The City Of Dayton, Kentucky

The city of Dayton, in Campbell county, Kentucky, lies on the higher levels along the base of the hills on the southern shore of the Ohio river.  These hills, with the country sloping southward for about fifteen miles, formed the southern limit of prehistoric Lake Ohio; their formation, therefore, differing in important respects from that of the Ohio hills opposite.  Thousands of beautiful building sites are found on the territory within the city limits, and varied surface, with the bright sand underlying, affords excellent natural drainage and insures the best health conditions.

 In many respects, Dayton is the most inviting of the suburbs about Cincinnati.  The city has electric street car service, taking passengers to the heart of Cincinnati in twenty minutes; and the Chesapeake and Ohio railway has two passenger stations in the city.  A good system of electric lighting makes the streets brilliant at night.  The water works service is adequate for all domestic and manufacturing uses, and gives a fire protection so efficient that losses by fire are infrequent and light.  This water supply comes from the river at a point far above any contamination from the cities on either side, and is clear and sparkling at times when floods large and small tributaries foul the water supply in other places.  The streets of Dayton are well constructed and well kept, while several turnpikes running eastward and southward afford opportunity for pleasant drives among the beautiful Kentucky hills.  The markets are furnished with every staple and will all the delicacies that come from the four points of the compass.  School advantages and chu4ch privileges are exceptionally good, and are to be mentioned with special emphasis.

 Finally, the public affairs of Dayton are so managed as to make the tax burden light, while giving the people every facility and convenience of the most advanced modern cities.

In Early Times

 In early times there was a fine forest of large trees along the river front of Dayton, from Clark street down to Boone, or farther.  The river itself was hundreds of feet farther away than it is now.  It is said that the road ran down the river ran on the bank beyond where the willows now grow.  People now remember that there was a wooded island opposite what is now the eastern end of the city, and in times of high water, the boats took the southern channel.

 The early settlement was between Third avenue and the river, and above Berry avenue.  Three of the older prominent residences are still standing: the McArthur homestead on Berry avenue, the Walker house on the hill, and the Berry homestead on Boone street near the railroad.  In some of the early records, Berry, Walker and McArthur are called "proprietors of the town" [known then as "Jamestown"].

 The first public enterprise in what is now the city of Dayton was the ferry crossing of the Ohio river.  Much of the daily travel to and from Cincinnati was habitually by that route, and it is hardly half a dozen years since the last trips of the fast little steamers which ran from the Dayton landing down the river to Cincinnati shore.  Long before street building began, the ferry was being cared for by the town. 

 Street improvements and school development are elsewhere treated in this book

 The transportation problem continued for many years, engaging both public and private effort.  At one time Conrad Hahn ran an omnibus to Newport, and later came the horse card line, and then the dummy engine, and next the horse cars again.  The earliest transportation through by land was furnished by the Chesapeake and Ohio railway; but the completion soon afterward of the Central bridge at Newport opened the way for the present electric car service.

 Early Businesses

 Among the first private enterprises were a saw mill near the foot of Boone street and Reuben Kruse's grist mill at the foot of Clark street.  The site of the later is now in the river, so great has been the encroachment of the stream on the Kentucky shore. In 1853, Link's ropewalk [a ropewalk is a long narrow building where they make ropes] was moved here from Cincinnati and the sawmill machinery was put to rope making.  This was a profitable industry, there being several smaller manufacturers here at different times.  A great deal of hemp was raised in the country back from the river, in the days before cotton and wire rope became competitors.  The Link ropewalk was on the site of the present Victoria Cordage Company's buildings.  Two or three times the old plant was burned, and finally Mr. Link went out of business, in which he had been associated with Mr. Bonte.  John Schwartz had a ropewalk farther east in the town.  At the eastern corporation line, and between Third and Fourth avenues, Herman Grimme and Peter Wern had a ropewalk, and this one is still in operation.  Nolte's ropewalk stretched from Benham to Clark street, and George Schauffele and Robert Schwab had one between Kenton and Benham streets.  Joseph Schuh had a ropewalk on Fifth avenue between Kenton and Benham.  Tinneman's ropewalk was on Benham between Fourth and Fifth avenues, and Henry Rackers had one on Kenton street between Fourth and Fifth.

 Jamestown Hotel, on Clay street near the river, was built by the elder Berry, and was for many years a hostelry of fame.  It had twenty-three rooms. 

The Maddux distillery in the east end of the town was long ago famous for the quality of its fine goods.

 In 1869, F. B. Mader built a planing mill at the corner of Fourth and Clay streets, and operated it until 1871.  The Kennedy mill, at the C&O crossing of Walnut street, is the representative of this industry now.

 Brickmaking has been followed by a number of persons.  Charles McArthur and James Peters had brickyards on Fourth between Clay and Berry avenue.  Cannon & Otters had a yard above Clark street, and Anton Walter one at the foot of McKinney street.  Clark's yard at the foot of Walnut street is still in operation.

 The hills back of the city are full of excellent building stone and easily gotten out.  A great deal of this stone has been used, but quarrying on a large scale has not been attempted.  The finest of clean, sharp sand for mortar is found in limitless quantities on the river front.

