The community, originally known as Leavenworth’s Mill, was settled in the early part of the 19th Century before Indiana became a state. Before the white man set foot in the area, Indians were prominent along the banks of the Big Blue River. In fact, Whiskey Run Township derives its name from a local Indian leader, Chief Ouiska. (Davis & Brockman, 5) Likely the first settler, James “Dad” Spencer, came about 1808 settling at the mouth of Whiskey Run where he built a 14 by 10 foot white oak log cabin with a large fireplace made of limestone taken from Whiskey Run. (Davis & Brockman, 8) Later he may have been joined by other early settlers, but no records provide that information.
In 1815, Jacob Swank purchased land containing 160 acres in the vicinity of the Town of Milltown, but it is not known if he ever resided on the property. The land was later sold to Seth and Zebulum Leavenworth for $500 in 1820. (Davis & Brockman, 5) At that time, Crawford County had just been formed in 1818 from portions of Harrison, Perry, and Orange Counties. (Pleasant, 1) It was Seth Marshall Leavenworth who first recorded a plat in 1827 at Fredonia, the second county seat of Crawford County, approximately seven years after it was purchased. (Pleasant, 151)
Earlier, Seth Marshall Leavenworth, along with his cousin ZebulumLeavenworth, had helped to build the first mill in the community ofLeavenworth, southwest of Milltown, where wheat and corn could be ground and lumber sawed. (Pleasant, 48 & Davis & Brockman, 7) But upon the 1827 plat in Milltown, they commenced to building a new mill, which is why the community was first known as Leavenworth’s Mill. (Pleasant, 49) “While he (Seth M. Leavenworth) co-owned the two mills, Milltown and Leavenworth, he was very much interested in the navigation of the Big Blue River.” (Pleasant, 49) He soon rose as a leader for his community and was elected to represent Crawford County in the General Assembly at Indianapolis in 1827. (Pleasant, 49) Later that same year, he sold the mill to Julius Woodford.
The first election was held in Milltown in 1828 will the help of Sheriff Totten. In 1833, the Indiana Gazetteer lists Milltown with a population of fifty (50) people, three stores, a carding machine, a sawmill, a grist mill, and a merchant’s mill. (Pleasant, 151) In 1833 Elijah Mathews was granted a license to keep store and in 1837, Manuel Schoonover was permitted to sell foreign merchandise at the Mill. (Pleasant, 151-152) One of the most important endeavors of the Milltown community began in 1836, when the Town Board voted to construct a bridge across the Big Blue River. Construction of the first bridge began the same year by Dave Miller, but the following year the Town Board demanded the remainder of the $125 given to Mr. Miller be transferred to Zebulum Leavenworth, road commissioner. Upon a law passed by the State of Indiana in 1848, the Milltown Bridge Company was formed and local resident, Libens (or Libius) Frisbie, completed the bridge at a cost of $580. (Pleasant, 152)
Later a grist mill was added by the Woodford Family. It was located on the corner at end of Main Street and also had a large storeroom and several guest rooms. (Davis & Brockman, 12) “Starting in late 1853, Captain David Summers and William Gibbs leased the old mill from the Woodfords for seven years.” (Davis & Brockman, 12) After changing ownership to a firm in Corydon in 1859, Summers and Gibbs leased the mill for two more years. At the termination of this lease, the Hostetter Brothers bought the mill and with the experience of Edmund, a millwright who helped built the flour mills of Ohio, managed the mill. (Davis & Brockman, 13) It was not until 1868 that the old mill was razed and replaced with a four-story mill.
