Jonathan Dayton (Source)
Although he is not from Dayton, and had never actually visited Ohio, we owe our city’s name to a relatively unknown historical figure, Jonathan Dayton.
Jonathan Dayton was born in Elizabethtown (presently named Elizabeth), New Jersey in 1760. His father, Elias Dayton, was a storekeeper and active in local and state politics. Jonathan entered into the Continental Army after graduating from the College of New Jersey, which was later renamed Princeton.
Dayton served under his father, General Elias Dayton, and became Captain by the age of 19. Some of the men serving under him were Israel Ludlow, James Wilkinson, and Arthur St. Clair, who would later purchase the land that bears his name.
After the war, Dayton returned home and established a law practice. He had a long and eventful political career. Here are some of the highlights:
- Member of the Continental Congress – 1788
- Became a member of New Jersey Council and Speaker of State Assembly
Attended the Constitutional Convention.
- Entered the U.S. House of Representatives.
- Federalist – backed Hamilton’s fiscal program, suppression of the Whisky Rebellion, Jay’s Treaty
- Supported the Louisiana Purchase
- The youngest signer of the US Constitution.
View a close up of Dayton’s signature here.
Dayton married Susan Williamson on March 28, 1799. Together, they had two daughters. During his life and career, Dayton amassed a wealth of land, earning him a great fortune. He used this fortune to help his friends, including childhood pal Aaron Burr. Unfortunately for Dayton, when Burr was indicted on Treason charges, he was dragged into his friend’s chaos. Although Dayton was never prosecuted, his career was never the same. He remained popular in New Jersey, holding office until his retirement.
Jonathan Dayton died in 1824, in Elizabeth New Jersey. He never set foot in the city that bears his name.