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Pioneer Life in Dayton and Vicinity
Chapter Four Part 1





All local officers had, up to this time, been appointed by the courts, but as the population of the township had increased rapidly other officers were required, and it was decided that they should be elected by the citizens. The first election was held on the first Monday in April, 1802, according to the following order issued by the Court:



"The United States to Jerome Holt, of Dayton Township,

Greeting :

"You are hereby required to give notice to the inhabitants of said township, in three of the most public places thereof, at least ten days before the first Monday in April next, that they may and shall convene on said day at the house of George Newcom, in the township aforesaid, and then and there proceed to elect by ballot a Chairman, Town Clerk, three or more Trustees, or Managers, two or more Overseers of the Poor, three Fence Viewers, two Appraisers of Houses, Lister of Taxable Property, a sufficient number of Super-visors of Roads, and one or more Constables, agreeable to a law entitled 'An act to establish and regulate town meetings.' And of this warrant make due return. By order of the Court.

"In testimony whereof, I have hereunto affixed the seal of our same Court of General Quarter Sessions of the Peace, at Cincinnati, this second day of March, in the year of our Lord 1802.

(SEAL.)                      "JOHN S. GANO, Cl’k."

There was no record of this election kept, so the names of the officers are not known, but they served until the organization of the county, in 1803.

On March 24, 1803, by act of the Legislature, Hamilton County was divided and Montgomery County formed, named in honor of General Montgomery, who fell at the battle of Quebec. It included all of the present counties of Preble Miami, Darke, Shelby, Mercer, Van Wert Paulding and Defiance, nearly all of Alien, Putnam, and Henry, and about one-half of Lake County. It was divided into four town-ships, of which Dayton Township was one.

Dayton Township consisted of all the territory north of Washington Township to the north line of the seventh range of townships, and east of the Miami River to the Greene County line, including in all about six thousand three hundred square miles.

On April 5, 1803, the Legislature appointed Ichabod B. Halsey, Bladen Ashby, and William McClelland as com-missioners to locate a county-seat. Dayton was selected by the commissioners. The seat of justice was fixed by an act of the Legislature that went into force on May 1, 1803, at the house of George Newcom, of Dayton.

There were in Montgomery County at the time it was formed five hundred and twenty-six white male inhabitants over twenty-one years of age, and in the State at that time fifteen thousand three hundred and fourteen.

The first election held in Montgomery County after its organization, on March 24, 1803, was to elect a member of Congress. There were three candidates - Jeremiah Morrow, William McMillen, and William Goforth. Three hundred and seventeen votes were cast, of which Jeremiah Morrow received one hundred and seventy-five, William McMillen one hundred and thirty-nine, and William Goforth three.

The second election was held on the second Tuesday of October of the same year, for sheriff and coroner. George Newcom was elected sheriff and James Miller coroner.

On April 2, 1804, an election was held for three comity commissioners, at which there were twelve candidates. Edmund Munger, John Dover, and William Browne were elected, the first commissioners of this county. The first session of this board was held at Newcom's Tavern, June 11, 1804. Lots were drawn for the length of time each member should serve, the result being that William Browne served three years, Edmund Munger two years, and John Dover until the next October election.

The revenue from the tax duplicate for 1804 amounted to $373.96, the highest tax from any one person being $71.80, and the lowest fifteen cents.

After the county was erected, and Dayton made the seat of justice, George Newcom, as sheriff, had to provide in some way for the prisoners who were by the court committed to jail, no jail having at that time been built. Newcom was an Irishman, of ready wit, and immediately put to such use a dry well at the rear of his house for white prisoners. The Indians he would buck and chain to his corncrib.

On August 9, 1804, the county commissioners advertised, by posters nailed to the trees, for bids for a jail building thirty by sixteen feet, of round logs. The logs were to be straight, and the corners fitted so that the logs would touch all along, with a log partition, dividing the building into two rooms. The floors were to be hewed logs, closely laid, and covered with heavy oak plank, fastened down with wooden pins. The ceilings were also to be covered with heavy plank. One room had one window of four lights, four-by-five glass, and the other had two windows of four-by-six glass. The windows had iron bars across, and heavy oak shutters with iron hinges. The doors were made of two-inch oak plank, double thickness, the doors and shutters being fastened with large locks in wooden cases on the outside. The contract for building the jail was sold at auction on September 28, 1804, to the lowest bidder, David Squier securing the contract at $299. The  building was erected on Third Street, near where our present jail stands, and was completed and accepted by the county commissioners in December, 1804.

