Header Graphic
Pioneer LIfe in Dayton and Vicinity
Chapter Nine





In the spring of 1798 John Patterson, a brother of Colonel Robert Patterson, from Kentucky, settled on Beaver Creek on the southeast quarter of Section 14, Van Buren Township, where he built a cabin and raised a crop of corn, and the next spring brought his family to their new home. Afterwards John Huston, a single man (brother of Judge David Huston, of Greene County), John Buchanan, with his family, James and Peggy Milligan, and William and Sally Stewart, all Kentucky Presbyterians, settled in the Beaver Creek neighborhood and organized a church, calling it Beulah. About 1800 a log cabin was built by the Presbyterians and New Lights in common, near the Ewery graveyard, and the Rev. William Robinson preached there frequently. In June, 1803, a camp-meeting was held in the woods around the meeting-house, under the direction of Robert Marshall, Richard McNamer, and John Thompson, of Kentucky, and James Kemper, of Cincinnati, all Presbyterian ministers. A discussion arose which resulted in the withdrawal of Mr. Kemper and a part of the Presbyterians, some of whom, among them Judge David Huston, came to worship with the Dayton church. Part of those who remained formed the New Light church at Beavertown, and John and Phoebe Patterson, John Huston, Peggy Buchanan, William and Sally Stewart, James and Betsy Milligan, Katy Stewart (John Patterson’s sister), and John Southard formed the society of Shakers, John Stewart was elected the first elder. In March, 1806, two elders came to Dayton from the Lebanon, Ohio, village of Shakers and completed the organization, naming this society “Watervliet.” At first they did not own property in common and some of the people lived in Dayton. They were frequently ordered through the papers to leave. In May, 1811, they were mobbed, and on August 27 a deed is recorded by John and Phoebe Patterson, witnessed by Benjamin Van Cleve, conveying their farm of one hundred and sixty acres to the Shakers. They now own a valuable farm of over three hundred acres. Within the last few years many of the members have died, and there being few, if any, additions from the outside world, they are now cared for by members sent from a society in New York State.

As the settlers of Dayton were religiously disposed and well-educated people, mostly Presbyterians and Methodists, the churches and schools from the outset occupied an important place in their minds. At that time there was no Home Missionary Society, and the early churches in Dayton were self-sustaining from the first.

The Presbyterians, who had the first organization, held their services for the first three years of the settlement in the cabins of Presbyterian families, and in the fall and winter of 1799 held occasional services in the blockhouse. During the winter of 1799 Mr. Cooper gave them lots 133 and 134, at the northeast corner of Main and Third streets, where they built the first meeting-house in Dayton, eighteen by twenty feet, seven logs high, the floor being two feet from the ground, the roof held down by weight poles, with no windows, no way of heating the room, and for seats slabs from sawlogs. In the spring of 1804 James Welsh, who was also a physician, became the first pastor, and in October the earliest records of the church show that John Miller, Robert Edgar, David Reid, John McCabe, and John Ewing were elected the first board of trustees. During the fall $390 was raised by subscription to make the cabin more comfortable, but the congregation afterward decided to sell it for twenty-two dollars and loan the money ($412) to the county commissioners to be used in building a court-house, with the understanding that they could use the court-room for services. Until the Court-house was completed in 1806 they worshiped in the rooms rented by the county. On May 3, 1806, John McKaig, John Ritchie, and James Hanna were elected the first elders, and in 1807 John Miller and Robert Parks were elected. The church was incorporated in 1812, and the congregation legally organized on April 12 and elected D. C. Cooper, John Ewing, Andrew Hood, J. H. Williams, John Miller, James Hanna, and William King trustees, William McClure treasurer, David Reid clerk, and Matthew Patton collector. On June 15 the board resolved to raise funds to pay the preacher. As the lots donated by Mr. Cooper were found not suitable for a graveyard, Mr. Cooper donated four other lots—two to the Presbyterians, one to the Methodists, and one for general use—on Fifth Street, where all burials were made after 1805. In 1812 the congregation appointed a committee to see to clearing and improving the two Presbyterian lots, and to “call upon the leading characters of the different churches, and learn whether they would join in fencing the burying-ground.” In October the committee reported “that the leading characters of the Methodist Church would join in fencing all the lot intended for the burying-ground, but there being no leading characters of the Baptist congregation, they had no report as to them.”

