The Passing of "Buck Pasture" and "Slidertown"
by Howard Burba
[transcription of article]
Well up on Mad river, where it has persistently refused for a century to remain tranquil long enough for the home-builder to reclaim hundreds of acres along its banks, workmen are engaged in the erection of a new and modern bridge. It is to replace an old structure which has long served to connect North Dayton with what is now familiarly called the "East End," and which bears all cross-river traffic east of the Keowee st. bridge.
There are in Dayton several thousand people who, even to this day, are ignorant of a passage across the river at this point, and yet as far back as the Civil War the highway now being linked by the new structure was an important one. It brought the outside world, from the north banks of Mad river to a flourishing town east of Dayton known as "Findlay." Travelers along the old Valley pike trail from Springfield could leave it at the Findlay road, cross the river to the town of Findlay, and then journey on down what is now East Third st. to the canal, where the town of Dayton had its wharf and hotel and center of industrial activity.
"Buck Pasture" in those early days was a name given to that part of Dayton lying east of Third st., between the present railroad crossing and Findlay st.--the latter thoroughfare being today what for long years was the Findlay road. "Buck Pasture" was a part of the holdings of D. Z. Cooper, and while he enriched himself considerably when he platted it in 1836 and sold the lots, embracing 37 acres, at almost ten times ore than he had originally expected to derive, his dream of shifting the original town of Dayton to "Buck Pasture" never materialized.
It may not be amiss just here to record that from the time George Newcom established his tavern on the site of the present Harbour apartments, Dayton stood sadly in need of a conservancy commission. About as regularly as the spring season made its appearance flood waters poured in from the Miami, Stillwater and Mad rivers, and pioneer settlers were forced to resort to flat-boats, pirogues and shanks' mare to save their lives. More than once lives alone were saved, since the flood waters came on so suddenly as to make the salvaging of property impossible. It is quite probable that the disastrous inundation of 1913 was held to a minimum loss of life through the fact that Daytonians inherited from their forefathers the art of "getting in the clear" when the Miami went on a rampage.
As early as 1805, when Dayton was still but "a wide place in the road," a disastrous flood swept over the village. It was then that Mr. Cooper proposed removing the entire town to a point east--including territory that later became known as "Buck Pasture"--and on the elevation around what is now the intersection of Springfield and Linden with Third st. But homes had been erected under difficulty, fords had been established and streets marked off by constant travel, so Mr. Cooper's plan fell upon deaf ears.
"Mexico" was thriving west of the river; "Texas" had been firmly established on the north bank of Mad river; "Findlay" was trying to catch a foothold away out east. So Mr. Cooper again set his surveyors to work and platted several hundred acres between the canal and Findlay st., and someone furnished the name "Oregon" to distinguish it from the various other sub-divisions fast being opened to settlement.
By far the largest single addition made to Dayton was included in the Findlay plat, made by the heirs of Gen. James B. Findlay n 1854. It consisted of about 1000 acres, 120 of which lay north of Mad river and the remainder south of the river. It embraced the original site of "Findlay," and continued under the name for several years. Much of the land was later platted by William P. Huffman, and embraces that part of the city now known as the "Huffman Hill" district.
In 1854 Highland was plated on the hills to the east, and two years later Oakland was laid out. Today both of these are included in a plat that was made still later under the name of "Mt. Anthony." Very early in the history of the city the Edgar and VanCleve families threw in large realty holdings, and there came as a result all of that part of the city now centered around Wayne av. and Wyoming st. As late as 1889 an important plat was opened, quickly sold and quickly built up. It is today known as Ohmer Park, in honor of a pioneer family of which many descendants still survive.
The year 1889 is not recalled in Dayton history as the one in which Ohmer Park alone was established, however. It is even more significant, since it was in that year that natural gas was first piped into the city of Dayton, and it was in the same year that the first ice factory to be established here started operations and forever furnished citizens of this section protection from capricious weather conditions. It also marked the opening of paving on a part of Fifth st.--the first street ever to be paved in the history of Dayton.
While she had a canal, and was enjoying a flourishing business by reason thereof, Dayton awakened along about 1850, to the fact that in encouraging the old Cincinnati, Springfield and Sandusky railroad--a line she lost through a lack of foresightedness--Springfield and Xenia were outstripping her industrially. Settlers were hanging up their hats where the spirit of progress appeared more deeprooted. So a committee of citizens quickly called a mass meeting and subscribed $150,000 worth of stock for building a connection between Dayton and the main line at Xenia. With $20,000 subscribed by Springfield interests, the road was started, tracks being laid from both towns toward a central point. Before the connection had been made, however, an old Baldwin engine was dismantled, at Xenia, brought to Dayton, set up at the Webster st. crossing, and operated over this end of the tracks. The line was completed on Jan. 15, 1851, and two days later, an excursion from Springfield reached Dayton. The same week a regular schedule was established. From that date on the future of Dayton was assured, and the fact that the road ran through the eastern and southeastern part of the city had much to do with the development of those sections.
Factories began to spring up along the railroad, and today southeast Dayton numbers some of the largest and most substantial industrial plants to be found in the middle west. These, too, served to bring about a rapid, residential growth, workmen employed in them preferring to have their homes nearby. The building of the Dayton State hospital converted Wayne av. into a main tributary, and opened up a new gateway to Xenia, Wilmington, and other towns to the southeast.
