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Early Dayton  
Chapter Four: 1800-1805

Chapter IV: 1800-1805


John W. Van Cleve- First White Male Child Born in Dayton- Friendship for R. W. Steele- Biographies of Van Cleve by R. W. Steele- Minutes Kept and Societies Founded by Van Cleve- His Exquisite Handwriting- His Versatility and Thoroughness- Proficiency in Ancient and Modern Languages- Teaches Latin at College Before Graduation- Talent for Mathematics- Translations- Water-Color Pictures of Wild Flowers- A True Book-Lover- Studies Law- Edits the Dayton Journal- In the Drug Business- Devotes Himself to Labors for the Public Good- A Civil Engineer- An Engraver- Talent for Painting- Plays Several Musical Instruments- A Botanist and Geologist- To Him We Owe Woodland Cemetery- Love of Plants and Trees- Plants the Levees with Trees- Surrounds the Court-House with Elms- Fondness for Children- Delightful Picnics- His Great Size- Interest in Schools and Libraries- Founder and Supporter of Dayton Library Association- Free Lectures on Scientific, Historical, or Literary Subjects- Affection and Pride with Which He was Regarded- Devotion to His Kindred- Friendship Between Him and His Father- Public Offices in Town that He Held- His Map of Dayton- Writes Songs and Designs and Engraves Illustrations for the Log Cabin- The Whig Glee Club Trained by Professor Turpin- Mr. Van Cleve and Other Accompany the Club to the Columbus Convention- His Death- His Unbending Integrity and Scrupulous Honesty- Council Passes Resolutions of Respect- Dr. T. E. Thomas’s Funeral Oration- Isaac Spining- William King- The Osborns- John H. Williams- The First Postoffice in Dayton- Mail-Routes- Post-Rider to Urbana- Trials of Benjamin Van Cleve, First Postmaster- His Successor, George S. Houston- Joseph Pierce- Joseph H. Crane- Colonel Robert Patterson- Schools- Dayton Incorporated- McCullum’s Tavern- Social Library Society.


            Our early history would be incomplete without some account of John W. Van Cleve, the first male child born in Dayton, and who became locally noted for literary, scientific, and artistic attainments, and for life-long, unsalaried work for the public good.  He was the son of Benjamin and Mary Whitten Van Cleve, and was born June 27, 1801.  From the writings and conversation of the two Van Cleves, and from the files of Dayton newspapers, commencing with the first paper published here, preserved by them and presented to the Public Library by the son, Maskell E. Curwen, Ashley Brown, Robert W. Steele, and others obtained the greater part of the material for their histories of Dayton.  During his last illness, J. W. Van Cleve explained to R. W. Steele, a younger man but congenial friend, who, from his youth, had devoted himself to disinterested philanthropic and educational labors, his plans for the benefit of his beloved native city, and placed in his hands constitutions, reports, and minutes of various societies, of which Mr. Van Cleve had been the animating spirit and usually the founder; and Mr. Steele constituted himself the biographer and eulogist of Mr. Van Cleve, sketching his portrait, with all the literary skill and sympathetic touches at his command, in a number of publications.  It is a matter of regret that he did not collect and combine in an elaborate biography the facts in regard to his friend which he scattered through several articles; but it was his nature to sow broadcast with a liberal hand, regardless of personal considerations.

            The minutes kept by John W. Van Cleve were written in an exquisitely beautiful hand, which, like his father’s, was as legible as copper-plate; so that it seemed a desecration for an inferior penman to make an entry in the books.  The minutes of the Montgomery County Horticultural Society, of which he was one of the founders, he decorated with a water-color painting of a large, richly tinted peach on a branch, with leaves clustering about it.  He was interested in agriculture, introduced modern methods and machinery on his farm, and tried many experiments, endeavoring, among other things, to make raisins from his grapes.

            Benjamin Van Cleve determined that his only son should enjoy the intellectual and moral training and affectionate parental supervision of which he himself had been deprived.  His boy responded to all his attempts to guide and instruct him, and more than answered his expectations.  The son inherited the father’s methodical, industrious, and persevering habits, and his faculty of attaining by his own efforts what he had no opportunity of learning from others.  He was remarkable for both versatility and thoroughness, and might have been described in the broadest sense as an all-round man, but for a slight lack of development of the imaginative and emotional side of his nature.  He must have been largely self-taught, for sixty or seventy years ago teachers of accomplishments, or of anything outside the ordinary branches of education, were not to be obtained in Ohio.  The journey to Eastern centers of culture was long and expensive.  Specially talented young people did not, as is now customary, spend a winter or two in New York or Boston engaged in literary, scientific, or artistic study. 

