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Biography of Dayton
Part One


Hand Tool Times—1796-1828



     In March,1796, three parties of pioneers of Irish, Dutch, English and German stock, went up from Cincinnati to settle at the mouth of the Mad river.  There were 19 men and 17 women and children.  Two parties followed dim Indian trails.  One went by water, propelling their pirogue or narrow, roofed boat with poles up the snaggy stretches of the Big Miami.  This party arrived first.


SPECULATION     Rivers were the main avenues of travel and commerce.  For that reason the proposed settlement was located at the confluence of four streams.  The spot had been a favorite rendezvous for Indians, and two skirmishes had been fought there between whites and Shawnees.  This town-site had been selected and laid out the previous year by four land-speculators: General Arthur St.Clair, governor of the Northwestern Territory; General Wilkinson, commanding general of the army of the United States; “General” Jonathan Dayton, the greatest speculator of his time in land and scrip, implicated later with Wilkinson in Burr’s conspiracy, and “General” Israel Ludlow.  Everybody was a “General” in the days following the War of Independence, and some had served in the army.

     The names of these four speculators have been perpetuated in the name of the town and the names of three of its principal streets.

     They had bought the town site and surrounding land from Judge John Cleves Symmes at 83 cents an acre.  Symmes, a former chief justice of New Jersey, who had come West with gigantic schemes for selling the wilderness to the settlers and making his fortune, had entered into a contract of purchase with the Federal government for all land between the two Miami rivers at 66 2-3 cents an acre.  But this was payable in depreciated paper currency; the actual price to him was only about 16 cents an acre.

     Eager to draw settlers to Dayton, the four promoters offered an in-lot of half an acre free, an out-lot of 10 acres free, and an opportunity to buy 160 acres of wild farming land at one French crown or about $1.15 an acre.  They figured on big profits for themselves, but their speculation, like Symmes’, came to financial disaster.

     The first few settlers built a straggling line of log cabins along the river.  They girdled the forest trees for a considerable distance back and left them to die, to make a clearing.  Colonel George Newcom, an Irishman, built his tavern near where the historic relic now stands in Van Cleve Park.  This was the “business center” of the settlement.


EQUALITY    Everybody was poor.  Everybody worked.  Newcom carried on his tavern in conjunction with his farm, which was where Huffman avenue now is.  When young Benjamin Van Cleve opened the first school, in a blockhouse built where the soldiers’ Monument now stands, he had to close his classes in time to help with the harvest.

     Everybody not only worked, but worked hard.  The productivity of labor was small, because of the primitive hand-tools.  The struggle for existence in those days was a struggle not against other men, but against the wilderness; a struggle to wrest enough food, clothing and shelter from the grudging soil, to protect it from wild beasts and birds.


INDIVIDUALISM     Another reason why labor was not very productive was the individualism of the pioneers.  Each worked for himself and by himself.  Outside of the family there was practically no division of labor.  The pioneer was farmer, woodman, carpenter, toolmaker, shoemaker, harnessmaker, butcher and a dozen other trades.  His wife, was cook, baker, spinner, weaver, dressmaker, tailor, soap maker, carpetmaker and a dozen other trades, too.  The wonder is they accomplished such multifarious tasks, not that they failed to heap up abundance of goods.

     This individualism of labor was a result partly of the primitive hand-tools, partly of the struggle with the wilderness.  Each family had first to clear a foothold for itself in the virgin forest, to conquer enough soil to live on; only later would it find time to feel out, to get in touch with neighbors, cut roads, contrive means of communication, and develop interdependence and division of labor.


PRODUCING FOR USE     Production, at first, was almost solely for home use.  There was no market, either for selling or buying.  The first merchant, George McDougal, came in 1800 with a stock of goods and opened a store in the upper room of Newcom’s tavern; he lasted until 1803, but his trade was chiefly with the Indians. 

     The food problem presented difficulties.  Wheat for bread was at first unobtainable.  Corn was the staple cereal.  In the open land west of Wilkinson street was a vast cornfield where everyone was free to cultivate as much of the soil as he wished.  The corn was ground into meal in a handmill; the family had pone, cornbread, mush, Indian pudding, hominy and all the variations.  The woods swarmed with game.  Duck and turkey eggs were found in quantities.  The river was full of fish.  But the pioneers pined for pork; and in 1799 Colonel Daniel C. Cooper, who settled here in 1796 introduced hogs.  In 1800 sheep began to be raised.  In 1806, Robert Edgar introduced on his farm, about where Edgar avenue now is, the first iron moldboard plow.  It revolutionized plowing here; settlers had used the fork of a hardwood sapling.

     The clothing problem the settlers met with coonskin caps, moccasins and garments of deerskin, to piece out what clothing they had brought up the river.  Soon they were growing flax, hemp and wool.  In every cabin stood spinning-wheel and loom; Abraham Grassmire, an ingenious German, made looms for them.  Thomas Arnett combined shoemaking with his farming.

     The shelter problem was easily solved; timber, stone and clay were at hand.  The main industry was farming.  Everybody who wanted it owned land.  It was so superabundant it was not much prized.  A few years later the government of the United States, owing to Judge Symmes’ failure to complete the terms of his contract of purchase, tried to make the Dayton settlers pay $2.00 an acre for the land they held.  But our worthy sires drew up resolutions in the schoolmaster’s best handwriting to inform the government they had worked harder reclaiming the land from the wilderness and making it taxable, than the land was worth.

     The trouble over land titles was ended some years after by Colonel D. C. Cooper’s becoming titular proprietor of the town site, through arrangement with the original speculators, the settlers and an indulgent government.


