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Why Dayton Became a Big City
by Charles F. Sullivan
     I have always wondered why Dayton should have become a large city, while many others founded at the same time, remain small towns.
     Little York, eight miles north of there was founded in 1817 and a distillery built there and the whisky hauled to Cincinnati, bringing back supplies, in a four horse wagon, taking a week to make the round trip, yet that town would still be small except that it is now building as a suburb of Dayton.  I was told of a man trading a piece of ground in lower Riverdale, for a piece near Brookville and thought he had made a good trade, but today the land up there is of no more value now, while this is built up solid and lies close to the business district.
     Why did this happen?
     Dayton was founded April 1st 1796, and we have had many problems to solve and set backs to make right, yet we are still going forward.
     We have always used the best plan at the time, but when a better plan was found, we discarded the old and used the new plan, thus making great progress.  Three parties left Cincinnati on March 21st to settle the new town of Dayton, two of them going by land and one by water.  The boat went down the Ohio and then up the Miami, going through many hardships but arrived at the head of St Clair street April 1st 1796.  The other two parties came by different roads arriving four days later, for they had bridges to build, brush to cut, in order to reach this place.   When they arrived, their work was just beginning, for while game was plentiful, yet grain and vegetables had to be grown, which took considerable time.  Protection had to be made for the women and children, for much bad weather was to be expected.  Log houses were the easiest to build and we have “The Newcom Tavern” as a sample of what was generally used.
     Roads had to be made, lots cleared and springs found and cleaned out for immediate use and a crop placed in the ground for the next winter’s food, and hundreds of other things to do.
     There were just 36 people in this colony counting men, women and children and coming 56 miles from supplies and civilization, also help if needed, for only the year before had Gen Wayne signed the treaty with the Indians at Greenville, and there was a doubt as to their carrying out their part of the treaty.
     These women showed much courage in coming here when no preparations had been made to receive them, determined to make it their home, but if sickness or other troubles came they were a long distance from help if needed.  All had confidence in the enterprise and were bound to be successful regardless of cost, and this spirit and this spirit has been in those who followed.
     John Cleves Symmes, for a small town was named Symmes Corner, just south of Hamilton, had bought all the land between the Great and Little Miami rivers, from the Ohio river upon the south to far above Dayton.  He had interested with him, Jonathan Dayton, an engineer and signer of the constitution of the U. S. who drew the plan for the City, also three army men, Arthur St Clair, Israel Ludlow and James Wilkinson, in the settlement of this City, and it was named after Mr Dayton.  After a few houses were built and other work done, it was learned that Symmes claim to the land was not good and that he was unable to give a good deed for the land he had contracted to sell to the settlers.  This started the first panic that Dayton experienced, some of the settlers gave up and moved away, giving up all claim to their homes, while new settlers coming through and hearing of the trouble, went on to other places.  Daniel Cooper went to Washington and got Congress to pass a law March 2 1799, that all who had a contract with Mr Symmes dated the first year of the settlement, could get a deed for the property for $2.00 per acre in three installments and a land office was established in Cincinnati where the colonists could make payments for their homes.  Cooper accomplished a big thing for the new city, but as he was a very practical man, he bought up much land, in the most desirable localities so he benefited himself in the matter.  He first built a saw mill upon Rubicon creek, near the present site of the N.C.R. Co.  Later selling to Col Robert Patterson in 1804 the mill and land.  He then built a saw, grist and fulling mill at the junction of Mill and Water sts (Now called Monument) and placed Robert Edgar in charge of them on a commission basis.  To operate this mill, he built a dam across Madriver close to what is now the corner of Keowee and First, and paralleled the river to his mills with a race and after using the water he wasted it down a ditch following Patterson blvd closely.
     To protect his mills, he also built a levee along Madriver which the next high water took away, in 1805.  These mills made living conditions easier and also made employment for the men, and of course that drew more settlers here and more factories were locating here.
