Dayton Levi Birchard – Educator and Historian

Dayton L. Birchard – circa 1982

The Stone Reunion has had many dedicated and talented historians over the years, but Dayton Levi Birchard (1905-1997) is certainly among the most valued and respected in the 120+ year history of the Stone Reunion.  As a lifelong resident of the area, a social studies teacher, and school principal at Montrose High School, he became an expert on local history and genealogy.  He held every elected office of the Stone Family Reunion (beginning as President in 1936), was instrumental in the formation of the Stone Street Memorial Association, the Birchardville School Educational and Historical Association, and the Birchardville Cemetery Association among other interests.  Dayton authored several research papers on local history as well as genealogies of the Birchards, the Stones, and other local families.

This webpage will review some of Dayton’s life history.

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Dayton Levi Birchard and grandfather Levi Thomas (“LT”) Birchard (circa 1908)

Dayton was born March 3, 1905
in Birchardville, Forest Lake Township, PA.  He was the son of Don F. (“D. Fred”) Birchard and Urania L. Dayton.  Dayton’s paternal grandparents were Jerusha Tracy and Levi T. Birchard.  The family lived on the land of the Birchard homesteaders from the late 1700s. He had two younger brothers,  Don Tracy (or “Don T”), and Clifton Harwood Birchard.

Dayton’s mother came from a large family that lived on “Dayton Hill”, a few miles south of Birchardville.  Sophonia (Stone) and Frederick Dayton started this branch of the family, and their son Watson was Dayton’s grandfather.  Dayton’s grandmother was Betsy Ann White.

Dayton, Clifton, and Don Tracy Birchard (circa 1922)

Dayton’s family lived at the Birchard homestead farm that had been located just south of the church and cemetery, that previous generations of Birchards had donated the land for.  

Dayton may have been the first of his Birchard line to go to college, but his mother’s family, the Daytons, had a teaching tradition.  Dayton Birchard’s great-aunt, Urania Ellen Dayton (“Ranie”) graduated as a teacher from Mansfield State Normal School in 1873.  Dayton’s mother, Urania Louise Dayton, graduated from Mansfield State Normal School in 1900.   In 1924 Dayton went to Colgate in Hamilton, NY. and he graduated in 1928.  Late in life, as a distinguished alumnus at age 91, he was interviewed by the University and provided an interesting account of his academic preparation and life in Birchardville (click link for interview Dayton at Colgate)

(The image below shows D. Fred, Dayton, Urania (Dayton), Clifton, and Don Tracy Birchard at the farm in Birchardville.  Note Dayton’s Colgate blazer – circa 1928)

Dayton, Frances (Hardic), and Jessie Birchard

When Dayton graduated from Colgate in 1928, the economy was not good and the great depression was beginning.  He bided his time working on the farm in Birchardville and also working at the Birchardville General Store that his father had purchased in about 1910.  His first break was finding a job teaching at a one-room school in Vestal, NY.  At about the same time, his attention was drawn to an attractive young woman who had come to Birchardville to teach at the Birchardville one-room school, Frances Louise Hardic.

Dayton found a new job teaching at the Montrose High School in 1931.  He and Frances were married June 29, 1932.  Their daughter, Jessie Hardic Birchard, was born in 1943. 

Dayton’s paternal and maternal relatives were numerous and lived in the Birchardville area.  The most prominent surnames were Birchard, Warner, and Dayton, but in those years most families in the Birchardville area were related in some way.  While Dayton learned the importance of local  and family history from relatives and his teaching, he had lived directly across the street from the Birchardville Cemetery and only about 3 miles from the Stone Street Cemetery.   Dayton had many relatives in both cemeteries, as well as in more distant local cemeteries.  Dayton’s uncle Selden Birchard and his great-uncle Clark Dayton had passed on the importance of looking after the cemeteries and respecting ancestors. For most of his life, Dayton, his brothers, and various relatives worked on repairing and straightening gravestones, recording burial information, and establishing stable funding for the two cemeteries.  The photo  (October 1962) shows Dayton and Don Tracy Birchard working with their uncle, Milton Warner, on gravestones in the Birchardville Cemetery. (photo by Kathryn Warner)

Through activities in the Stone Family Reunion, Dayton became acquainted with his younger 3rd-cousin, Dr. G. Richard Handrick, a research chemist.  Dick was raised in Johnson City, but lived in Massachusetts for much of his life.  The two men shared a deep interest in family history.  Dayton’s collection of family data and cemetery records melded well with Dick’s experience with publishing technical reports.  The collaboration produced the first edition of The Descendants of  Canfield and Mary (Platt) Stone of New Preston, Connecticut in 1970.  Dayton and Dick collaborated on other inquiries over the years, and Dick updated the original work in several editions that have become the genealogical foundation for the Stone Family Reunion.

Dayton Birchard in Bicentennial Costume, Montrose, PA 1976

Fortunately, Dayton Birchard was an excellent teacher and was in demand as a speaker on local history.  As longtime historian for the Stone Family Reunion, he led  auto trips and local history  tours.  For the Nation’s Bicentennial in 1976 Dayton gave  presentations.  The links below will illustrate transcriptions of some of his works and interests:

“I am Judson Stone”
This narrative by Dayton Levi Birchard in about 1976 is a limited biography of Judson Stone (1792-1871).  Stone was the second of several Stone siblings and cousins to settle in the early 1800s in the area that is now called “Stone Street”.  This Judson Stone and his wife Polly (Turrell) Stone donated the land for the Stone Street Cemetery and were the great-great-grandparents of Dayton Levi Birchard.  

“History of the Birchard Farm” 
This excellent history of the early Birchards in Birchardville, PA includes explanations of the conflict between Connecticut land claims and the Pennsylvania land claims.  As the Birchards were among the very first settlers in the area, they were caught in the dispute and had to purchase their land from both parties.  The narrative also includes some excellent anecdotes about the routes and means of travel used by early settlers. (written and presented by Dayton Levi Birchard circa 1976)

Colgate magazine remembrance of Dayton Birchard – “As Time Goes By”
This magazine article was published at Colgate University in 1998, a few months after Dayton Birchard’s death.  The author was John D. Hubbard, and the article was based on Hubbard’s interview of Dayton Birchard in 1997.  It provides a detailed biography for Dayton Birchard and reveals some of his humor in the telling.

Historical Notes on the Stone Street Cemetery
This narrative review was written by Dayton Birchard in about 1974.  It provides a first-hand account of the Cemetery’s history to that time.

As this webpage is prepared in 2020, many years after Dayton Birchard has passed on,  the Birchardville Cemetery and the Stone Street Cemetery  continue to be well looked after, and are maintained by dedicated cemetery associations.  The Stone Family Reunion has had annual meetings for 120 years and continues to be inspired by Dayton Birchard’s example.