WHISKY MAKING     So much for the first struggle for the city.  The early settlers subdued the wilderness.  They existed by hard, physical toil.  They did without most of the comforts and many of the necessaries.  The one luxury they enjoyed we now have lost: they took a little surplus corn and by a chemical process as old as human records and familiar as the Ten Commandments extracted a fiery liquor which guaranteed him who drank it a short revel in the realms of illusion.

     There was the more inducement to turn surplus corn into whisky because in that form it was more portable; it could be barreled and taken by boat down the river to Cincinnati and sold.  Thus the Miami Valley early became a distilling center.  By 1825 there were on the Miami above Franklin more than 100 distilleries making each more the 200 barrels of whisky annually.  If one were to throw a stone into an assembly of Dayton’s first families today, he would hit the descendant of a distiller.


INDEPENDENCE     But with all their poverty, their drudgery, their lack of comforts and enjoyment, the early settlers had one pearl of great price, to possess which millions of men have struggled in all ages and lands and gone down into bloody graves—they had INDEPENDENCE.

     It was an individual independence, a family independence.  A family with a few simple hand-tools and a tract of cleared land in the woods could get its food, clothing, and shelter without stepping outside the boundaries of its land from year’s end to year’s end.

     The settler called no man master.  He asked no man for the privilege of living.  He asked no one for a job.  He did not need anyone’s consent in order to earn his bread and eat it.

     If his tools, simple, primitive, brought scant results, if they required an admixture of much muscle-power and sweat and time, at least the tools were his own.  Therefore, the fruits of his labor with those tools were also his own.  He did not labor hard with the tools of another and in consequence give up the fruits of his labor to another.  What each man’s labor produced belonged to himself; he himself enjoyed the full use-value.

     If he did not enjoy that peculiar capitalist privilege of purchasing for a wage the labor-power of some other man whose opportunities for self-employment had been shut off, and of living on the sweat of the hired one’s brow—no other man could live by the sweat of his brow.

     In short, the greatest blessing pronounced by Isaiah abode among these early settlers of Dayton:

     “And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them.

     “They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree shall be the days of my people, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.

     “They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth for calamity; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them.”





     In all frontier towns the tavern is the center of social life.  It was so in early Dayton.  George Newcom ran a still in connection with his tavern; he had the only well in the settlement.  His place became courthouse and jail, when the traveling court held a session here; he acted as sheriff and kept his white prisoners in a dry well; he bucked his Indian prisoners and locked them in the corncrib.


THE GREAT LAND LURE     In 1797 and afterwards, numbers of settlers were passing through.  Men came alone with nothing but rifle and hatchet as their means of living; groups of families came, bringing their household stuff on packhorses or in wagons, some toting it on their backs; still others loaded their goods into dug-outs and poled up the river.

     They were all driven on by land-hunger, the same immemorial hunger that drew the children of Israel into Canaan, and the Goths into Western Europe.  More and more land was being broken to cultivation in the valley and on the surrounding hills.  Already in 1798 there were 138 heads of families listed for taxation in Dayton township; in 1804, Montgomery county had 217 taxpayers.  But Dayton itself did not grow at first.  The uncertainty of land titles may have retarded it.  In 1803, when it was made the county seat it had but 22 inhabitants.


STATE AID     An economic foundation for commerce, however, was being  laid by the rapid settlement of the farming region round about; and the winning of the county seat for Dayton gave it an artificial lift at the expense of the rest of the county.  This state-aid meant new buildings at the cost of county taxpayers, more visitors brought hither by litigation and the need of paying taxes or recording transfers of property.  This meant increased business for storekeepers.  A county seat drains from the whole county.

     In 1804 Brown & Sutherland opened a general store.  In 1806 four new stores opened, and meantime several additional taverns.  A drug store was opened in a room at Reid’s inn.


DIVISION OF LABOR     The growth of Dayton as a trading center meant the settlers were becoming less individually independent, more interdependent; instead of trying to grow and manufacture everything, they produced those things their land and opportunities were best adapted to, and traded such products at the store for articles which could be better and with less labor produced elsewhere.

     They began to leave off making their own meal, shoes, harness, tools, nails, planks, dishes, etc.  Instead they brought in hides, corn, wool, tobacco, logs, etc., and traded for them.

     Two things require extraordinary labor and yield only small and slow production, when performed by hand: the grinding of meal and the working of timber into boards and posts.  It required three and four hours of grinding daily to obtain enough meal for the family.

     So the demand was strong for gristmills and sawmills; settlers were eager to be relieved of this manual labor.  Some tried a horse-mill, grinding the upper millstone on the nether by driving the horse round and round, hitched to a pole fastened across the upper millstone.


THE FIRST MILLS     The first gristmill in this region was built by William Hamer.  It stood where Monument avenue now is, just east of the canal bridge.  The water was brought from the river by a short race, and the tail-race ran down a gully which followed the general course of the present canal bed.

     In the fall of 1799, Daniel C. Cooper started a small distillery on his farm south of town—the farm which Col. Robert Patterson shortly afterwards purchased.  Cooper that same year had a sawmill and “corn cracker” mill built on Rubicon Creek, to be run by water power.  The sawmill power was a paddle-wheel; the “corn cracker” a tub-mill.  Robert Edgar, a farmer, but skilled in mechanics, built them for him.  Benjamin Van Cleve, the schoolmaster, helped dig the sawmill pit.

     This tub-mill is a curious example of the primitive machinery of the place and time.  Four posts were driven in the ground, about four feet apart, two on each side of the creek, forming a square.  The posts stood about four feet high, and on top was laid a puncheon floor, and on that a small pair of buhr millstones.  A perpendicular shaft, attached to the upper stone, passed through the lower or “bed” stone; and down in the current of the creek underneath was the tub-wheel—a wheel laid horizontal inside a tub so that the current would turn it round and round.  A clapboard roof kept the rain out of the hopper, but the sides of the mill were not enclosed.