     In 1812, war broke out between Great Britain and the U.S. and many soldiers were located here before being sent on to the north into the war.  While here they had to be fed, and Mr Cooper offered them work digging a race from the one just mentioned to the present Wyandot and Fourth streets where he located a saw mill, and probably other mills opened there.  Cooper died and a year after his mills burned down but were rebuilt soon after.  Transportation was slow and expensive and Judges Crane and Steele led in promoting a canal to run from here to Cincinnati, and referred to the Erie canal in New York state, which was building up that state rapidly.  They went down the valley speaking at Miamisburg, Franklin, Middletown and Hamilton and then to the State Legislature and the canal was approved and ordered built.
     This was started in 1825 and finished in 1829, using the mill race to fill it at this end.  With no experience, and lots of new problems to face, few tools and teams to do the work, I think they did a wonderful job to move all that dirt, bridge many creeks, and build locks to raise the boats from one level to another, and many other things to overcome.  As soon as it was complete, boats began running and carrying freight and passengers.  It was considered wonderful that people could go through to Cincinnati in 24 hours, and sleep all night while going, thus avoiding two days on horse back.
     This, of course put some teams out of work, for it required three days to take a load of goods to Cincinnati by wagon, but that was progress.  The census of Dayton in 1796 was 36 people and some of them settled out in the country, in 1810, there were 383, in 1820, 1139 and just before starting the canal in 1825, 1168, and in 1830, after the canal was complete, 2954, more than doubling the population in five years.  This showed that employment will bring people to cities where it can be had.
     When the canal was complete to Dayton, it showed the need of transportation to Toledo and the lakes and to get through Dayton required considerable re-location of water ways.  Originally the canal came up what is now Patterson blvd to Third street, but soon it was extended to First, making it wide enough to turn boats there and it was called “The Basin”.  The original canal branched off at Sixth street, using the right of way of the elevated tracks as far as First street and then straight on to the aquaduct, the stone work of which still shows in Madriver, and a levee had to be built above the aquaduct to prevent damage to the canal.  In 1842, the bed of Madriver was straightened as it is at present and in 1845 the canal was extended parallel to the river from the basin to the aquaduct, thus avoiding stagnant water in the basin.  The original canal was made a race, and all boats came by the new route, and a new dam was located above Findlay street to fill both the race and canal.
     This race furnished much power to factories between Fifth and Sixth streets and an extension was made paralell to Wyandot street to Third and wasted the water into the canal.
     All the space upon the east side of the canal from Third to Sixth was available for factory sites with water power, and all was in use too.
     Also a race was run under Fifth street to serve the Phillips Cotton mill and Durst and Kratochwill flour mills.  All of the above power was made available because of a lock located just above Fifth street, with a drop of 12 feet for the water power.
     In 1830, Judge Steele built a dam in the Miami, since re-built and called the Island Park Dam, with a race going down what is now the Great Miami Blvd, and emptying into the Miami again after serving as water power for several shops located close to the river.
     Also at the foot of Ludlow street, there were quite a number of mills taking water from the canal and wasting it into the river, furnishing them their power.  Mr Henry Leatherman built a dam in Madriver, just above the Eastwood Park in 1812, and he brought the water to the Focke Packing Co, then south and along the edge of the hill to Harbine street, where he operated a saw mill.  In 1844, the Dayton Hydraulic Co was incorporated by Horatio Phillips, Daniel Beckel, and F.D. Edgar, and this hydraulic was extended along the edge of the hill to Beckel street where it formed a T and furnished power to all factories along Front street and along First to Beckel.
     This water was wasted into the canal and went down to Fifth street where it was used again and then to Ludlow where it was used a third time.  In 1846, John W. Van Cleve said, “There were two flour mills, 4 Saw mills, 2 oil mills, 3 cotton mills, 2 woolen mills, 2 paper mills, 5 machine shops, 1 gin barrel factory and 3 foundries.”
     All these factories used water power, and men coming here found work and settled here and the census of 1840 shows over 6000 people and 1850, 11,000, and 1860, 20,000, almost doubling every ten years.
     Up until 1860 there was only one way to get power, and that was water but during dry seasons and high waters, there was a probability of more or less of a shut down.
     The first railroad to be chartered in Ohio was the Madriver & Lake Erie in 1832, starting from Sandusky, through Bellevue, Bellefontaine, Urbana to Springfield and there the money ran out.  It began operation from Springfield north on Aug 10, 1846, leaving Dayton to get along with the old canal as their only means of transportation.
