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Dayton’s gypsy heritage recalled on street signs

Those who believe street names are there just for everyday navigation are missing a big point, many readers of and the Dayton Daily News say.

Our stories on the origin of Dayton area street names drew such a strong response that it made sense to write a follow up with information on more local favorites.

Here is what our readers had to offer:

The tale of Dayton’s historic gypsy heritage holds some fascination for Martin Stewart, who gave a presentation to the Troy Historical Society.

“Stanley Avenue was named after the Stanley family of gypsies who immigrated from England in 1856. Owen Stanley, the father, died in 1860 leaving his son Levi and wife “Matilda” as King/Queen of the Gypsies. In 1860 the family and other associated families lived in Troy, Ohio, where they listed their occupation as “Wanderers,” he wrote.

“Later Dayton became their summer home and they ruled from that location until Levi’s death in 1908. When the gypsies left Dayton for the winter and returned for the summer, their wagons formed a parade and the townspeople turned out to see.

“Matilda died in Dayton in 1878 — 25,000 people attended funeral, mile long procession to Woodlawn Cemetery and Dayton police had to limit access.”

Readers also offered up their favorite oddball streets. Some of the names are obvious, especially in rural areas, because they speak of favorite agricultural or hunting spots or the appearance on a map of a road’s configuration. They include:

• Chicken Bristle Road in Farmersville.

• Coonpath Road near Pickerington, Ohio.

• Dogleg Road, not far from Lima.

• Dotcom Drive, a timely named drive that follows the Internet term. A relatively new street in Troy.

• Eaton and Cereal avenues in Hamilton.

• Experiment Farm Road in Troy.

• Fishworm Road just outside Cedarville in Greene County.

• Grinn Drive and Barrett Road in West Chester Twp., with the intersection Grinn and Barrett.

• Rip Rap Road between Fishburg Road and Chambersburg Road near the Great Miami River. Rip rap is stone used to protect shorelines from erosion.

• Sweet Potato Ridge Road in Brookville.

• Turkey Foot Road off Upper Bellbrook Road.

Mike Mescher of Dayton researched street names for the book “From Ebenezer to Northridge,” a history of the Northridge community, and found many intriguing tales.

“Many interesting stories came out about the names of the streets and as much came from my own memory as I lived in the area in nine different decades,” he wrote.

Gypsy Drive being misspelled as Gipsy Drive is one of the many changes made by, he believes, Montgomery County.

Or, perhaps it was just a tiny slip of spelling somewhere along the line.

“It was always Gypsy on the signs when I was growing up,” Mescher said. “The same can be applied to Wagoner Ford Road, named after the land owners where the road forded the Miami River. At one time the exit signs in one direction of I-75 had it as Wagner Ford Road, and going the opposite direction on I-75 it was Wagoner Ford Road. Now it is Wagner Ford Road on all street signs and many maps. The post office lists it both ways.”

Timber Lane, for a long time signed as one word, has evolved into two, he said.

“Shoup Mill Road was named for the mill on the Stillwater River, and others like Claggett, Neff, Ensley, Drill and Beardshear were all named for early settlers,” Mescher wrote.

One interesting name is Stop Eight Road. It was named for the stop number of the old Dayton Troy inter-urban electric railroad, or traction, as it was called back then, according to Mescher.

Street name changes have kept residents on their toes.

For example, Benson became Smith and now is Bartley Road. Mayflower became Fairhurst Drive. Webster became Middlesex and then went back to Webster after residents protested the name Middlesex.

At one time there was First Avenue through Tenth Avenue and now all have different names.

“There are many more name changes that I recorded and some streets eliminated or divided in two as a result of the building of the interstate highway,” Mescher wrote.

The stories raised some interesting questions to Bill Noble.

“I was hoping to see how or what Burkhardt was,” he wrote. “As you probably know, when you leave Greene County via Kemp Road going into Montgomery County, you end up on Burkhardt Road. I find this a bit ironic since the Kemp home is in Riverside on what is now called Burkhardt Road on the northeast corner of the intersection with Meyer Ave. I wonder why Burkhardt isn’t also called Kemp Road.”

Alas, we have no definitive answer. But perhaps someone out there does.

Thomas R. Shoup of Tipp City has some insight into Shoup Mill Road: “John Parks and William Wilson built the first gristmill in the Dayton area along side of the Stillwater River. Now named Shoup Mill Road.”

Tad Kiefaber offered some family history about what he called the “infamous” Kiefaber Street near the University of Dayton campus.

“It was named after my grandfather Warner Harshman Kiefaber Sr., who graduated from St. Mary’s Institute class of 1905 at age 18 — then attended MIT and later founded the W.H. Kiefaber Co. on Keowee and Monument in 1920,” he wrote.

“And yes, Harshmanville, Harshman Road, and much of what is now Wright-Patterson Air Force Base originated with his Great and Great-Great grandparents — Jonathan Harshman and George Warner Harshman who lived in the area during the 1800’s,” Kiefaber wrote.

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