            John Van Cleve was a born scholar, endowed with a vigorous intellect, remarkable memory, and a facility for acquiring a knowledge of both mathematics and languages.  When but ten years old, his father wrote of him, “My son John is now studying Latin, and promises to become a fine scholar.”  He entered the Ohio University at Athens, of which his father was a trustee, when he was sixteen, and acquired so high a reputation for scholarship that before his graduation he was employed as a teacher of both Latin and Greek in the college.  He began to teach Latin in 1817, his first year at college.  Writing to ask his father’s permission to teach, he says: “I think it would inform me in the Latin a great deal.  I believe with one month’s practice now in speaking the Latin I could speak very nearly as freely in it as I can in English.”  In 1819 he taught Greek and Latin several hours a day without interfering with his own lessons in his class.  The regular work was so insufficient for him that the professors volunteered to give him advanced instruction out of college hours.  He was equally proficient in mathematics, and wrote from the Ohio University to his father, “I consider Euclid the most pleasing study I ever undertook, and find no difficulty in understanding the propositions.”  In another letter he says that it is impossible for him to keep along with his class; it would have been more correct to say that his class could not keep up with him.  Between three and five problems of Euclid each day were all that was required of students.  Mr. Van Cleve was not satisfied with such easy work, and obtained permission to learn fifteen problems daily.

            Mr. R. W. Steele says: “I recollect that, when Colborn’s ‘Intellectual Arithmetic’ was first introduced here, the late John W. Van Cleve, an accomplished and noted man in his day, told me that he went through the book at a sitting with great pleasure.  How idle it would be to advise everybody to take up and read Colborn’s arithmetic as a pleasant recreation! Mr. Van Cleve was a man of decided taste for mathematics, and before Colborn we had no intellectual arithmetic or analysis in our schools, which accounts for his pleasure in the book.” 

            After leaving college Mr. Van Cleve studied French and German, translating from the latter language the first volume of Goldfuss and Schiller’s “Robbers,” and a number of plays and fairy tales.  He copied the fairy tales with his own hand into a pretty volume, which he presented to a little girl.  To another young lady friend he gave a volume of water-color pictures of the wild flowers of Montgomery County, writing the botanical name below each picture.  The flowers are as remarkable for scientific accuracy of form and coloring as for artistic beauty.  Mr. Van Cleve was a true book-lover, and gradually collected a good library.  He subscribed for the American and foreign magazines, and it was probably the translations and critical and biographical articles in these magazines that led him to study German- a language neglected by English-speaking students till the beginning of the nineteenth century.  As there was no teacher of modern languages in Dayton, he taught himself German and French.  He contributed to a number of periodicals.  In most directions he was a generous man, but he was almost miserly when his beloved books were concerned.  He would only lend to those whom he thought genuinely interested in literature, and from each one he exacted a promise, entered in a ledger under his name and the date, that the book should be returned in condition on a specified day.  If the promise was not kept, the borrower received a notification of his remissness, which was repeated with the addition of sharp reprimand, till the work was safely restored to his shelves.  A number of his books are in the possession of his relations.  Some of his volumes, enriched by marginal notes in his own hand, are in the Public Library.  Occasionally he bound, or rebound, a volume himself in heavy leather, preservation, and not beauty, being his aim.  He intended to write a history of the Northwest Territory, and made some preparation for the never-really-under-taken book.  His memoranda jotted down for this purpose, and his notes on his general reading, book lists, and private accounts, are as beautiful and exquisitely neat as if intended for exhibition, and not merely for his own eye.  Among his manuscripts are letters from distinguished scientists with whom he corresponded.

            When he returned from college, he studied law with Judge Joseph H. Crane, and was admitted to the bar in 1828; but he did not find the practice of the law congenial, and in December, 1828, he abandoned the legal profession and purchased an interest in the Dayton Journal, which he edited till 1834.  In the latter year he entered into partnership in the drug business with Augustus Newell, furnishing the capital, but leaving the control of the concern in the hands of Mr. Newell.

