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A Tabloid History of Dayton

This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News, March 30, 1932


 A Tabloid History of Dayton

By Howard Burba


      If you’ve seen one circus you’ve seen all of them, and if you’ve read one history of Dayton you’ve read them all.  For the history of Dayton, like the history of any other community, is but a repetition.

     But so far no one seems to have realized that the story of Dayton can be told with moving picture swiftness, and yet with absolute accuracy.  I am offering the following as proof that it can be laid out on a newspaper sheet instead of being swollen into one or three or half dozen volumes.  It has taken a lot of research to do so; yet a pleasant task, since there is no more fascinating story than that which tells of the founding and development of one’s home town.

     In March, 1796, three parties left Cincinnati, led by William Harner, George Newcom and Samuel Thompson.  Harner’s party was the first to start.  The other two left on Monday, March 21, one by land and the other by water.  Harner’s party came in a two-horse wagon over the road that had been partially cut through by D. C. Cooper in 1795.  The other party that traveled by land walked.  They were two weeks making the trip from Cincinnati, a distance of about 55 miles.  The necessity for bridging numerous small streams occasioned the delay.  Thompson’ party came in a large pirogue, landing it at the mouth of Mad river.

     The passage of Thompson and his party from Cincinnati by boat occupied ten days.  Mrs. Thompson was the first to step ashore and, therefore the first woman, as history has recorded it, to set foot on the site of the present city of Dayton.  Two small camps of Indians were here when these first settlers arrived.  Peace was promptly made with them, and within a few hours the ring of the axe foretold the establishment of a new settlement in the Northwest Territory.  It was the opening chapter in Dayton history.  So here is a tabloid history of Dayton as the “first things” in Dayton are set down.

     First Land Purchase—On Aug. 20, 1795, Arthur St. Clair, governor of the Northwest Territory; Jonathan Dayton, a citizen of New Jersey; Gen. James Wilkinson, of  Wayne’s army, and Col. Israel Ludlow, of Morris co., New Jersey, bought of John Cleves Symmes a tract of land lying at the mouth of Mad river.

     First Surveyor—Daniel C. Cooper, of Long Hill, N. J., laid out lands now embraced within the city of Dayton.

     First Blacksmith—The first blacksmith to open up a shop in Dayton was John Burns. Others  opening in competition with him were Obadiah Conover, Jacob Kuhn and James Davis.

     First Road—Opened from Dayton north to Livingston, along the east bank of the Miami river, a distance of 13 miles.

     First Preacher—Rev. William Hamer of the Methodist denomination.  He came to Dayton with the first party of settlers.

     First Birth—David Hamer, son of William Hamer, Methodist minister, born on site of Dayton in December, 1796.

     First Mill—An old-fashioned “tub mill” was built by William Hamer to grind corn.  It stood where Monument av. now crosses Patterson blvd. and water for operating it was brought across from the mouth of Mad river by means of a little race.

     First Assessor—James Brady made the first property assessment, receiving the sum of $5.20 for his services.  He assessed the entire township, then known as “Dayton tp.” in the year 1797.

     First Distillery—Built by D. C. Cooper on his farm two miles south of Dayton on Rubicon creek in the fall of 1799.  Under the same roof a “tub mill” for grinding hominy and meal and a saw mill were also operated.  Saw Mill rd. of today derives its name from this mill.

     First School—Opened by Benjamin VanCleve in a room of the Newcom cabin in 1799.

     First Death—John Davis, who resided in a cabin near the bluffs (south of the N. C. R. plant) was accidentally killed at D. C. Cooper’s mill in 1799.

     First Wedding—Benjamin VanCleve and Mary Whitten, daughter of John and Phoebe Whitten, married Aug. 28, 1800.

     First Girl Baby—Jane Newcom was born in her father’s cabin at head of Main st. on April 14, 1800.  She married Nathaniel Wilson, spending her entire life on Main st. and dying in the 75th year of her life at her home on the northeast corner of Fifth and Main.

     First Cabinet Maker—Matthew Patton

     First Tailor—Thomas McNutt.

     First Store—Opened by George McDougal of Detroit on the second floor of Newcom’s Tavern about the year 1800.