     The Little Miami railroad started from Cincinnati in 1840 and reached Xenia in 1845 and Springfield in 1846, making connections through to Sandusky, in less time than it would take us to go to Cincinnati by canal.  Dayton, that had been making such good progress, had allowed a railroad to run right around us, were we asleep?
     Xenia was only 14 miles away and a good walker could walk there in 4 hours and then by train in 5 hours and still beat the canal more than a half day in time.  Daniel Beckel, T.J. Smith, E. E. Barney and F. D. Edgar and others got busy and subscribed the money to build to Springfield and join the Madriver & Lake Erie.
     This was complete in the spring of 1851, and began operation at once, but since the engines and cars were very small, they did not give the canal a scare.  In 1852, the Cincinnati Hamilton and Dayton was built to Dayton and in 1853 the Dayton & Western, the Dayton & Xenia, and the Greenville and Miami, now the D & G, came here and we became a railroad center almost over night.  These four roads built a union depot where the present station is now located and it was used until 1896, when it was torn down to make space for the present station.  The Dayton & Michigan, always a close ally of the C H & D, and now a part of it in the B & O system, was finished to Toledo in 1859.  The Atlantic and Great Western, now the Erie, and a broad gauge 6 feet wide, was complete in 1864, and by laying a third rail along the C H & D went on to Cincinnati and there connected with the Ohio & Mississippi, running to St Louis.  By this time the State was beginning to feel the effect of the railroads upon their business.
     About this time, Clarke & Hawes built a paper mill in North Dayton (then called Texas) at the aquaduct and Madriver and getting power and shipping from the canal.  The Dayton Gas Light Co was incorporated in1848 and built their plant at Monument and the canal, to make gas out of grease and light the streets and residences with the gas laying iron pipes in the streets to carry the gas.  The gas did not prove a success nor did the company receive enough to pay expenses, so they remodeled their plant and made gas out of coal which they probably bought in Cincinnati and shipped here by canal.
     In 1849 the Car shop was incorporated, buying all the land between the old and new beds of Madriver and east of Keowee street.
     This became the largest industry of Dayton for many years and during the World war employed 4,000 men building cars and making ammunition.
     The Civil war came along in 1861 and for four years, we were all upset with it, for our citizens were not as loyal to the government as we should have been.   Our Congressman, Vallandingham, was replaced by a strong federal man, Gen Robert C. Schenck, and Vallandingham continued with his treasonable work, was arrested and sent through the lines to the Confederates.  This did not satisfy him for he went to Windsor Canada by way of the Bermuda Islands and the St Lawrence River and coming to Hamilton Ohio June 15 1864 to make a speech, and then coming back to Dayton to live, after being banished from it.
     During his absence from the country, he became the candidate for Governor of Ohio on the democratic ticket but was badly defeated by Gov Brough, a democrat running upon the republican ticket.  After Mr Vallandingham was arrested, a mob was formed the next night and stormed the Journal office and burned it to the ground.  Major Bickham was with the army in Tennessee and was asked to come to Dayton and take over the ruins and run a loyal paper.  He came and while looking it over was approached by two men who gave him a half hour to get out of town but instead of going he used his fists and they disappeared.
     The Atlantic & Great Western road was placed in the hands of a receiver in 1867 and since they were a broad gauge, a hoist was placed in the east yards where freight cars were hoisted and the trucks changed from standard to broad gauge as needed, allowing them to proceed to their destination on either gauge of trucks. In 1874, the road was made a standard gauge and was known as the New York Pennsylvania & Ohio, the New York Lake Erie and Western and now the Erie.  The Madriver & Lake Erie merged with other lines and took the name of C C C & L and extended to Cincinnati making two lines to that place.
     The census of 1870 gave us 30,700 and 1880, 38,700. 
     A new kind of light was being demonstrated, produced by electricity jumping from one carbon point to another in a little shop on east First opposite Madison and Dr. J. E. Lowes a practicing physician got interested in it and secured a contract from the city to light many of the streets with it in 1883.  They located their plant to generate this electricity at the lower end of the Dayton View hydraulic, using water power mostly but as the lights must burn every night, a steam stationary engine was also located there ready for instant use.  This was a success and the City increased their contract soon.
