During the winter of 1795-96 forty-six men agreed to settle in Dayton in the spring of 1796. When the time came to start only nineteen responded, and they set out in three sections, two overland and one by water.
William Hamer, who owned a wagon and two horses, had charge of one section. He was born in Maryland about the year 1750, and moved west with his wife and children in 1792. He and his son Solomon, who was then sixteen years old, built a flatboat, in which the family descended the Ohio River to Cincinnati, and then used the lumber in the boat to erect a house. Here they lived until they started for Dayton in March, 1796. With him on this trip to Dayton were his wife, Mary; his children, Solomon, Thomas, Nancy, Elizabeth, Sarah, and Polly; and Jonathan and Edward Mercer. The party was somewhat delayed, and was the last of the three to reach Dayton.
Mr. Hamer, who was a local Methodist preacher, has the honor of being the first minister of the gospel to live in this place. He evidently was of the opinion that he should be known by loud speaking, as it is said he could be heard three miles at family prayers.
Mr. Hamer located on a quarter-section of land, east of the town, known recently as Tate's Point, now owned by William Focke & Sons, the butchers. It was at this home that a son was born, December 9, 1796, and in honor of his being the first white boy born in the settlement his parents named him Dayton. Of his children. Nancy married William Gahagan, who came here on the pirogue; Elizabeth married William C. Lowry; Sarah married David Lowry, in 1801, and lived on Mad River, near the mouth of Donnell's Creek. They were about the first to settle in Greene County. Polly married Joseph Culbertson, of Miami County, and Dayton Hamer married Catharine Haney, and moved to Illinois, and from there to California, where he died. William Hamer, Jr., married Hannah Culbertson, and moved to Indiana; Susan married a Mr. Krider, and Ruth a Mr. Wagoner. Ellen never married. Mrs. Elizabeth Croy, of Sidney, Ohio, and Mrs. E. E. Berkdoll and Fletcher Lowry, of Dayton, are the only living grandchildren of William Hamer. Mr. Hamer's wife, Mary, died at their home, August 9, 1825, and he died in 1827 from an accident received on his way to Cincinnati.
After reaching Dayton with Mr. Hamer's party, Jonathan and Edward Mercer, with all their worldly possessions in the panniers of one horse, went on up Mad River several miles, and located on prairie land that is now in Bath Township, Greene County. They were the first white people to settle there. It was an exposed position and they were twice driven to Dayton for safety during the first two years.
On March 21, 1796, the other two parties made their start. George Newcom was the leader of the one overland. With him were his wife, Mary Henderson Newcom, his father, an old man, George Newcom, Sr., his brother, William Newcom, Thomas Davis and family, William Chenoweth and family, William Van Cleve, James Morris, John Dorough and family, Daniel Ferrell and family, Solomon Goss and family, John Davis, and Abraham Grassmire.
Samuel Thompson, the leader of the party by water, in the pirogue, was accompanied by his wife, Catherine Benham Van Cleve, their little daughter, Sarah, but two years old, baby Matthew, three months old, and Mrs. Thompson's daughter, Mary Van Cleve, nine years old, the first white girl to step on Dayton soil; Benjamin Van Cleve; the widow McClure and her children, James, John, Kate, and Ann, and William Gahagan.
The pirogue was a long, narrow boat, pointed at each end, with boards on either side on which the men walked in poling the boat up stream. There was a deck to protect the women, children, and freight. In order to ascend the rapids a rope attached to the boat would be fastened to a tree up stream, and then all hands pulling on this rope would draw the boat slowly along, one man with his pole keeping it in the current of the stream.
The first day's journey brought the party to the mouth of the Miami, where they camped for the night. The second night they camped at Dunlap's Station (Colerain), the third night at Fort Hamilton,—arid so they proceeded, camping each night, until, ten days after starting, on April 1, 1796, they arrived at their destination, and landed at St. Clair Street, the first of the three parties to reach Dayton.
When this little party arrived, of course they found no shelter. The pirogue was carefully taken apart, piece by piece, and rebuilt on dry land, forming the first house in Dayton. The accompanying illustration is taken from a drawing now in my possession, made by George L. Croom, an engraver, who lived in Dayton about 1850. This house stood as built for eighty-four years, and for many years was owned and used by John W. Harries to store charcoal, which he used in making malt. It was a fine hiding-place for slaves, in the early days, on their way to Canada.
The other picture, from a drawing made by the same gentleman, is of General Wayne's ice-house at Greenville.
The party led by George Newcom overland met with few difficulties as far as Fort Hamilton, the road to that place being kept in good condition by the army. From that point on, the road had been only recently surveyed by Mr. Cooper and his corps of helpers, and was in such primitive condition that it was necessary In crossing small streams to fell trees for foot-bridges. For the larger streams rafts were made to carry the people and the freight, the cattle and horses swimming across. All the property was carried in creels on packhorses, the children that were too small to walk being also carried in the creels, their heads only showing. Game being plentiful the party suffered no hardship from lack of food, but the nights were cold and the hastily constructed camps afforded but little shelter, the beds being made in the open air by spreading blankets over brush. This party was about two weeks on the road.