     First Plow—The first iron mold-board plow was brought into Dayton by Robert Edgar and used on his farm. Previous to that the pioneers used plows made of the forks of hard wood saplings.

     First Church—It was erected by the Presbyterians of the settlement on one of two lots donated to the congregation at the northeast corner of Third and Main in 1800.  Built of logs it was 18 feet wide and 20 feet long.

     First Court—Established by an act of the legislature July 27, 1803, when Montgomery co. was created from a part of Hamilton co.

     First Judge—Hon. Francis Dunlavy, serving in the first district, came to Dayton from Cincinnati and officiated at the first session of court.

     First Sheriff—George Newcom was the first man to be elected sheriff.  Daniel Symmes of Cincinnati served as the first prosecutor; Cyrus Osborn was the first constable and James Milles the first coroner.

     First Doctor—Dr. John Hole, a Revolutionary soldier, emigrated from Virginia and settled at what became known as “Hole’s Station,” now near the site of Alexandersville.  The first doctor to live within the settlement of Dayton was Dr. John Elliott, who came here in 1802.

     First Colored Child—The first colored resident of Dayton was a servant girl brought here by D. C. Cooper in 1803 to work on his farm two miles south of the city. Shortly after her arrival she gave birth to a boy child and named him Harry Cooper.

     First Jail—It stood on the site of the present county jail on W. Third st. and was erected in 1804. It was of log construction, 30x16 feet, with log flooring and ceiling.  It contained two disconnected cells and was erected by David Squirer at his bid of $299.

     First Postoffice—The first postoffice was opened in 1804 in a cabin at First and St. Clair sts. with Benjamin VanCleve as the first postmaster.

     First Town Charter—First charter of the town of Dayton granted by the legislature on Feb. 12, 1805.  The town council, for 10 years following, met at the homes of the various members.

     First President of Council—David Reid, elected at the first meeting held following formation of the body under new charter.

     First Flood—Dayton’s first flood of record occurred in the spring of 1805.  Water stood at a depth of eight feet from the river to the foot of fairground hill.

     First Library—The first library association—and incidentally the first formed in the state of Ohio—was formed through an act of the legislature on Feb.1, 1805.  Rev. William Robinson was president of the first organization.

     First Graveyard—It was along side the Presbyterian church at Third and Main.  In 1805 Daniel Cooper gave four acres on the south side of Fifth st., between Ludlow and Wilkinson, and it was shared as a cemetery by the Presbyterians and Methodists.

     First Brick House—The first brick house in Dayton was McCullum’s tavern, at the southwest corner of Second and Main sts.  It was erected in 1805 and after being used as a tavern served as a store.  It was razed in 1880.

     First Brick Residence—Henry Brown built the first brick residence in Dayton on the west side of Main st. on the lot now occupied by the Union Trust building.  It was used as a dwelling until 1863 and from that time until it was razed it housed a newspaper office.

     First Courthouse—The first courthouse was erected at the northwest corner of Third and Main in 1806.  It was two stories high, 52 by 38 feet.  In 1815 a cupola was added, and in the same year a bell purchased.

     First Boys’ School—Incorporated in 1807 by James Welch, D. C. Cooper, William McClure, David Reid, John Folkerth, George Tenney, Benjamin VanCleve and James Hanna.  First teacher, William M. Smith.

     First Newspaper—First regularly published newspaper was “The Repertory,” published by William McClure and George Smith, the initial issue appearing on Friday, Sept. 18, 1808.

     First Political Convention—Held on Sept. 6, 1809.

     First Drug Store—It was opened in 1809 by Dr. Wood in Reid’s Inn, then occupying a part of the present site of Loew’s theater.

     First “Fourth” Celebration—Dayton’s first public celebration of the Fourth of July, with a parade and speeches, was held in 1809

     First Sidewalk—The first sidewalk, consisting of flat stones, was laid in 1810 along Monument av. (then Water st.) east of Main.

     First Hospital—The first hospital was a military institution, of frame construction, on a part of the courthouse lot.  Erected in 1812, it sheltered many soldiers wounded in the war of that year.  Dr. John Steele had charge of the hospital.