            In 1851, as he possessed what was a competency for an unmarried man, Mr. Van Cleve retired from business and devoted himself with the most indefatigable industry for the rest of his life to study and art and the promotion of whatever would benefit and adorn his native city.  He became an accomplished musician, painter, engraver, civil engineer, botanist, and geologist.  He had very decided talent for painting, and did excellent work in oils and water-colors, though he probably never took a lesson in either.  One of his most interesting water-colors is a painting of the east side of Main Street, between Second and Third streets, as it was in 1855, which he gave to Miss Martha Holt.  Mrs. Thomas Dover has three oil landscapes, one of them being painted for the purpose of introducing a very tall and magnificent tree in the foreground, the river and sawmill behind it playing a subordinate part.  Mrs. Dover also has a number of water-color sketches of river scenery and seven or eight pictures of peaches of different varieties, one on each card.  Mr. Van Cleve said he first painted their portraits and then ate them.  He gathered them, no doubt, from his own trees.

            He played well on several instruments.  For a number of years he was organist of Christ Episcopal Church.  In 1823 the Pleyel Society, the first Dayton musical society, was formed, and he was elected president.  He gave much time to the study of botany and geology, and collected a cabinet of fossils of this neighborhood, which he presented by will to the High School.  Several sheets of the fossils of the Dayton limestone engraved by him are preserved at the Dayton Public Library.  These engravings have been published in the Indiana Geological Reports.  He made a complete herbarium of the plants indigenous to this region, which at his death he gave to Cooper Female Seminary.  No care was taken of either his cabinet or herbarium.   The remains of them are at the Public Library and Museum.  He corresponded and exchanged specimens with scientists all over the United States.  His list of trees growing in Woodland Cemetery in 1843 is interesting to botanists. 

            To him we owe Woodland Cemetery, the third in order of time of the rural cemeteries opened in the United States.  He suggested that the beautiful grounds, now the pride of Dayton, should be secured and improved for that purpose, and persistently carried the project through to completion.  The cemetery was laid out, the roads run, the platting down, the accounts kept, by this skilled surveyor and bookkeeper, and all the duties of a superintendent performed by him, without compensation, during the earlier years of its history.  He was president of the association till his death.

            For no one could a park be more appropriately named than for such an enthusiastic lover of nature and his fellow-men as John Van Cleve.  The only thing else in Dayton called for him is a street which runs through what was once a part of his model farm.  When the levees were built, or enlarged, he obtained subscriptions from citizens, heading the list himself, to purchase and plant trees on both sides of the levees, without expense to the city.  At first, elms were planted on the river side and maples on the other side.  Afterwards silver-leaf poplars, recently introduced, and then much admired, were also set out.  He planted the trees himself.  The little granddaughter of a pioneer used to accompany him, and note down from his dictation, in his memorandum-book, under the proper date, the variety of trees planted and its exact position.

            He knew the name of nearly every plant and tree within Montgomery County, and in what locality they could be found.  Through his influence the early residents of Dayton felt a special interest and pride in the flowers and trees of the surrounding woods and prairies.  He loved to bring home from his botanical excursions elegant shrubs or rare flowering plants, which, as he lived at an hotel, he presented to friends, setting them out himself in their yards.  It would have seemed to him a cruel act to transplant them from their congenial country home, and allow them to pine or die from careless or ignorant treatment.  He would have sympathized with the saying of Montaigne that “there is a certain respect and general duty of humanity that ties us, not only to beasts, that have life and sense, but even to trees and plants.”  Had he had the making of the constitution of the Humane Society, it would have included the protection of trees as well as of women, children, and animals.  Many a noble forest tree did he save from destruction or mutilation by his entreaties.  About 1850 he planted elms on Main and Third streets, along the sidewalks of the Court-house lots.  He wished his native place to be as beautiful as the elm-embowered New England towns, and thought these glorious trees would keep his memory as a public benefactor green for generations; but his ungrateful fellow-citizens, as soon as his elms began to fulfill his expectations, chopped them down.

