Wilbur and Orville Wright 1867 - 1912, 1871 - 1948
Two famous brothers, Wilbur in 1867, and Orville in 1871, were born to Susan and Milton Wright. Their younger sister, Katherine, came along in 1874. You may visit all of their graves in a family lot at Woodland. The Wright brothers became interested in a “self-propelling toy” brought home by their father to “relieve their boredom.” The boys were voracious readers, reading every book on flight or machines available. They were also serious observers; questioning together with testing how things around them worked. They made simple mechanical toys, and in 1888 they built a large printing press used to publish the West Side News in Dayton.
Already successful printers, the brothers opened a bicycle repair shop in 1892. In that shop on West Third Street, they worked with tires, wheels, and air pumps, while they dreamed that man could fly in a heavier-than-air machine. They tested the effects of air pressure on more than 200 wing surfaces using the first wind tunnel. Through their own research, they learned scientific facts along with developed theories of flying. Their invention of aileron control, helped them in 1903 to build and fly the first power-driven, man-carrying controllable airplane.
They chose the windiest place, Kitty Hawk, NC. The Wright Brothers’ machine (750 lbs.) was made to stand up under the wind therefore stay in the air for 59 seconds on the initial flight. They continued on to set new distance as well as altitude records for flight. Wilbur died of typhoid fever in 1912, while Orville lived on until 1948. As scientists they had uncovered the secret of flight. As inventors, builders, and flyers, they brought aviation to the world.
Paul Laurence Dunbar, born poor and Black in 1872, was a man who turned his imagination into prose and poetry. His father, who died when Paul was 10, was a slave who escaped to freedom in Canada. His mother, also a slave, lived in Kentucky before the Civil War. He developed a love for literature when he spent evenings reading aloud to his mother, which she dearly loved. A classmate of Orville Wright, Paul was the only Black in his Central High School graduating class in Dayton. He was one of the first Black writers of his time to get national attention. In poems, he was able to tell of daily Black life, using the Southern Negro dialect. He published his first book of verse, Oak and Ivy in 1883.
As his fame grew, he gave readings before audiences all over the United States and in England. In all, he wrote 25 books, 15 essays, over 100 poems, 35 song lyrics, 24 short stories, nine musical shows, and four plays. When he died of tuberculosis in 1906, the world lost a true giant. His tombstone along the roadside at Woodland is overshadowed by a willow tree planted there. That tree refers to a poem by Dunbar called A Death Song. The first verse is on his stone, but there were two more verses. The second verse describes a lake that is now filled in. A stained glass window in the Dunbar room of Woodland Mausoleum shows the view explained in that verse.
A Death Song Lay me down beneaf de willers in de grass,
Whah de branch ‘ll go a-singin’
as it pass.
An’ w’en I’s a-layin’ low,
I kin hyeah it is as it go
Singin’, “Sleep, my honey, tek yo’ res at las’.”
Lay me nigh to whah hit meks a little pool,
An’ de watah stan’s so quiet lak an’ cool,
Whah de little birds in spring,
Ust to come an’ drink an’ sing,
An’ de chillen waded on dey way to school.
Let me settle w’en my shouldahs draps dey load
Nigh enough to hyeah de noises in de road;
Fu’ I t’ink de las’ long res’
Gwine to soothe my sperrit bes’
Ef I ‘s layin’ ‘mong de t’ings I’s allus knowed.
After a short experience as a teacher, John H. Patterson worked as a toll collector on the Miami-Erie Canal, which ran along the present Patterson Blvd. across from the library. He soon began with his brother, Frank, a business of selling and mining coal. The general store they owned did a good business, but at the end of two years, the owners found there was $3,000 missing. Clerks had stolen from the cash drawer. After buying three Dayton-made cash registers, Patterson’s business began making money, a profit of several hundred dollars. He created a demand for cash registers and began selling them everywhere.
His company, presently named NCR (National Cash Register), now sold more of the machines. At the same time, Patterson’s work to improve; factory working conditions, increase work place lighting, provide a lunchroom ,train apprentices, and build a recreation park with pool (Old River Water Park), was the talk of the business world. His NCR factory was booming when Patterson looked out his factory window at the deep floodwaters covering the streets of downtown Dayton. He immediately ordered an immense amount of wood, so his employees could build boats to save people from their second floor windows; caught by swirling waters. He was the hero of Dayton’s 1913 flood. He is remembered today not only for the humanitarian way he operated his factories, but for instituting Dayton’s present form of city government with a city manager as its head.
Daniel C. Cooper,more than any other person, deserves to be called the founder of Dayton. He was a surveyor acting under orders from Gen. Arthur St. Clair, governor of the Northwest Territory; Gen. Jonathan Dayton; Gen. James Wilkinson; and Col. Israel Ludlow. He led a surveying party to the mouth of the Mad River. Here he laid out the city with broad streets “four poles wide” plus built most of its early mills. The first stree being named after General Dayton with streets named after the other three. Can you find those streets on a map of downtown Dayton? Cooper served as Dayton’s first justice of the peace as well as a member of the state legislature.
Mr. Cooper donated ground for a cemetery, churches, schools and parks; including the present day Cooper Park next to the downtown branch of the Dayton-Montgomery County Public Library. While moving a church bell, he strained himself leading to his death in 1818.
Col. Edward A. Deeds (Image courtesy of the Miami Conservancy District) worked as an engineer at NCR for years and formed a partnership with Charles F. Kettering. They and other inventors met as “The Barn Gang” in Deeds’ barn to develop new ideas. They electrified the cash register and formed DELCO. In addition to his work in research and development, he had a keen sense of responsibility to his community. As organizer of the Miami Conservancy District, he did much to bring flood prevention to Dayton after the disastrous flood of 1913. Deeds’ Carillon Bells and Carillon Park were given to Dayton through the generosity of Colonel and Mrs. Deeds. His is the largest private mausoleum on the grounds of Woodland Cemetery.
