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History of the Police Department of Dayton, Ohio
Initial History of Dayton - Part Two


First Government


Until the appointment of a justice of the peace in 1799, Dayton had no government but that administered by these county and township officers, whose chief duty was assessing and collecting taxes.

The officers appointed in Dayton Township in 1798 were James Thompson, constable; Daniel C. Cooper, assessor; George Newcom, collector. Mr. Cooper's fees were seven dollars and twenty-one cents.

In 1799 Samuel Thompson was made constable; John McGrew, assessor; John Ewing, collector, in Dayton Township. The assessments amounted to two hundred and thirty-three dollars and seventy-two cents, and two hundred and twenty-four dollars were collected.

Mr. Cooper was made justice of the peace for the township. He tried his first case October 4, 1799. It was a suit for eight dollars brought by Abram Richardson against George Kirkendall. The total costs were thirty-three cents; entering judgment, ten cents; summons, ten cents; subpoena, thirteen cents. "Defendant stayed collection with John Casey on the bond." The next ease was a suit for six dollars and seventy-eight cents brought by John Casey, Kirkendall's bondman, against Matthew Bohn. The squire's decision was as follows: "From the circumstances in the case, it appears that there is really no cause for action, and plaintiff is taxed with the costs, viz: summons, ten cents; entering judgment, twenty cents; satisfied."

Another suit for seven dollars and sixty-six cents for fur was brought by Winetowah, a Shawnee Indian, against Ephraim Lawrence. Lawrence was ordered to pay Winetowah one dollar and twenty-one cents and costs. The squire's last record was made May 1, 1803. Mr. Cooper tried one hundred and eighteen cases during this period of three years and seven months. One hundred of them were certified as settled, the rest as "satisfied."

Newcom's tavern, the first in the Miami Valley, north of Fort Hamilton, was built in the winter of 1798-1799. It stood on the southwest corner of Main Street and Monument Avenue, was two stories high and built of hewn logs, and was the largest and best house in the hamlet and in all the country for miles around. Lime was probably made for the first time this year from stones gathered from the bed of the river and piled on a huge log fire which took the place of a kiln. Newcom's tavern was, it is supposed, the first house in Dayton that was chinked and plastered with lime mortar. A wondering country boy, on his return from the village, reported to his astonished family that Colonel Newcom was plastering his house inside with flour.

The southwest corner of Main Street and Monument Avenue was the business center of Dayton Township for five or six years. At Newcom's tavern was opened the first store, and it was also the first court-house and jail, and at one time the Presbyterians held their Sunday services there. It was a typical frontier tavern, the host and hostess doing with their own hands the work of the house and of the log stable at the back end of the lot; taking travelers into their family and making literal guests of them. All travelers on horseback, on foot or in wagons, prospectors hunting for lands, emigrants, and farmers and their families in town for the day, stopped at Newcom's to eat and sleep, to shop, attend to law business, get a drink from the only well in the township, or a glass of whisky, or to rest and gossip round the roaring log fire, where the villagers loved to gather. If a crowd was possible in so small a hamlet, it assembled on the southwest comer of Main Street and Monument Avenue, perhaps when court was in session, as in 1803; or when there was a meeting to organize for defense against the Indians or to attend to religious or political business.

During the summer of 1799, an Indian war was apprehended. Benjamin Van Cleve makes the following allusion to the threatened hostilities in his journal: "In July and August the Indians were counseling and evinced an unfriendly disposition. The British traders and French among them had made them dissatisfied with the cession of their lands and with the boundaries, and blockhouses were built in Dayton and all through the country, and the people became considerably alarmed."

The Dayton blockhouse was large, built of round logs, and with a projecting upper story, so constructed that the occupants might guard against the lower part of the building being set on fire by the savages. It stood on the Main Street bank of the Miami. The threatened attack did not come, but the men were all armed and ready to take refuge with their families in the blockhouses in case of an alarm.


