The Dayton area was first settled in the early nineteenth century. The area was surveyed in 1832, then again in 1836; land could be purchased from the U.S. Government at the time for $1.25 an acre. A post office was established in 1837, and the town incorporated in January 1844 (although another source cites an 1872 incorporation date). The Dayton economy depended on agriculture, primarily corn and cotton.
By the 1840s, Dayton had grown enough to support both a male and female academy, a hotel, and several stores. A tornado struck in 1852, followed by a typhoid epidemic in 1859, which in turn was followed by the Civil War and Reconstruction, all events that were severely damaging to the town's economy. In 1886, an investment group of local citizens made a failed bid to bring a railroad line from Faunsdale to Dayton.
The town continued to revolve mainly around an agricultural economy and thus was dealt a double blow with the boll weevil infestation and the Great Depression in the early twentieth century. Population has declined since that time. In 1900, the population was reported as 427, but by 1940 it was only 153. In 1991, the post office closed after the postmaster was murdered while at work.
Dayton's population according to the 2010 Census was 52. Of that number, 65.4 percent of respondents identified themselves as African American, 32.7 percent as white, and 1 percent as two or more races. The city's median household income was $65,208, and per capita income was $30,690.
The workforce in present-day Dayton is divided among the following occupational categories:
· Wholesale trade (43.5 percent)
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (30.4 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (26.1 percent)
No schools are located within the Dayton city limits; students in Dayton attend Marengo County schools.
State Highway 25 runs through Dayton roughly north-south, and County Highway 44 enters the town from the west.
The Half-Chance Bridge and the William Poole House are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Dayton Town
Hall (Boddie Law Office) is listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.
Marengo County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Marengo County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2000.
James P. Kaetz
Published December 15, 2011
Last updated March 13, 2013