Colonel George Newcom, the leader of this party, was born in Ireland in 1771, and came to America with his parents in 1775. They first settled in Delaware, and afterwards removed to near Middletown, Pennsylvania. He married, in Washington County, Pennsylvania, Mary Henderson, aunt of Thomas W. Henderson, recently deceased, and of Abraham Henderson, formerly sheriff of this county. In 1794 they emigrated to Cincinnati, and on March 21, 1796, he started with his little company for Dayton.
On arriving at Dayton, Colonel Newcom at once chose lot 13, at the corner of Main and Water streets, on which to erect a tavern. He first built a round-log house on Water Street (now Monument Avenue) for his family to live in while the tavern was being built, and it afterwards served as a kitchen to the tavern. When this round-log house was completed, Colonel Newcom employed Robert Edgar (who was handy with tools,: having learned the millwright trade), to build a hewed-log house, eighteen by twenty-two feet.
The agreement between Newcom and Edgar was that Newcom should pay Edgar six shillings (seventy-five cents) per day for cutting and hewing the logs for the " best house in Dayton," to front on Main and Water streets, and Edgar for his board agreed to furnish Newcom the carcass of a deer once every week, retaining the skin. This was full payment for his board and lodging. In order to comply with this part of his contract without breaking a day's work, my father would rise early, hide in the bushes on this side of the river at Main Street, and watch for the deer to come down to the river on the north side for their morning drink, when, choosing the best-looking one, he never failed to drop him. He would then, with his canoe, bring his week's board across the river before breakfast. The rifle used at that time is still in my possession. Edgar worked faithfully at the house, getting out the clapboards for the roof, floors, and doors.
The building, being the east half of the Tavern as it now stands in Van Cleve Park, was two stories, had two rooms, and was the largest house in Dayton. It was enlarged to its present size in the winter of 1798-99. It was the first whitewashed house here, and a little boy who saw the work progressing went home and told his mother that Mr. Newcom was making his house white with flour. In it the first store was opened, the first court was held, and at the same time it was tavern and jail. It was the favorite resort for prospectors and settlers, being at a point where all roads' met, and Colonel Newcom, a man who knew every one, occupied almost as many official positions as did the house, being host, hostler, and bar-keeper, as well as sheriff of the county. He was a soldier in Wayne's army, and served in the War of 1812. The same year he was elected State senator, in 1815 was representative in the State Legislature, and in 1821 he succeeded Benjamin Van Cleve as clerk of the court and as president of the first bank here, called the Dayton Manufacturing Company.
Colonel Newcom had three children: Elizabeth, born in 1794, died in Cincinnati; John W., born September 9, 1797, at the farm of Samuel Dick, near Hamilton, and Jane, born in Dayton on April 14, 1800, said to be the first white girl born here. John Newcom married Martha Grimes November 21, 1820, and died July 7, 1836. They had five children, of whom Martha A., wife of John E. Greer, is the only one now living. Jane married Nathaniel Wilson on May 20, 1819, and died April 5, 1874, at the residence of her daughter, Susan, now Mrs. Josiah Gebhart, having lived her entire life on one street—Main Street. She had nine children, three of whom, Clinton Wilson, a farmer, and Mrs. Mary J. Hunt and Mrs. Susan Gebhart, both of Dayton, are still living.
Colonel Newcom's wife, Mary Henderson, died April 3, 1834, and in 1836 he married Mrs. Elizabeth Bowen, who died October 29, 1850. Colonel Newcom died February 25, 1853, at the age of eighty-two years. He, like Benjamin Van Cleve, was a brave, upright, noble man.
The "Old Tavern" stood on the original site, in constant use, until 1895, when Mr. John Cotterell, who owned the property, donated the cabin to the city, and it has been removed to Van Cleve Park.
George Newcom, Sr., a very old man, died probably before 1805.
William Newcom, the youngest brother of Colonel George Newcom, was about twenty years of age when he reached Dayton. He married Charlotte Nolen, of Kentucky, and had one son, Robert, who was the father of Milo G. Newcom, now living on North Wilkinson Street, this city. William Newcom died from the effects of the hardships and exposures which he endured as a soldier in the War of 1812. After Mr. Newcom's death, his widow married John Baker, father of John L. Baker, at present a member of our Board of City Affairs.
Thomas Davis, one of the Newcom party, was a native of Wales. He was in the Revolutionary War, was taken prisoner, and exchanged at Philadelphia. Mr. Davis settled near the bluffs, two. or three miles south of Dayton, where he died many years ago. He married before coming to Dayton, and had a large family. His son, Owen Davis, was one of the first settlers in Yellow Springs, and had one of the first mills in Greene County. He married Jane Henderson, sister of James Henderson, who was in partnership with James Elliott. They had four children—two daughters and two sons. The boys died when quite young. Eliza Henderson Davis married David Stevenson, and Mary Jane Davis married Ralph Langton Thompson. Owen Davis died at the home of his son-in-law, Ralph L. Thompson, in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1874. Lewis Davis, the oldest son of Thomas Davis, lived for some years at New Paris, Preble County, Ohio. John Davis, a brother of Thomas Davis, settled south of Dayton, on the west side of the Miami River. While chopping ice from the water-wheel at Cooper's Mill, in 1799, the wheel started suddenly, drawing him under in such a way that the life was crushed out of him. This is said to have been the first death that occurred in Dayton.
