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The Backgrounds of Early Dayton History Copyright 1928



             On Nov. 13, 1928, Professor W. B. Werthner read before the Dayton Torch Club a paper which he entitled “Backgrounds of Early Dayton History.”  This outline seemed to the members of the club so valuable a contribution to Dayton literature that they voted to preserve it, for the benefit of the community, in printed form.  In this form the club here presents Professor Werthner’s contribution.

            Shortly after presenting his paper to the Torch Club, Professor Werthner died.  The publishing of this little monograph on the history of the city where the author spent his life and whose higher welfare was ever the object of his able and loving labors becomes thus a memorial by the Torch Club, of which he was a valued member, to one of Dayton’s greatest teachers and noble leaders.





William B. Werthner


            On the first day of April, 1796, a score of men and women and children jumped out of a flat boat that had landed near the mouth of the Mad river.  They had come up from Cincinnati to find the new town, called Dayton, and were worn and tired out by the tedious and severe ten-day trip in dreary March weather.  They scrambled up the weedy bank hoping to find shelter and warmth in a roomy log cabin where they might eat and rest in comfort.  But not a cabin, not even a clearing was to be seen; only a dark, primeval forest such as would naturally flourish in the fine bottom land along the river.  Most of the trees, many of huge proportions, were still in the grip of winter, bare of foliage and uninviting in their nakedness.  Here and there, however, along the river a red maple had sent out its early clusters of blood-red flowers—promise of spring to come; great old cottonwoods had also hung out their waving, chenille-like tassels of blossoms, while on the white-armed sycamores, bathing their roots in the rushing waters of the Miami, there still dangled the conspicuous seed-balls that had hung on their twigs all winter long.

            In open spaces of the forest might be seen the smaller growth of the wild plum trees enveloped in a cloud of white flowers that open out before their leaves appear, even on cold April days; and here and there a redbud tree was beginning to display its lovely pink-tipped flower buds.

            None of these things, however, interested the newcomers.  They wanted to find Dayton.  Suddenly the little nine-year old Mary Van Cleve, “the first white girl to step on Dayton soil,” called out:  “Here’s a blazed tree.  Come see what’s written on it!”

            Benjamin Van Cleve, a young man of 23, Mary’s brother, called to her not to go into the woods alone, remembering that five years before, their father had been killed from ambush by Indians in Kentucky.  When he came up, he read the scrawl on the blazed tree “St. Clair”; he took from his pocket a copy of the Dayton plat and found that St. Clair was the name of the first street running south from the river in the eastern part of the survey.

            Following down the river the group came to other blazed trees with the inscription “Jefferson” and then to still others marked “Main”.  Beyond that was “Ludlow”, and then “Wilkinson” was the last of the blazed-tree rows running north and south.

            Retracing their steps, the men carefully took apart the flat boat, piece by piece, and hastily built temporary, three-sided shacks, open in front to the fire which was made outside, as protection against the wind and weather and wild beasts.

            Four days later the first overland party, under Col. Newcom arrived, having been two weeks on the way from Cincinnati, and a few days after that the first party made its appearance.

            Then lots were chosen and the building of log cabins was begun in earnest.

             The original town plat was divided into 280 “in-lots”, 100 x 200 feet, and 50 ten-acre “out-lots.”  These out-lots were east of St. Clair St. and south of Third St.

            Each bonafide settler received free on in-lot for his cabin and garden, and one out-lot for the cultivation of food plants, such as corn, potatoes and beans.  Each settler had the privilege of purchasing 160 acres from the company at $1.13 an acre.

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

            The street along the river was called Water St., and all the cabins on it were placed on the south side, that the owners might see the boats passing up and down the Miami.  But when in 1884 the Soldiers’ Monument was erected at the crossing of Main St., the name was changed to Monument Avenue.

            Just a word here about the naming and the prospect of the settlement, which we must bear in mind was in “the backwoods” sixty miles as the bird flies, from Cincinnati, the nearest other permanent settlement in Ohio.

