W. Craig ran a sawmill near by, as appears from a bill of fourteen dollars paid for sawing lumber.

In 1830 William King had sold all but three hundred and ninety-five acres.


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