By Joan Baxter
The next township to be established was Miami formed on June 8, 1808. At that time it included the northern portions of present Cedarville and Ross Townships as well as a portion of present Clark County. The township receives its name from the Little Miami River which flows through the area.
The township lines were changed from the original plan when Benjamin Whiteman, an Associate Judge in the county, discovered in 1817, that a portion of his land was to be located in the newly formed Clark County. He petitioned the State Legislature to change the county line so that his entire property would remain in Greene County. The Legislature approved his petition in January 1819.
The Grinnell Mill on Bryan Park Road was one of the early industries in the township. The water rights were recorded in 1811 with the mill being constructed about 1812. After the 1913 flood the mill was rebuilt and the dam replaced. Cornelius Grinnell the last miller operated the mill until the 1940s.
Grinnell Mill Park provided an area for swimming and boasting with summer cottages by the dam and camping behind the mill. Electricity generated by the mill powered the mill house and park and nearby areas. There was also a quarry with a small crusher and roll mill to pulverize the stone.
Antioch College bought the mill from the family in the late 1940s. College students lived in the structure and planned to restore the mill, but this was not done. Present owners have restored the structure.
The first settler was Lewis Davis. While traveling from Cincinnati in 1799, he learned about the yellow spring which the Indians described as being “cool as the morning air and with the golden tint of the setting sun.” He built a home that fall and then described it as a garden spot of health and beauty. Other settlers came to what became known as Forrest Village.
In 1820, General Benjamin Whiteman laid off a number of lots north of the spring in an area he called Ludlow. Several houses and a saw mill were erected.
Elisha Mills bought the yellow spring property and opened a $7,000 hotel in 1829. He died in 1833 and William French purchased the site. It was sold to William Neff in 1842 for just over $19,000. In 1869 a new Neff House was constructed and the original building razed. The new four story structure was sumptuous. Six bowling alleys and five billiard tables were available. The stable could accommodate 125 horses and there were saddle horses available for the pleasure of the guests. A dairy, laundry and fire department were welcome additions.
A July 1870 newspaper reporter noted a number of grand carriages coming from every direction to the Neff House. Unfortunately the stage coach clientele declined, forcing the closure of the hotel and the magnificent structure was eventually torn down.
Another settlement included a group of about 200 individuals who lived in a communal state. They called themselves the Owenites. One large building was constructed as a common residence and the group worked in common, dividing the proceeds of their labor equally. Apparently this did not work out as well as anticipated since the Utopian existence lasted only about two years.
Judge William Mills was largely responsible for the growth of Yellow Springs. His title was honorary, never having actually served as a judge, but often helping with legal matters.
It was his influence which brought the Little Miami Railroad through Yellow Springs. He called the railroad the “earliest and grandest enterprise in all the west.”
He was so confident that the town would thrive he laid out and sold lots often on a note rather than cash. He had the street graded and graveled at his own expense. He donated land to the Methodist Christian, Baptist and Episcopal churches then built a three story machine shop in the hope of encouraging other business men to locate there.
In January 1851, the people of the village empowered Judge Mills to offer 20 acres and $30,000 for a proposed college. In addition to donation of land, he gave $20,000. It was through his influence that Horace Mann because the first President of Antioch. The judge was one of the signers of the Articles of Incorporation for the college in 1851 and was a member of the board of trustees until 1859.
The village continued to grow, with more and more residents and businesses located there. Today, there are a number of shops which are visited frequently by residents and visitors alike. Twice a year the “Yellow Springs Street Fair” brings thousands of eager visitors. The main streets of the town are blocked off for pedestrian use, and cars can be seen parked as much as a mile away for those coming to the fair.
John Bryan State Park is named for an eccentric pharmaceutical manufacture who amassed quite a fortune. When he died, he willed all his property to the State of Ohio for a park with the provision that no religious services could ever be held at the park. In time, the Legislature agreed to accept the property, but also agreed that the US Constitution allowed for freedom of religion, making his demand null and void.
Today the park is a place of natural beauty enjoyed by people of all walks of life.
Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.