Column: Dayton House once had sheep, carriage house
Editor’s note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run “Isn’t That Something” columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen and his knowledge of local and regional history. The following column first appeared Feb. 3, 2007.
WORTHINGTON — At least once before, I believe I said nothing except Turkey Day itself has stirred such ongoing excitement at Worthington as The Dayton House. (I believe we have to write The Dayton House with capital letters now.)
It is not the same kind of excitement as that stirred by Turkey Day. I haven’t seen a brass band giving a concert from the front porch of The Dayton House, although this would not surprise me. I think, too, that some of the excitement has diminished. People have said about all that can be said.
Still, there remains a tingling just below the surface. Ask a question about The Dayton House and natives are willing to sit down and talk. The Dayton House and a tom turkey have become Worthington’s icons.
I have a reason for mentioning this. What is needed now, it seems to me, is for you to make a gift of $1 million — give or take — to restore fully The Dayton House site. We need to buy some sheep. The Dayton boys did not mow the Dayton lawn. George D. bought sheep each spring to keep the grass short (and to fatten sheep for nothing).
Even more than finding a small flock of sheep, and perhaps a young shepherd, we need to restore the carriage house.
In a time I remember (I certainly do not remember this clearly), there was a two-story carriage house behind the manor house. There was a gable at the front of the carriage house, with a round window at the center of the gable. This structure was nothing like a barn you might find on an 80 north of town. It was a well-squared building braced by sturdy timbers.
The horses and carriages were kept here, of course. The second floor, in part, was probably a hay mow. I found one account that says — in a later era — there were “childish climbers” whose “pin-money theatricals were staged in the capacious loft” — kids went up the carriage house stairway and gave plays.
The carriage house came down in May of 1941. The Daily Globe (not Brian Korthals) was there to get a couple of pictures. It was said then that the Dayton carriage house was 53 years old.
In one recent column I mentioned that Worthington’s miller, C.Z. (Abe) Sutton, had no respect for George Dayton. Sutton called Dayton a “usurer.” Sutton did his banking at St. Paul because he would not do business with Dayton. Several people asked me about this. (“There were people who didn’t like Mr. Dayton?”) Well, no one escapes critics.
George Dayton had a reputation for charity. Through all of his life he never gave less than one-tenth of all his annual income to his church. God expects this, he said.
In his mind, George Dayton also seems to have kept a clear separation between church and state. One report is that he balked and protested at paying taxes.
In 1893, the Adrian newspaper reported, and the Ellsworth newspaper repeated, George D. Dayton, “the Worthington banker,” went to the Nobles County Board of Commissioners “with a long tale of woe” to protest his personal property assessment: $139.54. He was “being robbed by the heartless assessor.” Dayton gave an affidavit that said the board of equalization had reduced his tax bill to $19.61.
The Adrian report continued:
“It afterward appeared that Mr. Dayton — of course, unintentionally — told an untruth in his affidavit, as the board of equalization had never ordered the taxes rebated.” (An untruth borders on being a lie.)
The news story then reports, “Like sensible and just men, the county board ordered Mr. Dayton to pay over to the county treasurer $119.93, the amount rebated.” Total tax payment: $139.54.
The Adrian newspaper (maybe not incidentally) was named the Adrian Democrat. Its sympathies were not with bankers. The paper reflected, “If all the heavy owners of personal property could be compelled to pay their share of the taxes, the farmers and poor laboring men would not howl about excessive taxation.”
“The board of county commissioners are certainly to be commended on their action in compelling George D. Dayton … to pay his share of the taxes.” Is all this true? Well — all I know is what I read in the newspapers.