With the consent of Mr. Cooper, the lots on the corner of Main and Third streets were subdivided, 133 into five lots facing on Main Street, and 134 into two lots facing on Third Street, with an eleven-foot alley between the two original lots. These lots were sold by auction to the highest bidder—number 1 to Charles Tull for five hundred dollars; numbers 2, 3, and 4 to Joseph Peirce for one thousand dollars; number 5 to Francis Patterson for one thousand dollars; number 6 to Benjamin Van Cleve for four hundred and sixty-five dollars, and number 7 to James Slaght for two hundred dollars. In 1813 a lot for the church was purchased of Mr. Cooper on the northwest corner of Second and Wilkinson streets for two hundred and fifty dollars, but, as some felt this was too far out of town, it was exchanged for the lot on the northwest corner of Second and Ludlow streets for two hundred and fifty dollars additional. In 1816 the money loaned the county was refunded, and in 1817 the first brick meeting-house was erected. During the winter of 1817-18 the first Sunday school was organized, with Mrs. Sarah Bomberger superintendent, which office she held for twelve years. In 1837 a new building, fifty by seventy feet, with basement, was erected. In 1838, before the completion of the building, Peter Odlin and Dr. John Steele, elders, with seventy-three of the members, withdrew and organized the New School, now the Third Street Presbyterian Church. In 1852 a colony of twenty-three organized what is now Park Presbyterian Church, and in 1856 another colony organized the Fourth Presbyterian Church, on Summit Street.

During all this time, however, the First Church continued to grow, and in 1867, during the pastorate of Rev. Dr. Thomas, the present stone edifice was erected, from a design which he prepared.

To the Methodist Church belonged the first minister in Dayton,—William Hamer,—who held services at his home as opportunity offered. On August 12, 1798, the Rev. John Kobler preached in Dayton and organized a class of eight members, William Hamer leader. After his last visit, on April 2, 1799, there is no record of services, except class-meetings, until September 22, 1811, when Bishop Asbury preached from the front of the Court-house to over a thousand people. The Rev. John Collins, who, in 1811, was appointed on the circuit, proposed to the society of twenty-four members that they build a meeting-house, and on December 26, Andrew Read, Thomas Smith, Henry Opdyche, William Cottingham, Thomas Cottom, and Aaron Baker were appointed trustees. When $457.55 was subscribed, Aaron Baker was appointed to make the collections. The church was incorporated in the winter of 1813-14, and Mr. Cooper gave the congregation lot 155, on the south side of East Third Street, near Main, now owned by Daniel Keifer. Their first building, a one-story frame, painted red, was erected in 1814. Before this their meetings had been held in the open air, the log cabin of the Presbyterians, and the Court-house. In 1818 two classes were formed, with Thomas Sullivan and Thomas Cottom leaders, and the Sunday school organized. The first camp-meeting was held in 1819, at the foot of Ludlow Street,. Where there was a large spring. In 1827 Lorenzo Dow, a noted man at that time, preached from one of the east windows of the church to a large crowd on the open common extending east as far as Jefferson Street. In 1828 a new meeting-house was erected, and in 1848 a brick church was erected on the same site, in the tower of which was placed the first town clock. The church was damaged in 1854 by the falling of the wall of a new building next west of it, but was repaired, rededicated, and used until the present Grace Methodist Episcopal Church, on the corner of Fourth and Ludlow streets, was completed.

