Dayton Borough will celebrate its 150th anniversary – its first milestone celebration for the borough.
To celebrate the anniversary, the Dayton Area Local History Society (DALHS) hopes folks “take a country ride out to Dayton” and attend the events it has planned, sponsored by businesses and citizens within Armstrong County.
“When we took on this responsibility, we said we were going to try and get supporters,” Betty Calhoun, chairperson of the anniversary committee, said. “Once the word went out, we got a lot of support. In the winter, we realized we could do a lot of the things we had planned.”
The committee in charge of the celebration consists of Calhoun, Beverly Rupp, Melissa Lightner, Connie Brocious, Charlotte Clowser, Elmer and Nancy Lightner, Brenda Schrecengost and Donnie Wadding.
To start, on Memorial Day, the Dayton American Legion will conduct a parade beginning at the Dayton Legion Hall at 11 a.m. Alongside the parade until 1 p.m., the historical Marshall House, a preserved farmhouse previously owned by the Marshall family, will be open for attendees to grab a snack, learn about the history of the town and admire artifacts from the past. To round off Memorial Day festivities, the Dayton Firehall is conducting a barbecue chicken dinner cooked by the firefighters.
On June 3 from 1 to 4 p.m., two days before the borough’s anniversary, the Marshall House will be open to celebrate the “Golden Days of Dayton,” showcasing the town’s historical businesses and buildings along with free food and music. At the Marshall House, attendees also have the opportunity to purchase memorabilia and the “History of Dayton District,” a book detailing the history of the town.
“The (Armstrong County) commissioners have a proclamation they will announce,” Calhoun, who has resided in Dayton for most of her life, said, “and Donna Oberlander (the area’s state representative) will read out a citation.”
Finally, on June 17 from 4 to 7 p.m., a community picnic at the Legion Hall will give attendees a nice meal, a history display and games for the kids.
Dayton and the surrounding Wayne Township began as small settlements in 1803. William Marshall Jr. and his family first settled in the area that is now the Dayton Fairgrounds. From there, a small town began to form and by 1873, the town became a center for education, business, agriculture and church activities, according to a handout by the DALHS.
On June 5, 1873, a petition to partition Dayton from Wayne Township was approved by the Armstrong County Court, and Dayton was officially born. The town thrived well into the 1960s, but with advances in logistics and communications technology, small businesses began to shut their doors and the town declined.
The history society wanted to ensure that the memory of Dayton’s golden years stayed alive and purchased a dilapidated house in 1976 as a project for the U.S. bicentennial. Originally built by Thomas H. Marshall, a descendant of William Marshall Jr., the house was restored by the DALHS and serves as a center for Dayton’s vast, but obscure history.
“The (DALHS) came together and saved (The Marshall House),” Calhoun said. “We’re trying to preserve the history of Dayton and we wanted to have a celebration once we saw the 150th anniversary approaching.”
Despite the town’s decline, Calhoun believes that it’s up to residents and business to revitalize the town and ensure it sticks around for another 150 years.
“Once upon a time, we were a community center,” Calhoun said, “and we hope that people will remember while celebrating.”
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