Charles F. Kettering was born in the small, north-central Ohio town of Loudonville. At age 28 he came to Dayton from college to take a job at the National Cash Register Co. In five years, he did much to help NCR’s development. Then, along with Edward Deeds, he formed the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Co. (DELCO).
Kettering and Deeds had been doing some experimenting with a single-spark auto ignition in Deeds barn. Out of the laboratory came the first electric self-starter and an all-electric ignition system eliminating hand-cranking a car to start it. Kettering was friends with other inventors such as Thomas Edison (light bulb, phonograph) and Henry Ford (first mass-produced cars). Ford put Kettering’s discovery into his early Fords. Kettering’s example led hundreds of research men on to daily scientific discoveries. In his earlier research, he also developed the independent electric generator that brought power and light to thousands of farms everywhere.
The 105 acres that comprised the 1912 borders of Woodland were declared a “Historic District” by the U.S. Department of the Interior on November 22, 2011 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places, due in large measure to the genius exhibited within it’s landscape design. In the 1870’s, Woodland commissioned the Landscape Architect Adolph Strauch from Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati to re-design the cemetery. By combining the natural landscape with a “curvilinear design”, Strauch provided vistas, grand views and a focus on memorialization never before envisioned, and helped to launch the new Rural Garden Cemetery movement nationally.
In addition to the design expertise Mr. Strauch brought to Woodland, he also designed Spring Grove Cemetery and planned numerous parks in Cincinnati (Eden Park, Burnet Woods, Lincoln Park) while expanding rural cemetery design concepts to Hartford Cemetery in Connecticut; Forest Lawn in Buffalo, New York; Highland Cemetery in Covington, Kentucky and Woodmere Cemetery in Detroit, Michigan. One need only drive or walk through any of these properties to appreciate the genius Adolph Strauch brought to both Woodland and the new field of cemetery design architecture.
Humorist, writer, columnist, journalist Erma Louise Fiste was born on February 21, 1927, in Dayton, Ohio. Erma Bombeck found the humor in the everyday experiences of being a wife and mother and shared it with her readers. But her early days were no laughing matter. Bombeck lost her father at the age of nine and her mother went to work to support them.
In junior high school, Erma Bombeck showed early signs of her future work, writing a humor column for her school’s paper. She worked for the Dayton Herald (which later became the Journal-Herald) as a copygirl as a teenager and got her first article published while she was still in high school. After graduating in 1944, she joined the publication’s writing staff and saved money for college. Bombeck graduated from the University of Dayton in 1949 and returned to the Journal-Herald. That same year, she married Bill Bombeck. Around this time, she also started writing for the paper’s women’s section.
In addition to her column, Bombeck wrote for magazines such as Good Housekeeping, Reader’s Digest, Redbook and McCall’s. She also authored several popular books, including such best sellers as The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank (1976) and If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits? (1978). The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank was later turned into a television movie starring Carol Burnett and Charles Grodin.
Beginning in the mid-1970s, Bombeck also became a television personality, appearing on Good Morning America for more than a decade. She also tried her hand at creating a television series. She lived in Los Angeles for a time while working the sitcom Maggie. The show’s family was based on her own, and she wrote several of the episodes. Bombeck was also an executive producer on the series. Despite Bombeck’s popularity, the show failed to catch on with television audiences and was canceled after eight weeks on the air.
Bombeck also had a very serious side too. She was a vocal advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment for women and served on the President’s National Advisory Committee for Women in the late 1970s. In the 1980s, Bombeck tackled a very difficult subject; childhood cancer, with her book I Want to Grow Hair, I Want to Grow Up, I Want to Go to Boise (1989). She visited a camp for children with cancer and spent a lot of time with families with children fighting cancer as part of writing the book. Like her other work, it found the humor in a challenging situation while making some poignant observations.
In the 1990s, Bombeck faced her own battle with cancer. In 1992, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy. Unfortunately, this was only the beginning of her health problems. After her cancer treatment, her kidneys began to shut down because of a disorder known as polycystic kidney disease. In 1996, Bombeck received a kidney transplant at the San Francisco Medical Center.
Erma Bombeck died from medical complications related to her transplant on April 22, 1996, in San Francisco, California.
Born in 1921 in Illinois, C.J. McLin was the son of hard-working African American parents trying to survive the Depression. When they moved to Dayton in 1931, he took a job as a paper boy as a way to put food on the family table. While going to Dunbar High School, he helped in the family funeral home business. He suffered racial discrimination early in life, being denied food service at the lunch counter in McCrory’s dime store near 4th & Main Streets, downtown. He filed a lawsuit demanding his civil rights. Soon after, he received notice that he must go into the Army. During his three years of service, he noticed and experienced discrimination against Black soldiers.
He organized and participated in many protests to obtain rights both in the military and later in political life. His father had taught him how important funerals were to families of the deceased. These ceremonies helped them cope with the death. When he was dismissed from the military, he returned to the family funeral business in 1949. Because he longed to empower Black citizens, he began to work at electing Black citizens. He himself was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 1966 where he served Daytonians for 22 years. During his time in the legislature he did many things to increase to political power of the Black community of Dayton through economic development. He was responsible for extending its highways (US Route 35W), locating the correctional prison there, supporting programs in its universities, housing its elderly, and saving its history (Dunbar House, National Afro-American Museum). His daughter, Rhine McLin, has followed her father’s footsteps into politics. In that way, his service continues.