History of Dayton
Originally part of the town of Liberty, which was established in 1831 during the time of Mexican rule, the area that is now Dayton was divided from the rest of Liberty by the Trinity River, with Liberty located on its east bank and West Liberty, as Dayton was then called, on a hill several miles west of the river. A road and a ferry directly connected the two parts of the town.
Early settlers of West Liberty bought land grants from the Mexican government. One such settler was Isaiah Cates Day, who came to West Liberty in 1830 at the age of 18. In 1839, he acquired additional land from the newly formed Republic of Texas.
Dayton began to prosper around the turn of the century with the founding of several sawmills. New families arrived by train, responding to newspaper ads placed by a land developer advertising fertile farmland. After a drainage system was established, rice became the major crop farmed in the area.
By 1902, Dayton had four general stores, two drug stores, one livery stable, a blacksmith shop, post office, depot, two churches, and a schoolhouse. An election was held on July 20, 1907, to incorporate the Dayton Independent School District. In 1911, Dayton citizens voted to incorporate the town. For reasons unknown another city election was held on November 28, 1925, to reincorporate the town, with Judge W.S. Neel elected mayor. Oil development in the 1920s brought new industries.
By 1940, Dayton had 70 businesses and was listed as a railroad center. In 1989, the largest school population in the county made Dayton Independent School District the major employer in the city. The 2010 Census found Dayton with a population of over 7,200.
The 2020 Census is anticipated to show an increase in population closer to 10,000.