     This crude little machine had most of the grist-grinding trade from the upper Miami country, and from up Mad river as far as Springfield.  But soon after, probably in 1800, a small overshot mill was built on McConnell Creek in Mad River Township, east of town.

     Settlers coming to the Cooper mill brought packhorses loaded with sacks of corn; some traveled several days’ journey to reach the mill, camping out along the trail by night.  Often the traveler would have to wait several days for his turn at the mill.

     After 1800, with the increasing population, mill machinery rapidly improved.  Millers made their own buhrs out of limestone or granite boulders.

     But outside of sawmill and gristmill work, the driving power in industry was muscle—human or horse muscle.  The day of water power had not yet dawned.


PRIMITIVE MANUFACTURE     The manufacturing industries of Dayton in those early days, of which any record has been made, were as follows:

     Thomas Arnett continued his shoemaker’s shop until after 1805; Matthew Patton plied his trade as a carpenter, presumably in connection with his farm work.  In 1809 Cooper installed a carding machine and the next year James Bennet installed two carding machines.  In 1809, Col. Robert Patterson, ancestor of the founders of the National Cash Register company, having moved up from Kentucky with his family and several negro slaves and bought Cooper’s farm, established a fulling-mill.  James Hanna, whose farm lay west of the river, set up a weaving establishment at the foot of Main street.  In 1808 two Burns brothers were operating a sickle factory.  Two nail factories existed that same year.  James Beck had a blue-dyeing establishment, David Steele a cooper shop, Thomas McNutt a tailoring business.

     These titles, “mills,” factories,” “shops,” “establishments” tend to mislead the modern reader.  In the early nineteenth century they did not mean what they now mean in the day of great machinery and collective labor.  Although Watt had patented his improved steam engine in England in 1781 and 1782, and a non-condensing, high-pressure engine had been introduced in America by Oliver Evans as early as 1800, steam as a driving power was almost unknown on the Ohio frontier then and for many years after.

     Little one-man or two-man affairs, in a room of a cabin, must have been these early industrial enterprises in Dayton.  The carding machines, for instance, were magnified combs for combing wool, operated by hand or possibly by foot-treadle.  As late as 1850 no satisfactory mechanical comb had been introduced in the wool industry even in England.

     But this fulling-mill for preparing cloth, this weaving establishment, carding machines, etc., show a strong local effort to work up local raw material into a finished product.

     An irresistible urge towards local manufacture grew out of the increasing productivity of farm labor in the valley and the difficulty of exit and entrance to and from the outside world.

     The productive forces were in a few years already far in excess of local consumption of the products in their raw form.  Surplus corn, which could neither be usefully turned into meal nor fed to hogs or horses, was worked up into whisky, as a natural move of economy.  It would then keep, or could be got to an outside market.  Surplus wool, from rapidly increasing flocks on the hills, might be worked up into cloth and sold in the local market without fear of outside competition.


FAVORABLE FOR MANUFACTURERS     There was no big fuel problem, no big transportation problem, no big machinery problem.  Here was an atmosphere most favorable for the birth of small manufacturing adventures.  Little or no capital was needed.   Any brisk, alert man with a touch of thrift and shrewdness could make a start.  By specializing on some articles which the settlers were slowly, clumsily, laboriously fashioning at home, he could soon acquire special skill and special facilities for that work.  The tools were simple; no long, expensive training was usually required.  Most of these special enterprises were probably started as a side-line to their farming, in the winter months, to fill in the idle time.

     Division of labor was thus creeping in.  Individualistic production was giving place to social.  Men were no longer producing mainly for home-use, but for exchange, for market.

     Rapid expansion of settlements in a new continent arouses enormous energies.  America was a carnival of liberated productive activities.  Everywhere people bustled to the task of seizing on natural resources, parcelling out lands, chopping down and sawing up timber, planting the virgin soil with crops, harvesting, threshing with flails, grinding corn, raising cattle, hogs, sheep, building houses, barns, corncribs, spinning, weaving, butchering, curing meat, tanning, making hats and shoes.

     In 1810 Dayton had a printing office, 6 licensed taverns, 5 stores, 2 cut-mail factories, a tannery, a brewery, 3 saddlers’ shops, 3 hatters’ shops, 3 cabinet makers’ shops, 1 rifle gunsmith, 1 jeweler, 1 watchmaker, 1 sicklemaker, 1 wagonmaker, besides, smiths, carpenters, masons, weavers, dyers, and tailors.  The population was 383.


WAR OF 1812      In 1812 came the war with Great Britain; Dayton, selected as a place of concentration for western troops and supplies, enjoyed a great stimulation in business and industry.  The prosperity of  several old merchant families dates from the artificial markets created thus by state aid.  Long before the recent World War, Dayton business men were quick to seek the profit for themselves in rushing to the aid of the government in war-time by selling it supplies.  There were 100 per cent Americans even in those primitive days.  May 25, 1812, Governor Meigs formally turned over to General William Hull, at Dayton, the military forces raised in Ohio, three regiments, about 1,500 hastily levied recruits.  The army broke camp, on the little prairie just east of  St. Clair street, between First and Third streets, early on the morning of May 26, and with General Hull and staff riding at their head in full blazonry of cocked hats and waving plumes, clanking sabers, and big horse-pistols, crossed Mad river at the Staunton road ford, nearly opposite the head of Webster street, to a new camp on the west bank about three miles up.  From there on June 1, the army marched up the Staunton road, now the Old Troy pike, to Detroit—and the most ignominious surrender in American history.

