Header Graphic
History of Dayton, Ohio 1889
Chapter Six

(page 71)

 

CHAPTER VI.

 

Growth and Improvement-John Cleves Symmes Unable to Fulfill His Engagements and Settlers in Danger of Losing Lands--New Settlers Decline to Came-Unsatisfactory Preemption Law-Law of 1801-Settlers Enter Lands-Land Office Opened-Original Proprietors Relinquish Their Claims-D. C. Cooper Titular Proprietor of Dayton-Petition Presented to Congress by Settlers-Satisfactory Titles Secured-Cooper's New Town Plat-Donations of Lots for Public Use-Only Five Families in Town-First Election of Dayton Township-Formation of Montgomery County -Dayton the County Seat-First County Court-Opening of Court Attracts a Large Crowd-Cases Tried-Unusual Fines-Punishment by the Lash-Prisoners Confined in an Old Well in Newcom's Tavern Yard-Indian Prisoners-First Election     in Dayton for Member of Congress-First County Commissioners Elected-Main Street Cleared to Warren Street-Gully, Corner of Main and Third, Filled with Logs-Mr. Cooper's Elegant Mansion of Hewn Logs-Henry Brown's Frame Store Only Store in 1804-Henry Brown-His Sons-Col. Charles Anderson-Cooper's Saw and Grist Mills-Cooper's Carding Machine-First Jail Built of Round Logs - Benjamin Van Cleve First Postmaster - Post-office in 1805-1821- Post Riders-Postage

 

            JOHN CLEVES SYMMES was unable to complete his payments, and the lands purchased from him by St. Clair, Wilkinson, Dayton, and Ludlow reverted to the government. The settlers had expected to receive their titles through St. Clair and his associates, the assignees of Symmes, and his failure to fulfill his contract occasioned them much anxiety and annoyance. They were in danger of losing the labor of months as well as their land and improvements. For the sake of providing homes for their families, they had expended the little money they had, and encountered the many difficulties, privations, and dangers of life in a frontier settlement, and now it seemed probable that they would lose what they had ventured into the wilderness to gain. Nothing seemed in store for them but loss and disappointment. The prospect was very gloomy. New settlers could not be induced to come, while affairs were in this discouraging and unsettled state, and many of the old settlers became disheartened and removed to other places. Those who came from 1801 to 1804, were glad to take possession of their abandoned clearings and thus save much time and work.

            After matters had remained in this state for some time, a law, on the petition of the settlers, was passed by congress March 2, 1799, for their relief. It gave to any person having a contract in writing with John Cleves Symmes previous to the 1st of April, 1797, for the purchase of lands between the Miami rivers, not included in his patent, the privilege (page 72) of purchasing lands from the United States at two dollars per acre, the money to be paid in three annual installments. The law did not afford sufficient relief, and only three or four persons entered land under it. Symmes' patent included the lauds he was able to pay for, and the government took back the rest of his purchase. between the Miamis. A new preemption law was passed March 3, 1801. All persons who had made payments of money for Lands, or had contracts with Symmes or his associates, were granted the privilege of purchasing from the government at two dollars an acre, and longer time was given for substantiating claims and making payments. The claimants were obliged to pay surveyor's fees and some other incidental expenses. Both Symmes and St. Clair and his associates had paid two thirds of a dollar per acre for land, and the settlers of Dayton had bought at a small advance on that sum. But probably none of them had paid as much as two dollars per acre, and while, as they could not otherwise secure a title to their land, they were glad to avail themselves of the provisions of the preemption law, they would have been in a better position if the terms of their contract with the original proprietors of Dayton could have been fulfilled. They were obliged to pay two dollars per acre to the government for the lots and in-lots received as donations on November 4, 1795. As soon as the law of 1801 was passed a land office was opened at Cincinnati, and commissioners were appointed to examine claims and issue certificates. Now that these difficulties were in a fair way towards settlement, the prosperity of the town was assured.

 

            The original proprietors of Dayton had become disheartened and determined, instead of entering their land, to relinquish their claims to the seventh and eighth ranges. Benjamin Van Cleve, in his journal for 1801, says: " Mr. Ludlow, who was one of the proprietors and agent for them, informed me that they relinquished their claim on account of the rising price; that they could not afford to give two dollars per acre, and he made this known to the commissioners, as well as to the settlers, and aided them in supporting their claims."

            It was at this time that Daniel C. Cooper became titular proprietor of the town by purchase of preemption rights, agreement with settlers, and by friendly congressional legislation. The negotiations required much patience on both sides, and many months elapsed before the arrangements for the transfer were completed.