     The incandescent bulb was invented soon and there was a great demand for them, but they were a bit expensive.  It was soon found that their plant was too small and in1886 they bought a place on E Fourth and moved there.  They used 110 volts direct current, and it was found to be very convenient to be close to their customers (for there were no autos at that time) so if trouble developed, they could have a man on the job very quickly.  Soon after bulbs were improved and the cost was lower and because of their convenience, all stores adopted them and private residences also.  The lighting Co. was compelled to increase their plant every little while until the Fourth street was too small.
     About this time it was found that alternating current at high voltage could be transported long distances with very little friction on a small wire, so an entire new system was planned.
     A large piece of ground at Miller’s ford was bought and the entire system was changed to carry the electricity at 6600 volts.
     This required placing a transformer every little way to reduce the juice to 110 volts, and that took lots of time to make the change and get the new machinery needed.  This new plan was hardly in working order, when factories began discarding their steam power plants and buying their power from the Electric Co for it was very convenient and clean and when all was considered, was about as cheap as their own plant.  This has made it necessary for them to add to their plant continually, for nearly every house is lighted and every factory is getting their power from it.
     December 13, 1844 was a red letter day for Dayton, although very few of our people could tell you the reason why.  John H. Patterson was born that day just south of Dayton and close to the point of Far Hills and Oakwood Avenues.  His Grand Parents owned a large tract of land, 2417 acres, extending from the top of the Germantown pike hill almost to the Dayton State Hospital, including the site of the present National Cash Register Co.  There were ten children in the family, and his father, Jefferson Patterson, married Miss Julia Johnston of Piqua, daughter of Col John Johnston, Indian Agent for the U.S. Government at that place.  Jefferson and his wife moved out onto that farm and raised quite a large family there.  John was obliged to do much of the work about the farm and these duties increased as he grew older.  His early education was received in a brick school not far from home and after that he attended the Central High School then located at the S W Corner of Fourth and Wilkinson.  Then he went to Miami University Oxford but in the middle of it he enlisted in the army for the Civil War.
     After his discharge from the army, he went back and finished his course there and went to Dartmouth for two years.  Upon his return, he was unable to find any work so stayed upon the farm as a farm hand for a couple of years.  Later he was appointed as Canal collector and his office was upstairs at Third street Canal bridge.
     This required him to be on the job almost 24 hours per day and 7 days per week, so he slept in his office so as to be on hand when needed.
     His duties were not hard and to assist his meager salary, he put up a sign, “COAL FOR SALE,” and out of this he would get a small commission.  Soon a neighboring coal dealer wanted to sell out and Mr. Patterson bought the yard and ran it as the Patterson Coal Co with the office at the corner of Third and Kenton where the C & L E bus depot now stands and probably bought his coal by canal from Cincinnati.  In 1876 he resigned as Canal Collector and took his brother Stephen in as a partner.  The business increased continually and after a while the brother started an independent office near the Union Depot and ran it as the S. J. Patterson Coal Co and it is still operating as wholesale business under the same name today.
     While in the coal business, what would be more natural than the brothers would learn of a seam of coal in Jackson county, just 100 miles from here, that would burn as well as wood and leave almost no soot or ash?  Why not promote a railroad to it and get an option upon some of the land and when the road was complete to open and mine the coal?
     The railroad was built as a narrow gauge, three feet wide, through Xenia, Washington C H. Chillicothe and was complete to Wellston June 30, 1880 and coal began coming to Dayton at once.  S. J. Patterson operated the Tom Corwin Co at Glen Roy while John & Frank had one mine at Coalton and another at Wellston.  Theodore Fluhart went to Wellston, working for the Wellston Coal Co, but later opened three mines under the name of the Fluhart coal Co.
     About the same time the Ohio Southern was built as a standard gauge road to Ironton and was later taken over by Henry Ford and extended to Detroit as the Detroit Toledo and Ironton.
     The coal was everything that was claimed for it and Dayton became known as a Jackson coal burning town, and very little soot was seen in the air over this city.  As the Dayton & Southeastern was a narrow gauge road, the cars only had a capacity of 12 tons and the locomotives were small and could only haul about 25 cars in a train and the cars could not go off that road, so that was quite a handicap.