Township Constable


July 14, 1800, Jerome Holt was appointed township constable. Mr. Holt was directed to make a list of the free male inhabitants who were twenty-one years of age and over. His pay for this work was nineteen dollars and. fifty cents. The taxation this year was at the rate of forty-cents on each hundred dollars valuation for houses, mills and other buildings; forty cents for each horse; ten cents for cattle; fifty cents to two dollars for young or single men; one dollar each for bond servants.

Probably about 1803 the following paper was drawn up, which is interesting reading, because it gives a graphic account of the many difficulties which the petitioners encountered in making a new settlement "so far in a wilderness country"; their sufferings from lack of provisions, and the threats and ill treatment of the savages, who stole all their horses the first year, and resented in various ways their intrusion on their hunting-grounds. It is well worth reading through, which cannot be said of the majority of such documents:


"To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the United States in Congress Assembled:

"The petition of the first settlers at Dayton and Mercer's Station, in Montgomery and Green Counties, Ohio, respectfully showeth: That the Honorable Judge Symmes having made a relinquishment of his claim to a certain tract of lands lying between the Miami rivers, to Governor St. Clair, General Wilkinson, Jonathan Dayton, and Israel Ludlow, Esquires, the said lands being all the seventh and eighth ranges of townships each of Mad River; in order to form settlements on the same and augment its value, the proprietors offered certain gratuities and privileges to such as might engage to become first settlers, which are contained in the articles accompanying the petition.

"On the 5th of November, 1795, forty-six persons engaged to become settlers at Dayton, but from the many difficulties in forming a new settlement so far in a wilderness country, only fifteen of these came forward, with four others, making nineteen in all. From all the threats and ill treatments of the savages to the people of Mercer's Station, it was at once evacuated, and at several times Mr. Mercer, with two brothers, maintained the station at the risk of their lives. These settlements were formed by your petitions a few months after the treaty of Greenville, when we had not faith in the friendship of the savages. Our settlement was immediately on their hunting-grounds. We were not able to keep a horse amongst us during the first season by reason of their stealing. The scarcity of provisions had raised flour to nine dollars a barrel, and other articles in proportion, which we had to transport fifty miles through a wilderness, clearing roads, etc. Under all these and many more difficulties we labored, in hopes of obtaining our lands at a low rate and the small gratuity offered. Several of your petitioners have not been able to procure any land; others have laid their claims before the commissioners agreeably to the late law, and purchased at two dollars per acre. We beg to state to your honorable body that the proprietors have not received the expected advantages from the forming of these settlements; that your petitioners have been at vast expense, labor, and difficulty in forming the said settlements, and have received no recompense nor privilege other than subsequent settlers; that they first opened a way, in consequence of which the country has become populous, and the United States has received a handsome revenue from the sale of the lands; that the town of Dayton is purchased by a subsequent settler, and we pray that Congress will make us such gratuity in lands, or deduction for payments for lands, or grant such other relief as our case merits."


First Court Election


At first, county and township officers, whose principal duty was collecting and expending the taxes, had been appointed by the territorial governor and courts; but population increased rapidly, and in 1802 it was considered necessary to authorize an election by the people of -additional officers. Jerome Holt, sheriff of the county, was directed to give notice to the inhabitants of Dayton Township to convene at the house of George Newcom on the 1st of April, and then and there proceed to elect by ballot a chairman, a town dork, three or more trustees or managers, two or more overseers of the poor, three fence-viewers, two appraisers of houses, a lister of taxable property, a sufficient number of supervisors of roads, and one or more constables.

In 1803 Ohio became a State. A law for the formation of Montgomery County and several others out of Hamilton County was passed by the first State Legislature at Chillicothe, March, 1803.  Dayton was made the temporary county seat, and this selection was confirmed by the commissioners appointed in April to designate county seats. The half deserted backwoods village of Dayton, with its streets overgrown with hazel brushes and surrounded by forests filled with howling wolves, seemed an unpromising place to select for the capital of a county; but it was the nucleus of a number of farming settlements, and was the principal hamlet in the township.