            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 44 so far in a wilderness country;" their sufferings from lack of provisions,  (page 73) 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 Greene counties, Ohio, respectfully sheweth: 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 east 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 the threats and ill treatment 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 petitioners 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 leave 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 (page 74) 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. "Your petitioners further pray, in behalf of Rev. William Hamer, a settler at Dayton, who, having settled on the Section 29, in the second township and seventh range before the lines were run, with an expectation of holding it, agreeable to the terms set forth in Article A, and has since continued to cultivate and improve it, as it was supposed to be appropriated for religious purposes, lie being a preacher of the gospel and having the approbation of Mr. Ludlow, one of the proprietors, as appears by the Article C. Now, as the said section is to be sold as other lands, the said Hamer is willing to pay two dollars per acre for it, in installments, agreeable to the late laws for the disposal of United States lands. We pray your honorable body may grant him a preemption and the indulgence he wishes; and your petitioners shall, etc. William Galiagan, Samuel. Thompson, Benjamin Van Cleve, William Van Cleve, Thomas Davis, James McClure, Daniel Ferrell, John McClure, Thomas Kamer, Abraham Grassmire, William Rainer, Solomon Hamer, William Chenowith, George Newcom, and James Morris; Thomas Davis, representative of John Davis, deceased; William Hamer, representative of Solomon Goss; B. Van Cleve and William Gahagan, representatives of John Dorough; Jonathan Mercer, for himself and others of Mercer's Station on Mad River."

            The settlers, or their representatives, finally secured satisfactory titles by patent or deeds from D. C. Cooper to lands or in-lots, or to both, but on account of difficulties in proving their claims, and other delays, some of the patents were not issued till 1808 or later. They were obliged first to obtain certificates from the commissioners at Cincinnati, and then on the payment of the stipulated two dollars an acre to the United States, which, with the fees, made the cost of town lots one dollar, they received patents for their lands. One of the terms of Mr. Cooper's agreement with the settlers was that lie should make a new plat of the town on which the location of each lot-owner's property was marked. This plat differed somewhat from the original one. It was divided into three hundred and eighty-one in-lots, ninety-nine feet wide and one hundred and ninety-nine feet deep, and east of Sears Street there were fifty-six out-lots. The streets were ninety-nice feet wide, except Main and Main Cross, now Third Street, which were one hundred and thirty-two feet wide. Lots for churches, graveyard, park, court house, school, and market house, (page 75) were donated by Mr. Cooper. The plat was executed by D. C. Cooper and Israel Ludlow, agent of the original proprietors, April 26, 1802, and recorded the next day at Cincinnati in the records of Hamilton County. As a result of the difficulties just described, we find that there were four vacant cabins in Dayton in the winter of 1802-1803. But five families lived here, those of George Newconi, Samuel Thompson, John Welsh, Paul D. Butler, and George Westfall. All but two of the original settlers had abandoned the village and moved on farms beyond the clearings. Benjamin and William Van Clove, and William Newsom, were farming near town; the McClures had removed to Miami County; John Williams had settled on Wolf Creek, and Thomas Arnett had also moved away. One third of the people who were here in 1799 had left. 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 all 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 Newsom on the last of April, and then and there proceed to elect by ballot a chairman, a town clerk, 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 1802 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 bushes and surrounded by forests filled with howling wolves, seems 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 Centreville, and John Ewing, of Washington Township. The other ofcers were Benjamin Van Cleve, clerk pro tem; Daniel Symmes, of Cincinnati, prosecutor pro tem.; George Newcom, sheriff, and James Miller, coroner. The law fixing the county scat, which went into force iii May, 1803, also (page 76) 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 27, 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 of the next morning to open court at Xenia. Tuesday, November 22, 1803, the second session of the court was held here 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. The first case was tried on November 22d. Peter Sunderland was indicted for assault and battery on Benjamin Scott, "then being in the peace of God and our State." lie 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 remained till, brought up for trial." The sullen and vindictive Indians could never forgive punishment by the lash, and instead of inflicting it, when they were drunk and troublesome, Colonel Newsom 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. June 21, 1803, the first election for member of Congress was held in Montgomery County, and Jeremiah Morrow was chosen. The returns were signed, Isaac Spinning and John Ewing, Associate Judges; Benjamin Van Cleve, Clerk. The second Tuesday in October, George Newcom was elected sheriff' and James Miller constable. April 20, 1804, the (page 77) following commissioners were elected: William Brown, three years; Edmund Munger, two; and John Devor, one year. They themselves decided by lot the length of time each should serve. The first board of commissioners met at Newcom's tavern June 11, 1804. August 4th, the commissioners ordered that a tax be laid on all the items of taxation in Dayton, Washington, and German townships as high as the law allows, amounting to four hundred and fifty-eight dollars and forty cents. The growth and improvement of the village was marked after it became the county seat. In 1804 Main Street was cleared of trees, stumps, and undergrowth to its junction with Warren Street. Previously it had only been cleared to Third Street. The gully at the Main and Third Street crossing was filled with logs and covered with earth. These logs are sometimes taken out now when it is necessary to dig trenches in the street, as sound as when they were buried eighty-five years ago.

