By Charles F. Sullivan
One hundred and forty five years ago, a new colony came here to found the new City of Dayton and counting men, women and children, there were only 36 persons in the party, and there were no houses, supplies or any thing else here to aid in their living.
Now there are according to the census of last year 210,718 people living in this city, and in the county including the city, there are 295,480 and as there are few living in the county that are not depending upon the city for their support, is it any wonder that some things that were good at that time, are out of date today?
In that day all travel was by walking or horse power, while today very few horses are used, in that day it took two days to go to Cincinnati, while now it is less than two hours. It is my intention to show why streets run as they do and have the names they do.
In the early days, many of the settlers came here by way of Lebanon, as my Grandfather, his wife and three children did, following the trail about where the present Lebanon pike now runs, to the steep hill in Oakwood and to get into the valley, they followed the edge of the hill and then down what is now Brown Street into the town, by way of Warren Street. That is why there is such a crooked road into Oakwood. In the early days, Warren was laid out as it is today to Oak Street, but from there one it was what is now Brown to the corporation line, is it hard to believe that it took its name from its destination, Warren County? Brown Street at first ran out what is now Morton Avenue to Oak, but later it was extended to the new location and the other was called “Old Brown” and now Morton, and the name of Brown was given to Warren beyond Oak Street to Oakwood.
Other settlers came up the Miami valley and they finished up on the Springboro road, and finding a good ford they crossed the river into Edgemont by what is now “Miller’s ford” (and that is why the power station is called the Millers ford station) and up Cincinnati Street to about 300 feet below the present railroad bridge where there was a good ford, and after getting to higher ground, taking a straight line for the town, and this explains why Perry street is not parallel with the other streets but is exactly north and south.
If the river was high, another road was found going up over the hill through Southern Hills and around to Main Street as it is today, so there were three routes into this city from the south.
The traveler going to Germantown and Eaton would start the same way, down Perry Street and across the ford below the railroad bridge, there he would go almost straight southwest and up over the hills to Germantown, and if going to Eaton he would follow the same route to Eaton Avenue now called McCall, where he would take a straight line to Eaton, Ohio. However now, he would get near the Soldiers home and make a slight bend and then to a stop against the Home grounds. Why?
After the Civil War the Government decided to build the home here and were offered the present grounds for it but as they did not want any roads running through it, it was decided to extend Third Street straight out and as the intersection of the old Eaton Pike was just west of the Home, Third street was made the north boundary of the Home and the old road was discontinued. If you doubt my word just take a city map and lay ruler along the Eaton Pike and see if it does not coincide with McCall Avenue, and this made the detour necessary.
When the railroads came into this city, in 1852, they came west on Sixth Street making a slight bend before crossing the river, and at that bend there was a creek emptying into the river, a culvert was made there large enough for vehicles to go through and that was the first step in over head railroad crossings, and located Longworth Street where it is. From there the traveler would go to the ford and across the river and when the railroad were built, they built a wooden bridge, there but at the west end of the wooden part they built a stone arch for vehicular traffic to go through, so the traveler would go through this and then straight out of Germantown Pike as it is today. This explains why the Germantown Street comes into Dayton, dead ending at the river, with no way of crossing the river.
Later the railroad used this space for a track to unload cars upon, and then the city rented it for coal yard purposes, ending the street at Louie as it is at present. There was a ferry across the river at Fourth Street, after there was enough to use for it, to justify its care and upkeep. Perry Street, south of the railroad, was called prairie, because it divided the Prairie along the river form the city.
General Anthony Wayne, well known general of the Revolutionary War, came into Ohio in 1795, to settle the difficulties with the Indiana and spent a few days east of there and was settled there is known today as Waynesville. After this he came to Dayton (not yet settled) and no doubt he came by the pike now called the Wilmington pike to Dayton and then on down to the present city and that road is now called Wayne Avenue. There is a fork of the road at the Dayton State Hospital, and from there out the Wilmington pike is called Wilmington Avenue when it should be Wayne and the other one carries the name of Wayne. Wayne Avenue goes east about a half mile when it forked again, one road running straight east carries the name of Wayne and ends at the Smithville road and when I was a boy it was just a lane running to a couple of farm houses. The other road is now called Watervleit Avenue and after passing the corporation lines, it is called the Shakertown pike, for it passed the Shakers village.