As early as 1806 a county record shows that an application was made and granted for the southeast corner of Third and Main streets for the “Baptist Union Congregation of Dayton,” but there are no further records in regard to it and the property reverted to Mr. Cooper. The first council for the organization of the Baptist Church was held on May 29, 1824, on the porch of William Huffman’s residence, and the church organized with nine members. The first Sunday after its organization Mrs. Lydia Huffman was baptized in the Miami River, at Main Street, the first baptism known to have occurred in Dayton. The first pastor was Rev. D. S. Burnett, who, in 1829, became excited over the doctrines of Alexander Campbell, and formed the Campbellite church. Andrew Clark, Lydia Huffman, Daniel Kiser and wife, Moses Stout, Elizabeth Crowell, Elizabeth Bowen, and Rachel Bradford were dismissed because they held to the old doctrines. This little band kept together, and formed the nucleus of the present First Baptist congregation.

May 15, 1817, the Rev. Philander Chase preached in Dayton, and the Parochial Association of St. Thomas was formed. The papers were signed by Blakewell Stephens, George Grove, Ally Grove, William M. Smith, Betsy Smith, John Collins, and Joseph H. Crane. The Association was not incorporated until 1835, before which time the name was changed to Christ Church. Their first building, on South Jefferson Street, was consecrated November 17, 1833, by Bishop McIlvane, on his first visit to this parish.

In 1828 nine persons met at the home of Father Bruen and organized a New Light society. They erected a building on Main Street, long known as the Union Meeting-house. The congregation is now known as the Broadway Christian Church.

In 1833 the Rev. David Winters organized the German Reformed. Church, with six members, Adam Artz and wife, Valentine Fryberger and wife, Mrs. David Winters, and Mrs. Valentine Winters. For many years the services were held alternately in German and English. Mr. Winters remained pastor of the church for twenty-seven years.

Almost from the time when the city was founded, United Brethren families were residing in Dayton and in the country adjacent. Bishop Newcomer preached in the town in 1810, and conducted a two days’ meeting near by. The first congregation was not formed, however, till about 1835, when Bishop Joseph Hoffman moved to what is now Dayton View. It is not generally known that he built the house now occupied by Mr. J. 0. Arnold, on Superior Avenue, and that he provided in his plan for two large rooms, with double doors between them, with a view to accommodating a large audience. He was a preacher of unusual power, and soon there was organized in his house a class of about forty-one members. Ho removed from Dayton about 1838, and the history of the congregation is not now known. However, in 1840 we have notice of a congregation in the city; it may have been the same or another congregation. Mrs. Mary Somers was a member of the first organization in 1835, and is still living in Dayton. She was born February 14, 1812, came here in 1832, and was baptized by Bishop Joseph Hoffman in the Miami River below Bridge Street about 1835. The first permanent organization, that of the First United Brethren Church, was made in 1847.

The United Brethren Publishing House was established in Circleville, Ohio, in 1834, and removed to Dayton in 1853, when its present location, then occupied by Strain’s Hotel, was purchased for eleven thousand dollars.

In 1839, during a visit of the Rev. Reuben Weiser, the First English Lutheran Church was organized, and articles of agreement were signed, July 6, at a meeting in Frederick Gebhart’s store.

The first Catholic priest in Dayton was Father E. T. Collins, who came here in 1832. In 1833 a congregation formed under Father Emanuel Thienpont, and Emanuel , Church, a one-story brick building, on Franklin Street, was erected and dedicated in 1837. The parochial schools connected with this church were started in 1833.

The African Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1840, and a frame building erected on the northeast corner of Plum and McLain streets, dedicated by Bishop Paul Quinn. Occasional services were held as “ministers of the faith” visited the congregation, and Father Willis, a local preacher, did much good, but after the mob in 1841 the congregation disbanded. It was reorganized in 1868.

Of the many other church organizations in Dayton all are too young for a place in this little history of first beginnings. Dayton may well be called a city of churches.

