Thursday, November 27, 2008

Origins of East Dayton's Property Divisions/Street Plan

I've always wondered about why the streets in East Dayton run at an angle. I know that Dayton and it's outlots do this, becuase the original town plat was oriented to the river, with drove the street system. And since everything south to Stewart and east to Tals Corner was part of the Cooper pre-emption the streets and property could be laid out as however the landowner wanted.

But outside of the pre-emption one would expect the rectangular coordinate system established by the Land Ordnance of 1785 would govern. In most of the rest of the city it does. In East Dayton and the adjacent Mad River bottoms it does not. And here's my guess why.

Looking at this very rough early 1850s map, pretty much the first somewhat good map of Montgomery County, we seed the countryside of Mad River Township just east of Dayton. And we see a lot of property marked 'James Finleys heirs". No property lines, though, except for the section lines from the 1802 Between the Miamis' Survey.

The J. Findley was James Findlay of Cincinnati. Findlay was in the Ohio Militia, rising to rank of general, served in Congress, and was Cincinnati's second mayor. Based on research in early history and land holdings, the above map, and knowing the sections and quarter and half sections one can surmise Findlay owned a sizable block of property, over 1 & 1/4 sections (over 800 acres) of land immediatly to the east of the Cooper pre-emption, AKA the town of Dayton. And this was not his only holding as he apparently owned the quarter section atop todays Huffman Hill.

Here is my conjecture on his property, over the 1869 Titus map, the first to show property lines for the county.

What's interesting is that Findlay didn't own the land immediatley after the 1802 survey. He was one of the agents of the Federal land office in Cincinnati, so was involved in the sale of the land around Dayton, yet his property shows as vacant (or at least no tax payed) in the 1805 tax duplicate. This is particularly interesting since the land was surrounded by other property owners even in 1805.

Did he somehow keep this acreage out of play while a land agent, buying the land himself sometime after 1805, as a very promising real estate speculation?

Subdividing the Findlay Lands

Findlay died in 1835. His heirs or estate held the property intact, with pehaps minor sales along the Xenia and Springfield roads based on the 1850 map, a small parcel for a schoolhouse, and right-of-ways for railroads and a hydraulic race.

However, in 1854, the estate subdivided the property.

They didn't subdivide it into town lots, at least not all of it. Most of it was split up into large lots, perhaps to be sold to speculators, perhaps to be used a market farming, perhaps both.

The land was subdivided in 1854. In 1856 the property closest to Dayton was subdivided yet again, into town lots, by Huffman & Craighead. Presumably the close-in parcels were bought up pretty quick when they came on the market. This property was to become the modern Huffman Historic District. But it also means the original land subdivision by Findlays' heirs is obscured (perhaps the original survey map is in the county archives?).

Findlay's heirs didn't subdivide the property using the rectangular coordinate system (except for the land north of the Mad River). They based their surveys off the original Dayton out-lot system, projecting the outlot streets and property lines eastward across two quarter sections to the eastern end of their property. These became the basis of perpendicular survey lines running north-northwest, intersecting a hydraulic canal, the Springfield road, and a railroad.

Some other observations on the map, including the somewhat larger lot sizes in the Mad River bottoms.

The Findlay subdivision lands would eventually be bought up by speculators and resubdivided into town lots (quite a bit during the 1880s boom) being mostly platted by 1895. The end result was todays East Dayton.

As one can see from the above map that this property could easily have been developed differently as adjacent plats do follow the rectangular coordinate system. But the geometry of the site, bisected with diagonal transporation routes and watercourses might have led to the decision to use a survey approach less in conflict with pre-existing conditions.

In any case, a good illustration of an almost metes and bounds survey within the framework of the rectangular coordinate system of 1785

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