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The Original Riverbed

The Original Riverbed
by Charles F. Sullivan

            All the rivers ran wild here before man settled here and for his protection it was found necessary to make changes and these have proven valuable for the protection of the city.

            Mad river coming in from the east followed the present channel to Rita street where the canal crossed Mad river, except that during high waters it did flood all the ground over to Springfield street and beyond, thus furnishing a pool for water to back up in during extreme floods, and the mud settling from the water made the soil very fertile.

            When the canal was being made north of here, it was found necessary to protect it, after it crossed under the aqueduct, and the dirt thrown out of the canal was thrown to the east side thus making a small protection.

            This was made necessary for the canal was taking the place of a natural overflow bayou, used by the river during high water, running from the aqueduct straight to First where it made a little bend to the left to about Montgomery where it turned going through that street and Mad river street and then down Burns ave. to the river near the Fairgrounds. When the new canal was built from the basin to the aqueduct it was found necessary to straighten up the river which made quite a bend over to Pond and Flagg streets between Meigs and Webster and then back joining the Miami where it does now.

            This is now well leveed on both sides and is straight so that there is no danger of flood now.

            Stillwater is bounded by hills and has had to confine itself to the present channel, but an occasional levee has been built here and there thus holding it to the channel.

            The Miami coming under the B & O railroad bridge north of Leo street ran straight for a short distance but about Webster street it turned and ran almost south to Phillips bath house where it turned at right angles to the old channel at the upper end of Triangle Park.

            Near this bath house there was an old wooden bridge which required almost a right angle turn to go on and again off the bridge.

            These was the cause of the flooding of North Dayton in March of 1895, I think, for the water came over the levee just north of the bath house flooding all west of the railroad and some east of it.

            After this, the County got busy and gave Chas H. Hoglen a contract to straighten the river and since then there has been no trouble.

            From there the Miami ran west and turning south joined Stillwater going to about Pioneer street, where there was an overflow channel or bayou down what is now Miami Blvd., and joining the river at about the south end of Forest Ave. The Steele dam was placed across the river at about this time, 1830, with the head gates to control the amount of water entering this hydraulic.

            From this point the river runs with only a little change by the conservancy to below the Dayton View bridge. Here the channel was much wider than before and Professor Roberts conceived the idea that he could make a very valuable addition to the city, by taking the dirt out of the river and building a plat upon the east side.

            He bought our own cow pasture and all other land in the river bottom. Dickey’s field between First and Third was a large field level and covered with blue grass and the boys from the Second District school used this for playing football every fall, and I can assure you that it was a long distance between goals which were placed close to the two streets. As there was a filled road from the east end of the Dayton View Bridge to the levee about 100 feet long, and to Third street about 300 ft., he started filling this up, just as it now is. I learned the work was to start one afternoon and I was there and saw several teams come across the Third Street bridge and down into the river bed and they started a plow and scoops to doing the work, later putting wheeled scoops at it. They needed more dirt when they got to the river level and so bought a steam s hovel putting it upon the flat boat and leading the dirt upon tram cars, pulled by mules to the dumping ground.

            This left quite a hole in the river bottom filled with water, which froze over in the winter and made good skating and the raising and lowering of the water did not hurt the ice to amount to anything.

            This was filled with skaters when ever there was ice and many good times were had there, boys playing polo and girls having a hard time keeping out of the way of the polo players.

            When this fill was complete, the Prof. began building houses there and it was not long before all was built and the Roberts Blvd. became a very much used street and the levee was cut down several feet and the present cement walk laid there.

            When Prof. Roberts had made a start upon this Peter Jo Hangten owning the land outside the levee south of Third thought he would do the same thing and while he did not make as much speed, yet he accomplished the same thing but as he got to Fourth street he went into the river more than he should and when the conservancy came along they took away some of the fill. All of this now is well made and streets good and lots of auto traffic use this street and it would seem impossible to think of this ground being low like the river is and yet I have seen this whole thing done in my life time. The Conservancy built retaining walls all along the river where ever needed and now with the dams above the city we feel safe from floods.

            Across the river and north of Wolf creek was a low field, which was under water every high water and here the Conservancy filled with rough stuff from the river. They dredged the river and hauled all that stuff to the gravel plant where it was washed and and many thousand yards of washed gravel were hauled from there to all parts of the city, and used in construction work. The refuse was used to fill that hole thus making the Dayton View park what it now is. It may seem queer, that Chicago Ave. should be located just as it is, running off from Riverview in a straight line and joining Sunrise Ave. just a square from its beginning. In early times First street came to the river and with a drive over it a horse drawn vehicle could ford the river there and then going through Chicago Ave. went straight up Wolf creek. The Bridge street bridge (now called the Dayton View bridge) was not built until 1816 or twenty years after the city was settled and even then the bridge was a toll bridge, and was avoided as much as possible to avoid the expense, and so much traffic went this way and a number of buildings were built there thus making the street a public highway. Then the bridge was built, the road was made from it joining the road up the creek, and it was shorter and better to join the old road at the end of Chicago and thus there is a queer corner yet it is easy to see why it is so.

            For the same reason Sunrise Ave. was built to join Salem and also to go around the old Tate’s mill road (now Riverview and Forest Ave. to go up Stillwater) joining the Covington Pike as it does now.

            From Fifth street on to Stewart street the river is about as it was but from there on the Conservancy made a nice slow curve there and thus avoided many old crooks and turns to the east of the present channel and joining the old river above Broadway.

            Now as to Wolf Creek, when it came under the Penna railroad bridge, west of Summit street it turned north a little running into a hill and that started it back and it crossed Broadway about where the present bridge is located, then going diagonally to Williams street where the U.S. postoffice is now with an old wooden bridge and from there it went to the Miami where the mouth is now. When the flood occurred on the west side, May 12, 1886 there was lots of property loss and the course of the creek was changed to the present one and now it points down the river at the mouth instead of up as formerly.

            If you will look up these changes upon the map you will agree that much has been done and lots of money spent to make the city safe, when the 1913 flood came and made much more necessary.

            Then the Conservancy started and much more was done so that now we feel sure that there is now no danger from flood, with the dams above the city and the work through the city, it seems to have all danger out of the way.

                                                                                    Chas. F. Sullivan

                                                                                    40 Glenwood Ave.,

                                                                                    Dayton, Ohio.