"Having been born and reared in Milltown, naturally it has always
been a special place to me. When I was in high school I began to take
a special interest in genealogy and history and asked my paternal
grandmother, Annie CHEATHAM TUTT and my uncle, Jim MERCER, to tell me
what they knew about our little town. At that time they were the two
oldest living residents of Milltown. Much of what I will write was
told to me by them and from information obtained from various other
"The little rural village of Milltown, Adair County, Kentucky, is
located approximately seven miles northwest of Columbia a short
distance off highway 61, on Russell's Creek. SInce it is located in a
valley, it can easily be seen as you travel north towards Greensburg
"When the waters of Russell's Creek, the largest in Adair County, are
leaving her banks due to excessive rainfall, and threatening to flood
homes built in the village, I wonder why my paternal ancestors chose
to settle here. Then I realize that the very thing that is causing us
concern is the primary reason they chose this spot as their home.
"At that time, Russell's Creek was a clear sparking stream winding
through Adair County, bordered by beautiful trees of every species
along its banks. It provided abundant water for animals, crops and
family needs as well as fresh fish for food. Tales have been told the
large fish caught in this stream, mainly catfish and carp which
sometimes go trapped in back water after flood waters receded.
"The little village derived its name from the beautiful water mill
which was built on the bank of Russell's Creek near the center of the
community. There are no records of any name for the settlement except
"The TOWNSEND family, who were slave owners, built the mill in the
1800's. I wish I knew for sure what year it was built, but I am
presuming that it was sometime in the mid 1800s. The TOWNSEND family
sold an interest to a Mr. DOHONEY and William DAVIS. Later N. S.
MERCER became the owner and then his son, J. T. MERCER, who owned it
until it ceased to operate about 1920.
:The mill consisted of a three story building: the ground level with
walls of huge square hews stones, probably hewn out by the TOWNSEND
slaves, with two more stories on top of the stone foundation. Several
activities occurred at the mill. The top floor had a cotton gin,
where people brought their cotton to have the seeds removed, and a
carding machine which carded wool into cloth to be made into clothes.
Rev. Pat DAVIS and Fayette DAVIS ran the carding machine. Wheat and
corn were ground both day and night to provide flour and meal for the
"Another interesting feature of the mill was the saw mill. First was
the "up and down" saw run by a flutter wheel, then the circular wheel
which was run by a large turbine wheel weighing about 8,000 pounds.
This wheel was set several feet into rock with a channel by which the
water could flow out.
"A boom was built across the mill pond to hold the logs which were
thrown off the bluff into the creek. A hole was driven in one end of
each log beside a hickory withe wedged in place. In this manner,
three or four logs could be tied together until ready for use. Canoes
were dug out of large poplar logs and used if any logs hung along the
creek bank on their way down the stream to the mill. Men in these
canoes would come along and loosen the jammed logs. When ready for
use, a drag-hook was fastened to the end of the log and it was
dragged out of the mill pond by a yoke of oxen.
On different occasions, large fish have become entangled in the wheel
causing it to cease operations.
The mill was the first business to be built and soon became the
center of activity of both business and social life for the entire
community. Families would come to the mill, bringing their wheat and
corn to be ground into flour and meal and bringing their lunch with
them and visiting with their neighbors, while they waited for the
miller to do his work.
During World War II, the big steel wheel was sold for scrap metal to
help in the war effort and the mill began to rot away and is no
longer in existence. Some rocks remain where the foundation was located.
Some of the families to settle in the village near the mill were the
TOWNSENDS, TUTTS, MERCERS, DOHONEYS, BUTLERS and BEARDS. Others who
settled in the surrounding community were the ATKINS, BROWNINGS,
COBBS, CHEATHAMS, GARRISONS, SHIRLEYS, HINDMANS, SALMONS, SKAGGS,
LEFTWICHES, CALDWELLS, PRICES, MANNS, HATCHERS and many more.
The village proper later consisted of the famous mill and s many as
two or three general stores. These were the J T MERCER General Store
and J. R. TUTT store and at one time the Albert MERCER and Will
HINDMAN store. J. R. TUTT, Jr. who was postmaster, operated a store
in a part of his dwelling house until he built a new building in the
early 1920s. He died in 1925 and his son, J. R. TUTT, Jr., became
postmaster and continued to operate the store. The J. T. MERCER store
continued operation until the early 1950s. The TUTT store continued
to operate in the same location with several owners, among them the
WOOTENS and ASHBROOKS.
There are also records of a drug store which operated in a part of
the J. T. MERCER store and a barber shop in the J. R. TUTT store.
Hugh THOMAS, a young local barber, put a barber chair in a small room
and cut hair there on Saturdays for twenty-five cents. He later moved
into Columbia and barbered there for many years in different shops
until his retirement.
"The church which overlooked the village from its lofty peak until it
was torn down in January of 1989, was organized in 1831. The land
upon which the church was built was donated by the wealthy TOWNSEND
family. John Will TOWNSEND's grandfather donated it with the
stipulation that it was to be a Union Church. The people of the
community built the church and it became a union of Baptist and
Methodist. These records date to 1893. It was in 1895 that the
Christian Church was organized. The Baptist and Presbyterians also
worshipped there, taking turns using the building. The upper story of
the church was used as a Masonic Lodge Hall. Records show meetings
there in 1875.