In 1811 this jail was removed to give place to a building combining jail and dwelling-house. The building, two stories high, eighteen by thirty-two feet, was to be built of stone, with shingle roof. A hall through the center divided it, the sheriff's residence being on the west side and the prisoners' quarters on the east side.

The contract for this building was sold at auction from the Court-house steps on July 27, 1811, to James Thompson, the lowest bidder, for $2,147.91. He was about two years and a half in doing the work, the building being completed and accepted by the commissioners in December, 1813. The entrance was from Third Street. There were three cells on each floor. Those on the second floor, being better furnished and less like a prison, were used for women and minor offenders, one being called a debtor's cell, as in those days a man was imprisoned for debt. The walls and floors of the six cells were covered with a layer of heavy oak plank, driven full of nails, and then covered with a second layer of plank. The window of the front cell faced the street, and through its bars a prisoner could easily converse with the passers-by, and small articles could -be passed back and forth. One morning the sheriff found that; four prisoners had escaped during the night by cutting through the floor and tunneling under the wall. It was then decided at once that a new building was needed, and during 1834-35 a one-story structure of heavy cut stone, containing four cells, with stone floors and arched brick ceilings, was erected in the rear of the jail, and used as the county jail for ten years.

The first term of court was held in the Newcom Tavern, in 1803, but in 1805 the county commissioners rented rooms in Hugh McCullum's new tavern, at the corner of Main and Second streets, for court purposes, at an annual rent of twenty-five dollars. The fall term of court in 1805 was held in the new quarters, and they were used until the first brick Court-house was completed, on the northwest corner of Main and Third streets.

In 1804 the county commissioners sent advertisements to Cincinnati and to Lexington, Kentucky, for proposals to build a brick Court-house, thirty-eight by forty-two feet, two stories high, the first floor to be used as a court-room, the jury-rooms to be on the second floor. The contract was let February 3, 1806, and the house was occupied in the winter of 1807-08 for court and religious purposes, the commissioners having borrowed money of the trustees of the First Presbyterian Church with the understanding that until it was paid back the congregation could hold their services in the Court-house, and neither rent nor interest was to be charged. There were no locks on the doors of this building for four years after it was completed. The furniture in the court- and jury-rooms consisted of a few three-legged stools and a bench. At first the jurors were not furnished with seats, and it was not until 1811 that tables were placed in the building. In 1815 the commissioners built a cupola on the Court-house and the next year a bell was hung.

This building, with the jail, was sold at auction in October, 1845, for $864. The new jail, now the City Work House, was built on the corner of Main and Sixth streets, and when it grew too small the present brownstone edifice, combining sheriff's residence and jail, was erected on Third Street, on the site of the original stone and log jail. The Court-house then erected still stands, in its Grecian majesty and simplicity, a monument to its unknown architect. In the Odell Directory M. E. Curwen gives the following description:

"In the spring of 1847 were laid the foundations of the Dayton Court-house—the most elegant and costly building of the kind in the State of Ohio. It is constructed of a species of compact white limestone, which abounds in the vicinity, and which is well known, from its extensive use in the building of canal locks, the Cincinnati Catholic Cathedral, and other buildings, as the Dayton marble. The building is fire-proof throughout, and is covered with a marble roof. The only wood used in its construction is for the inner doors, furniture, and window-sashes. Rising by a flight of eight marble steps, you reach the broad terrace on-which the building is erected; advancing about six paces, you rise, by another flight of steps, to the floor of the portico, nearly on a level with the windows of the second story of the buildings on the opposite side of the street.

The entrance into the main hall, which is thirty-eight feet long and eleven wide, is by two massy, ornamented doors of iron, each of which is more than two thousand pounds in weight. On the right of the hall are three rooms, with groined ceilings, which are used as the clerk's office, the middle one being the principal business room. On the left are the sheriff's and recorder's offices. The hall leads to the rotunda, twenty feet in diameter and forty-two feet high, ornamented with a dome, the eye of which lights the hall below. Around this rotunda a circular flight of geometrical stone stairs -leads to the gallery of the court-room on one side, and to the offices of the treasurer of the county on the other.

"Immediately in front of the principal entrance, at the west of the rotunda, is the court-room. It is one of the striking effects of perfect proportion in architecture to diminish the apparent size of a building. For this reason the stupendous magnitude of the grand altar of St. Peter's at Home loses half of its effect, and seems to the casual visitor too small for the building, until he reflects that it is of the same height as the Capitol at Washington. Spectators who enter the Dayton court-room for the first time often remark how small it seems. Yet the gallery alone is spacious enough to afford seats for more than two hundred persons.