     First Masonic Lodge—The Masonic lodge, and the first fraternal organization here, was St. John’s Lodge No. 13, the charter of which was granted by the state Grand Lodge at Chillicothe on Jan. 10, 1812.

     First Bank—The first banking institution in the city was known as the Dayton Manufacturing Co.  It was incorporated by the legislature in 1813, and began business on Dec. 13 of that year in a building at the first alley south of Monument av. on Main.

     First Stone Residence—About 1813 William Huffman built the first stone residence in the town on a part of the ground now occupied by the Beckel hotel at Third and Jefferson.  It served as both dwelling and store.

     First Workman’s Association—Formed at McCullum’s tavern on Saturday, March 15, 1813, and known as “The Workman’s Association.”

     First Regular Ferry—Charles Tull opened the first regular ferry in Dayton at the head of Ludlow st. in December, 1814.

     First Big Fire—Grist mill, fulling mill and two carding machines operated by Col. Robert Patterson near present site of the N. C. R. burned on Oct. 7,1815.

     First Market House—It occupied a frontage of 100 feet on Second st., extending west from Jefferson and was formally opened on July 4, 1815.

     First Girls’ School—It was opened by Mrs. Diomecia Sullivan on the west side of Main st. south of Third in March, 1815.

     First Show—A display of “wax works and figures” on Feb. 13, 1815, made up the first show in Dayton history.

     First Milliner—The first millinery store was opened by Ann Yamans in June 1815.  She advertised for a supply of goose feathers, and announced military gentlemen would find at her shop on Main st., south of Second, a full stock of Plumes and decorations.

     First Bridge—While two ferries served to connect the settlement with those pioneers living north of the river, it was not until Jan. 27, 1816, that a meeting was called to plan for a bridge.  The meeting, held at Grimes Tavern agreed on a bridge across Mad river at what is now Taylor st.  The contract was let to William Farnum at $1400.  The bridge fell into the river in 1828.

     First Brewery—The first brewery was opened in 1816 by Robert Graham, who conducted a tavern at First and Monument.  The first brick brewery was erected by Henry Brown in 1820 on the south side of Second st., west of Jefferson.  He advertised beer “Equally as good as that now brewed in Germantown.”

     First Theater—The first theater was in the dwelling of William Huffman on St. Clair st.  The first play was entitled “Matrimony,” and presented by local talent on April 22, 1816.

     First Episcopal Church—The first Episcopal congregation here was organized on May 15, 1817 by Bishop chase with 23 members.  It was known at St. Thomas Episcopal church.

     First Sunday School—It was opened in March, 1817, by the Presbyterian congregation.

     First Saddlery Shop—Opened in 1817 by D. Stout.

     First Carriage—The first carriage in Dayton was brought in by D. C. Cooper in 1817.  The second one, owned by H. G. Phillips, arrived the same year.

     First Stage Line—Started in 1818, between Dayton and Cincinnati by a Mr. Lyon.

     First Lion—The first lion to be exhibited in Dayton was shown in the barn yard at Reid’s Inn, present site of Loew’s theater, on April 22, 1819.  The first elephant ever seen here was shown at the same place on April 11, 1820.

     First Fire Department—Organized on June 21, 1820, following the burning of Daniel Cooper’s mills.

     First Baptist Church—Organized in 1824.  First house of worship erected on west side of Main, between Monument av. And First st.  Second building on part of lot now occupied by Loew’s theater.

     First Hanging—John McAfee, hanged on March 28, 1825 in woods at edge of city, now intersection of Third and Charter sts.  McAfee was convicted of the murder of his wife.

     First Circus—Pitched its tent in Reid’s Inn barnyard on July 19, 1825.

     First Real Estate Agent--George Houston.  Carried opening announcement in papers dated 1825.

     First Fire Insurance Agent—James Perrine.  Opened his office in June 1826.

     First Fire Engine—Arrived in Dayton from Philadelphia by way of Cincinnati in the spring of 1826.

     First Infirmary—Erected on land bought from Dr. James B. Oliver, west of the town, in April 1826.