     The Patterson boys operated a store at both Coalton and Wellston and they suspected a leak in their stores and bought a cast register for each of the stores, and they soon proved their value and then they bought them for their coal offices here.  They then invested in the Standard Register Co but after a year it did not show the proper results, so they sold out of it.  In the spring of 1884, J. H. and Frank Patterson sold out their interests in the Mines to the Southern Ohio Coal & Iron Co and the retail yard to the Acme Coal Co and that fall they bought the Standard Register Co and changed the name to the National Cash Register Co.
     At that time the shop was in the Callahan Power Bldg just in the rear of the present Third National bldg and they were using just 13 men its production.  They increased it to 40 men and that was all the space they could get there.  They decided to build their own factory building upon ground that they owned south of the City, but it was necessary to go through Slidertown to get to it.
     It was common report that it was not safe for people to go through that part of town in daylight and was worse at night, but as they owned the ground they went ahead with their plan.  The new factory was of brick, two stories high, 240 feet along Stewart street and 50 feet deep, with many large windows, and it was a fine factory building.  He was ridiculed for building such a large building, and in such a bad location and all his employees would be afraid to come through Slidertown, so he would not be able to get the people necessary to make the factory a success.  They had hardly moved in before they began to feel the effect of Slidertown, for windows were broken, grass dug up and shrubbery and flowers destroyed.  Mr Patterson hired Miss Harvey to work with the boys, providing her with a house to teach them drawing, wood carving, and clay modeling free, and Miss Harvey changed those boys from enemies to warm friends of the NC R.
     In the summer, he gave each boy a plot of ground, furnishing him with tools, seeds and other things needed, and all the boys raised was his own, to use as he wished.  Both of these things were published all over the U.S. more to ridicule J. H. than anything else, but it was advertising the N C. R. just the same.  He was considered a crazy man by many, but he has changed that end of town from a rough place to a beautiful part of the city and is well named South Park.
     Later he built the N.C.R. Schoolhouse and he donated it every Saturday morning to the young people of the City giving them a very educational program and the building was filled to the limit every week, and since this was published as news, it was advertising the Cash at the same time.  It was not long after the first factory was built, that he had to build more and he made them almost all glass, which made them very light and airy in hot weather and this was published as news also that he kept the buildings looking like a park around the outside which was contrary to any other factories near here.  Then he began giving a free program for City Beautification and these programs were given to schools, churches and other places and it did much to make this City the Gem City that it is called.
     One day, seeing a lady employee heating some coffee upon a gas jet in the factory, he asked the fore lady, if it was a special kind of paste she was making for special work, and she was afraid of the consequences, but told him the truth and he went on at once, but came back later and asked her for a more detailed report, then he arranged that those employees should have a warm dinner, by providing them with a stove, and as soon as the results showed its worth, he arranged for the same for all lady employees and later for all employees.
     The Welfare Dept. was started and is still doing many things that no other factory in the country is doing for their employees.
     When the Flood of 1913 hit Dayton, he was at his office early as usual and from his window he could see that trouble was ahead and ordered all his carpenters to make boats for rescue work and for his commissary to stock up with all they could get. When the water came over the levees, he threw his factories open to the public and fed and slept them as long as there was a necessity, for you remember this was March 23 and the weather was very disagreeable.
     The branch of the Penna Railroad coming in past the N C R was the only road entering Dayton that was not cut off by the water, so he was able to get supplies, which he distributed to every place there was need.  At one time, a fire broke out near the corner of Main and Vine and the people became panicky, so J.H. had his locomotive gather up all the flat cars possible and ran them down Main so with a plank people could get onto the cars and from there to solid ground.  He was watching all over town and accomplished much by his zeal and watchfulness.
     The river was hardly in its channel, before he was out for a drive for subscriptions to a fund to survey the Valley and find a plan that would make protection for this City against all future floods.
     This money was raised and the valley was surveyed and the present plan was formed and carried through which will protect us from all floods in the future, we feel sure.