            In 1794 General Anthony Wayne with his army met the largest body of Indians ever gathered together for battle in Ohio; he gained a decisive victory and the next year representatives of both sides met at Greenville and signed a treaty of peace.  From that time Ohio was practically free from Indian invasions or depredations.

            Soon after the signing of this treaty of peace four well-known men agreed to form a company to open up the “Miami Lands”:

            1.  Gen. Jonathan Dayton, a signer of the Constitution, an officer under Lafayette during the Revolution, and later United States Senator from New Jersey.  He was president of the company and after him our city was named, though he never came west to see the city that bears his name.

            2.  General Arthur St. Clair, appointed by Washington Governor of the Northwest Territory.

            3.  General James Wilkinson, officer under General Wayne.

            4.  Colonel Israel Ludlow, a New Jersey civil engineer who surveyed the land to be bought, and made the original city plat of Dayton.

            These men were “men of vision”; they looked ahead and proposed to found a city to be the center of a rich agricultural territory between the Big and Little Miami Rivers; the settlement was not to grow up in any haphazard fashion as a crossroads country village; it was, from the very first, to be a real metropolis, with wide streets crossing at right angles, with reservations of public squares for courthouse, jail, schoolhouse, church and park.  Even a burial ground was set aside.  The place was by nature provided with a large navigable stream for commerce with the Ohio and Mississippi River centers.  And, by the way, we must remember that in 1796 neither steamboats nor steam railways had yet been invented.  Our first steamboat was used on the Hudson in 1807, and our first railway was the Baltimore and Ohio, in 1828.  The only motive power for a boat on the water was the wind, or the oar, while on land the vehicle was drawn by oxen or horses.

            Another man of great importance was a surveyor, D. C. Cooper, who was employed to make a trail from Cincinnati to Dayton, by cutting away the brush so that wagons could be used on it.  This later became the route of the first pike out of Dayton, the so-called Cincinnati pike, now Dixie Highway.

            Here these pioneers were now, far from their former homes—as far, comparatively, in those days as we of 1928 are from London or Paris, that is, a ten-day trip—and as they choose their lots and build their log cabins, let us consider the backgrounds that affected them at the time and in succeeding years.

            We are what we are as the result of two agencies or forces; I might say: two forces sometimes working together, sometimes in opposite directions and often at angels of incidence; always at work, however.  They are heredity and environment.  I am trying tonight to direct your attention more especially to the latter, which I will call the background.  The immediate background consisted of two elements that lay close enough to them to touch—the wonderful fertile soil under their feet and the unlimited, unexplored dark forest that covered the land and the hills beyond as far as the eye could reach.

            Before trying to draw this background of aeons ago, let me call your attention to the fact that the thinking man has been called on to change his belief frequently, even in things he felt sure he actually saw.  Of these let me single out three which concern my word-drawing of tonight—the form of the earth, the age of the earth, the glacial period.

            From the gray down of earliest human history to the revolutionary days of Columbus and Magellan, our earth was the center of the visible universe—for did not the sun and the moon and the stars themselves revolve around it?  Anyone who was not blind could see that these heavenly bodies arose in the east, passed overhead and went down again under the earth’s western margin.

            It took years and years before the general public accepted the new status of living on a globe which, by turning on its own axis, produced day and night.  Stranger than all this was the actual fact that, when the earth did turn over, we and all things not fastened down would not tumble off or be swung out into space by its whirl.

            Came the astronomers then to prove to us that this comparatively tiny globe, with seven others,

some vastly larger, revolved around the sun, which, with all this planetary family, goes flying through space at a most frightful speed.  And lately we are told that not only are we not at the hub of the universe, but in fact are near the outer edge of the Great Galactic System.