Within the past few years there has been a steady trend in home building to the east and southeast. In fact, a survey of but a few weeks ago shows there have been constructed in this section alone within the past six years almost one thousand homes. The war brought the need of a great flying field in this part of the United States; and when activities were started at what is now know to the world as Wright Field, Dayton began pushing her home-building in that direction. Today Springfield st. is built almost to the Montgomery-Greene co. line at the site of the Huffman dam. Third st. and Fifth st. and Huffman av. have gone on over and beyond what but a few short years ago were seemingly impregnable hills. Today hundreds of homes are to be found on this commanding eminence, new sub-divisions have been platted and improved and hundreds of lots sold, while the city has improved streets throughout that section that bring it into close touch with the downtown district.
We have in this series had occasion to trace the frequent removals of the old Dayton ball park, showing how the march of progress set it from the western end of the Fifth st. bridge far out North Main st.; how the demand for more and more homes finally necessitated its removal, along with Fairview park, that another magnificent residential district might be opened. From Fairview it was transferred to the high elevation at the outskirts of the city on the Xenia pike, and christened "Highland Park." But, destroyed by fire, and with a gradual decrease in public patronage, the old park finally passed into history. Today Highland Park is the site of scores of newly-built homes. In some instances enterprising home-builders have erected houses along both sides of entire city blocks--and nowhere in Dayton is the scene of construction activity more animated than here. The Dayton Street Railway pushed its line on to the east along the Xenia pike in an endeavor to keep abreast of the building program, and today one reaches over perfectly paved streets and the Xenia pike or by trolley one of the fastest-growing sub-divisions ever to be platted in the city--Hearthstone.
Along Overlook av., at the western edge of Hearthstone, one travels south into still another addition of which all Dayton is proud--Belmont. Here but a few years ago apple and peach orchards were in profusion. George Nauerthal [name slightly illegible] sensing the home-building spirit that had seized upon his fellow-men, mapped out a model village. It was platted along the old Smithville road, with Overlook av. intersecting as a north and south highway. Here was established a sub-station of the Dayton and Xenia traction line, groceries, general stores, garages, in fact, every convenience and necessity. Today, Belmont boasts her own fire department, excellent schools, water, gas, electric light and power and within a few months perfectly paved thoroughfares. She touches elbows closely with the city proper at Arbor av. and the east boundary of the State hospital property, and is a vital and valuable part of the city, though lying just outside the corporation line.
Leading off from Wyoming st., north and south, from Wayne av. east, many new streets have been opened within the past six years, extending north to intersect with Fifth and Huffman and south to the corporate limits, and these, too, are today with few exceptions, solidly built with homes. Ohmer Park offers only an occasional building site, so rapidly has it been developed.
No other section has grown more rapidly, or more substantially than that part of Dayton known as South Park. For years this territory was embraced in "Slidertown." The late John H. Patterson, from the moment he laid the first brick of what was destined to be the nation's greatest industrial plant, had an abhorrence of that name. And when morning after morning workmen visited the infant plant to find windows smashed and other depredations committed by the boys of "Slidertown" it became apparent to Mr. Patterson that here was an excellent opportunity for some strenuous home mission work. He knew boys, and knew that at heart they are not bad. They had to have something to occupy their time, and mischief appeared to be the easiest thing to get into.
He reasoned that if these youthful citizens of "Slidertown" had an opportunity to engage in worthwhile play they would quickly forsake their destructive tendencies, and in this deduction he was eminently correct. He laid out small gardens and offered cash prizes to the boy and girl raising the best flowers and the best vegetables. He went still farther and offered liberal prizes in gold each year to "Slidertown" families displaying the most beautiful front lawns and back yards. He even had his own landscape gardeners assist him in planting trees and vines and shrubbery, and in wiping out unsightly spots. Very soon rivalry in home beautification became keen, and appearance of surroundings took front rank in the ambitions of those who resided in that section of the city.
Then one day the old name of "Slidertown" disappeared, and there came instead beautiful "South Park," in keeping with the progress of the great factory that gave employment to thousands of residents of that territory. To this day the work of home beautification in South Park is religiously maintained, and the fame of its lawns and gardens has been carried into every state by the medium of stereopticon pictures and National Cash Register lecturers.
Far more than one quarter of the city of Dayton lies within that territory embraced between Third st. from Main east and Main st. from Third south. And growth from a home-building standpoint has probably been on a greater scale, over a period of ten or twelve years, than in any other part of the city. In fact, to the resident of West Dayton, of Dayton View or of North Dayton, visiting East Dayton, Belmont and South Park is now almost the same as a trip to another city. It has grown beyond the knowledge of the average Daytonian, and its future growth is evidenced on all sides.
There has never been a "boom" in this particular section of the city; there has never been an inflated price on realty; there has been no year but property was worth more than it was worth the year that preceded it.
There is still vast room for expansion out E. third st., out Huffman av., down along the Xenia and Wilmington pikes.
An that expansion is now under way, and bids fair to continue so long as Dayton's future outlook is as bright as it is at this time.