William Chenoweth came from Kentucky. He was about thirty-five years of age, and was a blacksmith by trade, but it is not known that he worked at his trade here. The reconstruction of the county about the year 1803 placed his farm in Greene County.
John Dorough, a married man, between twenty and thirty years of age, was by trade a miller. He operated a small mill built in 1820, after the burning of the first mill, on the north bank of a race on what is now Cooper Street, at the north end of Antrim's large tobacco warehouse, East First Street. The mill was reached by a foot-bridge, made by placing two trees across the race about five feet apart and laying puncheons crosswise on them. A puncheon was made by sawing a log five or six feet long, and splitting it into as thin pieces as possible. It required considerable skill to make puncheons.
Daniel Ferrell, a man of about fifty years of age, came with his family from West Virginia. But little is known of him. He left one daughter, whose descendants moved to near Honey Creek, Miami County, Ohio.
James Morris came west from Pennsylvania, and was in General Harmer's expedition in 1790. He was a farmer. Although married twice, he left no children.
Solomon Goss probably did not settle in Dayton. It is known he was not living here in 1799, although it is not known where he did settle.
Abraham Grassmire, a young unmarried German, was a weaver by trade. He was handy with tools and made looms for the settlers, as it was customary for every family to have a loom and weave their own linen, cloth, and blankets. Mr. Grassmire moved to Honey Creek about the year 1802 or 1803.
John Van Cleve, son of Benjamin and Rachel Van Cleve, of New Brunswick, New Jersey, was born May 16, 1749. He was a soldier in the War of the Revolution, serving in his father's company. In 1772 he married Catherine Benham, and resided for some years in Monmouth County, New Jersey. Here four of his children we're born— Benjamin, Ann, William, and Margaret Some time after the birth of Margaret the family moved to Washington County, Pennsylvania, where Mary and Amy were born. In December, 1789, John Van Cleve, with his family, started for the West and arrived at Losantiville, Ohio, January 3, 1790, the day the name of the town was changed to Cincinnati. While at work here on an outlet, on June 1,1791, Mr. Van Cleve was ambushed and murdered by the Indians, who, after stabbing him in five places and scalping him, left his body lying in the field and made their escape in the woods. His wife afterwards married Samuel Thompson, who was in the pirogue with the first party to arrive in Dayton.
Mary. Van Cleve, in June, 1804, married John McClain, a farmer from Lexington, Kentucky. They had ten children. Mr. McClain died December 12, 1826, and Mrs. McClain married Robert Swaynie. After Mr. Swaynie's death his wife went to live with her daughter, Sarah Jane McClain Swaynie, where she died.
Ann Van Cleve married Colonel Jerome Holt. Amy married Isaac Shields and died in Preble County. Margaret married George Feeder, of Cincinnati, and died in September, 1858.
William, who was not quite twenty years of age when the family came to Dayton, purchased a quarter-section of land in Van Buren Township, and married Effie Westfall. They had several children. His wife died, and he was married the second and third time. In 1812, in response to a call for men, Mr. Van Cleve raised a company of Dayton Riflemen, and in June they were ordered out to protect the frontier, with Mr. Van Cleve in command as captain. After the war, Captain Van Cleve returned to Dayton, and kept a tavern at the junction of Warren and Jefferson streets, where he died in 1826. The old two-story frame house was moved from there a few years ago to the corner of Bachelor's Alley (now Lathrop Avenue) and Fillmore Street, where it is used as a double tenement.
Benjamin Van Cleve, the oldest child, was only eighteen years old when his father was killed. He at once assumed the care and support of his mother and the other children. It was harder to obtain an education in those days than it is now, but Benjamin, being a boy of strong mind and determined will, managed to master surveying and other branches of education, thereby fitting himself for the many offices of trust which he held during his lifetime. He was an honest, upright man, and was trusted with important dispatches to Philadelphia, New York, and other points. Benjamin Van Cleve was in Dunlap's surveying party just after Wayne's treaty with the Indians at Greenville. He was from the first one of the most prominent citizens of the place, taught the first school in Dayton in the blockhouse in the winter of 1799-1800, served as clerk of the court from the organization of the county until his death, in 1821, and was the first postmaster of Dayton, continuing to occupy that office until his death. Colonel John Johnston, of Piqua, Ohio, in his obituary, said, "God never made a better man than was Benjamin Van Cleve."