This was a body of people who were fine people but did not believe in marriage and at that time it seems they were many of them and they bought quite a large tract of land and built a house of brick standing back about a hundred feet from the road, probably having about four rooms upon each of the two floors and it was standing there in my boyhood days, but it was deserted at the time. Naturally since they did not believe in marriage there were no children and the old folks passed away until there were no young folks to carry one.
There may have been more buildings upon the farm but this one is all I remember and it stood upon a knoll, and easily seen from all directions.
This became quite a problem for the state for taxes must be paid upon all property and as these folks were on the way out, what could be done about the taxes? This was solved by the state taking it over and using it as a farm to raise the things needed at the Hospital and it is proving to be a good investment for them. There was another Shaker settlement south of Lebanon, Ohio, which is now owned and used by the United Brethren denomination, partly as a old folks home.
Another one was located near High Bridge, Kentucky, and it is now a point of interest for tourists.
Where did the Smithville road get its name? George W. Smith was a farmer and had quite a lot of land and also he had a large family, and as they married they settled upon some of his land until it became known as Smithville and the road, also took the name, but the village was not far from the intersection of Third.
As Springfield and Xenia were the proud possessors of a railroad, about five years before Dayton had any, travel had to be by walking or horse, and coming here form Xenia was all high ground until reaching Linden Heights, and from there two roads were made, one coming down Xenia Avenue to Wayne and then to Third while the other Xenia Avenue, now called Linden, came to Third and on it, but as this caused confusion the name was later changed.
Dayton was growing toward the east rapidly, and when seeing the big hill ahead of them, it was natural that they should turn and avoid the hill, so two ugly angles were made there and after being used a certain number of years, it is a road and cannot be changed, without considerable trouble.
Originally Mad River, was allowed to run as it pleased, and made a big band above town, following the channel later used by the canal to First Street where it turned west between First and Second to about Sears where it turned toward the north and emptied into the Miami near the present mouth. When the canal was built, and aqueduct was built across the Miami River above the present Taylorsville Dam, and one of the piers is still standing there in the bottoms, and plainly visible from the top of the dam. and following the low ground along the east side of the river to Rita Street and to another aqueduct across Mad River. To accomplish this it was necessary to straighten the channel of Mad River to its present location and the old bed has left the name of Pond Street from Meigs to Webster. This placed much land on the south bank of Mad River that had been north of it and accounts for so many factories being located in this district.
Before this change, travelers going north, would go east on Third to Webster or beyond and then ford the river near Keowee and First and this accounts for four pikes centering here, the New Troy (Dixie), the Old Troy (Troy Street), Brandt and Valley, and in old books I find the name spelled Keoway, Keowa and now it is Keowee.
From the bend of Mad River mentioned above there was a dry channel ran south from about Keowee, Montgomery, Mad River (thus accounting for this name, so far from the stream) Burns Avenue to below Brown Street, where it made a sharp turn to the south and again to the west and meeting a creek coming down Park Street and then going on to the Miami under Apple Street. This caused some ground to be difficult to use, and Zigzag was one of them, starting from 715 Brown going west, about 150 feet when it makes a right angle turn to the south quite a distance and another turn and joins Warren. At the time this street was made it was an open ditch and followed the curve of the ditch, and this street is now called Cline Street.
Now the entire ditch is covered and Burns Avenue has a park in the center because of the large sewer under it. For many years Mad River street was the place that hay was taken for sale in the city but since the coming of the auto, that has been discontinued.
This ditch is the cause of the mix of streets between Wayne, Fifth and Eagle and it gives the appearance of a jig saw puzzle that was never finished.
The other branch of this goes out Park Street, Pierce and Lorain and was an open ditch in my boyhood days for we drove through it and watered our horse in the fine spring water that was flowing through it.
Along Lorain there ware many streets that would be different had it not been for this ditch, but being an open ditch caused the street to follow the curve of the ditch. Clover was a dead and street, until the Dayton Street Car Co., lately taken over by the City Railway Co., bought a right of way through to Loraine.
At the west end of First Street there was a ford, none too safe, connecting with Chicago Avenue and up Wolf Creek in the early days, for there were no bridges across the river for many years.
This ford was also used to go up the west side of Stillwater Valley and when across the ford, the traveler would follow the river bank to what is now Forest Avenue and out it to Main and the Covington pike.