            Mr. Van Cleve was fond of children and they loved him.  On many a pleasant spring, summer, or autumn morning he might have been seen leading a little company on foot, or to take the cars to the woods for an all-day picnic.  He wanted the children to himself, and no grown people were invited.  He had some eccentricities, which, however, only excited a pleasurable awe and curiosity.  The children were not permitted, for instance, to ask what time it was.  He either made no reply to such a question or answered that it was not polite, and a reflection upon his power of entertaining them, and that, at any rate, children had no business to think or know anything about time.  He would sometimes suddenly put his hand within his shirt-bosom, and draw out what he called “a beautiful, harmless little garter-snake,” dropping it, perhaps, into a girl’s lap.  If she had the tact or nerve not to scream, she was henceforth one of his prime favorites.  When he took children to the woods, he knew where to find quantities of wild flowers, mushrooms, nuts, elderberries, May-apples, haws, papaws, -“nature’s custard,” – persimmons, slippery-elm, spicewood, sassafras, etc., and these wild things gathered and commended by him had a flavor with which the liveliest imagination could not now invest them.  He led you to the clearest and coolest moss-bordered springs, and his eye was quick to see beautiful and grotesque dead or growing shrubs and trees, birds, squirrels, and every lovely living thing; and a pause was always made to enjoy a fine view or landscape.  In his botany box he carried, besides other luncheon, small pieces of beefsteak, one for each member of the party.  These he transfixed with snow-white twigs from which he had peeled the bark, and then, arranging the children in front of a blazing fire he had built, showed them how to hold the twigs so as to cook it was the proper season for wild grapes, clusters were squeezed into a bright new tincup, mixed with sugar and water, and the beverage drunk in turn by each of the party.

            Mr. Van Cleve was a giant in size- tall, of large frame, and weighing over three hundred pounds.  Once, when making a call on a friend, the five-year-old son of his host, after walking round him several times, observing him curiously, stopped in front of him and said, “Mr. Van Cleve, when you was a little boy, was you a little boy?”  Though usually sensitive about his size, he laughed, and took this as a good joke.  Hits at prominent citizens were freely indulged in in the old-fashioned New-Year’s address, brought to every door for sale on the 1st of January.  In one of the “addresses” appeared this rhyme:

            “If all flesh is grass, as the Scriptures say,

            Then Van Cleve would make a load of hay.”

            He was the first male child born in Dayton, and, being of very great size, was often pointed out to strangers as a specimen of what Dayton could produce.

            Mr. Van Cleve was warmly interested in libraries and schools, and gave liberally of time and money to both.  He preserved and presented to the Public Library the records of the old Dayton Academy, from which all the early school history of Dayton was obtained.  In the later years of its history he was connected with our first library, incorporated in 1805.  He was one of the founders, in 1847, of the Dayton Library Association, now merged in the Public School Library.  During the rest of his life the library was one of the objects in which he was most interested.  He presented to it valuable newspapers, minutes, magazines, and books, served as an officer of the association, and assisted in selecting the first volumes that were purchased.  “The list numbered but little over one thousand volumes, but the books were Charles Lamb’s ‘books that are books.’” Whenever a public entertainment was gotten up for the benefit of literary or philanthropic objects, Mr. Van Cleve was an active promoter of the undertaking.  He frequently lectured on scientific, historical, or literary subjects in the courses provided by the Mechanics’ Institute and the Dayton Library Association.

            He did a work for Dayton of the kind that only a highly cultivated man of leisure can accomplish.  His fellow-citizens appreciated his efforts and regarded him with pride, respect, and love.  At the present day, man who were not grown when he died, but to whom he had been kind and helpful in their childhood, never think of him without a glow of affection, admiration, and gratitude. 

            He was warmly attached to his kindred, even when not nearly related, and any one with Van Cleve blood in his veins was sure of a cordial reception from him, even if not very congenial in character or pursuits.  Though undemonstrative and even somewhat cold in his manner, he was a most affectionate son, brother, and uncle.  His letters from college reveal the delightful relations existing between the son and his father.  There is about them a tone of frankness, simplicity, certainty of comprehension and sympathy, of good comradeship and intimate friendship, that gives one a pleasant impression of both the man and the boy.  Ambitious of distinction and fond of study though John Van Cleve was, in 1819, when Benjamin Van Cleve was overweighted with financial cares and anxieties, John urged his father to allow him to leave college and come home and help in the business.  This request was not granted, and the boy was moreover told that affairs were in better condition than his solicitude for his family had led him to imagine them to be.  He always every Sunday spent the afternoon and took tea with one of his sisters.  He was not what is called a great talker, and often, after a little domestic chat, would draw a magazine or book from his pocket and soon become absorbed in reading.  His sisters’ children were very fond of him, and he did a great deal for their pleasure and profit, lending them books, awakening their intelligence, and increasing their fund of knowledge by conversing with them.  At the time, however, the only thought of the enjoyment his visits afforded them, and of how delightful it was to have him with them.  It was he himself they cared for, not what he might give them, or what benefit they might derive from association with him.

