Clinton Road’s rich history

By Roger Stanley
Posted 8/12/19

The first settlers in Edgar County may have come across the Wabash River from Indiana and made their way west on the Durkee Ferry Road.

There was another more important road the North Arm area settlers used extensively to go either to Paris or travel eastward to Clinton, Ind. A major advantage to this road was they did not have to cross the Wabash to visit the town named after Dewitt Clinton that was founded in 1829.

Pioneer settlers that came starting in 1817 and into the early 1820s are still remembered through their families and the naming of the townships and schools. There is Hunter Township and Stratton Township named after John Hunter and John Stratton, men of note and early settlers.

Edgar County’s first school was on Whitley ground, just a little north of the Clinton Road, and was named North Arm School. The name of the North Arm community arose because the north arm of Coal Creek ran through that area, and the branch also crossed the Clinton Road.

Hunter School was on the road and Lane’s Branch, just to the south, was named after Daniel Lane, who brought apple trees to the area. John Curtis was on the north side of the road after going around the first grand turn and was also an arborist known for his fruit trees and strawberries in competition with Lane.

Leaving the outskirts of Paris in the early 1900s one crossed the old iron bridge over Sugar Creek. This device served passage for almost 80 years. Before Paris was established the Indians used that same crossing, only they waded the creek. Now there is a modern concrete bridge, lacking a superstructure and rattling, that drivers hardly notice.

As long ago travelers headed east up the hill, an old wooden bridge crossed the railroad and it was considered both a blessing and a curse. It enabled the people on the road to not be impeded by rail traffic, but some horses were deathly scared of it. Many times the horses were blindfolded and led across and if a driver let the horse have his lead, many buggy riders worried about the horse going over the side.

Today, going northeast is Boland livestock farm, which came into existence in 1818 as Augustine Boland, the singing teacher, was one of the first settlers along the Clinton Road.

As we continue east we come on the Dickenson farms that were started in 1839. A new house on the east side of the curve was built by Phil Dickenson’s daughter and Mark Allanson her husband.

At the north end of the first curve there used to be two buildings of some importance. A Methodist Church was there and now there is only a memorial marker. Across the road was a two-story frame house built by James and Mary Ann Nevil. This location was known as Calico Corner before the big curve was put in.

Many of the neighbors helped build the Nevil house in 1835. There is a story that Abraham Lincoln stopped at the well on the farm and got a drink of water as he was headed to speak at the Cambridge City site. The Lloyd Lewis family acquired the old house and restored it to its old glory, and it still stands today as a hallmark to the perseverance and hard work the Lewis family provided.

Continuing east is where the Joe Keys family lives and is probably the site of the old Joe Curtis orchard.

A few miles farther east on the edge of the Hunter locale, the Ashland Chapel once sat on the north side of the road. It was built on land donated by William Hunter in 1880. It was also known as the Little Brick church and served the Methodist congregation until 1946. The Hunter family saw fit to remember Henry Clay by naming the church for Clay’s Kentucky home called Ashland.

Next, there was a settlement called Hunter in the area where John Hunter and his brother bought most of Henry Clay’s ground that was known as Clay’s Prairie. Henry Clay’s lawyer did not want the improved road, but it did happen.

The Joseph Hunter family lived in a fine two-story brick house that stands as a landmark on the north side after the second large curve is rounded heading toward Clinton. The home now belongs to the Steve Irish family. It dates back to the 1840s.

Just a little south and west of that landmark was Huffmanville, which sported a store, a post office and a blacksmith shop. It was just a little off the main drag, but possibly a stop as people headed toward Clinton and the many coalmines in that area.

Going on east and near the state line stands a fairly new Christian Church. The original church was built in 1870 and rebuilt when the Clinton Road was redone in the 1970s. Just before crossing into Indiana is the Watson farm that dates back into history and on the grain bins it states “State Line Farm.”

The building of the road itself made its way into the history books by being the first road in our state laid out as a one-lane brick road set in concrete and called a monolithic contiguous road in 1914. Alan Parrish and Rodney Bell saw that it was laid out correctly and was probably similar to the other brick farm-to-market roads that led into Paris from all directions. The Cherry Point Road, Preston Road, Redmon Road and Springfield Road are other examples. The brick was on the right side as it headed to Paris to support the heavier loads.

Although the brick road to Clinton only went for a few miles it was a big help to the farmers and travelers making their way down the previously graveled road. In 1930, the Alva Adams Company finished the road to the Indiana line with concrete. In 1975, with cooperation of the state, county and township entities, the road was repaved from Clinton to Paris. Now the road has been resurfaced again and is a quick and smooth road all the way to the state line.

It is so much different than when Lloyd Lewis wrote about his mother taking down the freshly washed sheets and clothes when she heard a car barreling down the road and then hanging them back up after the vehicle passed. That was in the early days of cars, and I think she must have looked forward to a buggy sedately driving by and not creating so much dust. Either that or she prayed for a rain just before she washed.

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Clinton Road’s rich history