On August 28,1800, Benjamin Van Cleve married Mary Whitten, daughter of John and Phoebe Whitten, born February 17, 1782, and died December 28, 1810. This was the first recorded wedding in Dayton. Mrs. Van Clove's marriage portion was a few household and kitchen utensils, a bed, a cow and heifer, a ewe and two lambs, a sow and pigs, a saddle, and a spinning-wheel. They had five children: John Whitten Van Cleve, who was born' in Dayton June 27, 1801, and died September 6, 1858; William James Van Cleve, born October 10, 1803, and died October 30, 1808; Henrietta Maria Van Cleve, born November 16, 1805, married, first, to Samuel B. Dover, and second, to Joseph Bond, and died May 18, 1879; Mary Cornelia Van Cleve, born December 2, 1807, married James Andrews November 20, 1827, and died February 19, 1878; and Sarah Sophia, born November 24, 1809, married David 0. Baker on February 11, 1830, and died October 18, 1839. On March 10,1812, nearly two years after his first wife's death, Benjamin Van Cleve married Mary Tamplin, of Champaign County. He died November 29, 1821. His wife died December 19, 1825.
Samuel Thompson, originally from Pennsylvania, moved west to Cincinnati, where he married Mrs. Catherine Van Cleve, widow of John Van Cleve. They had two children. Sarah, the oldest, married John Ensey, and had six children, all of whom are dead except Dennis Ensey, who lives on Tecumseh Street. Matthew married Margaret Gillespie, and moved to Hagerstown, Indiana, at an early date. Samuel Thompson was drowned in Mad River, about the year 1817.
The following is an obituary of Mrs. Thompson:
"DIED. In this place on Sunday last at the age of eighty-two years, Mrs. Catherine Thompson, formerly Mrs. Catherine Van Cleve, mother of the late Benjamin and William. She was the first female resident of this town and county, to which place she came on the 1st of April, 1796. She was also one of' the earliest inhabitants of Cincinnati, having come to that place before its name was changed from Losantiville, when two small hewed houses and a few log cabins constituted the whole town. Her first husband, John Van Cleve, to whom she was married by the Rev. William Tennant, of Monmouth County, New Jersey, was killed by the Indians on the 1st day of June, 1791, within the present corporate limits of Cincinnati. Her second husband. Samuel Thompson, was drowned in Mad River near this place about twenty years since. She was the mother of thirteen children; her grand-children have numbered eighty-seven, and her great-grand-children upwards of ninety. She was a worthy member of the Methodist Church for the last twenty years of her life, and died in Christian resignation. DAYTON, August 8, 1837."
Mrs. McClure, with her three sons, James, John, and Thomas, and two daughters, Kate and Ann, came to Dayton in the pirogue. Mrs. McClure's husband had been killed at St. Clair’s defeat. The family moved to. Honey Creek, in Miami County. Thomas afterwards returned to Dayton. I have not been able to learn anything of their descendants.
William Gahagan came to Cincinnati with General Wayne's army in 1793, and served through 1794 and 1795. After the treaty at Greenville he made his home with William Hamer. He married Nancy Hamer, and about the year 1805 removed to Miami County, on a prairie south of Troy. After his wife's death he married Mrs. Tennery. He died at Troy about 1845. His descendants still live, I believe, in Miami County, but they have not responded to my inquiries for more particular information.
Daniel C. Cooper, the oldest son of George Cooper, a farmer, of Morris County, New Jersey, was born November 20, 1773. He was educated for a surveyor, an important profession in those days. Prospecting around Dayton as a surveyor gave Mr. Cooper great opportunities for seeing good sites and locating choice lands. In 1796 he built a cabin on the southeast corner of Water and Jefferson streets, and during the following two years entered over one thousand acres south of town, now known as the Patterson farm, onto which he moved, having built a cabin, in 1798. There was a strong spring branch running through this farm, fed by springs on the Wade farm, now partly owned by the Asylum, on which, in 1799, Mr. Cooper built a corn-cracker, sawmill, and still-house. For many years there was enough water in this branch to run the mills all the year.
The first panic that struck Dayton was when Judge Symmes failed to meet his obligations to Congress. The people were much alarmed at the prospect of losing their labor and lands. Many moved away disheartened, and many who stayed, as well as those who left, sold their claims for what they could get. Others who had thought of coming did not come, and the town was in serious danger of a collapse. The settlers at length petitioned Congress for relief, and in compliance with this petition, on March 2, 1799, a law was passed giving any person who had a written contract with Judge Symmes dated prior to April 1, 1797, the privilege of purchasing United States lands at two dollars an acre, payable in three annual installments. In consequence of this law Mr. Cooper entered over eight hundred acres within the town limits. He then began to develop the natural resources of the place, getting ready to build mills by erecting head-gates and throwing a dam across Mad River at the east end of the ground now owned by the Car Works, and digging a race beginning about where the canal now crosses First Street, running westward through Pond Street, and northward, crossing First and Sears streets, thence north of where Whitmore's coal office now stands to the grist-mill which was erected on the ground now occupied by a red shop and the canal immediately north of Monument Avenue.