"Some former pastors were: Baptist -- DOCKERY, BARNETT, SKRUGGS and S
B ROWE; Christian -- H. J. CONOVER and Kirby SMITH; Methodist -- V V
CAPPS, J W CAUGHRON, Russell IRELAND, Calvin BLACK, Norman ANTLE,
Frank HULSE, J T BOOHER and C S RAINEY; Presbyterian - Brother
SANDIDGE. The Methodists have built a lovely new church near the old
location. The other denominations have been inactive for many years.
"The only school was a two room elementary where grades one through
eight were taught. The building was located not far from the church.
All the children of the community attended school. The large room was
used in the summer and then when winter began to approach, we would
move into the smaller, cozier little room which was heated by a wood
stove. The teachers usually boarded in the community with families
that lived close to the school. My first grade teacher was Allene
NELL who boarded with the ATKINS family. I remember my mother telling
me about boarding a teacher from Taylor County before I was born,
named Ethel McWHORTER.
The first blacksmith that Milltown had was my paternal
great-grandfather, Thomas Hicks TUTT. His shop was in the center of
the village, across the road from the general store.
"After the old water mill ceased to make corn meal, Mr. George BEARD
had a little blacksmith shop where he put shoes on the local mules
and horses and ground corn meal with a little gasoline engine. He
lived in a house across the road from his shop with his wife, Kate
LEFTWICH BEARD. When I was a little girl, I loved to walk down the
road to his shop because he would let me feel the warm cornmeal as it
came out of the wooden spout and then I'd dash across the road to
have a visit with Kate. She loved dolls and had quite a collection of
them hanging by strings around their necks in the parlor room. She
also collected the fancy crepe-paper decorated boxes from the local
"On the opposite side of the road from my grandfather TUTT's general
store was the house where my grandparents, James R. TUTT, Sr. and his
wife Annie CHEATHAM TUTT lived. The large house consisted of two
stories with a porch across the front. Seven rooms were on the first
floor and four on the second floor. There were living quarters for
the family and extra bedrooms which were rented out to overnight
guests. These guests were the salesmen or "drummers" who sold
supplies to the general stores in the area. Some of the companies
they represented were Belknap Hardware and Carter Dry Goods of
Louisville and Buchanan-Lyon of Campbellsville. The drummers drove a
horse and buggy and made regular selling trips to the merchants.
Because of the long distance they travelled, they would spend the
night in my grandfather's home which some called a hotel. Early the
next morning my grandmother and her helper, Lucy MARTIN, would
prepare a hearty country breakfast and they would be on their way to
the next place of business."
"The oldest standing house in the community at the present is the
home known as the MERCER House. It sits on a hill and overlooks the
village. Built by Rhodes DOHONEY, a very wealthy landowner in the
community, it later became the home of the Nathaniel Sikes MERCER
family. Nathaniel's wife was Lucy DOHONEY. The home is now owned by
Nathaniel's granddaughter, Katherine MERCER.
"In the last few years, wanting to know a little more about Milltown,
I have interview(ed) two men who lived here: Gobel BUTLER and Paul
"Mr. Gobel BUTLER was born in Milltown in 1900 in a house beside the
land leading to the J. W. TOWNSEND farm, more recently the home of
Mr. and Mrs. Joe FISH. Gobel lived in Milltown until 1922. These are
some of the things he remembered: The three stores: the new TUTT
store when my grandfather, J. R. TUTT, Sr. built it; Jake SLINKER and
Tom WILSON; two of the main men at the mill; the Albert MERCER house
being built in 1915, the house where the Glenn ASHBROOKS now live;
the Will HINDMAN house, built in 1914; the garage near the TUTT store
where Ken LEFTWICH worked on Milltown's first cars; the two-room
school and some of the teachers -- J. A. CALDWELL, Celeste SHIRLEY,
Miladean SHIRLEY, Clarice STOTTS CHEATHAM, Susie JOHNSTON and a Miss
BRADSHAW; the McALLISTERS who were woodworkers and had a shop where
they made chairs and tables for the neighborhood. My son Mike and his
wife Lana now possess four of the McALLISTER chairs.
"The boys entertained themselves in a variety of ways: swimming in
the mill pond, skating on it in the winter, walking across the top of
the iron bridge; cob fights and Saturday afternoon baseball games.
The first car Gobel remembered was a Standley Steamer which belonged
to a drummer for the BUCHANAN-LYON Grocery Company. He also barbered
for a while in the Rube TOWNSEND cabin near the iron bridge. I am so
glad I had this opportunity to talk to Gobel before he passed away in
"Paul THOMAS was born in Milltown in 1905. As he was just five years
younger than Gobel, he remembered mostly the same things. He
remembered coming to the general stores and seeing the candy in the
barrels. The first car that he remembered seeing belonged to Willie
Mat FEESE who had married a HATCHER girl and came back for a visit.
The Mighty Haag Brothers Circus came to Milltown every spring and set
up their big tent in the field in front of the Albert MERCER home.
The highlight of the circus was the Punch and Judy show and taffy in
"In the years I have lived here, I have seen many changes. All of the
older residents are gone; several houses have either burned or been
torn down; the school and church are both non-existent; the stores
are closed; but the post office remains.
"But these things that I have written about are alive in my memory
and the reason for writing about them is that there shall be some
record of Milltown. I hope you have enjoyed reading about them."
Frances Tutt Glasgow