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Dayton History, Ohio

Dayton, OH, US was originally inhabited by an ancient people known as the Mound-Builders.  Little is known about their culture except for what can be fathomed from the excavations of their giant mounds.  The Mound-Builder culture either disappeared or evolved into the American Indian culture.  The Miami and Shawnee tribes were the major groups in the area when Europeans arrived in the Miami Valley.  Because the land was reserved for hunting, it is likely that there were no inhabitants living on the actual Dayton site when the Europeans arrived.

England gained control of the valley, but at the close of the Revolutionary War the area was turned over to the United States.  When the U.S. Congress formed the Northwest Territory in 1787, the region that is now the state of Ohio was part of it.

The beautiful and fertile lands of the Miami Valley were highly coveted by many U.S. and territorial citizens; but because the land was so important to the American Indians in the area, the many attempts by non-Indians to take possession of the land failed.  In 1794, however, General Anthony Wade ended the wars by defeating the American Indians.  Shortly after this, a group of men purchased the land and immediately began planning new settlements, including Dayton.

Lots within the planned settlement were given away by lottery to anyone who wished to settle within the town.  By 1800, Dayton consisted of nine log homes, most of which were one room, a tavern with a general store, and two churches.  The surrounding areas were mostly wilderness.  Shortly after this time, the town began to grow and develop and even became the county seat. 

During the War of 1812 with England, the citizens of Dayton sent a company of soldiers to battle.  They also welcomed soldiers camping in the area and provided a military hospital.  The war helped the economy of the town because of the furnishing of supplies to the soldiers.

There were some setbacks, such as the Cooper’s Mills fire in 1820 which destroyed 4,000 bushels of wheat and 2,000 pounds of wool and cholera outbreaks in 1832 and 1849 which together killed more than two hundred residents, but in 1841 Dayton became an official city.  Throughout the latter part of the 19th century, the city was impressively developed, modernized, and otherwise improved.

The United States Civil War was another major war for the citizens of Dayton.  Most of the community supported the Union and 3,644 men left the city to fight in the war.  Even though the war itself did not reach Dayton, there were two noteworthy uprisings.  The first took place in May of 1863 when sympathizers for the South burned down the newspaper office.  The following year, a group of Union soldiers mobbed another printing office. 

Flooding was another major problem for the city of Dayton.  An especially destructive flood in 1886 caused more than $250,000 in damage.  The Great Dayton Flood which took place in March of 1913 was also extremely destructive.  Much of the city was hurt by the floodwaters, including some photographic negatives belonging to the Wright Brothers which portrayed photographs of some of their flights.  After this flood, suburbs began to develop in the hills surrounding Dayton.

By the late 1930’s, Dayton was already highly industrialized.  Because of this, the city was involved in several efforts related to World War II.  This includes the invention of parts of the first atomic bombs and the production of bomb sights, code-breaking machines, and airplane engines.

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