            Mr. Van Cleve was elected recorder in 1824 and 1828; served for three terms as Mayor- in 1830, 1831, and 1832, and was several times city engineer.  For a number of years he was connected with the volunteer fire department- placed in command by Council.  In 1839 he compiled and lithographed a map of the city, and in 1849 a city map in book form, renumbering the various plats and lots unplatted in 1839.

            He was an enthusiastic Whig, and a warm supporter of Harrison in 1840.  When R. N. and W. F. Comly published the Log Cabin, a Harrison campaign paper, famous all over the United States, Mr. Van Cleve wrote many of the songs, and designed and engraved the illustrations and caricatures that appeared in it.  He had a grim sense of humor, and sometimes indulged in practical jokes that did not seem laughable to others.  Professor James Turpin, a musician of repute, and a generous, public-spirited man, who was highly esteemed, both professionally and socially, composed the accompaniments for the campaign songs.  Mr. Van Cleve and Mr. Turpin worked together in the latter’s parlor, musician and writer making mutual changes and concessions.  Mr. Turpin and Mr. Van Cleve had formed and trained a Whig Glee Club.  The club and a large number of other citizens attended the mammoth Harrison convention held at Columbus, where Mr. Van Cleve’s songs, as sung under Professor Turpin’s leadership by Dayton singers, were received with wild enthusiasm and prolonged applause.  The Dayton delegation traveled in stage-coaches, decorated profusely with Harrison emblems, and during both the journey and the stay in Columbus, where the club was crowded into one bedroom, the “fun was fast and furious”; jokes, and quips, and ridiculous tricks, and everything that could promote hilarity or increase political excitement, always at fever heat during that remarkable campaign, were encouraged and indulged in.

            Mr. Van Cleve died, unmarried, of consumption, September 6, 1858, after a long illness, which he bore with the greatest courage and patience.  One of his closest associates wrote of him: “A striking trait of his character was his unbending integrity.  His scrupulous honesty was so well known and appreciated that he was frequently selected for the discharge of the most responsible trusts.”  His death at the comparatively early age of fifty-seven was regarded as a public calamity.  Although he held no official position at the time of his death, the City Council adopted resolutions of respect for his memory and of appreciation of his great services to the city.  The funeral took place at the First Presbyterian Church, which was crowded with sincere mourners.  The Rev. Thomas E. Thomas delivered a magnificent funeral oration of the kind for which he was so famous, drawing a graphic portrait of Mr. Van Cleve, his talents, acquirements, and character, and comparing him to a dead lion. 

            Three important accessions were made to the Dayton settlement, in 1800, 1801, and 1802, in Isaac Spining, William King, and John H. Williams, afterwards closely related by marriage, and who settled in the neighborhood now know as the West Side.  The name of Judge Spining constantly occurs in connection with public affairs in Dayton.  He emigrated from New Jersey to the West in 1796, and a few years later located on a farm three miles west of Dayton.  His sons, Pierson, Charles H., and George B., were all citizens of note, the first in Springfield ad the other two in Dayton.  Mr. Pierson Spining, before removing to Springfield, was in business in Middletown.  There is a story connected with the goods he was selling at Middletown which illustrates his father’s business talent and the pluck and enterprise of early times.  Judge Spining, before 1812, “built a flatboat near the head of Main Street on the river front.  This boat was loaded with flour, and with Judge Spining as captain floated to New Orleans.  Flour was dull in that city, and the Judge shipped his cargo from that point to Boston, taking passage in the vessel which bore his produce.  He sold his flour and purchased in Philadelphia for his son the goods which made up the assortment at the Middletown store.  The Judge was six months in making the round trip from Dayton to New Orleans, Philadelphia, and return.”