The first county court was opened in an upper room of Newcom's tavern by Hon. Francis Dunlevy, presiding judge of the first judicial district. The associate judges were Isaac Spinning, who lived on a farm on Mad River, four miles from town; Benjamin Archer, of Centerville, and John Ewing, of Washington Township. The other officers were Benjamin Van Cleve, clerk pro tern.; David Symmes, of Cincinnati pro iem.; George Newcom, sheriff, and James Miller, coroner. The law fixing the county seat, which went into force in May, 1803, also directed that the court should assemble "at the house of George Newcom, in the town of Dayton."

The court opened on the morning of July 87, 1803, but as there was no business to transact, adjourned on the evening of the same day. Nearly the whole male population of Montgomery County assembled at Newcom's, on the 27th of July. A frolic was made of the first opening of court, and the occasion furnished unwonted excitement and amusement. The judges and lawyers all slept that night in one room in the tavern, and rode off the next morning to open court at Xenia. Tuesday, November 22, 1803, the second session of the court was held under a tree, back of the tavern, and the aid of the sheriff was necessary to disperse the people who were curiously listening to both the testimony of witnesses and the professedly secret deliberations of the jury.


First Court Case


The first case was tried on November 23. Peter Sunderland was indicted for assault and battery on Benjamin Scott. He pleaded guilty, and was fined six dollars and costs. Two other criminal cases and four civil suits, which were tried, were discontinued. The next day the court adjourned. Owing to the scarcity of money, persons convicted by the court were often fined a number of deer or other skins, or a certain amount of corn or pork.   One man's fine was a barrow pig. Nearly all minor offenders were sentenced to punishment by the lash, to from one to thirty-nine lashes on the bare back, "well laid on." The sentence was generally executed at once by the sheriff. During 1803 the tavern served as a jail, as well as a court-house.

Sheriff Newcom was in the habit of confining white prisoners in an old unwalled well on his lot. "The pit was empty, and there was no water in it," and, as Curwen says, following the example of Old Testament jailers, "he let down those who broke the peace of the State, and there they remain-ed till brought up for trial." The sullen and vindicative Indians could never forgive punishment by the lash, and instead of inflicting it, when they were drunk and troublesome, Colonel Newcom sometimes bound them and confined them in his corn-crib, as they did not consider bonds degradation and submitted without resistance. It was difficult, till a jail was built, to confine prisoners, and the community was always gratified when they escaped and left the neighborhood.


The First Jail


A jail was built of round logs in the fall of this year on the Third Street end of the courthouse lot. It was thirty feet long, sixteen wide, and twelve high, and contained two disconnected cells, floored and ceiled with logs and plank. There were but three small windows in the building, secured by two-inch plank shutters and iron bars and but two doors also of two-inch plank, spiked and hung on iron hinges.   The doors and shutters were locked on the outside, and the keys kept by Sheriff Newcom at his tavern three squares off. During the session of court at the tavern, a door-keeper .was appointed to conduct prisoners to and from jail. This log fortress, which was built for two hundred and ninety-nine dollars by David Squier and in two months, was stronger than the blockhouses which did such service during the Indian wars, and answered every purpose till it be-came necessary that the sheriff should live at the jail, when it was abandoned and another of stone erected.

February 12, 1805, the legislature incorporated the town of Dayton. The town government consisted of seven trustees, a collector, supervisor, and marshal, elected by freeholders, who had lived in Dayton six months. A president, who acted as mayor, and a recorder were to be chosen by the trustees from their own number, and they were also to elect a treasurer who need not be a member of their board. The board of trustees was called "the select council of the town of Dayton." The first election under the act of incorporation occurred on the first Monday in May, 1805.

June, 1805, the county commissioners advertised in Cincinnati and Lexington, Kentucky, papers for proposals for building a brick court-house at Dayton, forty-two by thirty-eight feet in size, and two stories high. February 3, 1806, the contract was let. Though not finished, it was occupied in the winter of 1807. It stood on the present court-house lot instead, of, as had been contemplated in Mr. Cooper's plat, in the center of the Main and Third Street crossing. It contained jury rooms in the second story and a court-house on the first floor. In 1815 a cupola was added, in which in 1816 a bell was hung. Curwen says that the building, as first completed, was of but one story. It was removed about the year 1847.