“In 1896, the Hostetters sold the mill to Fred Bye, William Daniels, Thomas Handcock, James Jackson, and William Ross.” (Davis & Brockman, 13) The following year, Bye, Hancock, and Jackson became the sole owners and the business became the Milltown Milling Company. (Davis & Brockman, 13). In 1927, construction of a new dam began approximately fifty feet above the previous structure. (Davis & Brockman, 14) It was this four-story mill that stood until 1957 in Town of Milltown. (Davis & Brockman, 13)
Railroad & Quarries:
On October 9, 1882, the first train came through the Town of Milltown following what was first called the Louisville, Evansville, & St. Louis Railway that connected Louisville, Kentucky to the east and Princeton, Indiana to the west. (Davis & Brockman, 67) This route was coined the name, the “Airline” and was used for advertising purposes claiming the most direct route between Louisville, Kentucky and St. Louis, Missouri. In 1901, the Southern Railway Company bought out the “Airline” Railroad and ran the first diesel-electric hybrid engine in 1939. (Davis & Brockman, 68) In 1866, the Louisville Cement & Water Company of Louisville branched into the manufacture of Lime and opened the J.B. Speed Company in the Town of Milltown in 1885 west of the Train Depot specializing in high quality limestone. (Davis & Brockman, 102) The company built its first set of Lime Kilns in 1886, which consisted of large limestone rocks lined with brick. During the early years of the company, the kilns were coal fired, the rock was dumped into the top, and the high heat drove the carbonic acid out of the rock leaving calcium oxide or “lump lime”. (Davis & Brockman, 102) The Limestone Quarry continued to flourish and eventually expanded across the river. Another company soon emerged, Eichel Lime & Stone Company and began operating a quarry across the river in Harrison County and constructed a rail spur across the Blue River below the mouth of
Whiskey Run. (Davis & Brockman, 102) Upstream a powerhouse was built to generate electricity to power equipment under the enterprise of the Electric Service Company. Until the 1940’s, this powerhouse supplied the residents of Milltown with their electricity. By 1913, the Louisville Cement & Water Company, parent company of Speed’s Quarry, acquired the Eichel Quarry, closed down their original quarry, and focused their operations on the north side of the Blue River. (Davis & Brockman, 102) Unique to these Milltown Industries, unions were unable to organize for many years because the quarry employees were being paid higher wages than workers elsewhere and gave generous bonuses. (Davis & Brockman, 102) These benefits for the residents of Milltown did not end with worker salaries, because in 1901 the J.B. Speed Company purchase land along Speed Road and built houses that were rented to employees at reasonable rates, a company store was opened, and in 1924 they donated land for the new school. (Davis & Brockman, 102)
In 1953, the quarry closed and the Southern Railway made plans to reroute the railroad around the Town of Milltown eliminating at least two (2) trestles and several curves. (Davis & Brockman, 102) Today, what is left of this thriving economic history includes the abandoned railway corridor, the stone abutments and pilings of the old railroad trestle over the Blue River just north of the bridge, the old Lime Kilns, the foundation remnants of the old depot (razed in 1960), and un-reclaimed quarry pits and caves scattered across the landscape.
As with many thriving communities, “roads played an important role in the growth of the settlement.” (Davis & Brockman, 18) The earliest road in the county was the ‘Governor’s Trace’, also called the ‘Governor’s Old Trail.’ The road, which was used by Governor William Henry Harrison when traveling between Vincennes and Corydon, ran from the Buffalo Trace (present Highway 150) to Corydon, crossing (the) Blue River below Milltown.” (Davis & Brockman, 18) By 1835, the Indiana General Assembly had passed a law to construct a road between Salem and Leavenworth. The road began in Leavenworth, running through Milltown, and connecting to Salem by the way of Beck’s Mill. (Davis & Brockman, 18) Another road followed that connected New Albany and Jasper, traveling east and west through Milltown. However, when this road was first constructed there was no bridge across the Blue River and travelers had to ford the river below the dam. With Milltown at the crossroads of these two primary early routes, “many people passed through the (Town of) Milltown”. (Davis & Brockman, 18) During the 1920’s, the State of Indiana began to consider a State Highway System and with that they envisioned State Road 64. When developed, State Road 64 passed through Depauw, Milltown, and Marengo. (Davis & Brockman, 28) At that time, the road leading west out of Milltown went down over the hill and across three sets of railroad tracks. “In the 1930’s, the state made plans to build an overpass above the railroad tracks north of town.” (Davis & Brockman, 28) Work began on the overpass in 1937 with R.P. Ollinger of Huntingburg as general contractor. (Davis & Brockman, 28) At the same time, a new bridge was also built over Whiskey Run and a crooked section of road was straightened. (Davis & Brockman, 28)