            Not only have adventurous sailors and scientific star gazers made the world face about on its belief in the stability and the size of our planet, but of recent years geologists and physicists are now forcing us to modify our notions concerning the age of the world; they tell us that “time during which man has been on the earth is extremely small compared with the age of the earth or of the sun.”  Now, how long has man been on earth?

            Let me inject a personal note at this point:  When I was a high school boy in 1869, my father, at that time a minister of the Baptist church, believed and preached from his pulpit, here in Dayton, what most men of that time believed—that this “mundane sphere” was less than 6,000 years old.  He accepted, as did most churchmen, Bishop Usher’s “Chronology of the Bible,” according to which the time from the creation of Adam to the birth of Christ (counting up the ages of the men as recorded in the Scriptures) was 4,004 years.

            Since that important event one thousand eight hundred and sixty-nine years had passed, at the time of which I speak, making the then total age of the world 5,873 years in 1869.

            Many biblical students also interpreted certain texts of the Revelation and other books of the Holy Scriptures to mean that our earth, which was created in six days, with the seventh as a day of rest, was to exist seven biblical days—these days, taking David’s idea, each meaning 1,000 years.  We were then living in 1869, near the close of the sixth day, and only 127 years separated us from the beginning of the “Blessed Period” known as the Millennium, the seventh day, at the expiration of which the end of the world would be at hand and time would cease to exist.

            Now, during my high school years I had a brief course in Geology as taught by Captain Stivers, of blessed memory, and there came to me a revelation:  back of the human record as given in history, was the record Nature has left us in the rocks and their fossils—an imperfect record, at best, of the vast changes our earth has undergone during the hundreds of millions of years since the continents have emerged from the encircling oceans.

            Following this came the reading of the then most famous, and by many considered “infamous”, book of the time:  Darwin’s “Origin of Species”.  I was, of course, carried away by the new conceptions of geology and biology, as youth always is by contact with new ideas.

            My older brother and I discussed them at home, but our enthusiasm was strongly frowned upon and we were told never to mention the newfangled notions and never to bring home any books that taught such improbable things.

            I brought home, however, fossils that I found in the quarries nearby; and later I learned a little of the Great Ice Age, during which the larger part of North America was covered by continental glaciers, and found out too, that they had moved over the very place were we were living.  When I brought home some of the scratched stones and pebbles carried down to us from Canada by the glaciers and showed them to my father, the good, dear man relented a little, became interested and actually said it was all marvelous and beyond his understanding.

            And when I showed him my fossils and told him how Humboldt and other great students of the earth’s surface explained their origin, he, who heretofore had considered these peculiar things as results of the “Noachian Flood”, again shook his head and seemed worried that in his old age he should have to believe all this new fangled stuff; but he expressed a little relief when I told him that Dr. Asa Fray of Harvard University, my ideal professor of botany, under whom I had done some work, believed all this and at the same time was a member in good standing of the Boston Congregational Church.

            I have injected this personal note to show how difficult it is to change one’s long-held opinion.  My father was a reasonable man, cultured and one of the best-versed men in matters of biblical character I ever knew.  Of course, he became less positive in his public assertions as to the age of the planet on which we live.

            As most of you are young men, I feel sure you will not have to stretch your imagination or your beliefs too much when I ask you to follow me in a brief incursion to the far-off ages before man appeared, to what is now called Ordovician Time—we used to call it Lower Silurian—some 100 million years, more or less, before our day.

            In the words of Professor Schuchert of Yale, “Fossils are the geologists’ time markers, they are the remains of organisms that lived in the geologic past, and the strata (rock layers) that contain them are the graveyards of the buried past, remains of the lost races connecting the past with the present.”  If any of you have every collected fossils in our section of Ohio, you may remember that they formerly were known as Lower Silurian fossils.  Now, that Lower Silurian fossils.  Now, that Lower Silurian or Ordovician Time was an age of marine organisms of very primitive character, trilobites, shell-animals, corals, foraminifera, crinoids, etc.

