by George C. Crout
Madison Township Communities
The plat for Miltonville was recorded Nov. 27, 1816, by Theophilus Egglesfield, Richard Crane and George Bennett.
It is as old as Trenton, with the first grave being opened in the Miltonville Cemetery, up on the little knoll above Elk Creek, in 1800. The area then was heavy forest. It was also along Elk Creek above Miltonville, in the southeast quarter of Section 18, that Bambo Harris, that remarkable black engineer, built the first grist mill in Madison Township in 1800. Before that, farmers had to either use a hand mill, which was a very slow process, or journey to Clermont County, where there was a water-powered mill at the mouth of the Little Miami.
The highly respected Bambo Harris now lies buried in the Miltonville Cemetery. He was one of the first of his race to settle in the free Northwest Territory, for Ohio was then riot yet a state.
In the 1850's Miltonville was at its height of prosperity. It had a United Brethren Church and a public schoolhouse, and two general stores, which sold everything from needles and pins to farmers' plows.
Miltonville being located at an important crossroads, an old stagecoach line passed through the village. This meant that it was often an overnight stop, and two hotels were built and did a good business. Each, of course, had a tavern.
According to historians the stage coaches followed a route from Cincinnati to Hamilton, up the Prairie Road (now the Hamilton- Middletown Road) to a ford crossing just south of Gregory Creek. The road led to Trenton, then on to Miltonville. At Miltonville, the stagecoach forded Elk Creek at the present bridge and then turned north, following the east side of the creek and cutting through the present Augspurger farm.
For many years, according to W.C. Augspurger of Howe Road, the stagecoach tracks were visible where they cut up the side of the incline. The old trail finally emerged at the top of the West Middletown hill, and a coach could turn eastward toward Middletown or westward to Eaton and Richmond.
The Eagle Hotel built around 1816 was the chief landmark of the village.
When the old Miltonville hostelry was torn down in December 1982, it was the last of the business and industrial structures to go. Named after John Milton, the famous English poet, the village reached its zenith around 1850. At that time it was one of the most prosperous in Ohio with three blacksmith shops, two wagon shops and a buggy painting shop, a tailor and shoe shop and two general stores. At that same time it also boasted of two slaughter houses and two potteries, and a pump manufacturing plant. A four-story grist mill was operating along the race from the dam on Elk Creek just north of the crossroads.
Theophilus Eaglesfleld and Richard Crane, its first settlers, laid out the town in 1816, building the tavern and hotel. Among the early tavern keepers to follow the original partners were William Hall, Thomas Kelley, Benjamin DeBolt and David Mattix.
A descendant of that first tavern keeper, Sallie Eaglesfield Gould, a resident of Indianapolis, has supplied some family records which give added details of Theophilus's life. He died in 1819, and his wife, Phoebe Gardner Eaglefield, followed him in death in 1822, leaving seven children to rear. Sarah and William Hall of Dayton took five of the children, while Caleb, Al and Mary Scudder adopted the other two. Caleb was a famous chair maker, and instilled pride of family in his wards.
The large structure was built with slop brick from unrefined clay and placed in a nearby kiln. The bricks were about the same size as modern brick, but not quite as thick. The last owners of the structure, the Smiths made the decision to tear it down. But when a backhoe was used in the demolition, the structure held its own-At was hard to get down, bending some of the iron rods used in the work.
"Why even the room partitions were three-bricks thick," Mrs. R.W. Smith recalls. But when the third story was removed by contractor O.L. Lansaw of Middletown--a modern flat roof had been placed over the building--it was that new roof that leaked and caused the damage. While the old brick was softer than that of today, it has lasted, with only a few cracks developing.
"If only that building could have talked," opines Mrs. Smith. She recalled a popular legend of Miltonville that when the building was a hotel, a woman had been stabbed and murdered there, and the body hidden in a closet to be found by the tavern keeper.
A more pleasant memory of the building's past, was when the third floor was used as a theater. Traveling players came in on wagons with costumes and scenery. People drove in from miles around to see the plays. As years passed, authorities declared the third floor auditorium a fire risk, and the theater was closed.