            The son Pierson married, at Dayton, in 1812, Miss Mary Schooley, whose acquaintance he had probably made while a clerk in the store of H. G. Phillips.  Miss Phebe Pierce, married the same year to James Steele, was Miss Schooley’s bridesmaid.  Mrs. Pierson Spining was born in 1790 in New Jersey, and brought, when an infant, to Columbia, near Cincinnati.  Here the family lived in a log cabin, and when the children attended school they were often, as a protection against Indians, sent home with an escort of soldiers.  As an indication of the fearless and adventurous spirit of the pioneer women, it is said of Mrs. Spining that she mad “frequent trips from Springfield to Cincinnati on horseback, her mother’s family living in Springdale, in Hamilton County.  On one occasion she took her infant child as the companion of her journey.  At another time she found Mill Creek booming.  Getting the range of the ford, she boldly rode in, her horse swam across the turbulent stream, and she continued her excursion to Cincinnati, arriving there without further peril in flood or field.”  In 1863 she removed to Dayton, where she lived till she was over fourscore.

            Judge Spining has several descendants living here.  Among them may be mentioned Mrs. Louisa King, Mrs. Jennie S. Mulford, Mrs. Mary C. Wade, Miss Elizabeth G. Spining, Mrs. Sarah Stewart, and Mrs. Mary McG. Stewart.

            William King, dissatisfied with Kentucky on account of slavery, emigrated from that State to this vicinity in 1801.  He was a remarkable man, distinguished for his strong convictions and his conscientious determination to carry them out at whatever cost.  He was for many years an elder in the First Presbyterian Church, and had something of the Puritan and the Convenanter in his composition.  He lived to a great old age, lacking at his death by three months of being one hundred years old.  His two elder sons, John and Victor, removed to Madison, Indiana.  His son Samuel married Mary C., daughter of John H. Williams.  His daughter Jane married Davis Osborn.  The Osborn family are descendants of Cyrus Osborn, who was here as early as 1797.  Numerous grandchildren of David Osborn are living here; for instance, David L. Osborn, Cyrus V. Osborn, James Steele Osborn, Miss Harriet E. Osborn, Miss Harriet McGuffy Osborn.  The older grandchildren of William King are Miss Nancy King, William B. King, John King, Mrs. Harriet Scott, and Mrs. Eliza Brenneman.

            John H. Williams was an honored and highly esteemed citizen.  His descendants are numerous and prominent.  We can only mention Mrs. Hiram Lewis, Mrs. David Rench, Miss Susan Williams, Miss Nannie B. Williams, Mrs. Lucinda H. Campbell, John W. and Henry Stoddard, and Mrs. General S.  B. Smith.

            In December, 1803, Benjamin Van Cleve was appointed first postmaster of Dayton, and served till his death, in 1821.  He opened the postoffice in his cabin, on the southeast corner of First and St. Clair streets.  Previous to Mr. Van Cleve’s appointment the only postoffice in the Miami Valley, and as far north as Lake Erie, was at Cincinnati.  From 1804 to 1806 the people north of Dayton as far as Fort Wayne were obliged to come here 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.  Soon after, a weekly mail, the only one, was established.  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.  A second route was soon opened from Zanesville, Franklinton, and Urbana to Dayton.  The next improvement was a mail from the East by way of Chillicothe, arrived and leaving Sunday evenings.

            In 1808 a committee of citizens- Judge Joseph H. Crane, George Smith, William T. Tennery, William McClure, and Joseph Peirce- employed William George to superintend the carrying of the mail to Urbana.  It was necessary at that date that those interested in a proposed new mail-route should raise a fund to defray the expense of it, but the Postmaster-General agreed to allow toward the expense all that was paid in for postage, etc., at the new offices.  The following interesting agreement between the committee and the Urbana mail-carrier was found a few years ago among the papers of William McClure, editor of the Repertory, which his brother-in-law, Judge James Steele had preserved:

            “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 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 days 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.”

            Previous to this arrangement a public meeting had been called, where the committee on the new mail-route had been appointed.

            Postage, usually not prepaid, but collected on delivery, was high, and money scare.  Few ever had a dollar in their possession.  The Government would not accept payment in corn or pelts.  Stamps were not used, but the amount due- usually twenty-five cents- was written on the outside of the letter, which was not enclosed in an envelope.  It was a trial, especially in years when people had little in their own town to interest or amuse them, and were separated by a journey of may weeks from friends in the old home from whence they had emigrated to Dayton, to return the letter handed them at the office, because they had no money to pay postage.  Mr. Van Cleve was a man of the period, and had a fellow-felling for his penniless, but not necessarily poverty-stricken neighbors, and for a time he allowed them to take their unpaid-for mail.  Soon, however, such notices as the following were of frequent occurrence 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, therefore, that his friends will not take it amiss when he assures them that no distinction will be made.  No letters delivered in the future without pay, nor papers without the postage being paid quarterly in advance.”

