Their faces show up on U.S. currency, are buried in the history books or featured on the History Channel — the famous and the forgotten. What do they have in common? Streets are named for them from coast to coast, including Dayton.
There’s James H. McGee, the busy boulevard named for the black civil rights attorney and former Dayton mayor.
Edwin C. Moses might not be as well known these days, but the Olympic gold medalist has a major route named for him that was once named Great Miami Boulevard.
Moses — the “C’ stands for Corley — won gold medals in the 400 meter hurdles at the 1976 and 1984 Olympics. His name is getting more play these days, featured on the Wheaties box.
Also in the street sign mix are presidents, governors, settlers, poets, business tycoons, and public servants.
Then there are the obscure names, most of them family names, once well known in a smaller city a century or so ago but today forgotten.
Some are easy. Streets named “water” are almost always near a river or lake, unless it’s a family name. Others, like Germantown or Wilmington Pike, are named for places roads connect, or once connected.
Some names are pretty dull but functional, like Airport Access Road.
Some are intriguing. Rott, a family name, probably Dutch, for a short street in Dayton. Gipsy Drive, although misspelled, for a Dayton settlement of gypsies who arrived here from England in the mid-1800s.
Some say Leo and Stanley are also gypsy names, with Stanley being the name of a clan.
There are plenty of odd, double-take street names out there, too. Think Chicken Bristle Road outside Farmersville.
It’s a long, winding trip deep into the history of the city to discover the names behind the streets.
The road wasn’t straight. Some names should be obvious, some are not. A file that once held street name origins at the Dayton Public Library went missing some time before the 1970s, said Nancy Horlacher, history librarian, who nevertheless filled in some gaps.
But enough historians have been intrigued by the topic over the years to compile a book of the subject.
First and foremost, we thank the late Chas F. Sullivan, an historian of the 1940s who compiled a list in 1946. It appears in a lengthier article, “The Streets of Dayton and Why So Named,” at Daytonhistorybooksonline, courtesy of Curt Dalton of Dayton History.
“Street names reflect the past and tell the story of the city,” Dalton said. “Each street is like a history lesson.”
Here are some of the essential Miami Valley street and road names:
• Aerial, Aero, Air, Air City, Airway — For the city’s aviation history.
• Arnold — Named for J. O. Arnold, long-time resident and promoter.
• Artz — William Artz, furniture dealer.
• Aullwood — Named for local resident William Aull’s woods.
• Booher — Named for Jesse Booher, a saw filer and fancy ice skater.
• Broadwell — Silas Broadwell, a marshal.
• Babbitt — A T. S. Babbitt lived at First and Bridge, later Stratford.
• Backus — Joseph Backus, a former city street commissioner.
• Benn — M. S. Benn, a real estate dealer.
• Best — Ed Best, jeweler.
• Bidleman — Short street named for Chas Bidleman, dry goods merchant.
• Bierce — G. N. Bierce, Stillwell & Bierce Mfg. Co.
• Carr — S. H. Carr, an attorney.
• Chickahominy, Chickamauga, Antietum — Civil War battles.
• Conover — Harvey Conover, an attorney.
• Cooper — Named for early Dayton businessman Daniel Cooper, a grist mill owner, who donated much of the land used for public space downtown.
• Clay — Henry Clay, candidate for U.S. president.
• Cline — Once known as Zigzag street because it ran along an open ditch, called the Seely ditch, but has long been straightened.
• Delphos — It paralleled the Toledo Delphos & Burlington Railroad.
• Demphle — Sebastion Demphle, a stove dealer.
• Diamond Mill — Named for a mill at the southern end of the road.
• Dunbar, or Paul Laurence Dunbar Street — Named for Dayton’s famous poet, the son of former slaves who published his first poems in the Dayton Herald in 1888.
• Eaker — Belle Eaker, unmarried lady who gave her home to the Y.M.C.A.
• Findlay, McPherson, Sheridan, Sherman — Civil War military leaders.
• Forrer — Samuel Forrer, early civil engineer.
• Gettysburg — Named for the Civil War battle, but also a cyclorama, or circular building, depicting a scene from the battle. The cyclorama was near the present day VA Hospital.
• Glenn — Col. Glenn Highway for John Glenn, first American to orbit the earth in a spacecraft. Former Ohio U.S. senator.
• Gummer — Henry Gummer, Gem City Stove Co.
• Gunckel — Lewis B. Gunckel, congressman.
• Harries — J. W. Harries, a brewer.
• Hanna — Xenophon Hanna, cigar factory.
• Harman — Gabriel Harman, Gebhart Harman Bank.
• Hoover — Not named for the president, but for local residents and the Hoover Park plat developed in 1917.
• Howell — Edward Howell, superintendent of the City Railway Co.
• Huffman — William P . Huffman, a man described as “very active” in city affairs.
• Iroquois, Wyandot, Bannock, Blackfoot and Cherokee — Native American tribes.
• Klee — John Klee, an early maker of soft drinks.
• King — William King, an early settler.
• Lowes — Named for Dr J. E. Lowes, a physician, politician and promoter. His daughter Alberta has a street named after her, too.
• Ludlow — For one of Dayton’s earliest surveyors, Israel Ludlow of New Jersey.
• Macready — Associated with McCook Field, an early airfield for the Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps.
• Mary — Reuben Mumma, a florist whose business was at Main & Ridge, named the first street running to the river for his wife, Mary, the next one for himself Reuben (later renamed Burton), the third one Drake, his wife’s maiden name, and the fourth the family name Mumma.
• Master — Named for the Master Electric Co.
• McCall — Once known as Eaton Avenue, but the name was changed to McCall for the printing company that located there.
• Michigan — It ran alongside the Dayton & Michigan road.
• Patterson — Named for John H. Patterson, Dayton native and manufacturer of the cash register. Founder of NCR.
• Perry — For Commodore Perry, hero of the War of 1812 and Battle of Lake Erie.
• Pontiac, Tecumseh, and Logan — Chiefs of tribes in the region.
• Sawmill & Stonemill — These two mills were on the Patterson farm, powered by water from Rubicon Creek. The sawmill was where an NCR lumber yard was once located while the stonemill was east of Main Street.
• Schantz — Named for Adam Schantz, a pre-Prohibition brewer.
• Shaw — George Shaw, early settler.
• Siebenthaler — Well-known nursery family.
• Spiece — Fred Spiece, city commissioner.
• Spinning — Judge Spinning, a figure in early Dayton.
• St. Clair — Arthur St. Clair, Revolutionary War figure and governor of the old Northwest Territory.
• Steve Whalen — Dayton Police Officer William Steven Whalen was shot and killed in 1991 near the Xenia Avenue and St. Paul Avenue intersection while attempting to stop a vehicle wanted in connection with a shooting at a local hotel.
• Oxford, Yale, Harvard, Otterbein, Wittenberg — Named for colleges.
• Shakertown — Named for Shakers, a religious society that had members in Dayton.
• Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Harrison, Taylor, Lincoln, Grant, and McKinley — Presidents.
• Watervleit — The name of the New York state location of the headquarters of the Shakers, a religious group that once had a presence in Dayton.
• Wayne — Named for General “Mad” Anthony Wayne, Revolutionary and Indian War veteran. Waynesville is also named for him.
• Wroe — Al Wroe, a Dayton contractor.
• Wilkinson — For Gen. James Wilkinson of “Mad” Anthony Wayne’s army.
• Zeigler — Major David Zeigler, first mayor of Cincinnati. His tomb is in Woodland Cemetery.