            The North American continent was already in existence somewhat in its present form, but a broad shallow sea extended from the Gulf of Mexico northeastwardly across Labrador to the Atlantic.  At the bottom of this shallow sea lay the region you and I now inhabit.  The water must have been shallow and must also have been warm, as is indicated by the abundant fossils of corals and crinoids which are not found in deep or cool parts of the ocean, and these waters were “the theater of important events,” important in forming the background that was to react on the white man when he came to settled in Ohio.

            “This Ordovician Time was one essentially of limestone making.”  During the unnumbered years in which these shallow waters covered our present home, layer after layer of sediments, due to marine organic life, were deposited; these in time hardened into rock which, when this portion of North America was pushed up above the level of the ocean, appeared as the various formations of limestone so evident about Dayton whenever the thin covering of soil is cleared away for quarrying purposes.

            For long geological periods this uplifted part of the earth’s crust was like a great island, never again to be engulfed, while surrounding portions of North America were frequently covered with oceanic waters.  Wind and weather wreaked their forces on it, rivers wore deep channels and broad valleys into it and diversified its surface.  Land plants appeared and clothed this land with trees, shrubs and herbs, followed by all sorts of land animals, reptiles, birds and the higher mammals, many of enormous size.

            Then, in more recent times, so to say, some 100,000 years or more ago, came another critical period in the history of the earth, a time of great continental glaciers that moved down from the north as far south, in our section, as the Ohio river.  Vast areas, millions of square miles were covered by ice, in many places a mile thick.  Of course all life in such areas was blotted out.  Where possible, animals and plants migrated southward to escape.  The forward plowing ice sheets dug out hollows that afterward became our Great Lakes, they pushed on over hills and cliffs, grinding up rocks into gravel, sands and clay, with which the former river channels were filled and, after their retreat, left the region a dreary devastated territory covered with “drift” or “diluvium”, as the believers in a Noachian Flood used to call it.

            But again the sun shone, fair summers came and gradually the desert was made habitable land for plants and animals.  But as yet, there were no human beings in America.  Shortly after this, came migrating people, probably from North East Asia, over a then-existing land-bridge connecting Alaska with Siberia, and made their homes in America.  We call their descendants “American Indians”, and these people formed an active influence in the immediate background of our Dayton settlers.

            With these very sketchy glimpses into the buried past, let us again take up the threads of history of the pioneers as they begin their homes in the city of Dayton, at that time, 1796, existing only on paper and in their vision.  Their immediate background of forest and soil took up their first efforts.

            The trees, inimical to them, had to be cut down to make way for roads, houses, gardens and farms.  The best logs were rolled aside for the log cabins, or to be split into rails for fences.  The rest, with all the slashings, were piled up and burned—“pillars of smoke by day and of fire by night,” week after week, month after month.  The burning pyres filled the air with smoke and formed lurid dots here and there along the river at night.

            At the intersection of Main and Water Sts., on the site of the present Soldiers’ Monument, a strong block house, with overhanging second story, was erected to hold all the villagers in an emergency of attack from Indians.  Luckily the emergency never came, and in 1800 Benjamin Van Cleve used the building as the first schoolhouse in Dayton, for the children of the settlers.  I wonder what he would say if, brought to life today, he were told that Dayton needs a new large schoolhouse every year, that annually 1,000 more children are to be provided for in our school system and that we now have 1 normal school, 3 high schools, 5 junior high schools and 26 grade schools, to say nothing about the private and parochial schools of Dayton.

            As soon as available space was cleared about the cabins, corn and beans and potatoes were planted among the stumps; here, doubtless, the women and children did their share of the work in tilling the rich, black earth of the bottom lands along the Miami, and amply did the fertile soil produce the expected food.  Meats, the dark forest furnished in abundance and variety—deer were common, so were turkey, wild gees and ducks.  Occasionally a bear or an elk or a buffalo was brought in, and to vary the diet, the river teemed with fish of all sorts, easily caught.