     Later other military forces were assembled.  The United States army opened a recruiting office at one of the taverns July 1, offering for a five-year enlistment $16.00 bounty, and if the recruit served his time or was killed or disabled in service, three months’ additional pay and 160 acres of land.  Companies, battalions, and regiments moving to the front camped at Dayton.  The bushy streets resounded to the music of fife and drum.  General William H. Harrison, taking command and retrieving the American fortunes of war in the west, was several times in Dayton.


PATRIOTISM AND PROFIT     Those were great days for Dayton merchants and farmers; the narrow roadways were crowded with army wagons, pack-horses, mounted men and couriers, squads and companies, and spectators from miles around.  Farmers sold their grain, stock and surplus products to army contractors at advanced prices.  Some idea of the business that summer may be had from the advertisements of the contractors.  One wanted to buy 3,000 barrels of flour, 600 head of cattle, 400 horses.  Another advertised for flour in barrels, whisky, beef, cattle, vinegar and bacon.  Everything the people had for sale was bought for the army.

     Until September, 1813, the government agents stationed at Dayton bought all that farmers and dealers would sell of pickled pork, bacon, whisky, cornmeal, flour, tow-linen, cattle, horses and grain.  Wagons and horses, sleds and oxen, were hired or bought from the farmers, and farmers’ boys hired to drive them.  Three dollars a day were paid for sleds and teams that would haul six barrels of flour.  Eight dollars a barrel was paid for flour delivered at Piqua or Urbana, and $10 at St. Mary’s.  At the latter point the government paid for whisky seventy-five cents a gallon.  For those days these were enormous prices.  The government storehouse, in charge of Foreagemaster Colonel Robert Patterson, was in Dayton at the upper end of Main street.

     While thousands of devoted spirits were giving their lives and their all to their country—and Dayton has produced its share of such—thousands of others were battening upon their country’s war-time needs—and Dayton has produced its share of such too.

     Perry’s naval victory on Lake Erie, September 19, 1813, and Harrison’s pursuit of Proctor and victory on the Thames, October 5, brought the war to a triumphant close in the Northwest.  The soldiers began coming home. Down the road through Dayton swarmed returning battalions, companies and regiments.  The town was crowded every day with families from every part of the county looking for husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, sweethearts.  When the Dayton troops were known to be near, the business men got out the decorations, planted a flagpole and cannon at the head of Main street and gave the returned veterans, after two years’ campaigning at $8 a month, a public dinner and a lot of patriotic speeches.  They could well afford it.  They had been making money for two years at a rate beyond their wildest dreams.


PAYING FOR THE WAR     History repeats itself like a familiar tune.  Those scenes have been repeated in Dayton with minor changes after every war.  But the war had fallen upon Ohio like a blight.  Many farms had been neglected because the men were away with the army; the women and children were able to cultivate only a garden patch for necessary food.  Fences, farm buildings, and implements were in need of renewing.  Widows and orphans were many in the scant population.  Distinctions of wealth and poverty were now showing.

     February 1, 1815, the government laid a tax of 25 cents a gallon on distilled spirits.  The war had to be paid for. 

     Industrial depression soon set in, which lasted for years.  These crises are got over, Karl Marx points out, “on the one hand by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones.”

     From 1820 to 1827, after the short spurt of activity in re-building, which regularly follows the close of war, financial conditions were more favorable.  The West was drained of gold and silver; the paper of her little banks was worthless or taken at ruinous discount.

     How the crisis was overcome, how new markets were conquered, old ones more thoroughly exploited, and a new wave of prosperity is achieved, is the story of another chapter.





     So soon as productive forces of a community exceed its local powers of consumption, it seeks outlets, as one choking seeks air.

     It must find means of throwing off this surplus, of exchanging it for other goods, at least of getting rid of it, else the productive forces must stop.

     The productive forces of Dayton and its farming region rapidly developed.  The surplus of corn, wool, cattle, hogs, after the first few pioneer years, accumulated.  Then began the struggle for avenues of exit and entrance, for roads, for bridges, for means of exchange.


FLATBOAT TRAFFIC         David Lowry, the winter of 1799-1800, built and launched a flatboat up Mad River, near Donnel’s Creek, and brought her to Dayton to load.  Her timbers were heavy hewed oak plank, fastened to the frame with wooden pins.  She was ready for the spring freshet with a load of grain, pelts and 500 venison hams.  After a trip of two months, Lowry reached New Orleans, where he sold cargo and boat, and returned overland on horseback.

     New Orleans was practically the sole market for the surplus goods not only of Dayton and the Miami Valley, but of all western towns and regions.  The streams and rivers were the sole highways of any importance.  Each spring the flatboats came out of the small western streams on the freshets, laden with produce, and arrived about the same time at New Orleans, glutting the market with cargoes.

     Trade down the Big Miami by flatboats increased year by year.  Boats were built in the winter, and launched with the spring rise.  Broadwell’s big red warehouse stood for many years on the river bank at the head of Wilkinson.  Here was a busy scene while flatboats were loading their cargoes of pork, flour, grain, pelts and whisky, awaiting high water.  The whole fleet would start at one time.  The trip down to the Ohio river took almost a week’s time, and sometimes three weeks; and to New Orleans took from seven to ten weeks.

     Continued efforts were made to have the Miami made safer for the boats.  It was a hazardous trip down to the Ohio, and as settlers along the banks persisted in building dams and fish-traps on which many a flatboat came to grief, there were frequent battles between the boatmen who sought to destroy the dams, and the owners who defended their property.