 As illustrating the interest in transportation facilities in former times, it is said that George Ross, then of Dayton, paid a gold quarter eagle for the distinction of being the first passenger on the street car line, which had been completed to Berry avenue in Bellevue.  The track was soon extended to the bridge at Taylor's Creek, and finally to Monmouth street in Newport. 

Municipal History

 The city of Dayton was formed buy the consolidation of two corporations, Jamestown and Brooklyn, the former being the older.  The act incorporating Jamestown was passed in 1848, and the first record of its board of trustees is dated June 25, 1849.  The trustees were Thomas Dodd, Samuel Masters, H. D. Helm, James Kesler, and George Anderson.  They were sworn in by John Batson, a justice of the peace.  The total tax levy for that year was $200, with a fifty-cent poll tax.  John Richards was treasurer.  In August, 1849, the trustees voted all tax moneys to the improvement of the ferry landing.  The ferry continued thereafter to figure often in the public records.  In February, 1859, or ten years after incorporation, the trustees appointed H. Wevering and George Nolte to go "seven or eight miles down the Ohio river and see a horse ferry," to determine whether such a contrivance would answer the needs of the Jamestown people.  In 1855, Joseph A. Link, Sr., was president of the trustees; in 1859, John Berkemeier, and in 1861 John Schwartz.  In 1862 the trustees appointed a committee to meet those of the Brooklyn people who favored consolidation of the two towns.  One of the reasons for union was that Jamestown could get no post office, there being an office of that name in the State.  Brooklyn included the territory between Barry and McKinney streets and had a post office.  In April, 1862, there was an election on the consolidation, and it was agreed to.  It had been decided that the consolidated town should not have the name of either of the old corporations.  Why the name Dayton was adapted is not now known.

Elected Officials

 In 1866, Mr. M. R. Harris was president of the Jamestown trustees, and in 1867 the minutes are for the first time dated as Dayton.  Anton Link being president.  Following him were J. M. McArthur, William Hasson, W. M. Donaldson, Charles A. Bird, John Reid, and J. W. Shanks.  The office of mayor was separate from that of president of the council, the functions of the mayor being mainly those of a police judge.  In 1867, the year after the union of the two towns, Theo. Kneven was mayor. In 1870, G. W. Maxey was elected mayor, but did not qualify, and F. B. Mader was chosen instead.  In 1871, Mr. Mader resigned, and G. S. Skillback was put in.  In 1874, Herman Joering was elected mayor, but resigned in 1877, and was succeeded by H. W. Gunnison.  In 1878 and again in 1882, Geo. W. Maxey was chosen mayor, but did not finish his second term, and early in 1884 L. P. Anschutz was chosen mayor by council.  In August of of that year, Ed. R. Helm was elected, but the office was vacated by the county court, and in 1886 John Reid was elected.  He did not qualify, and Dr. Zimmerman was chosen instead.  Then came John Reid once more, and in 1890 W. C. McClain.  In 1893, Charles A. Bird was elected, and holds the office now, by re-election in 1897.  In 1893 the city came into the list of cities of the fourth class under the new constitution, and the mayor ceased to perform the duties of police judge.  The mayor presides over council.

 Those who have served as clerk are:

1849, H. D. Helm;

1850, John B. Winton;

1852, C. T. McKibbon;

1853, W. L. Hasbrouck;

1855, J. M. McArthur;

1856, W. L. Hasbrook;

1858, G. S. Skillback; 

1859, George Nolte;

1860, John Edwards;

1862, Wm. Tiemann, Jr;

1864, Leonard Worcester;

1865, Lewis Keven;

1868, H. P. Brazee, Jr;

1870, E. F. Hazen (died in office);

1870, H. P. Brazee, Jr.;

1872, L. P. Stone

1875, Casper Heeg;

1880,Geo. Nolte, Jr.;

1882, W. R. Taliaferro;

1884, Orin Cady;

1885, Geo. Nolte, Jr.;

1886, Charles B Hayward, the present clerk.

Dayton Today

Best lighted of all the Kentucky cities is the Dayton of today.  Its electric lights make it a strong contrast to cities having less brilliant illumination.  Water supply is abundant and of the best; fire plugs are sufficient to cover the territory effectively.  There is an electric fire alarm, and the fire apparatus is handled by the police force, making a paid fire department.  The street cleaning service is efficient, the health board is watchful, and all things kept in good condition.

 During the four years administration of the present Mayor, Hon. Charles A. Bird, numerous street improvements have been made; gravel and macadam have been put on many thoroughfares; several bridges have been built and some streets opened; street crossings have been paved; the city offices have been refitted in good modern style; an average of about $10,000 has been provided for the schools; and several thousand dollars of old indebtedness has been cleared off.  Yet, during this period the city tax rate has been reduced from $2.00 in 1893 to $1.35 in 1897, and the city's credit has been maintained second to none.  Some conception of the rate of general development and the increase in property values during this period may be gained from the fact that the tax valuation increased from $1,392,135 in 1893 to $2,130,860 ion 1898.  All this, too, was in a time of business stagnation and general depression.  The facts here briefly given make a showing that can hardly be paralleled anywhere.