            Scarcely were the pioneers settled in the belief that things were going well when news came that Symmes, who had contracted to buy the land from the Government for the company that founded Dayton, could not meet his obligations, and hence could get no patent for the land.  Of course, what he did not possess, he could not pass on to a company, and so the land reverted to the Government, which now decided that the original settlers would have to pay $2.00 per acre for land they had improved or proposed to purchase.

            Here was a snag on which the new town was almost wrecked; several families moved away, no new ones came, and things looked black indeed.  Daniel C. Cooper, who had pre-empted a large farm south of town, came to the help of the few citizens who had remained.  He bought the lands of those who had left and arranged with the Government to have a land office at Cincinnati which would give certificates of ownership to original settlers for $1 for their town lots and also for their out-lots at $2.00 per acre.  The settlers felt they had not been treated fairly, but it could not be helped now, and the soil was so extraordinarily fertile that they stuck it out—and made good.

            In 1803 Ohio was admitted as a state.  In 1804 Montgomery County was established and Dayton was made the county seat with the provision that “the temporary seat of justice shall be held in the house of George Newcom in said town.”  In 1805, under the influence of D. C. Cooper, the “Dayton Social Library Society” was organized, with Benjamin Van Cleve as librarian.  In the fall of 1809 the first county convention was held at Dayton, and at the election 196 votes were cast.  I have here an interesting clipping from the Sunday News of November 18, 1928:

            There were exactly 113,000 votes cast in Montgomery County in the last election. When the clerks in the board of elections office completed their tabulation Saturday, they could not believe their

eyes when they rolled the tape from the adding machine and saw that the total was exactly in even thousands. Believing that there might have been some mistake a recheck was made and the same result was obtained. The figure means that 113,000 names were written into the poll books in the 338 precincts in Montgomery County.

            Now let us look a little in detail at the immediate “Backgrounds” that influenced the settlers.

            There was first the soil, most important in the lives of the pioneers since it was rich, deep and varied, eminently fit for farming and pasturage.  This produced corn, beans and potatoes as hoe crops among the stumps and later, as fields were cleared of these impediments, also wheat, oats and flax.


Corn meant

a “hominy-block” in each home and a grist mill for quantity production; hogs on every farm as well as hams and bacon to sell; and it meant whiskey to distill for export and cooper-shops to make barrels.

Wheat meant

white bread and cake at home, and flour to ship down the river, as well as more cooper-shops

Flax meant

busy women with spinning-wheels and hand looms for home-made clothing, and oil-mills for the flax seed.

Pasture land

supported cattle, horses and sheep

Cattle meant

milk, butter, meat, tallow (for candles), horns (for combs), hides for leather, shoes, saddles and harness, and this called for tanners, shoemakers and saddlers; cattle also meant oxen for plowing and hauling.

Horses meant

saddles, wagons and coaches, these in turn called for tradesmen such as saddlers, wagonmakers, blacksmiths and “farriers”.

            By the way:  Is the word “farrier” obsolete?  I have here a booklet printed in our city by E. F. Ellis in 1837, one of the earliest publications issued in Dayton, “The Pocket Farrier”.  It belongs to the local history exhibit of our Public Library Museum.            Better vehicles demanded the construction of good roads and bridges to connect with other growing towns.  The first road to be put through was the turnpike to Cincinnati now part of the Dixie Highway.  Mail coaches began to run in 1818, once a week each way; it took two days to make the trip, the night being spent at Hamilton; the fare was eight cents a mile.  Have this in mind the next time you drive your auto to Cincinnati.  These constructions required larger sawmills to get out the great timbers needed for the wooden bridges, and roads meant much work for hauling and grading.  Both bridges and roads being constructed by private companies, a new occupation was called into existence, that of toll-gate keepers.

Sheep meant

meat and wool; this latter required carders, spinners and weavers, at first all hand workers in the homes, later followed by mills equipped with machinery to do regular factory work.

