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Clinton Falls

The area we now know as Clinton Falls was apparently first called Booneville. North and west of here was an early timber industry, where remnants of what may have been foundations for cabins for the timber workers have been noted in several historical accounts. 

Collingwood Clark Grubb (who went by C. C. Grubb) came to the area about 1838 or 1839. On October 9, 1838, C. C. Grubb married Sophia Charlotte Webb in Shelby County, Kentucky. Sophia was the daughter of Richard and Nancy (Newgent) Webb, who are buried at the small Webb family cemetery which is about a mile and a half northwest of Clinton Falls in Clinton Township. Many of the Newgent’s are buried in a family cemetery bearing that name, which is just over a mile northwest of Clinton Falls. In 1838 or 1839 the Webb family migrated from Shelby County, Kentucky to Putnam County, and Collingwood Grubb moved to the area with his new bride at about that time, settling in Clinton Township, where he built Grubb’s Mill. This mill was a sawmill used to cut the local native timber. 

Collingwood and Sophia (Webb) Grubb lived in Putnam County, Indiana, for 19 years and had eight children. In 1858, the family moved to Brown County, Kansas.

C. C. Grubb was remembered for his knowledge of apples and in 1874 won an award for a display of 51 different kinds. Grubb was believed to be a stationmaster on the Pony Express and Overland stage. An ardent abolitionist, he was said to be a friend of John Brown. Grubb’s Mill had an early post office. Postmasters at Grubb’s Mill were: Collingwood C. Grubb, February 21, 1850; Isaac Firestone, November 6, 1854; Collingwood C. Grubb, March 12, 1855; Harry S. Crodian, January 20, 1858.

The post office was renamed Alma on January 21, 1858, and Harry S. Crodian was appointed postmaster of Alma at that time. Postmasters of Alma then were: Leonard K. Dille, August 11, 1858; Henry Brad, October 11, 1858; Henry Brad, November 14, 1860. The post office was discontinued on that day.

When the name of Alma was selected, it was not only a name change but apparently a move for expansion. It moved, on a formal basis, to now include a part of what is now ‘downtown Clinton Falls.’ The appointment of Dr. Leonard K. Dille as postmaster of Alma created quite a stir.

Dr. Dille lived directly west of the falls and is highlighted in the personal history section of the 1879 Putnam County Historical Atlas. Quoting from the Atlas “in and among the first originators of a Union Pacific Railroad, being associated with Asa Whitney and others of New York… Dr. Dille surveyed and opened some 250 Indian mounds… discovering a great many articles made and used by aborigines, consisting of pottery, coffin, axes and articles for use in hunting. All this occurred before he came to Clinton Township. It is a mystery why he settled here. He purchased land downstream from Booneville.”

Those who lived near the Grubbs sawmill thought the postmaster should come from their area. Others thought Dr. Dille was uppity and a late arrival in the community. Some believed that he was too outspoken and drank too much hard liquor. People who lived ‘down the creek’ i.e., at the falls and south of the falls, strongly were in favor of Dr. Dille. There were several exchanges, generally verbal but a few physical, about this controversy until Dr. Dille resigned the postmaster job two months after he was first appointed.

The Alma postmaster position went to Henry Brad on August 11, 1858. The split over the postmaster job apparently caused the eastern part of the settlement to create another named village of Quincy, from the north edge of ‘downtown Clinton Falls’ on the south and east.

The Alma post office was discontinued on November 14, 1860. The 1864 map of Putnam County, available online courtesy of the Library of Congress, shows the town of Alma but no Clinton Falls and no Quincy. There was no post office in this part of Clinton Township until 1874. The Civil War and Reconstruction period following the war must have minimized the competition and contention between Quincy and Alma citizens.

Furthermore, businesses were moving from Alma to unrecognized Quincy. The tannery closed, the sawmill moved, one blacksmith shop went out of business and new businesses opened up near the falls. It is said that Dr. Dille used his influence [in 1874] along with others to obtain a new post office for Quincy. The request was granted but since there was a Quincy post office in Owen County, it was necessary to find a new name.

Folklore indicates that a traveling salesman suggested the name of Clinton Falls, apparently to honor Clinton Township and the falls, which were in the center of the settlement. Dr. Dille was appointed postmaster August 31, 1874 and ran the post office from his Dr. office which was located west of the creek and about even with the falls.

Postmasters at Clinton Falls were: Leonard K. Dille, August 31, 1874; William R. Mead, January 19, 1875; William H. Boswell, June 12, 1877; Michael W. Spaulding, August 27, 1879; James T. Brady, December 15, 1880; William Davis, February 18, 1884; John T. Tucker, August 21, 1885; Andrew D. Miller, April 19, 1888; Charles W. Batchelder, June 10, 1889; John T. Craig, December 30, 1890; Priscilla M. Vermillion, May 19, 1893; Charles W. Keyt, June 3, 1897. The post office was discontinued on August 31, 1901.

Most generally, the postmaster appointees ran the post office from their place of business, often a store or trading post; however, on June 12, 1877 William H. Boswell was appointed postmaster of Clinton Falls and he ran the office from his house. His property was not on any of the main roads in the area and could be reached only by several lanes. Clinton Falls residents complained that most of the time Bill Boswell delivered the mail to all residents and business places in Quincy but refused to deliver to the residents of old Alma. Complaints were raised about this discrimination, but the answer given by postal authorities was than Bill did not have to deliver any mail at all. This went on for two years until a new postmaster was selected.

The Mills and Church

The Abner Goodwin Mill was built about 1825 near the Little Walnut Baptist Church, on Little Walnut Creek across from the church. The church is no longer there but the cemetery nearby remains. The Goodwin Mill housed the first school in Clinton Township. Captain William H. Thornburg, a recent arrival from Virginia, asked for space in the mill during dry weather (when the mills could not operate due to lack of flowing water) for a school. The millstones were later moved by Ab Sigler to his place about 500 feet east of the Clinton Falls Church. 

The Clinton Falls Church was first organized as German Baptist, or Dunkard church in 1862 on land that had been part of the Sigler farm. The church burned once but was rebuilt.

The Distillery

There was a distillery in Clinton Falls started by Dr. Dille and Lon Cook’s father. Lon Cook later ran it. The old distillery basement walls still stand just below the falls, on the west side near a spring. The spring comes rather low in the creek and had a great flow of water in earlier days. This spring water was used in the whiskey making. The distillery became a prominent business, the whiskey was shipped and sold to saloons in Greencastle, Bainbridge and other areas close by. In 1903, Lon asked for a license to sell liquor by the drink but was denied by the voters. He tried again in 1904, with the same outcome. In 1906 he had to quit selling whiskey because of the law. So, Lon had a warehouse full of corn whiskey and no market. He shut down the distillery and built the Opera House in Greencastle. Underneath the Opera House, Lon opened a drug store, and it was in this drug store that he sold the rest of his whiskey by prescription.

 

Some of this information was obtained from Malcolm Romine’s Clinton Falls Book, available at the Putnam County Museum and transcripts from a speech given to the Putnam County Historical Society Meeting at the Clinton Falls Community Church on April 15, 1998. Believed to be from Hubert Clodfelter, historian and expert on Clinton Falls.