Early Dayton: With Important Facts and Incidents From the Founding of the City of Dayton, Ohio to the Hundredth Anniversary 1796-1896
By Robert W. Steele and Mary Davies Steele
(Dayton, Ohio U.B. Publishing House; W.J. Shuey, Publisher; 1896)
Perhaps there is no impropriety in saying in a preface to a history of Dayton that no one living here who has undertaken literary, philanthropic, or other public works can help feeling that Dayton is a good place to live in, so ready is the response and generous support and appreciation received. Thus, it seems to the student of our history, it has been from the beginning. The imagination catches fire and the heart glows with enthusiasm over the story of the labors for the public good which the pioneers shared, and the respect and admiration which they felt for the benefactors of their beloved town. They should be held up as examples of our youth, and their biographies used as manuals for training in noble character.
One longs for the power to make the old times and the old settlers live again, with their contented but simple and unadorned domestic lives, their home-made buckskin or linsey-woolsey garments, their limited and cautious business undertakings, contrasting strangely with exciting perils in storms and floods and dangerous adventures with wild beasts and Indians- to tell a story with the genuine pioneer flavor which descendants of the forefathers would read with relish and profit.
“Early Dayton” is written from the personal and social standpoint, and it was not the intention to give a complete and consecutive account of the growth of the corporation and the business interests of the city. Biographies, with a few necessary exceptions, have not been inserted after the pioneer period. Had the lives of sons and grandchildren as well as of grandparents been written, the history would have filled more than one large volume.
In the spring and summer of 1895, at the request of Mr. H. H. Weakley, who has in many practical ways shown his interest in Dayton and its writers, I wrote a series of letters on the early history of Dayton for the Herald. These letters, which were received with many words of commendation both to author and publisher, form the basis of the present volume, though large and important additions have been made. I was so fortunate as to obtain, through conversation and correspondence with descendants of pioneers, some facts and anecdotes never before published.
Free use has been made of the chapters in the “History of Dayton” written by my father shortly before his death, and his name appears with mine on the title-page.
When the manuscript of “Early Dayton” was almost finished, circumstances rendered it necessary for me to abandon all literary work. My friend Miss Harriet M. King, a born student and excellent writer, generously volunteered to write the concluding two chapters (Chapters X and XI) of the book, bringing it down to date. It requires literary skill to write a brief and condensed yet clear and interesting account of an extended period. Miss King has told the story of modern Dayton in a charming manner, and those who read her valuable contribution will perceive how greatly indebted I am to her. Words fail me when I attempt to express my obligation.
From Mr. E. L. Shuey I received, while my history was being written and published, assistance and encouragement of a very unusual kind, for which I am deeply grateful. I desire to make similar acknowledgements to Mr. W. A. Shuey, who not only relieved me of responsibility and labor, but secured the accuracy and added to the merit of the volume by his careful proof-reading and general supervision, his elaborate index and table of contents, and the excellent illustrations which he procured; but, above all, by his interesting and useful “Chronological Record” and “Historical and Statistical Tables” for ready reference, which cover the history and progress of this region from 1749 to 1896. If all publishers were like mine, societies for the protection of authors would never have existed. I cannot let slip the opportunity to express my appreciation of the interest Mr. W. L. Blocher has shown in securing the mechanical perfection of various literary productions of mine. I am under obligations to the United Brethren Publishing House for their courtesy in allowing me the unrestricted use of the “History of Dayton,” of which they own the copyright.
Mary Davies Steele
Dayton, Ohio, February 1, 1896
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