The first school in Dayton was taught by Benjamin Van Cleve in the blockhouse during the winter of 1799-1800. The second was held in 1804, in a cabin on Main Street, by Cornelius Westfall, of Kentucky, and in 1805 by Chauncy Whiting, of Pennsylvania. In 1807 the Dayton Academy was incorporated by James Welsh, Daniel C. Cooper, William McClure, David Reid, Benjamin Van Cleve, George F. Tennery, John Folkerth, and James Hanna, Mr. Cooper donating two lots, numbers 139 and 140, to the trustees, at the corner of Third and St. Clair streets, on part of which a two-story brick house, with belfry, was built. Mr. Cooper, in addition to his other donations, gave the bell. The first teacher of the academy was William Smith. In 1815 he was succeeded by Gideon McMillen, a graduate of the University of Glasgow, who advertised that he would teach all poor children free of charge. In 1819-20 the trustees adopted the Lancasterian system of instruction and erected a long, one-story brick building just north of the Academy. It was heated by direct radiation, the floor being of brick, with flues running lengthwise under it. At one end of the building was an opening, like the arch in a brick kiln, in which the fire was made and kept up by pushing in long sticks of wood. The principle of the Lancasterian method was “mutual instruction,” the pupil being placed on honor, and no examinations held. In 1822 Gideon McMillen was succeeded by Captain John McMullen, of Lexington, Virginia. The next principal was James H. Mitchell, a graduate of Yale College, who, after a fair trial of the Lancasterian method, discontinued it. In 1831 the trustees of the Academy, Aaron Baker, Dr. Job Haines, Obadiah B. Conover, James Steele, and John W. Van Cleve, sold the St. Clair Street property and bought lots 1 and 2 of the plat of Samuel Pierson on the southwest corner of Fourth and Wilkinson streets, where, in 1834, the school opened with E. E. Barney principal. In 1839 Mr. Barney resigned, and was succeeded by Collins Wight, and in 1844 he was succeeded by Milo G. Williams, of Cincinnati. The catalogue of the Academy for the year ending July, 1850, gives the list of instructors: Milo G. Williams, Instructor in Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, Natural Science, etc.; R. Dutton, A.B., Instructor in the Classics, Chemistry, etc.; Rev. A. Hordorf, Instructor in the German Language; Louis De Corn, M.D., Instructor in the French Language; William C. Bartlett, Instructor in Constitutional Law; Edmund  Smith, M.D., Instructor in Anatomy and Physiology; Instructor in Drawing, Daniel P. Nead.

Following are some of the pupils whose names appear in this catalogue: James 0. Arnold, John J. Achey, Winslow E. Bidleman, Henry Brown, Eugene Barney, Samuel W. Davies, Arthur Estabrook, George B. Edgar, William T. Herrman, Milo G. Newcom, Hy. Eugene Parrott, J. Merrick Phelps, Robert Patterson, Samuel B. Shoup, Gates P. Thruston, Dickinson P. Thruston, Ebenezer M. Thresher, Benjamin F. Wait, and others, many from a distance.

In 1833 David Pruden opened a manual-labor school in a large brick building at the corner of Jefferson and Warren streets, with Milo G. Williams, of Cincinnati, in charge of the academic department. The school was very popular, boys coming from Cincinnati and other places. It was not, however, a financial success, and Mr. Williams returned to Cincinnati, but was recalled to Dayton in 1844 as principal of the Academy. He was one of the founders and the first president of the Dayton Library Association.

In 1825 the first law authorizing a tax for schools was passed by the Legislature, and in 1838 the law authorizing a special tax for public-school buildings was passed. A meeting was at once called of the Dayton citizens, two school buildings decided upon, and the amount to be raised fixed at six thousand dollars. The schools were opened in the fall—one on Perry Street, with Collins Wight principal, and the other on East Second (the old “Eastern School”), with D. H. Elder principal. In 1842 four schools were opened,—two in rented rooms,—and as the Board was deter-mined not to go into debt, they were only continued for one quarter, one month, and one week, using the last dollar of the fund. In 1841 a special act was passed by the Legislature providing for a German school, and in 1849 music was introduced in the schools, with James Turpin as teacher. In 1872 William H. Clark was elected superintendent of music, and when he resigned in December of the same year, Mr. Turpin was elected to fill that position, but died before his term of office expired.

