A visit to Milford


By Joan Baxter



If you do not recall Milford being a community in Greene County, that would be because it is still here, but has a different name.

The Village of Milford was platted on January 29, 1816.

Jessie and William Newport were the original proprietors of the village. They purchased 1,000 acres of land along Massie’s Creek at a price which varied from $1.75 to $7.00 per acre. For a while the little village was known as Newport’s Mill or Hannah’s Store. Newport Town and the Burgh are also names which at one time identified the village.

The area had trees of many different varieties including oak, poplar, hickory, cherry, elm and red cedar. In some sections the growth was so dense that passage through the trees was challenging. But the business of clearing the land and building houses with the felled trees made way for the village.

The town of Milford continued to grow and more and more settlers came to purchase the lots which had been carefully laid out in the village. Only twenty years had passed when the residents decided that the village was large enough to have a post office.

It was something of a shock to the Milford folks to discover that there was already a town named Milford and that town had its own post office. It was obvious that another name must be selected for the village.

No doubt many names were offered, but the name finally selected related to the beautiful red cedar trees which grow so abundantly on the cliffs nearby. The town adopted the name Cedarville.

In only a few years, the little village which was platted had grown so that in 1870, there was a population of seven hundred and fifty-three persons.

Many towns were established near a creek or river which could be used for transportation and also could be dammed up to accommodate a mill. The first mill in what became Cedarville was a saw mill established in 1811 by Jesse Newport. When Main Street was added, he constructed a wooden bridge across the creek. Business was booming. There were many trees and soon four additional saw mills were constructed. The only saw mill which was in business for a long period of time was the Tarbox Lumber Company.

The stagecoach came into town bringing the mail and sometimes passengers who would stop for a meal or an overnight stay. After the horses were rested and fed, the coach was on its way again. The stagecoach ceased its route when the Little Miami Railroad brought the tracks to town in 1850.

Perhaps the Hagar Straw, Board and Paper Company were one of the more important industries for the village. Built in 1892, at an expense of $200,000, the plant used 30 tons of straw per day, with an output of 23 tons of paper daily. It was the leading employer for the city for many years with the C. V. Hagler family as the largest stockholders. The plant closed in 1938 and when the property was sold the selling price was $150,000. The property is now owned by Morris Bean Company.

Another major employer was the Cedarville Lime Kiln, owned by David Ervin. Lime is plentiful in the Cedarville area and so several different lime kilns have operated there over the years. The Lime Kiln furnished eighty percent of all the agricultural lime used on this side of the Mississippi River at one time. At the height of the industry forty-two men were employed with twelve to fifteen hundred train car loads of lime products shipped each year.

For a while a newspaper was distributed to the residents called the “Cedarville Enterprise”. Another newspaper which was more successful was the “Cedarville Herald”.

Other businesses have included the furniture factory of Uriah Jeffries which he opened in 1834. A cheese factory was one a thriving industry and the Ohio Tubular Company manufactured army cots. Other businesses include a harness shop, general store, livery, tailor shops, hardware and grocery stores.

The late Harold Strobridge, an authority on Cedarville history, stated that at one time the village could boast having seventeen bootleggers and seven churches.

The first subscription school was opened in 1850 with James Turnbull as the instructor. He named the school Grove School because it stood in a grove of maple trees. The school gained in popularity with an enrolment of 200 pupils within the first three years. He was such a popular teacher that when he died, the attendance decreased. When the district purchased the school it became a tuition free public school. The next school was built in Xenia Avenue. In 1916 the village, district and Clifton schools consolidated to build a new school on North Main Street.

Cedarville University was chartered in 1887 and opened its doors to students in 1894.

The citizens were always open to new opportunities for education and when Andrew Carnegie offered to build a library in the town, the offer was readily accepted. For many years, the structure was the town library and now is a part of Cedarville University.

No matter which route one takes to enter the city, one of the most magnificent sites is the Cedarville Opera House. The original frame building was constructed in 1886 but destroyed by fire within the first year. The present brick structure was built in 1888 utilizing plans brought from England by Whitelaw Reid. It is a 1/3 scale model of the Royal Albert Hall in London. In 1956 the Opera House was closed, but in the early 1980’s a group determined to save the structure which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984 and has been restored to its original beauty.

Merry Christmas! I hope you find a “well-filled sock” near the tree.

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By Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is a Greene County historian and guest columnist.

Joan Baxter is a Greene County historian and guest columnist.