OVERLAND TRAFFIC     If means of export from Dayton were inadequate, means of import were worse.  Whatever supplies were brought to the settlement came overland on packhorses or up the river in dugouts.  It was nearly a week’s trip up from Cincinnati by a packhorse and ten days by river.  Flour cost $5.00 a hundred weight and $2.50 additional for transportation.

     Goods for Dayton merchants were brought from Philadelphia to Pittsburg in covered Conestoga wagons, thence by river to Cincinnati in “broad-horns” –flatboats—and then either poled up the Miami or carried on pack-horse.  A common sight was long files of horses, led by a bell-horse, each carrying 200 pounds, accompanied by three or four men equipped with rifle, ax and blanket.

     Occasionally Dayton merchants purchased groceries brought up from New Orleans to Cincinnati in keelboats.

     In 1816 a line of keelboats began carrying grain and other products up the Miami to Loramie, where the freight was transhipped to other boats on the Maumee, which carried it to Toledo.  This represented a great effort to develop means of exchange.  Sunday, March 27, 1825, twenty laden flatboats started south from the Water street landing.  February 26, 1827, twelve boats started down laden with grain, flour and whisky.  The last boat to carry freight south by river left in February, 1828. After that the canal was used.  Freight north, however, went by river until 1836 or 1837, when the canal to Piqua was opened.


ROADS     The roads which offered an alternative to river travel and transportation were wretched.  About 1809 they were opened to Piqua, New Lexington, Salem, Greenville, Xenia, Germantown, Lebanon, Franklin and Miamisburg, and two years later a bridlepath was cut to Vincennes, Indiana, 200 miles west.  The State Road, know as “the old Corduroy Road,” which ran east and west through town, was built the same year.  It was a road only in name, almost impassable in wet weather.  Mud holes and low places were filled with poles which floated on the ooze and through which the horses’ hoofs sunk.

     In the War of 1812, three roads used by the army were put and kept in fairly good condition.  With this exception, till 1839, when the turnpike era began, it was difficult to drive or ride.  Even in more thickly settled regions roads were poor. Journeys east, to buy goods or visit, were made on horseback with clothes packed in saddlebags, babies slung in nets about the rider’s neck and resting on the pommel.  The bridgeless streams had to be forded. It was necessary to carry arms, as the way led for miles through unbroken forests, marked only by blazed trees, where Indians and wild beasts lurked.  Travelers camped for the night.  Public conveyances were unknown.


FERRIES     There were no bridges over the Miami or Mad river at Dayton in 1805.  But there were two ferries constructed by private enterprise.  One was at the foot of First street at the old ford on the road to Salem; the other at the foot of Fourth street on the road to Germantown.  In low water travelers forded and saved their money.  High water and rains were the joy of ferry-boat owners.

     Ferry rates were fixed by the county commissioners.  Even at that early date it was found necessary to exercise state regulation of private enterprise in public utilities; else the traveling public would have been at the mercy of ferry-boat profiteers.  The fare for a loaded wagon and team was 75 cents; empty, 50 cents; two-wheeled carriage, 37½  cents, man and horse, 12½ cents; person afoot, 6¼ cents.

     In 1814 Charles Tull established another ferry, at the head of Ludlow street.

     But ferries are inferior to bridges as means of travel; they are slow, expensive, and unable to accommodate any considerable number.  The demand of the people in and around Dayton, as soon as the town began to grow, was for bridges.  In the commercial slump following the War of 1812, Dayton business men with their enlarged facilities for trade, sought to extend the tributary region of the town.


PRIVATE ENTERPRISE IN BRIDGES     Private enterprise tried to meet the demand.  The rapid current of Mad river made it unsuitable either for fording or for manipulating a ferry.  The merchants very much wanted a bridge there.  A meeting was called at Grimes’ tavern, and a committee headed by D. C. Cooper appointed to raise subscriptions and superintend the structure.  But private enterprise failed.  The plan was abandoned.  The next year, 1817, the County built the Mad river bridge.  The contract was let to William Fannum at $1,400.  It was located where Taylor street now is. Presumably travel upon it was free.

     Private enterprise succeeded better at the other end of town.  A stock company was formed and a bridge built to the north shore of the Miami, where the Dayton View bridge now stands.  It was a toll bridge, opened for business in January, 1819.

     Bridge-toll was a reduction from ferry rates: For a loaded wagon and team, 12½ cents; empty, 6¼ cents; two-wheeled carriage, 6¼ cents; man and horse, 3 cents; person afoot, 2 cents.

     This improved and cheaper service confiscated the business of the ferry and destroyed the private property of the ferry-owner.  But as it did it by competition, to the private profit of other capitalists, the sacred rights of private property were not infringed.

     Price-fixing by business men who have discovered the mutual disadvantage of competition is not new.  In 1815 competing lines in Dayton established the following rates: Trip to Cincinnati, 75 cents; return, $1.00; Urbana to Dayton or return, $1.00; Dayton to Piqua or return, 75 cents; 4-horse load of gravel, 50 cents; 2-horse load of gravel, 25 cents.


STAGE COACHES     In May, 1817, a Mr. Lyon began making weekly trips with passengers from Dayton to Cincinnati and return.  He continued only for the summer.   But June 2, John H. Piatt, of Cincinnati, and the ever-enterprising D. C. Cooper, started a stage-line between the two towns.  The stage left Cincinnati, Tuesday evenings and stayed overnight at Hamilton, and arrived at Dayton Wednesday evening.  Fare was 8 cents a mile, with 14 pounds baggage allowance for each passenger.

     In the spring of 1820, John Crowder, a Dayton colored barber, with Jacob Musgrove, another colored man as his partner, started a 12-horse coach between Dayton and Cincinnati.

     In 1822, Timothy Squier had a stage-line running to Cincinnati.  Worden & Huffman had a line to Columbus, which connected there with a stage line to Sandusky.