The contract for building a new jail was sold to James Thompson, July 27, 1811, at public auction at the court-house for two thousand, one hundred and forty-seven dollars and ninety-one cents. The jail was eighteen by thirty-two feet and built of rubble stone. A rented house was used for a jail till the new building was finished. It was not completed till December, 1813. The jail stood on Third Street in the rear of the courthouse and close to the pavement. It was two stories high, with gable shingle roof, running parallel with the street; a hall ran through the center of the house from the Third Street entrance; the prison occupied the east half of the building and the sheriff's residence the west half. There were three cells in each story. Those in the second story were more comfortable than the others, and were used for women and for persons imprisoned for minor offenses. One of the cells was for debtors, imprisonment for debt being still legal at that period. Often men imprisoned for debt were released by the court on "prison bounds" or "limits" upon their giving bond for double the amount of the debt. They were then permitted to live at home, support their families and endeavor to pay their indebtedness, but were not allowed to go beyond the corporation limits. This jail was not considered a safe place of confinement for criminals, as persons on the sidewalk could look through the barred windows, which were about two feet square, into the lower front cell, and pass small articles between the bars. Though the cells were double lined with heavy oak plank, driven full of nails, one night four prisoners escaped by cutting a hole in the floor and tunneling under the wall and up through the sidewalk.


Moral Society


In July the Moral Society was organized, whose object was to suppress vice and promote order, morality, and religion, and more particularly to countenance, support, and assist magistrates in the faithful discharge of their important duties and in enforcing the laws against Sabbath breaking, profane swearing, and other unlawful practices. The society is careful in its constitution to state that it is not its intention to exercise a censorious or inquisitorial authority over the private transactions or concerns of individuals. James Hanna was elected chairman, George S. Houston, secretary; managers, William King, Henry Robertson, Matthew Patton, John Patterson, and Aaron Baker. Quarterly meetings of the Moral Society were held on the first Saturday in October, January, April, and July. A special meeting of the society was held on the 12th of August at two o'clock in the afternoon in the Methodist meeting-house to listen to a sermon by the Rev. Mr. Findley.

Blackall Stephens re-opened the old Newcom tavern, "pleasantly situated "on the bank of the Miami River," in December. The tavern was now called the Sun Inn, and a large picture representing the sun was painted on the sign. The advantage of the inn, its comforts, sufficient supply of bed linen, furniture, and other necessaries, are set forth at length in an advertisement in the Watchman, with the sun flaming at its head.

In 1832 a fugitive slave was captured in Dayton, and carried off by his master, who lived in Kentucky. The occurrence produced the greatest excitement and indignation in the community. All that was necessary to prove the detestable character of the fugitive slave law was an attempt to enforce it. The following account, from the Dayton Journal, of the affair by an eye-witness, who was not an Abolitionist, though his sympathies were all with the negro, is worthy of insertion in the history of Dayton:

"A short time ago a negro man, who had lived in this place two or three years under the name of Thomas Mitchell, was arrested by some men from Kentucky and taken before a justice under a charge of being a slave who had escaped from his master. The magistrate, on hearing the evidence, discharged the black man, not being satisfied with the proof brought by the claimants of their rights to him. A few weeks afterwards some men armed, employed by the master, seized the negro in our Main Street, and were hurrying him towards the outskirts of the town, where they had a sleigh in waiting to carry him off. The negro's cries brought a number of citizens into the street, who interfered and prevented the men from taking him away without having legally proved their right to do so. The claimants of the negro went before the justice again, and after a long examination of the case on some new evidence being produced, he was decided to be the slave of the person claiming him as such. In the meantime a good deal of excitement had been produced among the people of the place and their sympathies for the poor black fellow were so much awakened that a proposition was made to buy his freedom. The agent of the master agreed to sell him under the supposition that the master would sell him his liberty, and a considerable sum was subscribed, to which, out of his own savings, the negro contributed upwards of fifty dollars himself. The master, however, when his agent returned to Kentucky, refused to agree to the arrangement, and came himself the week before last to take the negro away. Their first meeting was in the upper story of a house, and Tom, seeing those who were about to take him, rushed to a window and endeavored, but without success, to dash himself through it, although, had he succeeded, he would have fallen on a stone pavement from a height not less than fifteen feet. He was prevented, however, and the master took him away with him and got him as far as Cincinnati. The following letter received by a gentleman in this place gives the concluding account of the matter:



"'CINCINNATI, January 24, 1832.