     First Canal boat—The first canal boat built in Dayton was christened the “Alpha” and was launched on Saturday, Aug. 16, 1828, at 2 p.m.  Water had not then been turned into the canal, so a dam was erected at the pinnacles, south of the city, and the water, when turned in, reached to a point above Second st.  Test trips were made as far north as Fifth st.  The first canal boat to arrive in Dayton with the formal opening of the canal was the “General Brown.”  It arrived at the landing near present site of public library on Jan. 26, 1829.

     First Foundry—Opened by McElwee and Clegg and the first “heat” made on Dec. 2, 1828.

     First Mayor—In 1829 a new charter went into effect in Dayton and under it the chief executive became the mayor, instead of president of council.  Under the new charter John Folkerth was made the first mayor of Dayton.

     First Locomotive—Council on May 31, 1830, passed resolution “that the proprietor of the locomotive engine and railway now being exhibited in the Methodist church be exempt from a license fee.”

     First Public School—The first public, or “free,” school was opened Dec. 5, 1831, on Jefferson st. below Monument av., with Sylvanius Hall as instructor.  There were not sufficient donations to pay expenses, so each pupil was assessed a dollar a year.

     First Catholic Church—Robert Conway and family, removing to Dayton from Baltimore in 1831, was first Catholic family in Dayton.  He brought Rev. Father Collins from Cincinnati to Dayton, and with the arrival of Irish and German settlers in 1833, services were conducted in part of a one-story bakery building on St. Clair, opposite present library.  First church was erected in 1837on the present site of Emmanuel church parsonage, on Franklin st.

     First Board of Health—Organized in 1832 when cholera epidemic swept the town.  Original cases brought in by canal boat load of German immigrants.

     First Odd Fellows Lodge—The first lodge of Odd Fellowship in Dayton was known as Montgomery Lodge No. 5, and was instituted on May 3, 1833.

     First Park—The square now occupied by the public library was deeded to the city in 1836 by David Ziegler Cooper, son of D. C. Cooper with the provision that it was “to be kept forever as a walk for the citizens of Dayton and its visitors.”  It was first known as the “public square.”

     First Museum—A committee met at the courthouse on Sept. 16, 1837, to organize a “zoological museum.”  A room was secured at the head of the canal basin but the project was abandoned shortly after.

     First City Charter—On March 27, 1841, by a special act of the legislature, Dayton emerged from the classification of a town to that of a city.

     First Minstrel Show—Held at National hotel (site of Beckel hotel) on June 14, 1841.

     First children’s Home—Authorized by state legislature in 1844 on a petition headed by Catherine Phillips and Sarah Parrott.

     First Agricultural Society—Organized in 1845 with Col. Henry Protzman as president.   First fair same year in wagon yard of Swaine’s hotel, on First st., east of Main.  First fairgrounds on three acres of ground leased from Daniel Kiser in what is now North Dayton.  Receipts at first fair, $365; expenditures, $321.54.

     First Omnibus Line—Established in September, 1847, to Cincinnati by way of Miamisburg, Franklin, Monroe and Reading.  Time to Cincinnati, seven hours; fare $2.

     First Telegraph Message—Received in Dayton on September 17, 1847.

     First U. B. church—The first U. B. church in Dayton was organized in 1847 in a small room in the Oregon engine house.  Their first church building was erected in 1852 at Sixth and Logan sts., later being purchased by the city and converted into a city prison.

     First Gas Company—Chartered Feb. 4, 1848, by Daniel Beckel, Peter Voorhees, Daniel Stout, I. F. Howells, David winter, J. D. Loomis, J. D. Phillips, Valentine Winters, John Mills and Daniel W. Weelock.

     First Medical society—Organized Sept. 15, 1849, by  Drs. H. G. Carey, Joshua Clements, Oliver Crook, John B. Craighead, John Davis, Elias Garst, Job Haines, Edmund Smith, H. K. Steele, John Steele, Julius S. Taylor, D. B. VanTuye, H. VanTuye.

     First High School—Authorized in 1850 by the school board; known as “Central High” and located on the site of the present school building at the southwest corner of Fourth and Wilkinson.