In 1850 Henry L. Brown offered to the Board the following: “Resolved, That this Board do now establish the Central High School of Dayton, in which shall be taught the higher brandies of an English education and the German and French languages, besides thoroughly reviewing the studies pursued in the district schools.” The school opened April 15, 1850, in the Eastern District, with James Campbell principal, Miss Mary Dickson assistant, and James Turpin teacher of music. James Campbell, who came here in 1847 as principal of the Eastern School, was a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a B.N.S. of the class of 1843.  He was the first superintendent of schools in Dayton, his appointment being opposed by a progressive citizen as an unnecessary expense. When the High School was fairly established, the trustees discontinued the Academy, and offered the use of their building for the High School free of rent, and in the fall of 1850 it opened in the Academy building. In June, 1857, the Legislature having granted an enabling act, the trustees of the Academy deeded the property to the Board of Education to be used exclusively for school purposes for all time, and the Board at once erected the old Central High School building.

As early as 1805 the Rev. William Robertson, Dr. John Elliot, William Miller, Benjamin Van Cleve, and John Folkerth secured from the Legislature an act of incorporation for the Dayton Library Association, the first act of the kind passed in Ohio. It was sustained by voluntary  subscription, and a fine assortment of books was collected for that day; but during 1835, when times were hard. And .money scarce, the subscriptions failed, and the library was sold at auction from the clerk’s office, on September 12. The Dayton Lyceum was established in 1832, for “the diffusion of knowledge and the promotion of sociability.” The Mechanics’ Institute, for “ moral, literary, and scientific’ improvement,” with library and reading-rooms, was organized in 1833, Henry L. Brown secretary, and on July 1 General R. C.. Schenck delivered a public address at Abe Court-house in behalf ,of the institute. The Adelphic Society of the Dayton Academy, in 1837, had a very fine library, the books, probably, all being selected by E. E. Barney. On December 10, 1846, a meeting was held and a .committee appointed to draft a constitution for a library “worthy of the city,” and on December 29 the constitution was adopted. A list was prepared by Judge Joseph H. Crane, John W. Van Cleve, Dr. John W. Hall, and Milo G. Williams, over a thousand books purchased, and the Dayton Library Association opened its library on the second floor of the building that was torn down when the Callahan Bank Building was erected. When J. D. Phillips was erecting the new Phillips Building, at the southeast corner of Main and Second streets, he finished a room on the second floor for the library and leased it to the Association at a reasonable rent.

By the school law of 1853 a tax was allowed for libraries in the schools. The money in Dayton amounted to one thousand four hundred dollars, with which one thousand two hundred and fifty books were purchased, and in the fall of 1855 the library was located on the second floor of the United Brethren Publishing House building, to be open only on Saturdays, with W. H. Butterfield, principal of the Second District School, in charge. When the Central High School building was completed, the library was moved there. In 1860 the Library Association, on vote, presented its library, including many valuable books and the files of all the Dayton newspapers from 1808 to 1860, and also its furniture, to the Board of Education, and the Public School Library was removed to the rooms in the Phillips Building. Mrs. Hiley Davies was then appointed the first regular librarian. In 1867 the library was moved to the old City Hall, and when the new City Buildings were erected a room was fitted up for its use. In 1884, on the recommendation of the committee,—Dr. J. W. Conklin, A. Junikl, George Neder, and Elihu Thompson,—the Board of Education decided to erect a fireproof building for the library. The committee, to which were added Louis Reiter, C. L. Bauman, and A. A. Winters, obtained the consent of Council that the building should be placed in Cooper Park, decided on plans furnished by Peters & Burns, and in January, 1888, the library was moved to its present permanent quarters. According to the latest report of the librarian (Miss Dryden), there are now thirty-five thousand three hundred and twenty-five books, with a circulation the past year of one hundred and six thousand.


 The End


Return to "Pioneer Life in Dayton and Vicinity" Home Page