Soon after leaving the ford, another trail was made going northwest as Salem Avenue now runs and it opened up a lot of rich farm land for use and it was developed rapidly. This ford, not being safe, caused a demand for a bridge at this point and it was built in 1816 according to a reminiscence of my father, and it was two spans of wooden construction about where the present Dayton View bridge now stands. This was a toll bridge for a long time, and at the end of the two spans the road dropped down into the river bed, dry under most conditions but covered in high water, and the ground raised gradually up to Wilkinson Streets. As this was all vacant ground, what would be more natural than taking a straight shoot for town, and the street made from this was called Bridge Street but later called Stratford Avenue. There was also a ferry running across from Liberty Street to Forest, so travel was subject to the stage of the river frequently. Later the levee was built to protect the city and three steel spans were added to the bridge making safe passage at all times.
Main street bridge was built of wooden construction and at the north end dropped to the ground, probably filling the roadway some, in 1838 and Main street was extended to Shaw Avenue, curving there and then on out to the Covington pike. Lower Riverdale then called McPhersontown, Mactown for short, was frequently flooded and in 1830 Steele’s dam was built almost where Island park dam is now, and a hydraulic built to carry the water to the end of Forest Avenue and there furnish power for a saw and flour mill and later Simonds built a knife factory there and Stillwell and Bierce a machine shop, all using the water power, and in 1884 the Dayton Electric light built a building and made the first current for lighting purposes for the city there using water power. To protect this part of the city a levee was built around it as it is today and Lehman street now Riverview followed along the levee. When the factories were not able to get water power because of high or low water, they began moving away from here and locating upon the railroads where cheap coal could be obtained that would give a more dependable power.
This hydraulic was abandoned and the Great Miami Boulevard made there ending in the McKinley Park and this explains the many curves and stops in the streets joining it. This Bridge was mentioned in 1853 in an advertisement as the free bridge, so I think it was a free bridge from the start, while the Dayton View and Third were toll bridges.
This bridge was washed away in the flood of 1866 and a steel one built joining the levee on the Riverdale side. As Riverdale built up rapidly, a steel bridge was placed across Stillwater and a road with as S curve named Ridge avenue is now a very heavily traveled road to the Dixie highway.
Indianiola is a short street running from Main to Ridge following the course of a creek between two small hills, first a five foot sewer was placed there and then the street was built on top of it and for that reason it is curved all the way making a double 2 curve and at no place can you see the two ends at the same time.
When the old canal was discontinued, it was made into Patterson Boulevard and it is level all the way through town and there was an elegant chance to make a high class road through the city with almost no traffic lights and as the engineering force had just completed the elevated tracks. I expected them to use some of that experience in this job. Instead every street was passed with a grade crossing and traffic lights are very much in evidence. South of Sixth, Jefferson Warren and Main are so nearly parallel that it is not safe for a pedestrian to cross either street, when it would have been an easy job to have run one of them under the other. At Third street the old stone bridge is still there and covered up with a hole in it almost big enough to allow the boulevard to go through, and the grade crossing at this point is a dangerous one. Monument Avenue could have been depressed and the boulevard raised and gone over First and Second and under Third and Fourth. Fifth may not be able to avoid a grade crossing on account of going under the railroad so near, and then over Jefferson and under Warren and Main and over Stout and under Stewart.
In the east end Burkhardt and Huffman avenues hold the line as they have in the country and consequently they run east and west and make sharp angles with the old parts of the city.
Ohmer Park is also laid out running with the compass and ugly angles occur where they join other parts of the city. Edgemont is mostly with the compass and also North Dayton, with exception of Keowee and Valley streets.
The following streets have had their names changed. Bridge street was west Third west of the river.
Prairie is South Perry.
Blind was cut through to State and called Fremont Avenue.
Center is now Maple west from Wilkinson.
Elbow Lane is now Eagle, Ophelia making the elbow.
McLane is now McLean.
Longworth is now the north side of Burns Avenue.
Phillips is now north Terry.
Morrison is now North June.
Orchard is now Richard.
Smith is now Sixth east of the canal.
New Market is now Ford.
Pike in North Dayton is now East Herman.
Summitin Dayton View is now North Avenue.
Loury was the continuation of Fifth before the canal bridge was built showing the reason for the crook in Fifth at this place.
Lodwick was the continuation of Fifth east of Wayne for which I see no reason.
Shaw Avenuewas named because George Shaw owned the property just north of it.
The directory of 1856 “Thompson John R. toll collector, Miami river bridge west end of Third Street” showing that the bridge was still a toll bridge at that date.
Hydraulic changed to Floral after the hydraulic was discontinued.
Plant was changed to Five Oaks when continued into Dayton View.
Charles F. Sullivan
40 Glenwood, Dayton, Ohio
July 17, 1941