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Montgomery Co., Ohio
History & Genealogy

History of City of Dayton and Montgomery County, Ohio
by Rev. A. W. Drury
- Vol. 1 -



Environment - Large purchases of lands - The Surveys - West of the Miami - Judge Symmes -
Governor St. Clair - General Dayton - Colonel Ludlow - Van Cleve's account of survey and settlement -
Hamer's Party - Newcom's Party - Thompson's Party - First Necessities - Newcom's Tavern
The Indians - Schools and Churches - Stores and mills - Social events
Neighboring Settlements - Roads - First Boat - Hamilton County
Dayton Township - Land Titles - Land Sales - Memorial to Congress
Suits in the Supreme Court - Sketches of First Settlers
Character of the First Settlers



     The first settlers of Dayton will ever hold a place of special interest.  This chapter may well be brought to a close with sketches of these pioneers.

     WILLIAM HAMER was a native of Maryland.  In 1792, he, with his wife and children, came west, descending the Ohio river to Cincinnati in a flatboat, built by himself and his son, Solomon, then sixteen years of age.  The lumber in the boat was used in constructing a house, in which the family lived until they started to their place on Mad river, in March, 1796.  The children in the family were Solomon, Thomas, Nancy, Elizabeth, Sarah and PollyMr. Hamer was a Methodist local preacher, and a family prayers could be heard a great distance.  Religious meetings were early held at his place.  He located on section twenty-nine, the section which under Symmes' contract was to be devoted to the support of religion.  He derived no advantage, however, from this fact.  In this home, a son was born, December 9, 1796, and out of regard for the new settlement was given the name Dayton.  In 1827, Mr. Hamer died as the result of an accident while on his way to Cincinnati.  Of his children, Nancy married William Gahagan, who came on the pirogue, and Sarah married in 1801, David Lowry, who had previously settled on Donnel's creek in Greene county.
     JONATHAN and EDWARD MERCER settled on Mad River, eight miles from its mouth and there established what was called Mercer's Station, then an exposed place which they twice were compelled to abandon because of danger from Indians.  Jonathan Mercer died prior to 1810
     GEORGE NEWCOM was born in the north of Ireland, of Presbyterian stock in 1771, and in 1775 was brought to this country by his parents.  His father died in Dayton about 1805.  George Newcom married Mary Henderson of Washington county, Pennsylvania, and moved to Cincinnati about 1794.  A daughter born in 1794 in Cincinnati, died before the family left that place.  The next child, John W., was born September 9, 1797, near Hamilton, married Martha Grimes, November 20, 1820, and died July 7, 1836.  A daughter, Jane, was born April 14, 1800, being the first girl child born in Dayton.  She married, May 20, 1819, Nathaniel Wilson.  The two next children, George Alexander and Charles Grimes, died in infancy.  The next child, Eliza Jane, was born April 17, 1825, married John Comly, and died March 5, 1873.  The next child, Mary Ann, was born January 9, 1827, and died May 18, 1854.  The wife of Mr. Newcom died in 1834, and two years later he married Elizabeth Bowen, a widow.  George Newcom was a soldier of Wayne's army.  He also served in the War of 1812.  He was the first Sheriff of Montgomery county, holding that office five years.  He was the later state senator, filling that position eight years.  He was a member of the lower house five years, and filled many other positions of honor and trust.  His name, however, will always stand most closely connected with the old tavern, the center of every form of activity when Dayton was at best an experiment.  He died February 25, 1853.
     WILLIALM NEWCOM, a brother of George, was about twenty years of age when he came to Dayton.  He married Miss Charlotte Nolan, of Kentucky.  For a number of years he lived on a farm near Dayton.  He served in the War of 1812, and died a few months after his enlistment as a result of exposures in the army.  A son, Robert, was a prominent carpenter and builder, and a grandson, Milo G. Newcom, at present (1909) lives on Wilkinson street.
     THOMAS DAVIS was a native of Wales.  He was soldier in the Revolutionary war.  He settled on the bluffs, south of Dayton.  He brought with him a large family.  His son, Owen Davis, was in business for himself and a taxpayer in 1798.  He operated for many years a mill  five miles west of Xenia, on the Big Beaver creek.  About the mill a few houses were built and here the first Greene county court was held in 1803.
     JOHN DAVIS, a brother of Thomas Davis, is said to have settled on the west side of Miami river.  He was killed by an accident at Cooper's mill in 1799.  This is said to have been the first death that occurred at Dayton.