            In 1804 Mr. Cooper built on the southwest corner of Ludlow and First streets his "elegant mansion of hewn logs lined inside, instead of plastering, with cherry boards." Another improvement was the frame store-room built on the east side of Main Street, near Monument Avenue, by Henry Brown, who since Wayne's treaty had been engaged in trading with the Indians at Fort Hamilton and Laramie, and had now removed his stock of goods to Dayton. This was the only store in Dayton in 1804, and there were but two other shingle-roof houses here -- Mr. Cooper's and Newcom's, both considered great ornaments to the town. Until 1812, when the firm was dissolved, Mr. Brown and his partner traded through agents with the Indians at Greenville, Fort Wayne, and Wapakoneta towns.

            Henry Brown was born about the year 1770, near Lexington, Virginia, and was of Scotch-Irish ancestry. He came to the Northwest Territory In 1793 as military secretary to Colonel Preston, who commanded a regiment in Wayne's legion. Afterwards he was engaged in forwarding supplies to the army. In 1795 he entered into a partnership with John Sutherland for trading with the Indians, which continued seventeen years. After the settlement of the firm in Dayton in addition to their Indian trade by means of agents and pack horses, they shipped produce by flat boats to New Orleans, and purchased cattle which were driven to Detroit for sale to the government, Indians, and farmers in that region. In 1812 he was appointed assistant Indian agent under Colonel Johnston. He was actively engaged in business until shortly before his death in 1823, and was a prominent and influential man in the community. February 19, 1811, Mr. Brown married Miss Kitty Patterson, daughter of Colonel (page 78) Robert Patterson, of Dayton. They had two sons and a daughter. A number of their descendants live in Dayton.

            The sons were both of them men of the highest character, and prominent and influential citizens. Robert Patterson, the eldest son, married Miss Sarah Galloway, of Xenia; Henry L. married Miss Sarah Belle Browning, of Indianapolis. Henry L. Brown was noted for his services in connection with the public schools, and his devotion to religious and benevolent work. The daughter, Eliza J., married Charles Anderson, of Dayton, now of Kuttawa, Kentucky, a lawyer famous for his eloquence and conversational gifts, and active during his residence here in all efforts for the improvement and prosperity of the town. He commanded the Ninety-third Ohio Regiment during the Civil War, and was afterwards governor of Ohio.

            A second valuable improvement in 1804 was Mr. Cooper's new mills. He built a saw mill on First Street and soon after erected a grist mill at the head of Mill Street, to which in 1809 he added a carding machine. A jail was built of round logs in the fall of this year on the Third Street end of the court house lot. It was thirty feet long, sixteen wide and twelve high, and contained two disconnected cells, floored and coiled with logs and plank. There were but three small windows in te 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 of. During the sessions of court at the tavern, a doorkeeper was appointed to conduct prisoners to and from the 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 block houses which did such good service during the Indian wars, and answered every purpose till it became necessary that the sheriff should live at the jail, when it was abandoned and another of stone erected. December 13, 1803, Benjamin Van Cleve was appointed postmaster, but did not receive his commission till January, 1804. Probably in the spring of that year he opened the postoffice in his cabin on the southeast corner of First and St. Clair streets. Ile served till his death in 1821.

            Previous to 1804 the only postofliee in the Miami valley, and as far north as Lake Erie, was at Cincinnati and from 1804 till about 1806 the people

            to the north of Dayton, as far as Fort Wayne, were obliged to come to this ofce for their mail. In 1804 Dayton was on the mail route from

            Cincinnati to Detroit, and the mail was carried by a post-rider who arrived and left here once in two weeks. But soon after Mr. Van Cleve opened the postoffice a weekly mail was established. Only one mail a (page 79) week was received for several years, the route of which was from Cincinnati through Lebanon, Xenia, and Springfield to Urbana; thence to Piqua; thence down the Miami to Dayton, Franklin, Middletown, Hamilton, and Cincinnati. A letter from Dayton to Franklin or any other town on the route was sent first to Cincinnati and then back again around the circuit to its destination. The second mail route opened was from Zanesville, via Franklinton and Urbana, to Dayton. The next improvement was a mail to and from the East by way of Chillicothe, which arrived and departed Sunday evening.

