Dayton Centennial – Part 2

continued from the Ottawa Republican-Times, September 16, 1929

FOSTER BLAMES TARIFF

“Long ago though they lived, riff raff of Europe though they have been proved to be, the first pioneers of America are worthy of our emulation,” was the message brought by W. R. Foster, county superintendent of schools to the big crowd gathered about the speakers stand.

“I doubt whether we of the present day posses that fearless determination which inspired the Shavers, the Greens, the Brumbachs, the McKees and their followers to their long travail across country, under the most adverse conditions, from Licking county, Ohio, to Dayton and Rutland in the fall of 1829,” Foster stated.

Family and wagon

“They were the first settlers of this rich section of Northern Illinois, descendants of those outcasts of European nations who were driven to the shores of this country a hundred years before.

“They taught me the ‘three r’s’ when I went to school as a boy. Think how infinitely more important than those pedagogic classifications of simple knowledge was the mastery over the three r’s of resolution, resource and reverence possessed by those early pioneers.”

Explanation for the failure of rich woolen mills which at one time bade fair to make Dayton one of the most important communities of the state was given by Foster who decried in emphatic terms the manipulation of the wool tariff by politicians at Washington which led to the crash of Dayton industry.

“The first flour mill in Northern Illinois had been constructed by the Dayton and Rutland pioneers in 1830,” he stated, “and on July 4, 1830, the first wheat was ground and made into flour for bread eaten at their independence day dinner. By 1840 their woolen mill was well established and in 1860 a 100,000 project was doing business down here on the banks of the Fox river.

“I have always regretted one of the old-time Dayton settlers could not have come to life at that time, could not have taken his ancient shotgun to Washington and have laid down the law to those scheming politicians. Because with $65,000 worth of wool on their hands, purchased at $1 per pound, owners of the Dayton woolen mill saw their dreams snatched from them and the bottom knocked out from under them when manipulation of the tariff sent the price of wool tumbling to 40 cents a pound.

“That forever shattered Dayton’s golden opportunity, forever doomed this little town to relative unimportance in the scheme of industry. All that is left now is the memory of what was and what might have been.”

[to be continued]

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