Excerpted from: History of Greene County by R. S. Dills, 1881.
MIAMI TOWNSHIP. - 697
"This village, named from the continuous beautiful cliffs, forming some of the finest natural scenery in the west, is situated in the northeastern part, on the Little Miami River, and contains a population of about three hundred. It is the oldest village in the township; was laid out in 1833 by Robert Watson, surveyor; Timothy Bates and Bennett Lewis, original proprietors. Bates and Lewis hailed from New York-the father of the former being Bates, a noted judge of that state. The land was purchased for General Patterson, who owned the mill on the Little Miami. The propelling facilities were all that could be desired, and in a short time a distillery, saw-mill, and flouring mill were in active operation. These manufactories were taxed to their fullest capacity ; people within a radius of twenty-five miles patronized the same. An old resident informs us, that he saw thirty-five teams awaiting their turn to unload the grain. The surplus flour was hauled to Cincinnati, and there sold. The inducements offered by the superior waterpower, soon attracted the attention of speculators and others, and Clifton bid fair to become a manufacturing and commercial city of much merit. Being located on the Cincinnati, Lebanon and Columbus stage route, it was accessible to the outside world.
In 1833, A. G. Kiler, who lived in the immediate vicinity of Clifton, was importuned to remove to Clifton, and engage in erecting houses, by Timothy Bates, and did so. He built fourteen houses during the summer, and erected the largest, and most substantial buildings ever built in the place in the following year. The houses were occupied as speedily as completed.
Among those who first settled in Clifton and vicinity, we mention the names of General Benjamin Whiteman, John Knox, Braley, Knott, Baker, Porter, Gibson, Stevenson, Luce, Anderson, and Kemp. The latter lived across the river, and operated the mills. The old house which he occupied is still standing.
Bates and Lewis opened a store several years before the town was surveyed; but immediately thereafter, William Anderson, now living at Yellow Springs, and David Anderson, built a house and stocked it with groceries-the first after the village was laid out. A number of others soon followed their example, and ere long the new village was considered quite a business center. There was a chair factory, several grocery stores, and a number of rum-selling establishments.
The town was incorporated in 1834 or 1835, and officials elected. Bates was the first postmaster; he was succeeded by William Anderson, appointed under Jackson administration.
A man named Confer, who did the first blacksmithing in the village, was seized with an uncontrollable longing to return to Virginia, his native state, there to spend the remainder of his days. On the day preceding his departure, General Whiteman brought his horse to the shop, saying to Confer : " Shoe this horse, and I will not have him reshod until you return." Confer replied, that he would never return, therefore the horse must be shod by other hands hereafter. Six months elapsed, and the blacksmith once more returned to the anvil. He had been to Virginia, but the country seemed more barren, and the mountains much higher than before, and he was exceedingly anxious to return to his adopted state. On the day following his return, General Whiteman brought his horse to the shop, and the same hands which placed the shoes six mouths previous, removed them again.
When the feasibility of building a railroad from Springfield to Xenia was being discussed, an effort, was made to have this village on the contemplated route. Timothy Bates supported the scheme with zeal, but became careless and lukewarm. In the meantime, the people in and around Yellow Springs, headed by William Mills, lost no time nor opportunity in their endeavors to secure the road via the latter village, then in its infancy. They were successful, and thus was a new impetus given to Yellow Springs.
The stagnant water of the mill-dam infected the air with ague, and many inhabitants were stricken down with the disease. Several families purchased lands in the neighborhood and removed thereon, to avoid coming in contact with the infectious atmosphere surrounding the mill-pond. The lack of railroad facilities, and the removal of some of her most enterprising citizens, was a loss to Clifton, from the effects of which she never recovered.
No town of Ohio suffered more severely, in proportion to its population, from the cholera. epidemic of 1849, than this little village. To any one. acquainted with its geological structure, and at the same time with the results of modern inquiries in regard to the distribution of cholera, the suspicion that the water-supply was largely connected with the fatality of the disease cannot be repressed, and the history of the spread of the pestilence points to the same cause.
The cholera was confined to the lower part of the village, not a single ease occurring in the higher ground. The disease made its appearance in the hotel or village tavern, a stranger who came into the village in the evening being attacked in the night and dying the next morning. Seven deaths in all occurred in the tavern, and two also took place in a dwelling directly opposite to the hotel, and others in the neighborhood, the whole number amounting to forty. The water used in the tavern was derived from a street well, to which the occupants of adjacent dwellings also resorted to a considerable extent. If the facts could all be reached, it is quite probable that this street well would be found responsible for the violent outbreak and terrible fatality of the disease."