The first mill started at the head of Mill and Water streets was a "tub-mill," made of four posts, about four feet high, set in the bed of the stream four to six feet apart, on which sills were laid, and the plank, or puncheon, floor pinned down with wooden pins. In the center of this floor was a small pair of mill-stones, with the shaft through the bed stone and floor, at the lower end of which was the horizontal tub-wheel. The current of the stream was directed to the wheel by a dam running diagonally up stream. The burrs were made from granite boulders found here, and were about two feet in diameter. Posts at the four corners upheld a clapboard roof, to keep the rain out of the hopper, and sometimes the west and north sides were boarded up. This was a corn-cracking mill.
In 1800 Mr. Cooper built a grist and sawmill. The grist-mill foundation was in the bed of the present canal. The sawmill was just north of the grist-mill, and was run by the same water-wheel. On October 18, 1801, these mills were completed and ready for use, and the following contract was made by Mr. Cooper:
"Article of Agreement made and concluded on this 8th day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and one, between Daniel C. Cooper, of the County of Hamilton and Territory Northwest of the Ohio, and Robert Edgar, of the county and Territory aforesaid,
"Witnesseth, that the said Cooper, for the consideration hereafter mentioned, hath demised, granted, and to farm let, and doth hereby grant and to farm let, unto the said Edgar, his grist-mill and sawmill at Dayton, to have and to hold the said premises until the first day of April next, and the said Edgar doth agree on his part to take special care of said mills, and to make use of all possible industry, and to render monthly a just and true account of the profits of each mill: to give the said Cooper two-thirds of the profits of the grist-mill and an equal share of the profits of the sawmill, and the said Edgar doth further agree to saw the said Cooper's logs in such stuff as he may want on the following terms, to wit: two-inch plank and under at sixteen pence half-penny, and all plank above two inches thick and scantling at one-quarter of a dollar per hundred, measuring scantling side and edge, and plank side only; and the said Cooper doth agree to pay the said Edgar in cash for the above sawing, or in plank, at the rate of one dollar per hundred for inch oak plank, and others in proportion to the selling price; and the said Cooper doth agree to find files, tallow, and grease for the said mills, and in consideration of which the said Edgar doth agree to finish the roof of the sawmill and inclose the grist-mill so as to make it comfortable for this season, set the bolt agowing by water, etc., etc., the said Cooper finding the materials; and for the faithful performance of the above we do bind ourselves, our heirs, our executors and administrators, firmly each unto the other in the penal sum of five hundred dollars: as witness our hands and seals the day and date above written.
"Witness, D. C. COOPER, PAUL BUTLER, ROBERT EDGAR."
These mills were burned in 1820.
Mrs. Sophia Greene Burnett was born in Rhode Island in 1780. Her father, Charles Greene, was a member of the Ohio Company, and emigrated to Marietta in 1788. G. W. Burnett, brother to Judge Jacob Burnett, a young lawyer in Cincinnati, married Miss Greene in 1801, and shortly after, while in company with his wife and Thomas Ewing, traveling on "horseback to Marietta, was taken sick and died on the roadside, in the woods. Mr. Cooper met Mrs. Burnett, who was young and handsome, sought and won her hand, and they were married in the year 1803. They had several children, all of whom died young except David Zeigler, who was born November 8, 1812. He graduated from Princeton, and returning to Dayton married Letitia C. Smith, of Baltimore, but died shortly afterwards and left no children.
After his marriage, Daniel C. Cooper brought a colored girl here, the first colored person in Dayton, to be a servant in his family. Soon after coming she gave birth to a boy, naming him Harry Cooper. When about two and a half years old he was bound to Mr. Cooper until his twenty-first birthday, and proved to be a faithful hand, driving the oxen and working in the sawmill. While at work in the sawmill he broke his leg, so that it had to be amputated, but he was supplied with a wooden leg and could work almost as well as before. Mr. Cooper pensioned him with a dollar a day as long as he lived. He was drowned in the sawmill race, near where it crossed Third Street.
Daniel C. Cooper was the first justice of the peace in Dayton, having been appointed October 4, 1799, and served until Montgomery County was erected, May 1, 1803. Before his appointment all differences had been settled by neighbors. In 1804, 1807, and again in 1817 he was elected to the Legislature, and was sent to the State Senate in 1808, 1809, 1815, and 1816. He was a member of the Town Council and was president of the Council in 1810 and 1812.
In 1804 Mr. Cooper sold his farm to Colonel Robert Patterson, and built an elegant hewed-log house on the corner of First and Ludlow streets, lining it inside with cherry plank, where he continued to live until his death. He commenced a large brick house on the southeast corner of First and Wilkinson streets, but did not live to finish it. This house, which was bought and completed by Hon. T. J. S. Smith, was for many years the finest house in Dayton. It was finally destroyed by fire on the night of December 31, 1859, the cold being so intense that the hose froze solid, rendering the fire-engine useless.
