Montgomery County's History

Downtown DaytonRoots of Montgomery County

Once the Northwest Territory was created in 1787, all of the lands above the Ohio River were open for settlers. Judge John Cleves Symmes purchased around 311,682 acres of land between the Great and Little Miami Rivers, known as the Miami Purchase or the Symmes' Purchase. On August 20, 1795, Arthur St. Clair, Governor of the Ohio Territory; Captain Jonathan Davis (later an Ohio Senator); General James Wilkinson; and Colonel Israel Ludlow all contracted with Judge Symmes to purchase some of his lands. After the purchase, Daniel Cooper and John Dunlap set out from Cincinnati to map the boundaries of the purchase as well as make a road. Cooper cut a road from Fort Hamilton up the East bank of the Miami River, which became the road on which Middletown, Franklin, and Miamisburg were built.

A colony of 46 men had come to Cincinnati to settle in the Dayton vicinity, but only 19 men kept their promise: Samuel Thompson; Benjamin and William Van Cleve, William Gahagan, James and John McClure, George and William Newcom, John Davis, William and Solomon Hamer, Solomon Goss, Thomas Davis, John Dorough, William Chenowith, James Morris, and Daniel Ferrell, and after their arrival during 1796 to 1797 Dayton Township, as well as other townships near it, were created.

On April 30, 1802, President Thomas Jefferson approved the Enabling Act of Congress, thus creating the State of Ohio. On March 24, 1803, the Ohio Legislature met in Chillicothe and enacted a law which divided Hamilton and Ross Counties. This division created the counties of: Montgomery, Warren, Butler, and Ross. Section 3 of the law states: "And be it enacted: That all that part of the county of Hamilton, included within the following boundaries [...] shall compose a third new county, called and known by the name of Montgomery."[1]

The name Montgomery comes from Irish Immigrant and American Revolutionary War Hero General Richard Montgomery who died in Canada while trying to take Quebec City. According to The History of Montgomery County, "Montgomery [...] was killed at the first fire. His gallant and noble character were eulogized in the British Parliament, and the American Congress passed resolutions of respect and veneration for the young hero."[2] Congress also erected a monument to Montgomery in front of St. Paul's Church in New York City into which his remains were interred. The name Dayton also comes from an American Revolutionary War soldier. Captain Jonathan Dayton was the youngest person to sign the United States Constitution, served as a Speaker to the United States House of Representatives, and served in the United States Senate.

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First Court Session

The first court session in Montgomery County was held in Dayton at Newcom's Tavern in July of 1803. The first associate judges of that court were: Benjamin Archer, Isaac Spinning, and John Ewing. Benjamin Van Cleve was named the Clerk of Court, Daniel Symmes was Prosecutor, George Newcom was Sheriff, and James Miller served as Coroner. There was no jail during the first few months of the new county administration, so Newcom resorted to putting prisoners down into a dry well. When the first jail was finally constructed, it was made of round logs and was located on Third Street at the West end of where the old courthouse sits today.

Newcom's Tavern served as the courthouse until a brick courthouse was constructed around 1806. The building was slow and happened over the course of several years. The jury box had no seating at first, and it wasn't until 1811 that tables were even brought in. The cupola was constructed in 1815, but the bell was not hung until the winter of 1816.

The county was greatly successful in part because of the construction of nine turnpikes which connected further parts of the state with Dayton, and the completion of the Miami to Erie Canal in 1829 that connected Dayton to Cincinnati. Due to the wealth of transportation in Dayton many industries began to spring up in the area. The area flourished with newspapers and journals, agricultural to related businesses, mills, and distilleries. Perhaps the most famous business to be opened in Dayton was John H. Patterson's National Cash Register Company (NCR) which was established in 1880.

Eventually the Wright family, Bishop Milton Wright and wife Susan Catherine (Koerner) Wright, would make their way to Dayton. Wilbur and Orville opened up a bicycle shop called the Wright Cycle Company. The brothers, however, would find fame in creating the first 'heavier to than to air powered aircraft,' also known as the Wright Flyer, the world's first powered and controlled airplane.

The county continued to grow and flourish into the 19th and 20th centuries. More than inventors like John H. Patterson and the Wright Brothers came from Dayton and the Montgomery County. Poet and author Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Olympic gold medalist hurdler Edwin C. Moses, humorist Erma Bombeck, inventor Charles F. Kettering, and actors including Rob Lowe, Martin Sheen, and Allison Janney all came from right here in Montgomery County, Ohio.

[1] W.H. Beers & Co. The History of Montgomery County, Ohio, Containing a History of the County. Chicago: W. H. Beers & co., 1882, pg. 286-87.

[2] Ibid, pg. 287.

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