The coming of the railroad to Trenton in the 1850's was to end stagecoach days and stops at the hostelry. At the rear of the building had been a stable big enough to handle the horses overnight.
The recent history of the building began with the ownership of Eula Brown who sold it to real estate developer. O.L. Lansaw. After removing the third story he converted it to apartments, with storerooms on the first floor.
Russell and Ruby Keith purchased it from Lansaw and opened a general store. On Sept. 18, 1953, the Smiths took over the store, operating it until 1980 as Smitty's. As population declined and competition from larger stores was felt, customers dwindled and profits declined. Also, the long hours took their toll on the owners, who decided to close the store. Although it is the only corner zoned commercial in Miltonville, only the land remains. The old tavern and hotel had been a matter of pride to Miltonville, for it was the first three-story structure in the area, and higher than any Trenton building.
The most interesting industries of Miltonville- -and the largest for a period of years--were the potteries. There were two of them, being owned by the Eckert and Eisle families, names still prominent in the area. This industry was probably an outgrowth of the brick yard started by George Bennett in 1816. The clay was of good quality and the potteries made crocks. flower pots and many other utility vessels used in those days. This was a very successful business, and it is reported that two wagons were kept on the road with the products of the two potteries, as orders were filled in Dayton, Eaton, Oxford, Germantown, Middletown, Hamilton and other Miami Valley communities. Tile was also produced by one of the pottery plants.
Bennett also built a grist mill, along Elk Creek at Miltonville which operated for many years. Another unusual industry was that of wine-making, discussed in the section on the Farm.
When the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad, which made its first appearance in 185 1, opened up a cheaper and faster means of transportation along the same route. However, the CH&D; went through Trenton, and Miltonville was isolated. Miltonville was hard hit by the depression. Houses sold for $150 TO $300 during those bleak years.
Miltonville's schoolhouse, once two stories, reached the point where one room was enough, and then it had to be closed. A church on the hill, built in 1873, followed a similar pattern, closing in 1882. It's post office opened in 1889 and closed in 1904. One man, Albert Snyder the town's most prominent citizen in the first part of the 20th century once noted that Miltonville was a typical crossroads village of the last century.
But the young people all left for other towns and jobs. Some won fame, as did Miltonville native Martin Eisele, who presented Wendell Willkie's name in nomination at the 1940 Republican convention.
According to Miltonville's Story by Doris L. Page, Miltonville's downfall was brought about by the passage of the railroad through Trenton. Businesses as well as townspeople moved to Trenton to be near the "Iron horse". It was said that the "Cream" of the town departed, leaving only "Skim Milk"'. This gave rise to the nickname which prevailed for several decades.
In closing "Miltonville's Story" historian Doris Page wrote:
"The 'grand old days' of Miltonville now live only in historys halls. But step back in time for a moment-it is a misty morning when the dirt roads stretch to the horizon. Strolling along the busy street, one might pass the men at work in the potteries, the brickyard, the wagon maker's building; see women with market baskets walking to the general store as they hurry past the shoemaker's shop, the office of the attorney, the surveyor and the notary public; watch the smoke rising from the blacksmith's hot fire, the dusty arrival of the stagecoach at the tavern, the wagoner driving his wagon for hire; hear the whine of the saw at the log-and-stone sawmill, the clatter of the wagons bringing grain to the brick grist mill, the jingle of the harnessses, the children's voices at the schoolyard; inhale the sweet smell of the vineyards and wineries, the odor of the leather at the saddlers, the freshly baked bread at the tavern ovens; pass the brick homes, soft red in color, the stately maples lining the streets, the white arms of the sycamores bordering the banks of Elk Creek; become aware of the Church and the cemetery with its whitened stones, the surrounding open flields of waving grain and tall green corn, the dirt roads crisscrossing at the town's intersection. But that was yesteryear!"
On Oct. 5, 1996 an historic marker approved by the Ohio Historical Society was erected on public property at the intersection of Elk Creek and Howe Road. It honors the founders of the village.
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