I knew the moment I saw him that he was the oldest citizen, for it was just “after school,” and as he came along the street the childredn hailed him on all sides as “Grandpa.”
“Grandpa Lange,” as he is familiarly known to all residents of Dayton, is listed in the city directory as Fred Lange of 536 Eighth-st.
He came here from Hanover, Germany, in 1858, and he has lived here ever since, which is the strongest argument in the world for any town.
Nowadays aviators arriving in a town often settle in a cornfield. Lange settled in a cornfield, too, but for another reason - that's all Dayton was in those days.
Called It Jimtown
Then, when the cornfield and a portion of the nearby forest were cleared, people began to settle there, and called it Jimtown, and lower Brooklyn.
Then came more settlers, and soon horse-drawn cars appeared. The system was owned by Peter McArthur, father-in-law of Hubbard Schwartz, attorney, of Newport and present city attorney of Dayton.
Lange was a tailor, and eagerly watched the steamboats as they plied the Ohio River, almost as frequently as electric cars now are seen on the street, bringing customers to his shop.
There was, of course, no C & O Railroad through Dayton in those old days, and persons went to Cincinnati via ferry boats, which charged a three cent fare.
Grandpa Lange made the first little suits for many of Dayton's grandfathers, and he likes to recall to the “oldest citizens” how proud they were in their first long trousers he sewed for them.
And Dayton's grandmothers still blush, while rocking their grandchildren on their knees, when he recalls to their minds how they used to come in after school and beg him for the pictures cut out of his tailoring magazines to play paper dolls with.
In the early sixties the “old rope walk,” a rope manufacturing concern, began operating at Third and Clay streets and became the town's chief industry, bringing many people. Dayton was incorporated in 1848. It now numbers 8000 persons.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, in 1861, Dayton held one of the first neutral meetings in the United States. Citizens were divided in opinion as to whether or not they should join the confederacy. A meeting was held at the foot of Clay and Front streets, and it was finally decided not to secede from the Union.
Grown from Cornfield
Fifty-eight families comprised Brooklyn at that time. When was was declared, 51 fathers went out from this little town.
Dayton has grown from a cornfield to a municipality which numbers among its manufacturers one of the largest concerns of its kind in the United States, the Wadsworth Watch Case Co., employing 600 men and women.
It is a musical city, too, for the Harvard Piano Co. puts out 10 pianos a day.
And to Dayton goes the distinction of organizing the first baseball team west of the Allegheny Mountains. It was formed in 1856, and was known as the Dayton Eagles.
It has contributed to the National Baseball League these men: Jess Tannehill, member of the one time Pittsburgh world champions, and Lee Tannehill, member of the championship Chicago White Sox; Gene Gondling, “Shang” Kissinger, and “Chick” Smith, who pitched for the Reds a few years ago.
Grandpa Lange marvels at all these good things that have come to Dayton, but he says “Give me the good old days when everything wasn't such bustle and worry.”
And he closes his eyes, which are almost blind with age, and dreams of olden times.