John F. Edgar was born October 19, 1814 on the farm that Robert, his father, had established in 1811, on the hills east of Wayne Avenue in Dayton. John received his formal education mostly on his father’s farm and the “Old Red Schoolhouse,” the former tavern of William VanCleve. Mr. Edgar lost his appeal for farming and eventually turned to the trade practiced earlier by his father, that of building contracting. His father helped provide him with all the secrets of the trade and by the year of 1832, he became a sole agent, becoming extremely successful at his craft. In 1838, because of his building contracts, he worked on railroad and turnpike construction projects and soon became an incorporator and secretary of the Dayton-Springfield Turnpike. By 1842, he was one of the organizers of the Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad and was appointed superintendent. John F. Edgar was an original subscriber to the 1841 Woodland Cemetery Association.
About the time of the Civil War, Mr. Edgar left the construction business and opened a family grocery on Main Street. It was while conducting business and conversing with the various citizens that he was able to learn firsthand accounts from those directly involved with the city’s development. He soon became so apt in his knowledge of local history that he was considered by many as the official historian and received much acclaim. His history book, “Pioneering Life in Dayton & Vicinity,” was published and available when the Centennial of Dayton was observed for one week, beginning on September 14, 1896. Needless to say, it met with instant success. Today his work is still being read and borrowed from by so many of us who are caught up in the study of our city’s history.
John Farris Edgar died on August 15, 1905 at the age of 90. He is located in Sec 57 Lot 44.
Woodland Cemetery, founded in 1841, is one of the nation’s oldest rural garden cemeteries and a unique cultural, botanical and educational resource in the heart of Dayton, Ohio. Visit the cemetery and arboretum and take one of the many tours Woodland offers free of charge. Most of Dayton’s aviation heroes, inventors and business barons are buried at Woodland.
Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum is located at 118 Woodland Avenue off of Brown Street near the University of Dayton Campus. The Woodland Office is open Monday through Friday 8 am to 5 pm and Saturday 8 am to 12 pm. The Cemetery and Arboretum are open daily from 8 am to 6 pm. The Mausoleum is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. For more information, call 937-228-3221 or visit the Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum website.