          The forest was the second background influencing the community; this was at first a hindrance, to be cleared away in order to make room for houses, roads and fields; it also proved a menace, for it was the home of bears, panthers, wolves and wild-cats and also hid the prowling Indians.  But at the same time the forest was one of the greatest assets the pioneer had; it furnished abundant fuel and an almost unlimited variety of material needed in a growing town.  It was an early source for food and furs; it furnished oak-bark for the tanners; the maple tree yielded sugar and syrup for the table and the bark of the Sassafras tree was an excellent substitute for tea; wild fruits and many kinds of nuts were gathered in the woods.  But the chief use of the forest was the wood which the saw-mills cut to suit hundreds of purposes:  furniture to shoe-pegs and lasts, and from barrels and boxes to butcher-blocks and the pioneer-cradles carved from a half-round section of the Buckeye tree.  The Hickory tree proved one of the most valuable of all; its elastic strength lay at the basis of our most distinctive industry of the nineteenth century, that of wheel-making.  The supply of Hickory wood has almost vanished, and what is still obtainable is used for making shovel handles and golf sticks.  I must not forget to call your attention to the unusual wood carvings in the outerdoor of this Club-house, done in butternut wood some years before the Civil War.

            So far then I have indicated that the soil and the forest made the first two generations of Daytonians practically self-sufficient, excepting the metals for tools and utensils—and here, contact with the outer world was made possible by the rivers, the third background.

            The only early means of transportation was on the rivers by flatboat or canoe.  Twice a year, at the spring and fall freshets, fleets of canoes left for Louisville, St. Louis and New Orleans; these were loaded with furs, flour, smoked meats and whisky.  Even the flatboats were sold in the last city, where the hard-woods of which they were built—oak and ash—were in great demand.  The boat-men bought horses in the south and rode back home.

            But the rivers were of other use, too; their waters furnished abundant food in form of fish and gave considerable water power.  Dams were thrown across the smaller streams and the ponds thus formed were sufficient to run the early small grist mills and saw mills.  Later, the larger rivers were dammed above the town and the water was carried by races to the mills lower down.  This meant a large number of factories employing this power for running their machines in manufacturing paper, oil, flour, cotton, flax, woolen goods, carpets, turbine water-wheels, plows, lumber and furniture.  Dayton thus began to make a surplus of many articles and needed better transportation than the river afforded.

            In 1825, the year that the Erie canal was finished in New York, a canal to Cincinnati was begun, and, when this was in operation four years later, this “newest” method of transportation spelled an end to the use of flat-boats—and so the rivers were practically forgotten, until a generation later a new value was seen in them, one of supreme importance to the life of the rapidly growing city.

            And now let us take up the fourth and last of the backgrounds I have chosen to discuss as affecting Dayton—the underlying rock and gravel beds.

            Robert Edgar (father of the late John F. Edgar, historian of his native city) came to Dayton with D. C. Cooper; he was a clever mechanic who built the Newcom Tavern, a number of mills and other houses and finally bought for himself a plat of land on south Wayne Avenue; here he built a cabin and began to farm when one day something happened the telling of which sounds like a romance—so I give it verbatim as his son relates it:

            Mr. Edgar discovered a smooth white stone cropping out of the ground near his farm.  He at once procured an iron rod and on moonlight nights followed up the bed of stone far enough to feel sure he had found a stone quarry, and determined to buy that quarter-section.  Some short time after, while at breakfast one morning, he saw a neighbor pass his door on horseback, and said to his wife, “That man is after the quarry.”  He at once got out his rifle and money, only enough to pay for eighty acres, and started on foot to Cincinnati, stopping at his brother-in-law, George Gillespie’s, of Warren County, where he procured the balance of the money necessary for the purchase.  He reached Cincinnati, and was leaving the land office with the papers in his hand just as his neighbor on horseback rode up.  The neighbor exclaimed: “Why, Bob! when I passed your house yesterday, I saw you eating your breakfast.  How did you get here?”  Mr. Edgar’s frequent trips to Cincinnati had given him such a knowledge of the country through which he had to pass that he could take advantage of all short cuts, and follow paths which a horse could not travel.

