Take a visit to Clifton


The village of Clifton has not grown appreciatively over the years, but in spite of its size, there is a great deal of history in that town.

No doubt one of the first things which come to mind is the Clifton Mill. For a number of years, the mill has attracted visitors from all over the county to view the magnificent display of Christmas lights. The custom began when the owner, Anthony Satariano, decided to display his large collection of Santa Claus figures. Of course, this called for appropriate lighting and the display has grown from hundreds to thousands of lights.

Although the farmers no longer bring their wheat and corn to be ground, the mill has a lengthy history of providing that service. Col. Robert Patterson built the first grist mill at Clifton around 1804. He was serving as quartermaster for the American Armies in 1812 and utilized the mill to provide meal, cloth, blankets, and other supplies for the American troops. The top story was dedicated to making cotton material and the other three to woolen material. Brass buttons were made there also. It was rumored that the material from this mill was so good that William Henry Harrison had his inaugural suit made of fabric from this mill. That mill was destroyed by fire in the 1830s. Largely due to the type of work done at the mill, another on that site burned down in 1869.

This was a prime spot for a successful mill so another was constructed, this one seven stories high and remains on site today.

What could have been a major disaster occurred in early February 1982 when the mill race, which provided the water power for the mill, was destroyed. Fortunately, Robert Heller, who then owned the mill, announced that he had purchased an electric motor to provide power to the mill. He emphasized that the mil was still operating with the original machinery and “There is no difference in the products.”

The stagecoach came through town on a regular basis from Springfield, but when the railroad was proposed in this part of the country, Clifton was overlooked and did not enjoy the increase in business that might have provided additional growth.

If you take time to walk around Clifton, you will find a number of other interesting structures.

The Clifton Union School was a very modern structure when completed around 1873 or 1874. The first five graduates received their diplomas in 1878. Originally, the building housed all 12 grades, but in the middle 1900s the high school students went to Cedarville High School. In 1955, the two districts merged to become the Cedar Cliff Local School District.

The structure actually sits on the Greene-Clark county line. An “X” can easily be seen carved in cement on either side of the building showing the county line.

In 1961, it was determined that the school needed many repairs including brick and cement work, roofing, heating, and lighting. The cost of renovation was too great so the last students were dismissed from that building on May 28, 1962.

But, the building still stands and has been renovated to accommodate the Clifton Historical Society’s collection of artifacts and photos.

Across the street is a private residence which was used as a shot tower. Bullets were usually made by pouring molten lead into molds. At the shot tower, the lead was dropped in small balls from the top of the tower into a bucket of water on the ground. As the hot lead was dropped, it would become rounded and quickly cool in the water.

The Opera House is a joy to behold. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this was the community center for the village and surrounding areas. Nearly every community had what was known as an opera house, but very rarely was opera presented on the stage. Traveling musicians and actors often trod the board at Clifton. In time, the stage was all that remained of the former busy structure. There was a possibility that it might have to be razed, but a group of spirited citizens rallied and raised funds to restore the building to its original beauty including new seating and appropriate lighting.

If you chat with some of the residents, you might hear some of the local legends such as the story of Cornelius Darnell, who had been captured by the Shawnee and managed to escape. However, when he came to the gorge, the Indians were right behind him. Rather than be recaptured, he opted to take a chance on leaping over the wide gorge with the river running through. His venture was successful. The Indians did not choose to attempt the jump and he was free.

You might hear the story of Loderick Austin, a stagecoach driver, who is buried in the local cemetery. He was well-known and liked in the village, since he drove his coach through that site often. One day the wheel of his stagecoach hit a rock causing him to fall off the coach and hit his head, causing his death at the age of 26. The villagers did not know his family so they took up a collection to provide a proper burial and tombstone for him. The stone, weathered by time, has his name along with a carving of driverless stagecoach.

The village is a delightful place to visit any time of the year. Enjoy this historic site and a walk by the gorge.

Remembering Remer Leroy “Doc” Haines

Remer Leroy Haines graduated from Xenia High School and attended Sterling Medical School in Columbus. He graduated from The Ohio State University School of Medicine in 1913 and then opened his practice in Paintersville. In 1942, he moved his practice to Jamestown and opened a private hospital for surgery and maternity cases. In addition to private practice, he served many years as Greene County coroner and was the doctor for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. He died in 1962 and a portion of U.S. 35 near Jamestown is named In his honor.

— Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is a Greene County historian and resident.

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