History of Clifton Mill
Owen Davis and his son-in-law, Benjamin
Whiteman, built the first mills at Clifton.
first created a log dam across the upper gorge and built
a saw mill to
provide lumber for further construction. By 1803, they had built
the original Clifton Mill, a tavern, a trading post, a distillery and several
cabins. During the War of 1812 Clifton Mill produced grain to feed the troops. From 1908 to 1938,
it provided electricity for the residents of Clifton, Cedarville and
Yellow Springs at a rate of $2.00 a month for businesses and $1.00 a
month for private homes. Flooding
problems coupled with "progress" led to the demise of every mill along the gorge
except Clifton Mill.
Electricity was becoming favored over water power
so mill owners chose not to rebuild when their mills were destroyed by flooding. Clifton’s
population boom and industrial era ended when the newly built railroad
passed through Yellow Springs instead of Clifton. Manufacturers no longer looked at Clifton since water power was
not important and the village was not along the railroad. Cholera
came to Clifton in 1849, killing half its residents and inspiring half of the
survivors to leave town for good.
For more Clifton history visit
The Good Ol’ Days
- Former Village
Postmistress Erna Caupp Remembers the Clifton of Yesteryear
For years—34 to be exact—Erna Caupp was perhaps the most familiar face in Clifton. From 1948 until she retired in 1982, Mrs. Caupp served as the Postmistress of the tiny Clifton Post Office. Hers was the face villagers saw when they walked in the small white building to retrieve their mail. Of course, Mrs. Caupp knew many Clifton residents long before she started her career with the U.S. Postal Service. She was born in 1915 and was raised in a house on North River Road. Many of her childhood years are filled with fond memories related to the Clifton Mill. When she was a little girl, Mrs. Caupp would bring her wagon to the mill and gather corncobs, which she would sell for a penny apiece to elderly women in the village who would soak them in kerosene and use them to heat their wood-burning stoves. “Clifton has always been a close-knit community. When people were ill, they would send their neighbors in to pick up their mail, and I didn’t question it because I knew everyone,” said Mrs. Caupp, who lives on St. Rte. 72 in Clifton and is 84. “Some of the older residents watched me grow up, and I suspect they gave me a paddling from time to time.” Mrs. Caupp smiles as she sits in the living room of her 19th century home and reminisces about her childhood days in Clifton when times were slower and Clifton was a bustling village with general stores, a stagecoach inn, gas stations and, of course, Clifton Mill. “When I was a little girl, the mill was a place where farmers took their corn and wheat for grinding,” said Mrs. Caupp, who is a frequent diner at the Clifton Mill restaurant. “After stopping at the mill, many of them would walk over to the Clark’s General Store, which was a popular place to sit and talk.” Clark’s General Store is now an antiques store. The building that once housed Clifton’s other general store is now the location of Weber’s Antiques Mall. The post office was once located in that store. When Mrs. Caupp started her Postmistress career, she worked from an area in the general store. “I remember what a thrill it was to get penny candy at the general store and watch the farmers play their instruments at the bandstand (which was located across from Clark’s General Store on what is now mill property),” Mrs. Caupp said. Many of the members who composed the band were killed in both World Wars. Mrs. Caupp also recalls childhood lessons learned the hard way. “One day when I was a little girl, I rode on the handlebars of my brother’s bicycle across the mill’s stone dam (which stands about 30 feet above Clifton Gorge),” she said. “My father found out, and that was the worst whipping I ever remember getting.” Mrs. Caupp has lived in Clifton most of her life with the exception of a 5-year stint during World War II when she worked at a defense plant in Union City, Indiana. She remembers when Clifton Gorge was a site where families would flock on Sunday afternoons, taking boat rides given by George Grindle. “People would come in their horse-and-buggies and walk through the gorge and ride on the boat,” she said. “My folks had an ice cream stand in the gorge where they sold homemade ice cream.” As a schoolgirl, Mrs. Caupp recalls walking down North River road to Clifton Union School through deep snow in her stockings. “When I got there, my stockings were soaking wet and the teacher would send me downstairs to dry them by the coal stove,” she said with a smile. “That was a way to miss class.” Mrs. Caupp passed away in 2002.