History of Dayton as told by Rev David Brooks
NOTE : This history was compiled in the early part of this century by
Rev David Brooks. Some of this information and language may seem
dated today, but was appropriate when compiled !
The city of Dayton occupies the northern part of Hennepin county,
its eastern and northern boundries being washed by the Mississippi river
while on its western and northwestern is the beautiful Crow river. The
surface of the town is generally rolling, and it was originally covered by
the most beatiful growth of hardwood, and an unlimited supply of
limestone. The soil is unsurpassed for fertility, while no portion of the
State is more plenteously watered with clear streams and pellucid lakes.
The earliest settler was Paul Godine, a native of sunny France, who
established a trading post with the indians in 1851. Here he remained,
plying his traffice alone, save for his aboriginal surroundings, until
1853, in the spring of which year John Veine made a claim where the
city of Dayton now stands ( the old village). Mr. Veine, the following
year (1854) ,disposed of his claim to E.H. Robinson, who also
established a trading post.
Marcellus Bonlee, Benjamin Leveillier, and others, made claims,
along rivers, and on the margin of the beautiful lakes, that generously
water the town, during 1853. Nearly all of the pioneers of Dayton were
Frenchman born, or of French extraction. A few Americans, Irishmen
, Scotchmen, and an occational German, take rank as old "settlers",
but the prevelent class were French.
The location of the village at the Crow river was early resolved upon
, as it was believed to be one of the few choice spots in the entire
Territory of Minnesota, and it was confidently expected that here would
grow up one of the most thrifty inland towns of the upcomming
commonwealth. Therefore, in 1854, James Hazelton and George Mosher
erected here a comfortable building for a hotel. The town scarcly
fulfilled the fond anticipations of its projectors, but came very much
nearer to reaping large and varied municipal honors that many others
established during the same period.
Early in the history of the town, Lyman Dayton, a wealthy capitalist
of ST. Paul, secured large interests in the town, and in the vicinity of the
proposed village. E. H. Robinson, of Vermont, and John Baxter , of
Maine, two enterprising young men, had also secured large interests -
owning in fact, the location of the current village and having named the
same "Portland" before it had ever been platted. These gentileman were
young, energetic, and full of business--what would be called hustlers
today. They had secured the best location for the town site and they
proceeded at once to create some necessary improvements. In 1856
, they erected a saw mill on the bank of the Mississippi River just below
the mouth of the Crow River -- being the first manufacturing establishment
in the towns history. The first platt of the village was made in 1855, the
lots being of the regulation quarter acre size. This platt, however was not
filed and when the unexampled boom year of 1858 was opened, it was
all at once discovered that the lots were altogether too large for common
use, so another survey was made, and each and every lot divided by two
-- made eight to the acre, instead of four. Evidently the Messrs Robinson
and Baxter thought that more money could be made out of two lots than
one -- as a rule. And this has been the writers experience also.
Meantime there was war in the town site camp. Mr. Dayton was from
the city of St. Paul, and had plenty of money. He also owned large tracts
of land in the vicinity, notably a valuable 80, just south of the Robinson
and Baxter's proposed infantile metroplis. Mr. Dayton was not to be foiled.
He had come into the country to make a dollar, and this object it was his
purpose to pursue under all circumstances. Therefore he platted the 80
south of the Robinson and Baxter tract and stated his determination to
give lots away, unless Robinson and Baxter would compromise. A
meeting , and an interview followed which resulted in Mr. Dayton
purchasing a one-half interest in the original site and all became peaceful
and entirely harmonious. Not entirely, either.
The important matter of the name still remained to be settled on.
Robinson and Baxter were from New England, and desired to honor the
city of Portland, in Maine, by christening the infant city after the bright
Yankee town. Mr. Dayton desired that his own name should be
immortalized and "rill the future speaking trumpet of fame" by having it
les forever to this future emporium of trade and finance. Again thier war
threatened to break into open hostilities. The camps were pretty nearly
evenly divided. The fight did not culminate untill the spring of 1858. At
that time it became necessary to baptize the infant community by some
name, so the warring factions agreed to submit the question of a name
to a popular vote, a conclusion of remarkable acteness and apparent
common sense. The Yankees were, as is customary more pugnacious
than numerous. Mr. Dayton had been wise. He corrulled the Frenchman,
the Irishmen, the Scotsmen and such americans as had not been born in
the east and affixed his name forever to the beautiful village and the
town surrounding it. And Dayton it remains, even unto this day -- and an
exceedingly good name it is too, if a historian maybe permitted to express
one opinion while chronicling many facts.
Dayton was the only village in the township and as before stated,
is most charmingly located at the junction of the Crow River and the
Mississippi. It is now, has always been, and will continue to be an
important point for local trade. its people are enterprising and hospitable,
and it contains many elements for future growth to a large importance.
A French Catholic Church was organized in 1857, and a church
ediface erected the same year, its location being on the claim of Paul
Godine. The officiating clergymans name at the time was Father Jennis.
This church now has a large building in the village (town) of Dayton .
There were no schools in the town until 1859, when one was
opened and taught by Miss Slater. After the town organization,in 1859,
Thomas McLeod was the teacher., and the district continued to use a
vacant storeroom until 1868, when a large and convenient school
building was erected in the village of Dayton .
The first post office was established in 1855, and John Baxter
L.B. Hinckley was for several years, a justice of the Peace,
appointed by the Govenor under the old territorial government, and
afterwards , a member of the first State Legislature.