"The room is in an elliptical form, the shorter diameter being forty-two and the longer fifty-two feet in length. A light gallery of iron, at the height of sixteen feet from the floor, supported by brackets and surmounted by an iron railing, surrounds the room. The whole is lighted by a handsome dome, the eye of which is forty-three feet from the floor. The court-room is ventilated by openings, invisible from below, around the eye of the dome. While it was building, great fears were entertained that, as in the dome of the Capitol at Washington, the reverberation would be so great that the room would be useless for the purpose of a court. These fears were, however, unfounded. The utility of the building has not been sacrificed to a showy appearance, and no room could have been constructed better adapted to the purpose for which this was designed."

This old Court-house is now used for the Probate Court, and for the storage of papers and documents. The Rev. Mr. Clayton drove a team and hauled stone for the building. John Carey, the contractor, afterwards moved to Sidney, Ohio.

On July 27, 1803, Hon. Francis Dunlevy opened the first court in Dayton in the upper story of Newcom's Tavern. Following are extracts from the first appearance docket of the first term of the Court of Common Pleas, of Montgomery County:



"Term of July, Anno Domini one thousand eight hundred and three.

"Present, the Honorable Francis Dunlevy, Esquire, President 1st Circuit. "Benjamin Archer, ) "Isaac Spining, and Esquires, Associate Judges. "John Ewing,      (                      "

"Benjamin Van Cleve, Clerk, P. T.

"George Newcom, Esq., Sheriff.

"Daniel Symmes, Esq., prosecutor, p. t., in behalf of the State.

"Came a Grand Jury, to wit: John McCabe, foreman, and present for assault and batteries Jeremiah York, Peter Sunderland, and Benjamin Scott."

At the second term of court, which was held in November, 1803, there was considerable business transacted, and the following are extracts from the docket, the same judges presiding:

"George F. Tenney, Esquire, sworn and admitted to practice as an attorney at law in this court."

"Letters of Administration are granted to Hannah Davis, relict of Thomas Davis, deceased, late of the State of Delaware. The securities are Owen Hatfield and. William Hatfield, bound in $1,500 to the State of Ohio."

"Letters of Administration are granted to Abigail Bigger and James Bigger on the estate of Joseph Bigger, deceased. The securities are James Petticrew and Jacob Long, bound in $500 to the Governor of the State of Ohio."

"Upon application and proper vouchers being produced to the court, licenses are granted to the Reverend Jacob Miller and the Reverend William Robinson, ministers of the Gospel in this county, to perform the rites of marriage agreeable to the law within this State."

"Allowed by the Court to Arthur St. Clair, Esquire, for prosecuting the pleas in behalf of the State at the late term of the Supreme Court and at this term of the Court of Common Pleas, thirty dollars."

"It is ordered by the Court that a permanent clerk be appointed at our next term."

The third term of court was held in June, 1804, and the following are extracts from the docket:

"Came a Grand Jury, to wit: John Gerard, James Gillespie, James Thompson, James Russel, Nathaniel Knotts, James Miller, Sr., Edmond Munger, John Bradford, James Scott, Michael Moyer, John Noop, Shadrach Hudson, and John Mikesell; found no bills."

At this term the case of the State v. Benjamin Scott came up, the defendant pleading "not guilty." The jurors were George Koons, Joseph Kingry, Benjamin Bowman, William Mason, Benjamin Iddings, George Yount, Alexander Snodgrass, Barney Blue, John Vansel, John McKabe, Robert Edgar, and Henry Atchisen. A verdict of "not guilty" was rendered, and judgment of acquittal was entered.

The above are the first recorded name of the grand and petit juries.

On this same docket we find the following:

"An inventory exhibited and filed of the estate of Joseph Bigger, deceased."

"An inventory of the estate of Thomas Davis, deceased, was exhibited and filed."

"Richard S. Thomas was sworn and admitted to practice as an attorney at law in this court."

"Allowed by the Court to Arthur St. Clair for prosecuting the pleas at this present term, $20."

It was customary in those days to bind out orphan children and poor children to those who were able to take care of them, and accordingly we find the following entries:

"Ordered that Thomas Coppock be appointed guardian to 5 orphan children now under his care; namely:" (The names are not given.)

"Ordered that Daniel C. Cooper be appointed guardian to Thomas Adams and Nancy Adams, orphan children, who lately lived with Ralph French."

"Adjourned without day."

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