            The “subterranean power” of these wonderful limestone deposits was an increasingly important force acting on hundreds and thousands of Dayton’s citizens until after the close of the Nineteenth Century, when it waned only to again grow important in the recent manufacture of cement in one of our suburban towns, Osborn.

            Are any of you old enough to remember the Wayne St. hill south from the old Edgar residence opposite the Wayne Ave. entrance to Woodland Cemetery?  Can you visualize the long row of stone fence-posts on the east side of the road, almost up to the State Hospital?  These posts, 1x1½ x6 feet, stood like a row of sentinels for several generations, holding weatherworn split rails inserted in holes chiseled into the stone.  What a time it must have been to get these stone posts out of the quarry, prepare them and set them up with inserted rails!  But the Edgars had time to do such things.

            Do you remember the stone gate-posts, stone coping, stone hitching-posts, stone front-steps, stone “Flagging” (is that an obsolete word, “flagging”?), the stepping stones across our muddy unpaved streets, the curbstones of the sidewalks, the stone trimming of brick building fronts, stone porches, stone culverts, stone bridge piers—do you remember that most beautiful and wonderfully well constructed bridge, a work of real art, consisting of stone arches, each a unit set two feet ahead of, but closely fitting against, its neighbor, built diagonally across the canal on South Jefferson St.?  And the other ordinary flat-arched stone bridges over the same canal at 5th, 3rd, 2nd and 1st Streets?  All now demolished except the one at 5th Street.

            Of course, we all know and love for its classic, simple and majestic form—the Old Court House.  Stone walls, stone posts, stone steps, stone pillars, even a stone roof and the unique interior spiral stone stairway.  Of course we know the so-called New Court House, with is ungrammatic Latin inscription, and you doubtless remember the old county jail at South Main St. and the railroad, a medieval stone castle with towers and machicolated battlements, all of Dayton limestone.

            Many of our churches are partly or entirely constructed of this same limestone, as are the Cathedral at Cincinnati and other of the Queen City’s older buildings.  Even in far-away New York City a number of large public buildings were of Dayton limestone.

            For a generation or two Dayton was nationally famous for its building stone, often spoken of as Dayton marble.  Quarries with hundreds of men and hundreds of horses were busy getting out this wonderful building material.  Every day, except in midwinter, two and four-horse teams could be seen drawing heavy wagons loaded with huge stone blocks to the stoneyards in town.  I well remember three such, each almost as large as a city square—one at Third and Bainbridge along the canal, handy for canal shipments; the Huffman stone-yard on E. Fifth near the Pennsylvania railroad, and Weber’s, between Warren St. and the canal, the last being also a canal boat shipper.  Here the great stone blocks were sawed into slabs and posts in the ancient Egyptian fashion—long, steel, toothless saws were drawn back and forth with sand as the cutting material and water to wash out the waste, which ran in a yellow stream into the canal.  It is interesting to note that the first railroad running into Dayton was one built to bring the stone into town from the quarries east of Ohmer Park, on the Smithville road.  Down hill the loaded cars were gravity-powered, up hill the empty cars were mule-powered.

            There are many layers of various character in these limestone formations; some good only for cellar walls, e.g. the blue Cincinnati stone; others too soft for any use; others most excellent for burning into quick-lime.  I wonder if any of you have seen any of the scores of old lime-kilns that were in operation east and north of the city.  Only one is now in use near Dayton, seven miles north on the Old Troy Pike.  Many are still operated near Springfield, Ohio.  The church at the Soldiers’ Home and parts of its other old buildings were constructed of the Brassfield limestone from the now dismantled quarry on the Home grounds.

            The extensive Osborn cement factory today uses thousands of tons of the same Brassfield limestone found on its own land, together with black shale from central Ohio, in making its Portland cement.