" 'DEAR SIR :—In compliance with a request of Mr. J. Deinkard, of Kentucky, I take my pen to inform you of the death of his black man, Ben, whom he took in your place a few days ago. The circumstances are as follows: On the evening of the 22d inst. Mr. D. and company, with Ben, arrived in this city on their way to Kentucky, and put up at the Main Street Hotel, where a room on the uppermost story (fourth) of the building was provided for Ben and his guard. All being safe, as they thought, about one o'clock, when they were in a sound sleep, poor Ben stimulated with even the faint prospect of escape or perhaps predetermined on liberty or death, threw himself from the window which is upwards of forty feet from the pavement. He was, as you may well suppose, severely injured, and the poor fellow died this morning about 4 o'clock. Mr. D. left this morning with the dead body of his slave, to which he told me he would give decent burial in his own churchyard. Please tell Ben's wife of these circumstances. Your unknown correspondent. Respectfully,                E. P. SIMMONS.' "


The First Watchman


January 3, 1834, an ordinance was passed by council for the appointment of one or more watchmen. They were to wear badges and have the same power to call on persons to assist them in arresting offenders as the marshal had. The marshal and these watchmen constituted the police of Dayton.

In 1805, the corporate history of Dayton began. The first act of the legislature investing the young settlement with corporate powers was passed February 12th, of that year. This charter was amended in 1814, and again in 1829. The town was named in honor of Hon. Jonathan Dayton, LL.D., of New Jersey, a Revolutionary soldier, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, and a member of Congress, who was one of the four original owners of the town site. At that time, separated by only half the life of a generation from the stirring scenes of the Revolution, it was natural to find soldiers foremost in all large enterprises upon the frontier. Still it is worthy of remark that of the four original owners, two had been commanders-in-chief of the armies of the United States—General St. Clair in 1791, and General Wilkinson in 1796, while General Brown, one of the first settlers, who lived in 1797 and 1798 in a log cabin on the southwest corner of Jefferson and Water streets, attained the same distinguished position in 1821, and held it until his death in 1828. He entered the army from civil life when the War of 1812 broke out, and served with great credit. For distinguished bravery on the battlefields of Chippewa and Niagara Falls, and at the siege of Fort Erie, he was voted the thanks of Congress and a gold medal. At the close of the war he was continued in commission as a major-general of the regular army until his promotion to the chief command. Three of the principal streets, in compliment to Colonel Ludlow, General St. Clair, and General Wilkinson, have always retained their names.

The town site was bounded on the north by the Miami River, on the south by Couth or Sixth Street, east by Mills Street, and on the west by Wilkinson Street.   The plat of the village at this date contemplated a public square at the intersection of Main and Third streets, in the center of which the court-house was to be located; but this arrangement was changed by plats subsequently made. In the interval between the making of this plat and of that finally adopted, it was seriously proposed, in consequence of the great flood in March, 1805, to abandon the improvements already made and locate the village on the high ground of what is now East Third Street and east of High Street. But our pioneer fathers clung to the water courses, "the natural highways." They knew how convenient they were at times, and they were not to be driven from the river banks by destructive floods.

The difficulties connected with securing titles to the lands have been set forth in other pages. Daniel C. Cooper, by preemption, by legislation, and by the consent of the community, became proprietor of the town site, and the original settlers or their representatives received their letters through him. In the adjustment of their difficulties as to titles, a new plat was made by D. C. Cooper and Israel Ludlow, April 26, 1802, and on the 27th it was sent to Cincinnati and recorded in the records of Hamilton County. In 1840, D. C. Cooper made a large plat, but it was not recorded until November, 1805.