     First Hebrew congregation—The first Hebrew congregation was organized in 1850.  They met in the old Dayton Bank building until 1863, when they purchased the old Baptist house of worship.

     First Railroad—First line to enter Dayton was the Mad River & Lake Erie, between Dayton and Springfield.  Formally opened on Jan. 25. 1851.

     First Depot—The first railroad depot erected in Dayton stood at the northwest corner of Jefferson and Sixth sts., and was finished and occupied in 1851.

     First Town Clock—Purchased by council in July, 1851, and placed in steeple of Wesley Chapel.

     First Sewing Machine—Brought to Dayton by S. N. Shear, agent, on Oct. 11, 1851.

     First Building Association—The first Building Association was organized under state charter in 1867 and was known as “Dayton Building Association No. 1.”  It was the forerunner of the city’s present group of building and loan associations.

     First City Prison—A room in the old engine house on Main, between Fifth and Sixth (later site of workhouse) was fitted with cells in 1858.  In 1872 the city purchased the U. B. church at Sixth and Logan and it was converted into a city prison.

     First Street Car—The first street car line was built by the Dayton Street Railway Co., chartered in 1869, extending from the land of W. P. Huffman on E. Third to the land of H. S. Williams on W. Third.  John V. Kreidler was first superintendent.  One hour and 20 minutes was required to make the round trip from Western av. to Findlay st.

     First Laundry—The first laundry in Dayton was started by John Williams on Second st., west of Main, about 1870.

     First Waterworks—The first waterworks trustees were named on Jan 7., 1870.  The first pump was installed the same year.

     First YMCA Organization—On March 2, 1870, a branch of the Young Men’s Christian Association was organized with R. W. Steele, E. M. Wood, G. G. Prugh, J. E. Gilbert, C. G. Parker, J. H. Winters, Joseph Gebhart, J. C. Keifaber,  J. Harry Thomas, H. E. Parrott, E. T. Sweet, T. O. Lowe, W. K. Eckert, Eugene Wuichet, J. A. Shank, and G. W. Hoglen as trustees.

     First K. of P. Lodge—The first Knights of  Pythias lodge was known as Miami Lodge No. 32, instituted on Feb. 15, 1872.

     First Metropolitan Police force—Organized in 1873 with chief, two lieutenants, 26 patrolmen, three roundsmen and three turnkeys.

     First Telephone—Installed in 1878 with 10 subscribers.  First exchange over Kiefaber’s fruit store at 118 E. Third st.

     First electric Light—The first electric light in Dayton was turned on on Friday evening, Feb. 16, 1883.

     First Patrol Wagon—The first patrol wagon was bought in 1883, and the first driver was John Hauser.  The first patrol house was on the corner of first alley south of Fifth st. on Brown, and on the west side of that street.

     First Electric Car—The first electric car was operated by the “White Line” (People’s Railway) in 1887 at which time the end of the line on the north was at the intersection of Forest av. and Main st.

     First Street Paved—The first job of street paving in Dayton was done in 1888 when the square on Fifth st., between Main and Jefferson was paved.

     First Shriners—The first temple of Shriners was Antioch, and it was instituted here on June 9, 1898, by B. Frank Kuhns, Thomas DeArmon, John R. Fletcher and John R. King.

     The First Auto—The first auto was brought to Dayton in March, 1900, by Carl L. Baumann.  It was made by the Haynes-Apperson Co., of Kokomo, Ind., and was known as a “Doctor’s Phaeton” model.

     First Airplane—The first heavier-than-air machine ever to make a successful flight was finished by Wilbur and Orville Wright at their bicycle shop on W. Third st. and taken to Kitty Hawk, N. C., where it made its first sustained flight on Dec. 17. 1908.

     First Passenger Balloon—First gas-inflated balloon to carry passengers left “Buck Island” at head of St. Clair st., 10 a.m., June 29, 1909.  Landed 5 p. m. four miles east of North Vernon, Ind.  H. H. Bumbaugh, pilot; passengers, P. M.  Crume, E. G. Carley, B. H. Wendler, Luzerne Custer, Howard Burba, G. A. McClelland.