     WILLIAM CHENOWETH brought his family with him from Kentucky.  He was a blacksmith, but did not work at his trade as shown by an advertisement in a Cincinnati paper, stating that there was no blacksmith within twenty miles of Dayton.  His home on Mad river was, in 1803, included within the limits of Greene county.
     JOHN DOROUGH, a married man, was a miller by trade.  He owned a mill on Mad river, later known as Shoup's mill and later still as Kneisley's mill.
     DANIEL FERRELL came with his family from western Virginia, and settled on land, probably now within the limits of Miami county.
     JAMES MORRIS came from Pennsylvania and served in the expedition of General Harmar, in 1790.  He was a farmer.  He was twice married, after coming to the new settlement, but left no children.
     ABRAHAM GRASSMIRE, an unmarried German, was a weaver by trade.  He was handy in the construction of household articles and helped to make the first looms for the settlers.  He moved to Honey creek about 1802.
     SOLOMON GOSS, who was living in Dayton in 1799, probably soon afterward moved further up the Miami.
     SAMUEL THOMPSON came from Pennsylvania to Cincinnati where he married Catherine, widow of John Van Cleve.  He was the leader of the party coming by water.  With him were his wife, Catherine, their little daughter, Sarah, two years old, and Matthew, two months old, and Mrs. Thompson's daughter, Mary Van Cleve, nine years old, and her son, Benjamin Van CleveMr. Thompson held a number of offices in the new community.  He was drowned in February, 1815, in Mad river just below the Staunton road ford.  His wife died August 6th, 1837.
     WILLIAM GAHAGAN, a young Irishman, came to Cincinnati with General Wayne's army, in 1793 and served through 1794 and 1795.  He afterward made his home with William Hamer whose daughter, Nancy, he married.  In 1794, he and Benjamin Van Cleve assisted in conveying army supplies on the Ohio river and later he assisted Captain Dunlap in surveying expeditions.  About 1805, he moved to what came to be the territory of Miami county, where he died in 1845.  He and Benjamin Van Cleve were the twin screws in propelling the pirogue up the Miami.
     MRS. McCLURE joined the party of settlers, bringing with her her children, James, John, Thomas, Kate, and Ann.  Her husband was killed in St. Clair's defeat.  The family after living in Dayton four or five years, moved to Honey creek.
     BENJAMIN VAN CLEVE, and the family to which he belonged have great interest to every citizen of Dayton.  John Van Cleve, the founder of the family in America, came from Holland to Long Island about 1650, later settling in New Jersey.  Benjamin Van Cleve was the son of John and Catherine Benham Van Cleve, his father being the son of Benjamin and Rachel Van Cleve.  John Van Cleve was residing in Monmouth county, New Jersey, when four of his children were born, Benjamin, born February 24, 1773; Ann, born July 30, 1775, maried to Jerome Holt; William, born in 1777; Margaret, born in February, 1779, married to George Reeder; Mary, born February 10, 1787, and Amy, born in July, 1789, were born while the family were residing in Washington county, Pennsylvania.  The family determining to move west, came down the Ohio river in a boat arriving at Cincinnati, Januayr 3, 1790.  Here John Van Cleve followed the trade of blacksmith, engaging, likewise, in farming.  In 1791, while at work in an out-lot in Cincinnti, he was killed y the Indians.  Benjamin, the oldest child, now eighteen years of age, at once took, as best he could, a place of a father in the family.  Mrs. Van Cleve later married Samuel Thompson and to them were born two children, Sarah and Matthew, before they moved to Dayton.  Much of the time between 1791 and 1794.  Benjamin was employed in the quarter-master's department in connection with Fort Washington.  Among other duties he accompanied brigades of loaded pack horses to the headquarters of St. Clair's army, was present at his defeat, furnishing a vivid account of the same.  In 1795, he accompanied Captain Dunlap's surveying party to the Mad river country, was present when Colonel Ludlow surveyed the plat of Dayton, and in 1796 was one of the first settlers of Dayton.  His married to Mary Whitten, August 28, 1800, was the first marriage in the new settlement.  In Dayton he was the first postmaster, the first school teacher, the first clerk of the court, serving with a slight break till the close of his life, which occurred November 29, 1821.  He was the father of five children, John Whitten, born June 27, 1801, died September 6, 1858; William James, born October 10, 1803, died October 30, 1808; Henrietta Maria, born November 16, 1805, married Samuel B. Dover; Mary Cornelia, born December 2, 1807, married James Andrews; Sarah Sophia, born November 24, 1809, married David C. Baker.  His wife died December 28, 1810, and March 10, 1812, he married Miss Mary Tamplin.  Of him, his friend and associate, Colonel John Johnston said:  "God never made a better man than was Benjamin Van Cleve."  He was an active member in the Presbyterian Church.