In 1809 Mr. Cooper made a new plat of Dayton, of which the following is an explanation:
"Wilkinson Street, four poles wide, and the western boundary of the town lots.
"First Street, west of the town lots, four poles wide.
"Third Street, west of the town lots, six poles wide.
"Fourth Street, west of the town lots, four poles wide.
"Fifth Street, west of the town lots, four poles wide.
"St. Clair Street, south of the town lots, four poles wide.
"Lots 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100,101,142,143, and 144 for the use of the town for a common."
In this new plat the fifty-four outlets on the southeast corner are omitted, only two outlets, lying west of Wilkinson Street and north of Third, being on the plat.
The following is the agreement between the county commissioners and the Town Council:
"We, the subscribers, do hereby certify that the above plan is a true representation of the town lots and streets of the town of Dayton, and under the restriction of a law passed the l7th day of February, 1808, we do hereby agree that the original plan be so vacated and amended as is herein specified; and it is agreed that the proprietor shall have the privileges contained in the original record, and that all advantages not expressly given remain with the proprietor.
"Given under our hands and seals this 3d day of Janu-"y' 1809.
"JOHN FOLKERTH, DANIEL HOOVER, JR. - Commissioners.
"JAMES WELSH, HUGH MCCULLUM, WM. McCLURE, BENJ. VAN CLEVE,
"ISAAC G. BURNETT - Members of Council." (Deed Book B, page 147.)
Prior to 1809, when Mr. Cooper made the new plat of Dayton, few, if any, transfers of property were made by deed. The commissioners made it a' rule that the name opposite the number of a lot was the name of the owner of a lot, and in order to transfer the property, all that was necessary was for the owner to say, "I transfer lot number — to —." Of such changes of ownership no record seems to have been kept, but the list of lot owners filed when the plat of 1809 was recorded is the basis of title to the original three hundred and twenty-one lots in Dayton.
All records of transfers by patent from the Government to individuals, and sales of Montgomery County property made by the individuals, are on the records of Montgomery County; so it is useless to go to Hamilton County records for information. There are no records of Montgomery County transfers there. As Judge Symmes never received a patent, he could not make transfers.
On July 18, 1812, the United States by patent transferred to D. C. Cooper four hundred and seventeen and sixty-three hundredths acres, being the residue of all south of Mad River in fractional Section 4, after deducting such lots as had already been sold and transferred. In 1816 Mr. Cooper was sent to the State Legislature. He was also president of the Town Council.
Mr. Cooper was public-spirited and liberal, donating ground to the county for public buildings, a common to the town for a "public walk," lots to the religious organizations for meeting-house and graveyard purposes, and to trustees for the Academy, realizing that the prosperity of the town depended largely on the mental and moral development of the inhabitants. He contributed largely to the First Presbyterian Church, and when the first bell for this church arrived in Dayton, and was unloaded from the wagon at the Phillips store, on the southeast corner of Main and Second streets, Mr. Cooper loaded it on a wheelbarrow and wheeled it to the church, on the northwest corner of Second and Ludlow streets. The exertion was too much for him; he ruptured a blood-vessel, and died July 13, 1818. This bell was afterwards sold to the Shakers.
Mr. Cooper's executors, H. G. Phillips and James Steele, managed his estate so well that his investments grew to be very valuable, giving his son, David Zeigler Copper, a good estate when he arrived of age.
Mrs. Sophia Cooper, a few years after Mr. Cooper's death, married General Fielding Loury, and died May 17, 1826, leaving one son—Fielding Loury.
Colonel Jerome Holt, one of the chain-carriers with the surveying party, was born February 21,1763, and died near Dayton December 28, 1840. He was a brother-in-law of Benjamin Van Cleve, having married Ann Van Cleve, daughter of John and Catherine Van Cleve. They had ten children, none of whom are now living. One of his grandchildren, Mrs. F. E. Gustin, still lives in Dayton, on Albany Street.
In 1800 Mr. Holt was appointed constable of Dayton Township. I have in my possession a receipt, which reads as follows: "December 22, 1800. Received of Robert Edgar his tax in full for the present year, it being D. 0. Cts. .60 - JSB. HOLT, Collector."
He was elected sheriff of this county in 1809, and was colonel of the Fifth Regiment of militia from 1810 to 1812. During the latter year Governor Meigs issued the following order:
" HEADQUARTERS, DAYTON, May 26, 1812.
"Captain Van Cleve's company of Riflemen will march to the frontier of the State west of the Miami under the direction and charge of Colonel Holt. Colonel Holt will assist the frontier inhabitants in erecting blockhouses in suitable places and adopt any mode he may think best for the protection of the frontier and the continuance of the settlements."