     Those were the days when enterprising little capitalists were launching into the transportation business.  Towns everywhere were crying out for traveling and freighting facilities.  In May, 1827, the Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, and Portland (on Lake Erie) tri-weekly line of mail coaches began running through from Cincinnati to the lake in four days.   In June, 25 coaches were started daily, each way.  At Portland they connected with steamers for Detroit and Buffalo.  At Mt. Vernon, Ohio, they connected with a stage-line for Cleveland.  Fare from Cincinnati to Dayton was $3.00; to Columbus, $6.00; to the lake, $12.00.  The Dayton promoters of this enterprise were H. G. Phillips, who had greatly improved his fortunes during the War of 1812, and Timothy Squier.

     In 1828, just before the canal opened, stage lines were in operation in all directions.  Each week 20 regular coaches arrived in Dayton.


CHANGED FOUNDATIONS     Those who do not realize how economic foundations change and how civilizations based upon them wax and wane, should look at the river bank at the head of Wilkinson street, where less than a century ago merchants, farmers, millers, distillers, and teamsters were busily and boisterously loading the big fleet of 20 flatboats bound for New Orleans. When once the whole town swarmed to help or watch the feverish activities on which their year’s prosperity depended, where the air resounded to cries of drivers and clerks, rattle of wagons, clatter of hoofs, and dull thumping of slabs of bacon, barrels of whisky, pork, and flour falling upon the gangplanks and being rolled into boats, across the planks of the big red warehouse—the old residence district has quietly closed in and buried all in oblivion.

     Or let them go to “the north side of Main-Cross street east of Jefferson,” where once the stage coaches dashed in with fanfare of horns and crack of whips—stand there and muse upon the havoc time has wrought upon old plans of enterprise.

     With the advent of the canal and development of water-power came a new era in Dayton, based upon a new productive force.  The old hand-tool period was ended; the civilization built upon it rapidly crumbled and gave place to new.





     Dayton had no governmental structure until 1798.

     A political system grows out of social needs as they develop out of economic relationships.  Among the earliest settlers the individualism and isolation meant an absence of social life and social relationships.  Their occasional contact with their fellows created a few frictions, but they got along fairly well without a political apparatus for defining their respective rights and duties.  Land titles were based on “tomahawk right”—the blazing of trees around a claim—or “squatter right”—actual settlement.  Such claims were bought and sold even after Symmes’ purchase.  Little or no money was in circulation.  Trading was by barter: ginseng, beeswax, pelts were a sort of currency.

     In 1799 D. C. Cooper was appointed Justice of the Peace for Dayton township by the authorities at Cincinnati.  Political power naturally gravitated towards Cooper, as he was the nearest resemblance to a big landowner and capitalist.


BUILDING THE POLITICAL APPARATUS     In 1802 Ohio was made a state, and Montgomery county was carved out of a vast ill-defined territory within Hamilton county.

     Race history and tradition have nearly as much influence as economic necessity in determining the form of political apparatus which is to enable a community to move freely within its economic relationships.  A political machinery adapted from that of New England and developed in the course of many years’ experience in the eastern states, was created by legislative act.

     On notice from the constable, Jerome Holt, the inhabitants of Dayton township convened at the Newcom Tavern 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 1803 Dayton was selected for countyseat of the new county.  This state-aid fell to it because it had a good tavern, a prime necessity when courts traveled on horseback around the circuit, attended by officers, bar, and litigants.  Besides, the hustling D. C. Cooper offered to donate two lots for the county buildings, and the successive courthouses and jails have stood there, on the northwest corner of Main and Third


     At the time this artificial stimulus was given, Dayton was on the downgrade, half of its cabins empty, only twenty-two persons living at the town.

     But the gift of the countyseat meant a big push towards a bigger future.  The county business brought here drained the whole county for the benefit of Dayton: new buildings, more tavern trade, more travel.


PRIVATE OWNERSHIP OF POSTAL SERVICE     In 1804 a federal postoffice was established, with Benjamin Van Cleve as postmaster.  It was in his cabin at the southeast corner of First and St. Clair streets.  The only mail was once in two weeks by post-rider from Cincinnati.  People from as far north as Fort Wayne had to come to Dayton for their mail.  Other routes were established later.  In 1808 a committee of citizens employed William George to carry the mail to Urbana; they were required to raise a fund, but the Postmaster General agreed to allow towards the expense all that was paid for postage, etc.  Private enterprise was relied upon for many years to carry the mails.  Stamps were not used, but the price for delivery written on the outside of the letter.  Twenty-five cents was the usual price.  It was collected at the receiving end.  Nothing but bitter experience of the inefficiency and extravagance of private enterprise convinced the American people of the need of government ownership and operation of the mails.

     But the postoffice meant an additional artificial stimulus for Dayton.  With this state and federal aid it began to grow.  In 1805 Dayton received from the state legislature a town charter.


THE FIRST LAW-MAKING BODY     This first charter provided for the election of seven trustees as a “Select Council,” an assessor, collector, supervisor, and town marshal.  The council was to elect from its membership its “President,” who corresponded to our modern Mayor.  It also appointed a Treasurer.

     The voting franchise was limited to landholders who had lived in the town six months.  And landholders alone were eligible for public office.

     The ruling class in early Ohio so far as classes existed, was of course the landholders; it was natural for them to restrict the ballot and the right of holding public office to their own class.  But while such a restricted suffrage in modern Dayton would make an intolerable oligarchy, excluding nine-tenths of the people, it was not so in 1805.  It was a land-owning community.  Renters were almost unknown.