     WILLIAM VAN CLEVE  was nineteen years of age when he came to Dayton.  He lived in Dayton a few years.  He later purchased a quarter section of land a short distance southeast of Dayton.  He married Effie Westfall, by whom he had several children.  His wife died and he married a second time.  On the death of his second wife, he again married.  His life to 1812 was that of a farmer.  In the War of 1812 he raised in Dayton a company of riflemen, and in June was ordered to guard supply trains and to protect the frontier.  After the war he kept a tavern at the junction of Warren and Jefferson streets, where he died in 1828.
     ROBERT EDGAR, JEROME HOLT and D. C. COOPER came to Dayton as permanent residents in 1796 only a few weeks or months after the coming of the first settlers, all of them having been at the place of settlement with surveying parties the preceding year.  They may, therefore, well be called first settlers.
     ROBERT EDGAR was born at Staunton, Virginia, February 8, 1770.  He was of Scotch-Irish descent.  About 1780, his father moved, with his family, to the location of Wheeling, Virginia, where in 1792 he was killed by the Indians.  Shortly afterward Robert Edgar, with his brother, Andrew, and sister, Nancy, came dow the Ohio river to Cincinnati.  In 1795 he was a chain carrier in the party of D. C. Cooper, in marking out the road to Mad river.  When he came to Dayton in the spring or summer of 1796, he complied with the conditions for receiving a donation in-lot and a donation out-lot.  He was soon employed in building the two-story house of hewed logs for George Newcom, which after receiving an addition in 1798-99, became Newcom's tavern.  September 17, 1798, he married Mrs. Margaret Gillespie Kirkwood and moved into a cabin that he had erected on the north bank of Mad river.  As this was a favorite camping place for the Indians in making visits to the settlement, the family were much in peril and subject to much annoyance from the Indians.  A horse's back was their ferry in crossing Mad river.  As he was a mechanic, up to 1800, he was constantly employed by Mr. Cooper in getting out timber and building head-gates and mills.  The mills were in the village and on Rubicon creek near where the Cash Register works now are.  In 1799, he built the tub-mill or "corn cracker" on Rubicon creek for Mr. Cooper.  Before this, he may have assisted in building the distillery near the same place.  When in 1801 he leased Cooper's mills in the village, he moved into a house at the corner of Water and Mill streets, belonging to Cooper.
     He early purchased land a part of which became the Edgar plat on Wayne avenue, and began farming.  Later he purchased a quarter-section on which he opened up a fine stone-quarry.  Mr. Edgar served in the War of 1812.  Mrs. Edgar at home baked bread or hard tack for the army.  After the war he returned to his farm.  When the canal was being built, he constructed the bridges at Third and Fifth streets.   The children of Mr. and Mrs. Edgar living past childhood were: Jane Allen, born November 24, 1800, married Augustus George; Robert A., born October 10, 1803, married Catherine Iddings; Samuel D., born March 26, 1806, married Minerva A. Jones; Mary, born April 8, 1811, married Stephen Johnston; John F., born October 29, 1814, married Effie A. Rogers.  Mr. and Mrs. Edgar were zealous Christian workers, being members of the Presbyterian church.  Mr. Edgar died December 19, 1838, and Mrs. Edgar died November 25, 1844.
     COLONEL JEROME HOLT was born February 21, 1763.  He was the brother-in-law of Benjamin Van Cleve, having married his sister, Ann.  In 1797, he settled on a farm near Dayton.  In 1800 he was appointed constable of Dayton township and from 1808 to 1811 was sheriff of Montgomery County.  He was colonel of the Fifth Regiment of Militia from 1810 to 1812.  Colonel Holt died in Wayne township December 28, 1840.
     DANIEL C. COOPER, more than any other man, deserves the credit for being the founder and truest benefactor of Dayton.  He was born in Morris county, New Jersey, November 20, 1773.  He was educated for a surveyor.  MORE TO BE ADDED SOON................
     DANIEL ZIEGLER COOPER, the only one of the six children of Daniel C. Cooper who grew up to maturity, was born November 8, 1812.  He graduated from Princeton College, married Miss Letitia Smith in Philadelphia, and died in Dayton December 4, 1836.   His widow married a Mr. Backus, a man of wealth, and the estate was managed by E. W. Davies and Alexander Grimes as trustees and contributed much to the progress of Dayton.





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