            The following agreement between William George, William McClure, and Joseph Peirce, committee, and George F. Tennery, mail carrier between Dayton and Urbana in 1808, and which was found in 1888 among the papers of William McClure, editor of the frst Dayton newspaper, is of some interest:

 

            "AGREEMENT, made and concluded this seventh day of December 1808, between William George, William McClure, and Joseph Peirce, committee, in behalf of the undertakers for carrying the mail from Dayton to Urbana, of the first part:

            "WITNESSETH, That the said George, on his part, binds himself, his heirs, etc., to carry the mail from Dayton to Urbana once a week and back to Dayton for the term that has been contracted for between Daniel C. Cooper and the postmaster general, to commence on Friday, the ninth instant (to-wit): leave Dayton every Friday morning at six o'clock; leave Urbana Saturday morning and arrive at Dayton Saturday evening, the undertakers reserving the right of altering the time of the starting and returning with the mail, allowing the said George two clays to perform the trip, the post-rider to be employed by the said George to be approved by the undertakers. They also reserve to themselves the right of sending way letters and papers on said route, and the said George binds himself to pay for every failure in the requisitions of this agreement on his part the sum equal to that required by the postmaster general in like failures. "The said committee on their part agree to furnish the said George with a suitable horse, furnish the person carrying the mail and the horse with sufficient victuals, lodging, and feed, and one dollar for each and every trip, to be paid every three months. In witness whereof the parties have hereunto set their hands the day and year above mentioned.

 

Witness:

 

“JOSEPH H. CRANE

“WILLIAM GEORGE”

“GEORGE SMITH”

“WILLIAM MCCLURE”

"JOSEPH PEIRCE,

" GEORGE F. TENNERY."

 

            (page 80) December 19, 1808, a call was published in the Dayton Repertory for a meeting at the court house of the people of Dayton and adjoining townships to endeavor to secure a post route direct to Dayton, New Lexington, and Eaton, by which they would have intelligence at least one week earlier from the East than they were then receiving. This route was also considered desirable because it would promote intercourse with citizens of other states, through the northern counties of ours, and increase the value of property. It was necessary that those interested in the proposed route should raise a fund to defray the expense, but the postmaster general agreed to allow toward the expense all the emoluments arising from the several new offices that might be established. Later more direct communication with the East was opened, via Columbus, the mail coming in Sunday evening and leaving Thursday noon. The western mail went by the way of Salisbury; arrived Tuesday evening and departed Sunday evening. No further progress had been made in 1821, when Mr. Van Cleve retired from office.

            No stamps were used, but the amount of postage due was written on the outside of the letter. Postage was sometimes prepaid, but oftener collected on delivery. Mr. Van Cleve frequently inserted notices similar to the following in the newspapers: "The postmaster having been in the habit of giving unlimited credit heretofore, finds it his duty to adhere strictly to the instructions of the postmaster general. He hopes, there-. fore, that his friends will not take it amiss when he assures them that no distinction will be made. No letters delivered in future without pay, nor papers without the postage being paid quarterly in advance." Now that postage for all distances is equal and very low we can hardly realize the burden and inconvenience the high and uncertain postage rates imposed on the pioneers. Money was very scarce and difficult to obtain and to pay twenty-five cents in cash for a letter was no easy matter. The following postage rates are copied from old letters addressed to parties in Dayton: 1800, Washington, twenty cents; 1804-1813, Cincinnati and Chillicothe, twenty-five cents; 1804-1841, New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, twenty-five cents; 1812, Philadelphia (with one hundred and thirty dollars inclosed), forty cents; 1818, Gallipolis, eighteen and three fourths cents; 1824, Greensburg, Kentucky, twenty-five cents; 1837, Oxford, Ohio, twelve and a half cents. In 1816 the rates of postage were fixed as follows: Thirty miles, six cents; eighty miles, ten cents; over one hundred and fifty miles, eighteen and three fourths cents; over four hundred miles, twenty-five cents. Newspapers anywhere within the state where printed, one cent. Elsewhere not over one hundred miles, one cent; over one hundred miles, one cent and a half. (page 81) Magazines, at one cent a sheet for fifty miles; one cent and a half for one hundred miles; two cents for over one hundred miles.

            Pamphlets and magazines were not forwarded when the mail was very large, nor when it was carried with great expedition or on horseback.

            For a good many years the eastern mail was brought to Wheeling by post-riders, and thence down the river to Cincinnati in government mail boats, each manned with four oarsmen and a coxwain, and built like whaling craft. The voyage from Wheeling to Cincinnati occupied six days and the return trip up stream twelve days.

Return to "History of Dayton" Home Page