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Dayton was originally considered part of the town of Liberty which was established in 1831 during the time of Mexican rule. The Trinity River divided the two parts of the town 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 grants of land from the Mexican government. One was Isaiah Cates Day who came to West Liberty in 1830 at the age of 18. He acquired land from the Mexican government before 1839, and in 1839, he acquired more land from the Republic of Texas.

1831 West Liberty

Sometime after the death of his first wife, he married Martha Caroline Munson-Pruett-Orr and became her husband number three. Martha's family, the Munsons, we well established with marital ties to other prominent families.

Being a member of that family afforded Isaiah the opportunity to become a business man and rancher. He became owner of a large plantation on the Munson league.  In 1858, the Texas-New Orleans Railroad was being built through West Liberty. Day helped the railroad by having his men work on it. West Liberty became a flag stop for the railroad when it was completed in 1860. Conductors of the train began referring to the stop as Days Station, Days Town, or Dayton Station. About 1877, the name was also applied to the local post office and by 1885, Dayton became the official name of the town.

1885 Dayton

The town began to prosper with the founding of several saw mills. At the turn of the century, families arrived by train responding to newspaper ads placed by a land developer advertising fertile farm land. After a drainage system was established, rice became the major crop farmed in the Dayton area.

By 1902, Dayton had four general stores, two drug stores, one livery stable, a blacksmith shop, post office, depot, two churches , and a school house. An election was held 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 7200.

Four highways converge in Dayton: U.S. Hwy 90 that runs east and west through town. State Hwy 146 that runs south to Baytown, state Hwy 321 that runs north to Cleveland, and F.M. 1960 that runs west to Humble.

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