TAXES     This simple political apparatus was sufficient for the simple needs of the little rural town.  One important safeguard was not overlooked: the right of the taxpayers to determine the taxes.  That was a right for which they and their fathers had shed their blood in the War of Independence.  Accordingly the charter provided for an annual May meeting of citizens, at which, along with election of town officials, the voters should discuss and determine the amount of taxes to be raised for the ensuing year for town expenses.  It was direct legislation, and as near to democracy in government as could well be devised.

     But the “Dayton spirit” with regard to taxes was early in evidence.  Summoned to meet August 10, 1805, to vote taxes, our gallant sires failed to appear.

     Summoned a second time, for August 28, again they evinced their lack of civic pride by staying away.

     A third summons brought them together January 2, 1806, when they voted $86.  But the legality of this being questioned, they met again January 11, and defeated a revised estimate of $72 by 17 votes to 11.  Town government was evidently thought a luxury beyond their means.

     February 24, 1807, a special meeting voted a $300 tax, which was later held illegal.  At the annual May election a tax was again voted down, 29 votes to 14.  They were for the defense of the pocket and not one cent for public improvements.


ASSESSMENTS     But some improvements had to be made.  The town was growing; stores and traffic were increasing; the streets were bogs after the spring rains.  So in June, 1807, the “Select Council” by ordinance required gravel walks to be made on Water (now Monument) and Main streets.  The cost was assessed against the property-holders thus “benefited.”

     The great American system of “special assessments” for improvements is the child of American hostility to taxes.  Social needs  will be served, if not in one way, in another.  The taxpayer fights taxes lest he pay for other people’s benefits; so he must shoulder huge “assessments” levied to construct sidewalks, gutters, sewers, streets, etc., called “benefits” to his property, but really for the benefit of the public.  There is much in a name, to American wits.


A HOLD UP     The town government needed funds.  A bright mind hit on a prolific source.  An ordinance was passed making it unlawful for hogs to run at large in the streets.  Gathered in a pound, these hogs unless speedily redeemed by the owner, were sold and the booty paid into the town treasury.  As most of the stray hogs belonged to neighboring farmers, it was a tribute levied upon the surrounding country, in the spirit of Robin Hood.

     In May, 1808, the citizens again voted down a tax.  But they had to come to it.  A “town plow” was needed for the streets, and a wooden causeway over the gully at the south end of Main street.


SOCIAL SENSE     May 28, 1808, they met again and voted $400.  In the good, thorough school of experience—the only school American voters will learn in—they were getting social sense.

     It was the first step in a long, long climb up the hill of social vision.  They were to learn by innumerable hard knocks the inadequacy of private enterprise in one line of activity after another: streets, bridges, highways, water supply, levees, schools, mail delivery, fire protection—until at last the great questions of collectiveownership of basic industries should loom like dark shadowy mountains above the horizon.

     Council meetings for the first ten years were held at the residences of the members.


THE DAY OF PRIVATE ENTERPRISE     The civic problems confronting our fathers were not ours.  Everything was left to private and individual enterprise: garbage removal, sanitary sewerage, water, light, school, police, street cleaning.  There was no fire department; in case of fire, everybody volunteered bringing his own pail.  Private enterprise is adequate for the needs of only small rural communities.

     The annual meeting for fixing taxes was held until 1814, when the town had grown to 500 inhabitants.  This, too, is a method possible only for small communities.


EARLY NEWSPAPERS     A partial substitute for such town meetings was the newspaper.  In 1806 Noah Crane, of Lebanon, tried to start a weekly at Dayton, but fell sick and quit.  In 1808 a weekly newspaper, “The Repository,” was launched; it lasted 14 months.  There was very little local news in it.  Foreign news, several months old, chiefly French, filled its columns.  The brilliant military career of Napoleon Bonaparte was then dazzling the popular eye.

     July 26, 1810, Isaac G. Burnett started the “Ohio Centinel,” a weekly sheet, which supported the Jeffersonian “Republican” party, but without excessive partisan zeal.  Its motto: “with slight shades of difference, we have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles,”—was well adapted to the small frontier hamlet far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife.


PARTISAN POLITICS     There were no economic inequalities sufficient as yet to form a basis for fierce partisan politics. Not until 1811 was there even a partisan division on politics; and then it came over the impending War of 1812.  The custom had been on the Fourth of July to assemble the citizens, march in parade with Revolutionary veterans in front, have the Declaration of Independence read, and all sit down under leafy bowers to a public dinner where patriotic toasts were drunk and patriotic speeches made.  But the Jeffersonians and Federalists in 1811, drawn into the national debate on whether to declare war on Great Britain, got so wrought up they held two separate dinners.


THE FIRST MOB     Passion was roused that year, too, over some Shakers who were living in the town.  It is our American instinct always to have some object of our ignorant misunderstanding.  In those days, before there were Abolitionists or Socialists, it was the Shakers.  Any group who advocate a better system of property relations must face one hundred per cent Americanism in the form of mobs organized by the vigilant property-holders.

     The Shakers, a harmless communistic sect, aroused the righteous indignation of our virtuous Christians in Dayton, whose worship of the Scriptures did not include the communistic table and common ownership practiced by the early Christians.    

      The night of May 3, 1811, a cowardly mob of Dayton Christians and property- holders attacked the Shakers.  There was no protection for the victims, no punishment for the lawless assailants; the shield of the law, as always, was only for the dominant element in the community.

     Just how much damage was done to the helpless Shakers and their property is not recorded; but the Shakers bravely refused to leave town although repeatedly warned thereafter in the newspaper.