It was three or four years after this before the individual difficulties of title were all adjusted, and after this had been done, in 1809, Mr. Cooper made a revised plat to conform to deeds and patents of citizens, as then fixed, and this has remained the plat of the town. Unfortunately the records of the city from 1805 until 1829 have been lost and with them much valuable information concerning the early history of Dayton. By 'the act of incorporation, a town marshal, collector, supervisor, and seven trustees were to be elected annually by the freeholders who could claim six months' residence. The trustees were to elect a president and recorder from among themselves, and a treasurer, who was not required to be a trustee.


The First Town Election


On the first Monday of May, 1805, the first town election was held. The seven trustees elected compromised the select council of the town of Dayton, and their president was in effect mayor. In 1810, the population was but 383, and Cincinnati contained but 2,320. A paving ordinance at this date shows that the boundaries of the settlement were the river on the north from Main to Mill streets, Third Street on the South from Ludlow to St. Clair. The most closely settled street seems to have been Main Street, from the river to Third Street. On July 4, 1814, the first market-house was opened to the public. A frame building occupied the center of Second Street, for a distance of one hundred feet, between Main and Jefferson streets, which was, for many years after the building was torn down, in 1830, called Old Market Street. Market was held here on each Wednesday and Saturday, from 4 A. M. to 10 A. M. The ordinance to regulate the market prohibited retailing country produce, fresh meat, and vegetables within the town limits except on market days, but fresh meat and fish might be sold every day before eight o'clock in the morning.

In 1816, D. C. Cooper was elected president of the select council; Joseph Peirce, recorder, and Aaron Baker, H. Q. Phillips, Ralph Wilson, 0. B. Connor, and George Grove, trustees. In 1820, H. G. Phillips was elected president of the select council; George S. Houston, recorder, and Aaron Baker, Luther Bruen, David Henderson, William Huffman, and Dr. John Steele, trustees. In 1821, Matthew Patton was president of the council, and George S. Houston, recorder. In 1823, John Compton was president, and Joseph H. Conover, recorder. In 1824, John Compton was president, and John W. Van Cleve, recorder. In 1825, Simeon Broadwell was president, and Warren Munger, recorder. In 1826, Elisha Brabham was president, and E. J. Skinner, recorder. In 1837, Dr. John Steele was president, and E. J. Skinner, recorder. In 1828, Dr. John Steele was president, and John W. Van Cleve, recorder.

In 1829, certain amendments were made to the charter, especially in restricting the suffrage to those who had been residents one year in the town, and in the power conferred on the council to regulate, license, or suspend the sale of liquor. The first election under the amended charter was held March 6th of that year, and John Folkerth was elected mayor, David Winters, recorder, and Nathaniel Wilson, James Haight, John Bench, Luther Bruen, and William Atkins, trustees.


The First City Prison


The city had no prison of its own until 1858, municipal offenders being confined in the county jail. Then a part of Deluge engine-house on Main Street, between Fifth and Sixth streets, was fitted up with cells and used for that purpose. In 1870, better accommodations were secured by the purchase of the "United Brethren Church, for ten thousand dollars, standing on the corner of Sixth and Tecumseh streets. This building was fitted upstairs for a mayor's court, with cell rooms below.

From the incorporation of the town, in 1805, until 1818, a marshal constituted the entire police force, and for seventeen years thereafter, or until 1835, one deputy formed his staff. The marshal was then authorized to appoint patrolmen to serve as night-watchmen. After the granting of the city charter, in 1841, an ordinance was passed providing for the election of two constables. In 1855, an epidemic of burglaries caused a meeting of citizens to consider remedies, and on an appeal from this body the council, on March 16, 1855, authorized the mayor to employ one hundred detectives. To whatever limit this authority was used, the appointments were evidently but temporary. In 1863 the regular force was increased to six men besides the marshal, his deputy, and two constables. No further increase was made until 1866, when it was enlarged to eight patrolmen and a captain. Under the ordinance of July, 1869, the department consisted of the city marshal, as ex-officio chief, one captain, two lieutenants, and twenty-two regular policemen, two from each ward. Appointments were made annually by the mayor with the advice and consent of council.


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