            An interesting feature of these limestone formations is the fossils more or less abundant in the different layers.  More than one thousand pieces have so far been described from them.

            It is these remains of the animals once living in the primeval seas that covered our present locality so many millions of years ago, which made one of our members, Dr. August F. Foerste, internationally famous for his publications on their fossil forms.  Incidentally, it has also given your speaker a slight claim to scientific immortality, for didn’t my friend Dr. Foerste give to a rate trilobite which I found in the old Soldiers’ Home quarry the specific name Dalmanites Wertheneri?

            Now, finally, just a few statements about the products of the Great Ice Age.

            The gravel moraines about Dayton have had long usage to their credit.  All the county and even private roads, as well as the city streets—until the days of paving came to Dayton—all these lines of transportation depended for original filling as well as annual repairs upon these gravel hills—remnants of the Great Ice Age.

            Gravel washeries are busy cleaning the pebbles and making them useful for concrete work in paving or in building.  Sand deposits have been used from the very first for mortar making with the quick lime burned from limestone, and, of late years, the Crume Sand-Brick Company makes hundreds of thousands of bricks yearly from the fine sand banks of the southern moraines.

            Before the coming of the continental glaciers, deep and broad river valleys converged about this point; when the advancing ice-front came from the north it pushed along with it, ahead and underneath, vast quantities of broken stone, gravel, sand and clay and completely filled up these ancient valleys, all the way from Huffman Hill on the east to the Soldiers’ Home on the west.

            After the retreat of the continental glacier, the water from melting ice, rain and snow had to find the easiest way down to the Ohio; in once, a stream, the upper part of the Little Miami, wore a new channel and formed the beautiful Clifton gorge near Yellow Springs.  In other cases, the streams found passage down the old valleys; but the 20,000 or so years since the disappearance of the ice age have not been sufficient to let the Stillwater, Mad and Miami rivers carry away all of the fillings, or even more than a fraction thereof, left by the glaciers in the ancient valleys.

            For three quarters of a century the inhabitants of the central and lower parts of Dayton dug shallow wells or put down the then newly patented “driven-wells” into the underlying gravel beds where they found good and unfailing water for domestic use.  Since, however, these wells were not very deep and sinks and cess-pools were in the same yard, the drinking water was in great danger of contamination.  In 1869, therefore, the city decided to construct municipal water works and also a system of sanitary sewers.  The Holly Water Co. of New York was given the contract to bore a number of large pipe-wells, 50 to 80 ft. in depth, in the gravel beds of the Mad river.  From these “artesian” wells the water was drawn and pumped into the city mains for distribution.  For fifty years now, the Holly water system has served Dayton well.  When we consider the vast, mysterious reservoirs of water contained in the glacial gravel bed that fill the old deep river channels east of the city, in the Harshmanville and Huffman prairie regions, mostly as yet untouched, there is every reason to be appreciative of the background the Great Ice Age left, not only for Dayton but for the Dayton of today and of the generations yet to come.

            In final review let me name a few things that helped put Dayton on the commercial map of the world. The Cincinnati pike (1818), the Miami Canal (1828), the National Road (1838) and the Dayton and Sandusky railroad (1851), for communication.

            Of products that gave our city a good name at home and abroad I might single out:  Dayton Limestone; shoe-lasts and pegs; turbine water-wheels; passenger and freight cars; hickory wagon wheels; Davis Sewing Machines; National Cash Registers; Ohmer car-fare registers; Delco products—and more than any or all of the above, the invention of our most honored fellow citizens—the Wright brothers.

            Much water has flowed between the banks of the Big Miami since that April day in 1796 when little Mary Van Cleve, aged nine, jumped ashore from her brother’s flatboat onto the town-site of Dayton.  Would not a statue of Mary, in Van Cleve Park at the head of St. Clair street, be a fitting monumental tribute to Dayton’s first settlers?