     The Cash was building a new building almost every year, and now it is a large plant and the organization so perfect that after his death May 7, 1922, the factory is still going strong and his policies have been followed in nearly every detail.
     In his death, Dayton suffered a great loss, for he left much work undone which will never be finished by anyone, but the N C R is a fine monument to his memory.  He trained E. A. Deeds for this work and he is now the successor to Mr. Patterson and since he is the originator of the General Motors Co and is very influential member of it, the N C R is working in very close affinity with the G.M. Co.
     S.J. Paterson continued in the coal business and when the mine in Jackson Co. was worked out, he bought and worked mines in both W. Virginia and Kentucky and although he died several years ago, yet his son is operating the mines under the same name The S.J. Patterson Co.
     When coal first began to come out of Jackson Co. the stationary engine had become a cheap and reliable source of power and Brownell, on E. First street was a maker of them.  Then all new factory buildings were built upon the railroads where they could get coal delivered by carload and other shipping at the same time.
     Now let us go back and review.  We had a good leader at the start in Daniel C. Cooper and he was able to bring us out of that first depression.  Being an engineer, he saw the benefit of water to give power for machinery of all kinds, and built a mill at Rubicon creek.
     After selling this to Col. R. Patterson he built a saw and grist mill at Monument and Foundry giving work to the men of Dayton and making living conditions easier, with labor saving machinery.  His planning of the City was fine, and we are proud of the fine wide streets, Cooper or Library Park and many other things.  He was not among the first colonists but followed soon after, with his mind made up to make the settlement a success.  No doubt he had many discouragements in those early days, with transportation a big problem and 60 miles from supplies, with no roads between, yet he went right on believing in the old adage “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
     After his death, his estate was found to be in a doubtful condition, but his executors were able to overcome those difficulties.
     Then the problem of transportation of people and goods was urgent and Judges Steele and Crane began promoting a canal from here to Cincinnati.  The Erie canal was being completed and was showing itself to be of estimable value to the state of New York.
     The citizens of Dayton led by those men asked and received help from the state and work was started in 1825 and finished in 1829.
     This provided a way of getting more water power and soon made Dayton a factory town.  Horatio Phillips, Daniel Beckel, and F.D.Edgar built the Dayton Hydraulic Co. which proved a wonderful assistance in building factories, which in turn did draw many men to Dayton to settle here.  With canal transportation to Cincinnati consuming twenty-four hours each way, and Springfield could get there in six hours by the Little Miami railroad, the promoters of the hydraulic with many others raised the money to build the Madriver & Lake Erie road to this City in 1851. The next year, The C.H. & D. arrived here and started north as the D & M, arriving in 1859 and other new roads came in frequently, making Dayton quite a railroad center.
     Then came the Civil War which took all the vitality of the nation to bring it to a successful end and it was followed by a panic in 1873.
     Then another fine leader cam along in the person of John H. Patterson who brought us a fine supply of coal which we needed badly, displacing the need for water power.  Then he started an infant industry, making a success of it by treating his employees and neighbors as though they were human beings and thus gaining their good will.  For doing this he was severely criticized and called crazy, yet in spite of it he went right along, doing as his conscience dictated and as a result, the N.C.R. has become a well advertised factory all over the world and of course that advertises our city.
     He was the instigator of the move to make Dayton free from floods and found Dr. Arthur Morgan, who has completed the job making us safe from floods forever to the complete satisfaction of all of our people.
     We have had good leaders all along, who used all the resources they had, but were continually looking for a better way to accomplish the necessary work.  Our leaders were wide awake, looking for something new that would build up our city, and when found they were ready to discard the old at once and adopt the new.  Except during the Civil War, I think our leaders have always been ready to cooperate in the up-building of the city and not to allow selfishness to have any part in it.
     God prepared this location as a fine place for people to live, with its abundant water supply for human consumption, agriculture and power, then he sent the colonists and leaders to build this city and solve all their problems, including transportation, and this has brought the people here to live.  However, we are now in a crisis and we must get back to GOD and do it quickly if we expect to get his help in this time of trouble, for without his help, our condition will be deplorable.
                                                                                    Chas. F. Sullivan           July 22, 1942
                                                                                    40 Glenwood                 Dayton, Ohio