Robert Edgar was born in Staunton, Augusta County, Virginia, February 8, 1770, and was ten years old when his father, Robert Edgar, Sr., about 1780, settled on a grant of three hundred and thirty-six acres received from the Commonwealth of Virginia, near Wheeling. While planting flax on Good Friday, 1792, as was the custom in those days, Robert Edgar, Sr., heard hooting as of owls, which he knew to be the calling and answering of Indians. After finishing his work, he felt it his duty to notify his neighbors of the fact that Indians were about, and, on returning to his home at a late hour, was waylaid by nine Indians, shot a number of times, stripped, scalped, and left where he fell. His son Robert, the oldest of the children, settled up the estate, giving the property to the widow—she being Mr. Edgar's second wife—and her children, and, together with his own brother and sister, Andrew and Nancy, came down the Ohio River to Cincinnati in a flatboat. The following is a copy of a bill in my possession:
"1795. Henry Coleman - To Robert and Andrew Edgar. May 19. To assisting with 2 boats from Short Creek to Cincinnati, at twenty dollars each, $40 00. Contra Cr. June 4. Received for the above of Henry Coleman, cash, $18.00 and 1 barrel of flour, $4.50 $22.50 - $17 50"
The balance is still due to Mr. Edgar, April 1, 1896.
Andrew Edgar located at Hillsboro, Highland County, Ohio, and died at that place from the bite of a rattle-snake.
Nancy married David Robinson, of near Lebanon, Ohio, afterwards moved to the West, and all trace of her descendants has been lost.
Robert came to Dayton in September, 1795, with Daniel C. Cooper, as chain-carrier, and in 1796 returned and remained as a citizen. Soon after coming here he contracted with Colonel Newcom to build the Tavern. After completing the Tavern, and clearing and fencing inlot 32 and outlet 5, in compliance with Judge Symmes's proposal to settlers, Mr. Edgar built a cabin on the prairie north of the old bed of Mad River, on the ground now owned by the Water Works and Ezra Bimm. He then went to Cincinnati, on foot, and on September 27, 1798, married Mrs. Margaret Gillespie Kirkwood, widow of David Kirkwood. She had one son, Joseph Kirkwood, who died a bachelor. Mr. and Mrs. Edgar took their wedding journey to the new home on the prairie, the bride and her child on horseback, and the groom on foot, with knapsack and rifle over his shoulder, a packhorse carrying all their worldly possessions. They were three days making the trip, which now we make in less than three hours.
While living on the prairie Mr. Edgar had frequent visits from the Indians, with whom he was always very friendly. At night they would come and sleep around his log fire. It not being considered safe to lock the doors, it was an easy matter for them to gain admittance to the house at all hours, and not infrequently they would call to Robert ("Wobet," as they said) to get up at midnight and play bullets with them. It is hardly necessary to say that he never refused. One night, on arriving home from town after dark, as Mr. Edgar went to care for the horse, Mrs. Edgar, with a child in her arms, thought to kick the log in the fire and make a blaze, and found her foot caught by the Indian she had kicked in its place. Mr. Edgar would frequently be away for several days at a time on walking trips to Cincinnati for flour, cornmeal, and groceries, which he would carry home on his back. At such times his wife would come to the Tavern for Colonel Newcom's father to stay on the prairie with her. As the horse would be swimming Mad River,—the only way of crossing it in those days,—she with her baby in her arms, old Mr. Newcom would say (he was an Irishman), "Faith and Peggy, we will, baby and all, be drowned here some day."
Mr. Edgar, who, as has been stated, was a mechanic, was constantly engaged during these years, and up to 1800, in building head-gates and forebays for Mr. Cooper, and in getting out timber for the grist-mills and sawmills, until, upon their completion, he entered, into an agreement with Mr. Cooper to run the mills. At this time, in compliance with the agreement, he moved into the miller's house, a log cabin on lot number 1, corner of Monument Avenue and Mill Street. He continued to work for Mr. Cooper, running the mills and building houses, until he received a certificate from the land office at Cincinnati for what became the home farm, now known as the Edgar Plat, on south Wayne Avenue, for which he paid two dollars an acre. Here a cabin was built and the work of making a home commenced in earnest. It was on this farm that he used the first iron-moldboard plow that was ever brought to this valley, and which excited universal comment among the people here.
Mr. Edgar discovered a smooth white stone cropping out of the ground near his farm. He at once procured an iron rod and on moonlight nights followed up the bed of stone far enough to feel sure he had found a stone quarry, and determined to buy that quarter-section. Some short time after, while at breakfast one morning, he saw a neighbor pass his door on horseback, and said to his wife, "That man is after the quarry." He at once got out his rifle and money, only enough to pay for eighty acres, and started on foot for Cincinnati, stopping at his brother-in-law, George Gillespie's, of Warren County, where he procured the balance of the money necessary for the purchase. He reached Cincinnati, and was leaving the land office with the papers in his hand just as his neighbor on horseback rode up. The neighbor exclaimed: "Why, Bob! when I passed your house yesterday, I saw you eating your breakfast. How did you get here? " Mr. Edgar's frequent trips, on foot to Cincinnati had given him such a knowledge of the country through which he had to pass that he could take advantage of all short cuts, and follow paths which a horse could not travel.