 In another respect, the record of Dayton is worthy of careful attention.  The city is freer from crime than any other of its class in this section of the country, with no larger police force.

 The Public Schools

 The date of the establishment of the first school is not discoverable from the records.  There was a school in early times in the frame building at the corner of Seventh and Berry avenues.  The principal public school before the erection of the brick building on Sixth avenue was in a small one room frame building, during the construction of which, the school was kept in what is now the jail building on Third street.

 The first school superintendent was George W. Legg, from 1869 to 1872.  He was followed by J. H. Hart, Geo. W. Weimer, Orin Cady, W. Morin, E. R. Helm, James McGinnis, W. R. Taliaferro, Benjamin McKibbon, J. H. Lowe, R. M. Mitchell (from 1885 to 1896) and the present superintendent, F. S. Alley.

 The present school accommodations are nineteen rooms in the three buildings on Sixth, Fifth and Fourth avenues, with two rooms rented in other buildings.  Several years ago, the board purchased the large grounds corner of Eighth avenue and Walnut street.  A building on these grounds is one of the pressing necessities confronting the school board, with prospects good for an early building.

 The enumeration of pupils of school age was:

1895,  1,565

1896,  1,616

1897,  1,705

1898,  1,762

 About 150 of these are in the St. Francis parochial school, and quite a number attend schools elsewhere.  The colored pupils (26 in the 1897 enumeration) go to the colored school in Newport.  In the Dayton schools, the enrollment for 1897 was 991; of these, 206 were in the first year grades, and the number of course diminished in the upper grades, there being 35 in high school (ninth, tenth and eleventh years).  Nearly two thirds of all pupils below the high school level are in the first four grades. However, there is a decided growing interest and increase in attendance in the upper grades, which is one of the best indications of a healthy and satisfactory condition of the schools

When the present superintendent, Prof. F. S. Alley, came into charge (1896) a notable change was inaugurated in the school management.  It had been the custom to adhere to the Cincinnati course of study and the methods there, but these have largely been superceded in the more advanced and progressive schools of the country.  Prof. Alley has reconstructed the course of study in harmony with the best of educational thought and practice of the foremost educators of the day.  HE has introduced new principles of classification, or of grading. Promotions from class to class are made according to the pupil's advancement, and not with an arbitrary interval of a year between classes.  This does away with the final examination, and with that, of course, goes the practice of "cramming" for the occasion.  The reward is given for every-day work, and affords a continuous stimulus instead of a spasmodic one - the former as healthful as helpful, the latter often positively injurious, and never an unmixed benefit.  Where there are two or more classes in the same grade, as it often happens, the pupils are divided according to ability to do work, so that the quicker pupils may not be held back by the slower, nor the slower unduly urged or discouraged by their more rapid fellows.  By these advanced methods the Dayton schools have been brought to the front rank in scientific education, far ahead of others in this vicinity, a matter of proper pride in parents and of momentous interest to the coming generation.

 There could be no more hopeful indication about the schools than the fact already mentioned, that the attendance in the higher grades is increasing, in comparison with the aggregate attendance.  This is a testimony to the wise and efficient management, as well as to the appreciation of the people.

 Finally, it is to be noted that the board of education, as a body, is intelligently interested in the welfare of the schools, and is zealous in its care for them.  In the membership of the board are men of long experience in school affairs and of ripe age.  With these are associated younger men, full of progressiveness.


 The Speers Hospital, which was formally dedicated and opened a few months ago, was built by trustees out of a fund left for the purposes by Mrs. Elizabeth L. Speers.  Mrs. Speers was of English birth, but went to Texas in early life, and there married.  Not much more is known of the younger years of Mrs. Speers.  From Texas, she came with her husband to Cincinnati, and lived in Walnut Hills.  They came to Dayton in 1883, and took up their residence at Fifth and Berry avenues.  In 1885 Mr. Speers died.  The widow continued to live in the homestead until her death, and was known for her many benevolences.  At her death she left about $100,000 to found and maintain a hospital.  Five trustees were named, three of whom are still serving - Dr. C. B. Schoolfield, John Trapp, and C. W. Nagel.  The hospital building, on Main street between Fourth and Fifth avenues is handsome in exterior, and unusually well constructed.  It contains thirty private rooms and four large wards 45 by 28 feet, each having 48 single beds.  The main building is four stories above the basement, and the wings are two and a half stories.  The hospital is served y a corps of skillful practitioners, distinguished by their profession.  It is the best-appointed institution of its kind on this side of the river, and is Grandy beneficent monument to the esteemed lady who founded it.


 The territory included in the corporate limits of Dayton is the northernmost ground in the State of Kentucky.  Here, and in this vicinity, were favorite resorts of Indians.  In many places, great numbers of flint arrowheads, and now and then fragments of rude pottery, are found.  In Dayton itself, on Fourth avenue near Benham street, is an Indian mound, still well defined in outline.  It has never been explored.  The lots on which this mound [lies], belong to the Spillman estate.