The history of Harrison Township is tied to that of Dayton and neighboring communities. The events and forces that led to the township as it exists today are not unlike those that surrounded the development of most Ohio communities that were settled at the turn of the 19th century. Here is a listing of the significant events that have helped to shape the Harrison Township of today:

  • Records show that at the turn of the 19th century, the area was settled by squatters and other settlers who purchased large tracts of land. The first known resident was William King, a squatter from Kentucky and an opponent of slavery, who originally settled in the area around 1800. In 1805, Mr. King set up a river ferry to cross the Miami River.
  • The first log school house was built on the McConnell farm (which later became Hoover Avenue) in 1810, and a second log school house was built in 1811 by Philip Wampler at North Main Street and Wampler Road (now Philadelphia Drive). Eventually a larger school house was built at this location, and it remains standing today. A unique feature of the building, that still exists today, is a three-foot “torch of liberty” that can be seen at the very top of the roof. The first school in the Northridge area, the Beardshear School, was built in 1816.
  • A gristmill and sawmill were built along the Stillwater River, north of Siebenthaler Avenue, in 1812.
  • The township area’s first church was built in Northridge in 1817.
  • In 1820, John Parks and William Wilson erected a gristmill along the Stillwater River, and it later became known as the Shoup Mill.
  • Also in 1820, the first Ebenezer Church of Northridge was built on land deeded by Joseph Meeker. The congregation eventually built a brick church in 1860 on North Dixie Drive at Frederick Pike. That structure still exists today as the former Wick’s General Store. Adjacent the general store is a building that was the original school house, built in 1840.
  • A covered bridge was built over the Miami River at Main Street in 1836.
  • In 1840, the Dayton and Western Turnpike – today’s West Third Street – was built.
  • It was the breakup of Dayton Township that led to the establishment of Harrison Township as a political jurisdiction in April 1841. At the time, the 27-square-mile township consisted of land north and west of the Great Miami River, with the exception of lower southwest area, which was made part of Miami Township. The population was 2,000, and the land was valued at $698,162, with livestock valued at $33,448.
  • Various areas were platted during the 1840s, including the town of Mexico, West Dayton, McPherson, Dayton View and Brownton.
  • Major changes were in store for the township when, in 1854, two real estate developers plotted out sections of land along Bridge (Third) Street and Greencastle (Williams) Street for sale as residential lots in a development called Miami City. The developers provided transportation between Miami City and the County Courthouse by way of free omnibuses. Miami City later became the home of the Wright Brothers and Paul Laurence Dunbar. This suburb rapidly grew into the largest development of single-family homes in the county and began to rival Dayton as the area’s most populous community. A post office was established there in 1858, along with a new school and town hall.
  • In 1858, Montgomery County commissioners went out for bids for the construction of a bridge over the Stillwater River at Shoup’s Mill.
  • In June 1861, the Harrison Rangers were formed in Miami City to fight the “rebels” in the Civil War. The first reported death was that of Eli Shawen, of Company H, 4th Ohio Cavalry at Wathinsville, Tennessee.
  • 1868 marked the beginning of many annexations of Harrison Township to the city of Dayton, primarily for access to the city’s water system. Aggressive annexations continued through the 1970s.
  • By 1880, Harrison Township’s population was 2,660, and the land value was $1,506,320. There were four churches – and ten saloons – at the time.
  • In 1906, Shoup’s Mill Road was renamed Sinclair Park Drive in honor of area resident D.A. Sinclair.
  • In 1914, Fort McKinley residents asked county commissioners that Salem Avenue be paved with bricks.
  • In 1919, the Shiloh Improvement Association attempted to contract with the Dayton Fire Department for fire protection of the Shiloh area on a pay-call basis. The initiative failed for lack of community support. The next year, three fire marshals were appointed by the association, for duties in Shiloh only.
  • Philadelphia Road was transformed from a dirt road to a paved on in 1924.
  • In 1946, the Northridge community studied the advisability of incorporation and decided against it.
  • The City of Dayton unsuccessfully proposed the consolidation of Harrison and Jefferson townships into the city in 1988. This proved to be the catalyst for a more regional problem solving among local jurisdictions in Montgomery County.
  • Today Harrison Township consists of 6.276 square miles, a population of 24,303 and more than 800 business establishments.

The following sources were used to compile this historical information about Harrison Township:

  • On the Ridge, Recollections of Ebenezer/Northridge By:
    • Daniel F. Hetzel
    • Richard Allen
    • Donald Puckett
    • Beth Ochsenbein
  • 1946 Incorporation Study
  • Joseph N. Simons, longtime Harrison Township resident and history enthusiast. Our thanks to Mr. Simons for contributing many hours to research and writing about our township’s history.