Hardly was the start made in this new home until the War of 1812 called all able-bodied men to the front, and Mr. Edgar joined a company of horsemen, equipping himself with a sword costing five dollars and twenty-five cents, the receipt for the same, as well as the sword, being now in my possession. The company was sent to protect the frontier settlements, thus leaving Mrs. Edgar at home alone, in a lonely place, to care for the farm and children. In addition to all the work which must, of necessity, be done about a farm in the wilderness, Mrs. Edgar devoted herself to baking for the army what is now called hard-tack. The large brick oven would not be allowed to cool from Monday morning until Saturday night. Fortunately the farm was out of the direct line of Indian travel, so the little family was not annoyed by such uncomfortable visitors. Mr. Edgar returned safely from the campaign, and devoted himself to farming until the canal was being built, in the year 1827. Then the Legislature gave contractors the right to select any timber for bridges and locks that they might choose, and, in order to protect his own choice timber, Mr. Edgar contracted to build two bridges—one at Fifth Street and the other at Third Street.
Mr. and Mrs. Edgar were both devoted members of the First Presbyterian Church from its earliest organization, and continued their membership until death. Mr. Edgar was elected a member of the first board of trustees, and I was one of the original members of the first Sunday school in Dayton. Mr. Edgar died December 19,1838, and his wife died November 25, 1844.
While living on the prairie two children were born— George, August 4, 1799, who died an infant, and Jane Alien, November 24, 1800. After moving to the Cooper Mills, Robert Andrew was born, and on the farm four children—Samuel Dick, William Gillespie, Mary, and John Farris Edgar, the youngest, and only one living.
Jane Allen married Augustus George December 11, 1817, and died in 1826. Mr. and Mrs. George were then living on a farm on the north side of the Miami River, part of it now owned by Jozabed L. Ensley,—Idylwild. At the time of Mrs. George's death the river was high and wide, and the current swift, but the only way to cross was by dug-out canoe. The coffin was carried on a bier along a slight elevation to a point near the entrance to -Idylwild, there balanced crossways on the canoe, and rowed by careful men to the other side, the canoe returning for the family. The coffin was then taken in a wagon to the old graveyard on Fifth Street, the friends following in wagons. She left four little children—Marcella, Margaret Jane, Mary, and Martha, Martha dying when a child. Marcella married Nathaniel Hart, of Chicago. They had three daughters, all of whom are living.
Margaret Jane George, in November, 1844, married Thomas Alexander Phillips, who settled in Dayton May 1 of that year. He was born September 29, 1810, in Cecil County, Maryland, and moved with his father to near Wilmington, Delaware, in 1814 or 1815. Mr. Phillips entered a cotton-factory on the Brandywine when quite young, and in 1835, on coming west, was made superintendent of the old cotton-mill at Covington, Kentucky, at the end of the present suspension bridge. After coming to Dayton Mr. Phillips took charge of the cotton-mill here, afterwards so well known in Dayton by the name of T. A. Phillips & Sons. Mr. Phillips was made director of the Dayton branch of the State Bank, was one of the organizers of the Cooper Hydraulic Company, and continued one of the directors until his death, and was one of the directors of the Dayton Gas Light and Coke Company for about twenty-five years. Mr. Phillips and his wife were members of the First Presbyterian Church for many years. He died of heart disease November 27, 1877. His wife died in 1882. They had four sons—George Levis, John Edgar, Charles Alexander, and William Thomas. John Edgar and William Thomas died when quite young. George Levis was born in Dayton August 22, 1845, and on May 15, 1867, married Mary Adele Bronson in Dubuque, Iowa. Mr. Phillips was for many years engaged with the Chicago Telephone Company, and moved to Chicago, where he died on January 29, 1889, leaving a wife and four daughters. One daughter, Mary Golden, died in New York just the week before her father's death. Charles Alexander married Susie O'Hara, and is living in Covington, Kentucky. He has one son, Thomas Alexander, living.
Mary George married Daniel Storms, and is living in Walla Walla County, Washington. She has no children.
Robert Andrew Edgar was born March 25, 1800. He married Catharine Iddings and had one son, George, who is now living in Kansas. Mr. Edgar died of cholera in 1833.
Samuel Dick Edgar was born March 25, 1806, married Minerva A. Jones, and died October 1, 1874, leaving three children: Mrs. Margaret Edgar Herrman, Mrs. Marianna Edgar Gebhart, and Charles, who died one year after his father, leaving a wife and three little children—Margaret, Emma, and Robert.
Mary Edgar, born April 8, 1811, married Stephen Johnston, of Piqua, Ohio. She and her husband both died of cholera the same week in July, 1849, leaving five small children—James, Margaret, Robert, William, and Eliza. Of these only two are living—Robert and Eliza, who married Philip Kingsland, of Chicago.
John Farris Edgar was born October 29, 1814. On April 23, 1843, he married Effie Allen Rogers, of Springfield, Ohio. They had five children — Robert Rogers, Jane Allen, Isabel Rogers, Elizabeth Barnett, and Frank Rogers, three of whom are still living. Mrs. Edgar died August 19, 1891.