LOCAL ISSUES     After the War of 1812 and the marked impetus it gave to the economic inequalities of the people, partisan politics emerged.  But at first the local political struggle confined itself mainly to the site for the markethouse.  “Cabintown,” so called because of its poorer quality of dwellings, lay south of Third street.  The people in “Cabintown” wanted the markethouse in their quarter; but the first one was erected on Second street between Main and Jefferson, and opened July 4, 1815.  The struggle was kept up, however, and ended July 27, 1829, when the new markethouse was fixed in its present location south of Third street.

     The first market ordinance took effect April 1, 1816.  It shows the influence of the local storekeepers in minimizing the farmers’ competition.  It forbade the sale of butter, cheese, eggs, poultry, fresh meat, and vegetables within the corporation bounds on any other than market days—Wednesdays, and Saturdays.  But beef by the quarter or 50 pounds of pork could be sold at any time.  No Chamber of Commerce had yet been formally organized, but it is evident the “business interests” as always knew how to protect themselves.


THE SCHOOL PROBLEM     The school question thrust itself forth.  It could not be left entirely to private enterprise.  In March, 1806, Council provided by ordinance for the election annually by school patrons of a School Board of five trustees.  Although there were no free or “public” schools in the modern sense, it was sought to regulate them.  Parents paid $2.00 a term for each pupil entered.  The School Board was to examine, approve, and remove teachers, attend each school at least once a quarter, investigate the mode of tuition and progress, and see that proper school buildings were maintained and firewood furnished, at the expense of the subscribers.

     After Benjamin Van Cleve’s school in the blockhouse, Cornelius Westfall opened a school in 1804, and after him Swansey Whiting taught a while.  The first schoolhouse built was a log cabin in the brush near the southwest corner of Main and Third streets in 1805.  The Dayton Academy was incorporated in 1807 by Daniel C. Cooper, James Welsh, William McClure, David Reid, John Folkerth, George T. Tennery, Benjamin Van Cleve and James Hanna.  Cooper donated two lots on St. Clair street opposite what is now Cooper Park.  And there in 1808 a two-story brick building with a cupola and bell was erected.  It was the only boys’ school in Dayton for many years.  Finally it passed from private to public enterprise, and merged in the Central High School at Fourth and Wilkinson streets.

     In 1815, Mrs. Dionicile Sullivan opened a school for girls in the house where her husband had a tailor shop.  She taught reading, writing, sewing, lettering with the needle, and painting.


FIRE PROTECTION     Fire protection was another civic problem that thrust itself sharply forth in 1820, when Cooper’s mills burned with 4,000 bushels of wheat and 2,000 pounds of wool.  This matter could no longer be left to private enterprise.  Council provided for ladders which were to hang on the outside of the markethouse; and ordained that each householder should have two leather buckets lettered in white with his name.  In the spring of 1825, H. G. Philllips, when making a trip east to buy merchandise, was given by Council money to buy a fire engine at Philadelphia.

     The fire engine reached Dayton in 1826.  It had to be filled with water by buckets; the water was then forced by a crank through a short hose.  The town marshal was fire chief; a volunteer fire company was formed.  Nobody dreamed as yet of such a radical departure as a municipal fire department with regular employes.  Such a visionary scheme would have been at once condemned by our hard-headed fathers as rank paternalism, sure to destroy individual initiative and incentive, and taxing the prudent for the protection of the careless. 


SPECIAL INTERESTS     On March 13, 1813, like the first faint boding mutter of a distant storm, the “mechanics of Dayton” met at McCullum’s brick tavern, southwest corner of Main and Second streets, to form a “mechanics’ society.”  What came of the meeting is not recorded.  It could not have been in the modern sense a labor union.  “Mechanics” of that day in Dayton were not our modern wage-working class.  They were rather a combination of employers and employes.  There was no economic pressure impelling wage-workers to band together for defense against the demands and encroachments of organized employers.  The West, still limitless, called for settlers; it was still draining off constantly the surplus workers.  This scarcity of wage-workers, the constantly increasing number of small enterprises, compelled employers to bid against each other in hiring men who could handle tools.  A good tool-user was as independent and perhaps as well paid as the majority of employers—for there was no economic foundation for large enterprises, no rapid and large production of goods, no way of transporting large supplies to market, no market for large production.   

     In a word, the old feudal division of society into classes had never made an impression in America; machinery had not yet in its turn cleft society into clearly distinguishable classes.  The social system, it is true, was one of inherent antagonisms; already were distinguishable in Dayton the well-to-do and the poor; some were outstripping the others in the race for wealth.  But in this vast new country the struggle was not yet so much a struggle of men against men, but of men against nature; they emulated one another in seizing the natural resources, in wresting abundance from soil, woods, rocks, and waters.

     The day would come when they would fight savagely to get or retain possession of the means of production and distribution, as men swarming upon a raft too small to hold them all, fight for foothold to avoid perishing.  But that day was not yet.


EQUAL OPPORTUNITY     It was an era, still, of practical economic equality.  There was plenty of elbow-room for any man, every incentive for individual energy and enterprise.  All that men asked was access to the natural resources in order that they might produce and exchange, and this they had.

     On that broad staple basis of economic equality and liberty, there was small need for interference of government; there was no oppressed class—at least in the North—to be held down, no discussion dangerous to the governing class to be suppressed, no cry of justice to be strangled, no special privileges to be buttressed against popular protest by laws, courts, constables, and soldiery.

     Accordingly there was a small need of government at all; and so it was the era in which Thomas Jefferson proclaimed his famous rule of laissez faire: “that government is best which governs least.”

     It was wisdom of a wise man speaking to his day and generation.

     Fools take the wisdom the of the wise for absolute and eternal truth; they would strangle the future by binding it in rules of government too narrow for its enlarged activities.

     The wisdom of Jefferson, translated into the age of great machine-production and agglomerated capital, was destined to become blind folly.

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