            Mr. Van Cleve’s successor as postmaster was George S. Houston, who came here from New Jersey in 1810, and entered into partnership with his brother-in-law, H. G. Phillips.  Like Mr. Van Cleve, he was an unusually public-spirited citizen, as reports of societies and meetings in the old newspapers show, and a man of many avocations.  From 1821 till his death, in 1831, he was editor-in-chief of the Watchman, cashier of the Dayton Bank, and postmaster.  The postoffice was at his residence, a brick dwelling, still standing on the north side of Second Street, near Ludlow.

            Joseph Peirce and Judge Joseph H. Crane, who signed the agreement with the Urbana mail-carrier, were very prominent citizens.  They married sisters- the daughters of Dr. John Elliott.  Joseph Peirce was born in Rhode Island in 1786, and was brought to Marietta in 1788 by his father, who served in 1779 as aid-de-camp on the staff of General Horatio Gates, was a shareholder in the Ohio Company, and in 1789 one of the founders of Belpre, Ohio.  Joseph Peirce spent his childhood in the stockades, Farmers’ Castle, and Goodale’s Garrison, in which the people of Belpre took refuge during the Indian war.  About 1805 he came to Dayton, and in 1807 entered into partnership with James Steele, which continued all his life.  They retailed, as the manuscript advertisement which they circulated states, “all sorts of goods, wares, and commodities belonging to the trade of merchandising.”  He was a member of the Legislature in 1812.  A letter written by him to a friend at this time refers in an interesting manner to the war then in progress.  “Great unanimity prevails among the members [of the Legislature] so far.  You no doubt have seen Governor Meigs’s message.  You will, in a few days, see the patriotic resolutions, approbating the general Government, that have been passed.  I doubt we have promised more than most of use would be willing to perform, should we be put to the test.  To-day I think we shall pass a law furnishing our militia on duty with about $5,000 worth of blankets.”  Dayton was the rendezvous of the Western troops in this war, and our merchants sold largely to the army, waiting, however, many a long month before they received their pay from the Government.  Mr. Peirce was president of the Dayton Bank from 1814 till his death in 1821 of the fever which swept away a number of valuable citizens.  The obituary notice published in the Watchman says that he received from his fellow-citizens many and various marks of their respect and confidence, and faithfully discharged the duties of all the public positions to which he was called.  Fully appreciating the importance of a canal from the Ohio to Lake Erie, he was endeavoring to secure its construction when he died.  He was an ardent supporter of Mr. Cooper in the latter’s plans for the benefits of the town, and was held in the highest regard by his fellow-citizens in all public, business, and social relations.  He was the father of J. C. and the late J. H. Peirce, and the grandfather of J. Elliott, Sarah H., Elizabeth F., and Howard F. Peirce, Mrs. H. E. Parrott, S. W. and J. P. Davies, Mrs. R. C. Schenck, and Mrs. Joseph Dart.

            Judge Joseph H. Crane, the grandfather of J. F. S. and J. H. Crane, was noted for profound learning in his profession.  He was a man of “wide and varied reading, and prodigious memory, especially familiar with English history and the English classics and poets.”  He aided in selecting the first books bought for the Public Library, and would buy only works of the highest character.  The Dayton library and schools and other institutions received an impetus in right directions from cultivated and farsighted men who came here in the first ten or twelve years of the history of the town, which is felt at the present day, and will never cease.  Judge Crane came to Dayton when twenty-one, at the invitation of Mr. Cooper, from New Jersey, where he had studied law in the office of Aaron Ogden, a noted lawyer and statesman.  He became invaluable as attorney and counselor to Daniel C. Cooper and the early settlers.  He was elected to the Legislature in 1809.  His colleague, David Purviance, in a letter to William McClure, editor of the Repertory, in the possession of one of the authors, says under date of December 29, 1809: “Mr. Crane is the only lawyer who is a member of the House of Representatives.  He conducts with prudence, and is in good repute as a member.”  Crane was a young man and had his reputation to win at this period.  

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